Roman Period
Pit graves, a rectangular burial structure, a burial structure with a mosaic and two collecting installations were discovered in Area S1. In Area S3, a family tomb and an activity area were exposed. A vaulted tomb, as well as pottery sherds and human bones that probably originated in destroyed pit graves, were discovered in Area N.
Pit Graves. In Area S1, 24 pit graves were exposed, most of them hewn in kurkar in an east–west direction (0.8 × 1.2–2.8 m, depth 0.4–1.5 m; Fig. 4). The bottoms of all the pit graves were stepped—they were high at the western end and low at the eastern end. Some of the graves had a small niche hewn at the bottom of the eastern side that penetrated the grave’s eastern wall. The heads of the deceased were placed on the western side of the grave. The stepped hewing of the graves may have had ideological reasons unknown to us or practical reasons: the eastern part of the grave remained covered. The raised western end of the grave may have served as a headrest. At the western end of one of the pit graves (L167) was a hewn central depression, where the head of the deceased was placed while in another (L119) were two dressed kurkar stones. Similar kurkar stones were found among the earthen debris that had been removed from the topsoil prior to the excavation by means of mechanical equipment. Apparently, these stones were originally used as grave markers like the stones discovered in graves excavated previously in this cemetery (Wallach 2000). Most of the deceased were laid directly on the kurkar bedrock. Several nails were discovered in five graves, but it was impossible to determine whether they originated from wooden coffins. Remains of a lead coffin containing human bones were found in one of the pit graves (L108). Pit graves containing wooden and lead coffins were unearthed c. 150 m northeast of the current excavation area (Wallach 2000). Human bones were found in only some of the pit graves in the excavation area but their poor state of preservation impeded an identification in all but five of the graves. The bones were examined on site and then turned over to a representative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for reburial. Apparently, some of the graves had been plundered and disturbed in antiquity. Fired mud bricks arranged in an inverted U-shape and standing to a height of three courses (Fig. 5) were found in the center of one of the pit graves (L128) with traces of soot on the inside surface of the bricks. In approximately one-third of the graves were funerary offerings, at the bottom of the pit next to the eastern wall; these included pottery vessels from the Late Roman period, glassware dating to the first–second centuries CE, a mirror and beads (Figs. 6, 7; Table 1). The pottery vessels found among the offerings included a terra sigillata table amphora (Fig. 8:1, 2) and Ashqelon-type jars (Fig. 8:3) dating to the first–late third centuries CE; the jars are similar in form to those produced at the pottery workshop excavated at the Third Mile Estate (Israel and Erickson-Gini 2013). The glass vessels included at least ten bottles and fragments of bottles that are characteristic of the first–second centuries CE. Fragments of at least three bottles, as well as one that was complete (Fig. 8:4) were found in Grave 107. The latter was similar in form, material and weathering to fifteen bottles of this type found in a grave excavated in 2012 in the new urban center of Ashqelon, which contained lead coffins (Winter 2016). In Grave 113, a small whole candlestick-shaped bottle made of greenish-bluish glass (Fig. 8:5) was found together with fragments of another bottle and in Grave 114 was a bottle base. In Grave 119, a large intact candlestick-shaped bottle made of greenish-bluish glass (Fig. 8:6) was exposed and in Grave 107, four glass bottles and a plain copper-alloy mirror coated with another metal were discovered together with parts of its handle (see Fig. 7). Similar mirrors were dated to the first–third centuries CE (Winter 2015). In addition, a small cylindrical glass bead, possibly decorated with glass trails (Fig. 8:7), was discovered in Grave 129. In most of the pit graves, pottery sherds dating to later periods were also found, including the Byzantine period, and it appears that they are the result of later disturbances such as plundering and the construction of the hospital.
Several fragments of pottery vessels from the Roman period and human bones were found in Area N. The bones were discovered in layers of fill inside and around a structure from the Mamluk period that were not related to the burial. It seems that the bones originated in graves, probably pit graves, that were disturbed by later construction at the site.
