A square (2 × 2 m, depth 2 m; Fig. 1) was opened where the jars were exposed, along the northern part of the slope. Seven Gaza jars, placed upside down in a row above a tamped gray layer, were discovered below a thin surface soil (Figs. 2, 3). A fill that contained numerous potsherds was found between the jars and along their height. The fragments were mostly those of jars, including baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 4:3–8) and Gaza jars (Fig. 4:9), as well as cooking kraters (Fig. 4:1, 2), a jug (Fig. 4:10), a stopper that probably belonged to a Gaza jar (Fig. 4:11), a lamp (Fig. 4:12), numerous glass fragments and animal bones. The pottery vessels are dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE and the glass artifacts date to the end of the Late Roman and the Byzantine periods (below).
The ceramic finds are homogenous and all the discovered Gaza-type jars have a pointed base, conical body, two small loop handles on the upper part of the body, an inverted rim that is a continuation of the body, numerous clay remnants on the rim and shoulder and dense ribbing on the base. These jars are designated as ‘Form 4’ in Majcherek’s typology (Majcherek G. 1995. Gazan Amphorae: Typology Reconsidered. In H. Meyza and J. Mlynarczyk, eds. Hellenistic and Roman Pottery in the Eastern Mediterranean-Advances in Scientific Studies. Warsaw. Pp.163–178). This type and the rest of the vessels are characteristic of the fifth–sixth centuries CE.
Below the tamped gray layer, above which the jars were positioned, was natural hamra soil that continued south and ascended to a higher level.
A section (length 3 m) was cleaned c. 2 m south of the excavation square and an ashlar-built vault that appeared to be a burial chamber (1.4 × 2.0 m, height 0.6 m; Figs. 1, 5) was exposed. The vault was built into the hamra layer, but was not excavated. Based on its location in the hamra layer, which is earlier than the jars, it is feasible that it predated the Byzantine period. As the vault was not excavated, its function could not be determined with certainty. However, it should be noted that tombs of all funerary styles that characterized the Land of Israel in the Second Temple period, were exposed in the vicinity of the tell, including a similar vault (0.65 × 0.80 × 2.20 m), which was exposed in a trench of the railroad track east of the tell and was used for burial in the Roman period (J. Ory, Israel Antiquities Authority Archive).
Gaza Jars at Yavne
Gaza jars were manufactured on the southern coastal plain in the region between Sheikh Zowaid and Ashdod. In his study of the pottery from Caesarea (Riley J.A. 1975. The Pottery from the First Season of Excavations in the Caesarea Hippodrome. BASOR 218:25–63), Riley was the first to posit that the jars originated from Gaza and its vicinity. Majcherek used x-rays to scan fifteen samples of Gaza jars from Kom el-Dikka near Alexandria; the research results indicated that the jars were, most likely, produced on the southern coastal plain of Israel.
Dozens of pottery workshops for the manufacture of Gaza jars were documented in surveys and excavations in the region between Nahal Lakhish and Nahal Besor (Y. Israel. 1995. The Economy of the Gaza-Ashkelon Region in the Byzantine Period in the Light of the Archaeological Survey and Excavations of the ‘3rd Mile Estate’ near Ashkelon. Michmanim 8:119–132). Other pottery workshops were exposed in Ashqelon (ESI 13:106–107), Giv‘ati Junction(‘Atiqot 42:43*–50* [Hebrew]), Khirbat Irza (ESI 19:80*–81*) and at Tel Qatra (HA-ESI 110:65*). Several pottery workshops were also discovered close to Yavne. A pottery kiln was exposed c. 400 m southwest of the tell and a refuse pit, which contained slag and wasters dating to the Byzantine period, was found c. 10 m east of the kiln (ESI 12:113). Another kiln that was used to fire pottery and a refuse pit nearby, which contained mostly Gaza jars, were excavated c. 100 m north of the tell (HA-ESI 116). The large quantity of Gaza jars recovered from the excavation, and the proximity of Tel Yavne to Nahal Besor and the source of clay, raise the possibility that workshops existed in Yavne itself, where these jars were produced. However,
a petrographic analysis of one of the jars from the excavation (below) does not indicate with certainty that the jar was manufactured at Tel Yavne, but it does not negate it either.
The Glass Finds
The glass finds include forty fragments that could be identified, and mostly represent types of bowls and bottles that date to the end of the Late Roman and the Byzantine periods. The finds include three rims of delicate bowls decorated on the outside toward the bottom with horizontal glass trails that are a darker shade than that of the vessel, five bowl rims that are folded out and hollow, several hollow high ring bases of large bowls, one stem of a wineglass, several bottles with a rounded rim, a bottle neck decorated with thin trails, a bottle with a rounded and inverted rim, fragments of bottle bases and a fragment of a juglet rim to which a handle was attached.
In addition to the vessel fragments, a small lump of raw glass that may be indicative of a glass industry at the site was found. The types of glass vessels and the raw material near them is reminiscent of the glass finds that were discovered at nearby
Khirbat el-Fatuna (HA-ESI 119) and at
Khirbat Ni‘ana (‘Atiqot
57:73–154), two sites where remains of workshops that produced glass vessels were found.
A Petrographic Examination of One of the Jars
A jar (B1012) was examined; it was found to be characterized by clay that has a rich optical orientation of silty quartz and mica. It contains large amounts of temper (c. 15% of the clay), including many quartz grains (size of grain c. 500 micrometer) and a few grains of calcareous sandstone. Based on the composition of the clay, it was determined that the raw material for the production of the jar is loess soil whose origin is near the coast, or some other silty soil; the jar may have been manufactured in the Gaza jar production centers on the southern coastal plain. Silty soil and beach sand are also found in the vicinity of the site and therefore, the jar was probably produced there, or nearby. Other tests of a larger assemblage from the site and of Gaza jars from workshops in the region of the tell are likely to provide a clearer answer with regard to the manufacture place of the jars and aid in identifying the indigenous raw materials and their characteristics.