In the summer of 1984, when rescue excavations were conducted under the direction of Dr. Rafael Frankel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, an olive press was revealed in the northern part of the site (the northern olive press), and additional digging in 1986 uncovered two more olive presses. According to Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) maps from the middle of the 19th century, these ruins were referred to as Al-Ni‘ayla. “Danila” would appear to be a modern distortion of this older name.
An archeological survey and excavations have uncovered evidence of a farm at the site during the Roman period (c. 100 CE). During the Byzantine period (c. 500 CE) this farm expanded to become a village whose residents made their living from agriculture – principally from olive-growing and the production of olive oil. At the start of the Muslim period (c. 750 CE), the site was abandoned, and remained deserted for about 700 years until the period of Mamluk rule (c. 1400 CE), when the old houses were resettled. Later the site was abandoned once more, and eventually faded into oblivion. However, thanks to the large stones that served as foundations for the buildings and to the site’s abandonment, the ruins are remarkably well preserved. The fact that some buildings consisted of two storeys also helped, as the collapse of the upper floors helped to preserve those below.
During the five hundred years of its abandonment, the site has become overgrown and completely obscured by woodland, and thus it is sometimes referred to as “the hidden city.” In 2001 staff at KKL-JNF and the Israel Antiquities Authority embarked upon a campaign to conserve and restore the olive presses of Danila. The stone walls of buildings were reconstructed, alleyways were opened up and a circular trail was created to lead visitors to the ruins from the parking lot.
The route to the ruins
A path whose edges are marked out with small stones indicates the start of the route. The entire length of the path is shaded by woodland consisting largely of Israeli common oak (Quercus calliprinos) with a significant presence of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), which is easily recognizable by its dark green leaves and the characteristic bay-leaf scent they give off when crushed between the fingers. The ancient Greeks used laurel to weave the wreaths that adorned the heads of their great poets and athletes. In Western Galilee, bay laurel is characteristic of the hard gray Baana formation rocks from which the houses at the Danila Ruins were built long ago.
About four hundred meters further on we can see the remains of the first buildings and cisterns whose mouths have been closed with grilles. Here and there we can discern the outline of a “street” – all amid deep, dark shade. Some of the walls have been restored to the height of a meter and a half. Several olive presses were discovered at the site. The most impressive of them is the northern olive press, which operated during the Mamluk period. The gate at the entrance to it, with its heavy pillars and lintel, still stands impressively in place. Part of this olive press is hewn into the natural rock, while other parts were built from stone. After the olives had been crushed the oil was extracted by means of a screw press.
From the northern olive press the path brings us back quickly and easily to the parking area.