Table 1. Funerary Offerings in Pit Graves
Glass Bottles
A mirror and parts of a handle
A lead coffin and a coin
Mud bricks
Several fragments
A glass bead and a mother-of-pearl shell
Several fragments
Several fragments
Rectangular Burial Structure. In Area S1, remains of an underground rectangular structure (L161; Figs. 9, 10) consisting of a single room were discovered. The structure was built inside a pit that had been hewn in the kurkar bedrock specifically for its construction (depth 1.8–2.5 m). The walls of the structure were erected directly on bedrock, without foundation trenches, utilizing kurkar stones and were preserved to a height of a single course; remains of plaster were preserved at the base of the walls. The northern wall (W10003) had collapsed into the structure. No other toppled stones were discovered, and it therefore seems that the rest of the building’s walls were dismantled in antiquity. The structure’s floor was made of plaster, applied on top of the hewn kurkar bedrock. Outside the structure on the east was a plastered circular rock-cut niche (L162). A hewn pillar was exposed at the western end of W10003. Judging by the location of the pillar and the niche east of the structure, it seems that the opening of the unit was also fixed in the eastern side. The plan of the structure, its underground location and the plastered niche all suggest that the structure was intended for interment and was probably part of the burial ground that was discovered in the area. Judging from the limited space between the walls of the structure and the rock-cutting around it, no convenient access to the building was prepared. Neither burial remains nor finds were discovered inside it. The absence of both an access and artifacts indicates that the structure was either used for a brief period or may not have been used at all. This may have been the result of construction failures, a change in the building plan, a problem with accessibility or some other reason. Excavations carried out at the site in 2010, c. 300 m south of the current excavation, exposed similar remains of a burial structure with a round plastered niche in its facade (Permit No. A-5903). This burial structure was evidently part of the Roman-period necropolis, and based on the stratigraphy at the site, it predated the mosaic structure (below) from the Roman period.
A Burial Structure with a Mosaic Inside It.In Area S1 were remains of a building (Figs. 9, 11) containing at least three rooms—an eastern room (L173), a middle room (L158) and a western room (L168)—constructed directly on top of the kurkar bedrock, without any foundation trenches. The walls of the structure were not preserved, but a wealth of fresco fragments adorned with painted surfaces, stripes, decorations of imitation marble, leaves, fruit and possibly even clusters of grapes were discovered. These fresco fragments indicate that this had been a magnificent building, perhaps a family tomb. All that survived of the building’s eastern room were the meager remains of a floor bedding.
The main room was constructed above a pit grave (L172) in which the remains of two individuals were discovered. The room was rectangular and paved with a mosaic consisting of a white peripheral frame, a guilloche frame and a carpet with five pinecones adorning its center (Fig. 12). The white frame (79 tesserae per sq decimeter) also incorporated yellow and red tesserae. It was nearly parallel to the southern wall of the structure, which was not preserved but whose location was discerned in the area. The guilloche frame consisted of red, white, yellow and black tesserae and was enclosed within a single row of black tesserae. The main carpet (107 tesserae per sq decimeter) was delimited by two rows of black tesserae. The pinecone decorations were composed of black, yellow and pink-red tesserae. The direction of the pinecones apparently indicates that the structure was a broad house. The five pinecones located in the center of the mosaic represent fertility and eternal life and are the symbols of the Roman god Bacchus (Forsdyke 1954:6). Around the perimeter of the floor were seven rock-hewn conical niches (diam. 0.25 m, depth 0.4 m), the upper parts of which protruded above the floor level; one of the niches was destroyed. The niches were lined with cement and treated with a layer of plaster. Four of them were hewn along the southern edge of the floor, two were hewn along the eastern edge of the floor, one of them was destroyed and four were apparently hewn along the northern edge of the floor, only one of which survived. No niches were hewn along the western edge of the floor, reinforcing the assumption that the structure was a broad house. The niches may have been used as jar stands and their diameter is similar to that of jars from the Roman period. If jars were indeed placed in these niches, then their upper part protruded 0.2–0.3 m above the floor level. It is also possible that the niches themselves served as receptacles for some sort of liquid.
A plastered floor was discovered in Room 168, most of which was not preserved. A small, square, raised and plastered stone incorporated in the northeastern and southeastern corners of the floor. It is unclear if these two raised stones were part of an opening that was not preserved on the eastern side of the room or whether such stones were also incorporated in the western side of the room’s floor. The western room was built above the rectangular burial structure and was separated from the latter by a thick layer of kurkar (thickness 1.8 m) that may have been deposited intentionally. There was a slight deviation to the north (c. 10°) in the construction alignment of the mosaic structure relative to that of the burial structure. It seems that the builders of the mosaic structure were aware of the burial structure’s presence.
Human bones, mixed ceramic finds from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, including a round lamp from the Late Roman period (Fig. 13:1; Israeli and Avida 1988:94), fragments of three glass bottles and a round grinding stone (Fig. 13:2) made of reddish-blue sandstone rich in iron oxide and worn on both sides were discovered above the floors of the center and western rooms. These finds do not date the structure or its use, although it seems that the structure was part of the cemetery that was exposed in the excavation. Based on the plan of the structure and the mosaic, it can be suggested that the main room in the building was used for assembly and activity, while the side rooms were used for the burial of several individuals in sarcophagi or coffins.
After use of the structure ceased, its northern part was severed by four channels (L155, L156, L170, L171), hewn in the kurkar bedrock. The channels were discovered filled with soil, tesserae, fresco fragments and potsherds. The purpose of quarrying the channels could not be ascertained.
Burials devoid of offerings, dug in soil fill, were discovered c. 2 m north of the structure. They postdated the structure and were apparently part of the burial ground that was exposed in the excavation.
Collecting Vat. Remains of a round collecting vat whose lower part was rock-hewn (L140; Figs. 9, 14) were discovered in Area S1. The upper part of the vat was not preserved; however, it seems that most of the installation’s wall was built. A sump consisting of a ceramic bowl was fixed in the center at the bottom of the vat. The floor of the vat was made of upright ceramic slabs arranged in a herringbone pattern next to each other (Fig. 14) and was coated with hydraulic plastered. The wall of the vat was treated with pink-gray plaster (thickness 0.5 cm), applied to a base layer of gray cement mixed with shell fragments. Based on the construction, it seems that the vat dates to the Late Roman–early Byzantine period. The stratigraphy in the area indicates that the collecting vat postdates the mosaic building and the rectangular funerary structure that are adjacent to it.
Collecting Installation. A round collecting installation (L116; Figs. 3, 15) was exposed in Area S1, west of the collecting vat and east of the pit graves. The lower part of the installation was hewn in the kurkar bedrock and its upper part was constructed of stone rubble and coated with hydraulic plaster. The northern part of the installation was damaged and renovated in antiquity. A circular sump consisting of the base of a ceramic jar (L133) was fixed in the center, at the bottom of the installation. Two layers of soil fill mixed with artifacts were discovered in the installation. The bottom layer of fill yielded mixed finds from many periods, including architectural elements, fragments of glassware, pottery vessels and human bones. The architectural elements included roughly hewn building stones, a gutter—its end fashioned in the shape of a lion’s head (Fig. 16:1), column fragments, a fragment of a marble slab and several tesserae. Similar gutters with a stylized lion’s head date to the twelfth century CE (Rozenberg 1999:186, Fig. 3). The upper layer of fill contained mainly fragments of plaster, small stones, animal bones and pottery sherds, including an intact juglet from the Late Ottoman period (Fig. 16:2). It was not possible to date the collecting installation but judging by the gutter discovered in its lower part, it seems that it was used or stood empty until the twelfth century CE. A similar collecting installation was discovered in another burial ground in Ashqelon (Kol-Ya‘akov and Farhi 2012:104), and the excavators believed that it was part of an industrial installation that continued to be used in the Early Islamic period.
Family Tomb. In Area S3 were remains of a rock-cut family tomb (L300; see Fig. 3) that was part of the necropolis discovered in the area. The tomb was almost completely destroyed and only its rock-hewn bottom survived; apparently its upper portion, which did not survive, had been built. The boundaries of the quarrying of the tomb became obscured over the years due to damage by the weather and the heavy equipment that operated in the area. Numerous bones were discovered in the area of the tomb, most of them scattered and friable, as well as many funerary offerings; the great quantity of bones and offerings reflects the large size of the tomb. The bones represent at least eight people aged 1–2, 5–7, 15–20, 18–20, 20–25, >5, >20, >30 years; the sex of the individuals is unclear. Nails discovered in the tomb probably indicate that some of those buried were interred in wooden coffins. A coin from the third century CE (IAA 149195, Table 2:2) was found among the bones. The funerary offerings included several pottery vessels, glass items, jewelry, large nails, tools, two metal keys, remains of a wooden box, a mirror and an incense burner. The pottery vessels included fragments of a cooking pot (Fig. 17:1) and a juglet (Fig. 17:2), both dating to the Late Roman period. The glassware includes eleven items that are characteristic of the first–second centuries CE, including a small candlestick-shaped bottle made of greenish-blue glass (Fig. 17:3) and fragments of at least three other bottles. In addition, elongated beads were exposed, including a blue bead with a hexagonal cross section, several cylindrical beads (Fig. 17:4) and beads decorated with a white glass trail (Fig. 17:5). The jewelry includes two gold earrings—a plain loop earring (Fig. 17:6) and an earring composed of a loop and a rod, the upper part of which is decorated with a twisted pattern (Fig. 17:7), two plain copper rings and a small copper dome-shaped item that probably was part of a bell (Fig. 17:8). Bells and gold earrings are very common offerings in tombs from the Roman period, and they date to the late second–early third centuries CE (Winter 1996:109–110). The metal items include a woven chain that connects at four points to one ring. A similar chain of bronze and iron was found in a family tomb in the burial ground at En-Nabi Hussein, adjacent to the Barzilay Hospital compound, and is dated to the beginning of the third century CE (Kol-Ya‘akov and Farhi 2012). The two metal keys discovered in the tomb are of different sizes. The large key probably opened a house lock, while the smaller one was likely used to lock a wooden box. Small flat-head nails (Fig. 17:9) and a rounded metal handle that were found probably survived from a wooden box that was placed in the tomb, little of which was preserved. A carved wooden strip decorated with circles (Fig. 17:10) may have been part of the frame of this box. Two small wooden busts in the image of women (Fig. 17:11) were found; they were adorned with identical circles, apparently indicating that the busts belong to the same wooden box and were used to ornament it. The face and chest of the two busts were crudely formed. A socket fashioned at the back of the head of the busts was apparently used for attaching them to the box. Wooden boxes were often placed in third-century CE tombs and they are generally identified by finds such as nails, a key or a lock (Rahmani 1960:143; Kol-Ya‘akov and Farhi 2012; Winter 2015). The mirror discovered in the tomb is a double mirror, mold-made of copper alloy and probably coated with silver, with a lid (Fig. 18:1). The outer side of the mirror and the inside of the lid are decorated with a pattern of concentric circles. The mirror has two horseshoe-shaped carrying handles (Fig. 18:2) that were not soldered to it and were found nearby. The four connecting points between the handles and the mirror were designed as busts, three of which were discovered (Fig. 18:3)—two of women wearing garments and a hat, and one, apparently of a man. The incense burner in the cave is apparently a shallow basalt vessel with three legs and four rim handles (Fig. 18:4). A similar mirror and incense burner were discovered in a pit grave at the El-Jura antiquities site in Ashqelon and were dated to the first century CE (Wallach 2000).
Activity Area. A strip of stones was exposed in a layer of ash (L306; Figs. 3, 19) in Area S3, southeast of the family tomb. Several burnt animal bones were found on the stones and nearby. It is possible that this strip of stones was connected to altars or to the meals held in the funeral and memorial ceremonies at the nearby graves.
Vaulted Tomb. A vaulted tomb (L549; Fig. 20) that was part of the burial ground exposed in Area S was revealed in the western part of Area N. The tomb was hewn along a north–south axis in the kurkar bedrock and was lined with stones. The northern wall of the tomb was not preserved. The opening was fixed in the tomb’s southern wall (W50017) and the floor of the tomb was made of gray cement (thickness 0.2 m). The bones of at least three persons, aged 20–25, 30–40, >60 years, and funerary offerings consisting of numerous pottery and glass vessels were discovered scattered on the floor. The ceramic finds mainly date to the Late Roman period; several of the sherds are from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The ceramic assemblage from the Late Roman period included imported bowls (LRW; Fig. 21:1, 2), one of which was decorated with a stamped impression of a pulley, a cooking pot (Fig. 21:3), Ashqelon-type jars (Fig. 21:4, 5) and lamps (Fig. 21:6–9), including a fragment of a Beit Natif lamp (6), a round lamp (Israeli and Avida 1988:94; 7) and two round handles (8, 9), one of them a large lug handle (Israeli and Avida 1988:48–81). In addition, part of a base of a Beit Natif figurine and a small fragment of a jug handle decorated with a knob and dating to the Abbasid period (not drawn) were discovered in the tomb. The glass assemblage from the tomb consists of eight small items, including a fragment of a jar decorated with a turquoise trail (Fig. 21:10) and a fragment of a tube (Fig. 21:11) that are characteristic of the fourth–fifth centuries CE, the likes of which were discovered in the past at Ashqelon (Varga 2002: Fig. 136:1, 8), a base of a glass stem lamp from the fifth–seventh centuries CE, a bead that has a hexagonal cross section (Fig. 21:12), a bracelet (Fig. 21:13) and industrial glass waste (Fig. 21:14). Based on the finds, it seems that the tomb was built in the Late Roman period and continued to be used during the Byzantine and Abbasid periods.
Mamluk Period
In Area N were remains of two buildings and a reservoir (Fig. 20), in which two phases were discerned. One of the buildings is ascribed to the early phase; several of its walls (W50008, W50011, W50012, W50015), built of kurkar stones founded inside a layer of beach sand, survived. The floors of the structure were not preserved. An accumulation of sand mixed with ash (thickness c. 0.3 m) and an overlying layer of plaster were discerned in the section next to W50012; the layer of plaster apparently fell from the northern face of W50012 (L525). A large barrel-vaulted reservoir (Fig. 22), built next to the eastern side of the building, belongs to the late phase. The walls and floor of the pool were constructed of kurkar stones and lined on the inside with a layer of pottery sherds bonded with cement and treated with three layers of plaster (thickness of plaster 7–9 cm). Rectangular pilasters were built next to the outer walls of the pool, in the northwestern corner and in the middle of the southern wall. A foundation trench (L522; Fig. 23) was dug for the construction of the pool’s western wall (W50001); in doing so, the builders dismantled the eastern part of W50012 of the early phase. Apparently, the structure erected in the early phase continued to be used in the late phase. Stones from the vault that had fallen and several stone objects and pottery vessels were discovered in the reservoir. Also attributed to the late phase is a building that was constructed just south of the pool, built of small and medium-sized kurkar stones and covered with a barrel vault (L550; Fig. 24). The springing of this vault was apparent in the structure’s northern wall (W50023), built next to the southern wall of the pool (W50000), and it is apparent that these two walls were constructed as a single unit. The pillar adjacent to the central part of W50023 probably marks the western boundary of this structure. Most of the building was located outside the limits of the excavation area. Stone collapse from the walls, a meager amount of pottery sherds and burnt layers with ash were exposed in the building. The function of the building is unclear, but based on the rickety construction and the lack of plaster, it was evidently not used for collecting water.
Fragments of pottery and stone vessels were discovered in the excavation of the two buildings and the pool. The ceramic assemblage dated to the twelfth–fifteenth centuries CE and included brown- or yellow-slipped bowls, glazed and decorated with a light green or brown stripe (Fig. 25:1, 2), a large krater (Fig. 25:3), a Beirut-type cooking pot characterized by thin walls and an uneven dark brown glaze (Fig. 25:4; Stern 2012: Pl. 4.17:42), locally produced cooking pots with handles that extend upward (Fig. 25:5, 6; Avissar and Stern 2005:94–95), an undecorated jug (Fig. 25:7), a saqiye jar (Fig. 25:8; Stern 2012: Pl. 4.11:1), a jug adorned with a bichrome decoration set against a white background and brown spiral lines (Fig. 25:9) similar to imported Cypriot jugs (Avissar and Stern 2005:58), a filter jug decorated with a dark brown geometric pattern (Fig. 25:10), a small stopper fashioned from a sherd of a green glazed bowl (Fig. 25:11) and a jug handle decorated with twisted grooves (Fig. 25:12). The stone artifacts included a fragment of a marble architectural item decorated with a relief of an ‘eye’ and triangles (Fig. 25:13), discovered on the surface, a fragment of a deep marble bowl (Fig. 25:14) with a straight rim and almost straight wall, and a fragment of a round limestone bowl (Fig. 25:15) with a thin curved rim extending from the wall of the vessel. Such bowls were often used for pounding. 
Late Ottoman and British Mandate Periods
The remains of a building, most of whose walls were dismantled, were discerned on the surface at the beginning of the excavation in the northeastern part of Area N. The floors of two rooms (L513, L514, L519) built of gray plaster set on a cement foundation were revealed. These floors are typical of the time of the British Mandate. Judging by the floors, it seems that the building consisted of two rooms (estimated overall dimensions c. 15 × 17 m). Fragments of black Gaza Ware dating from the Late Ottoman period to the mid-twentieth century CE were discovered in the building.
Several other walls (W50005–W50007) attributed to this phase were discovered in the center of Area N. A few courses had survived from these walls, without any relation to distinct floor levels. Wall 50005 was built of roughly hewn kurkar stones. Wall 50006 was built of courses of kurkar stones that were placed on an ancient wall from the Mamluk period; hence, it seems that a part of the building from the Mamluk period was exposed and used during the Ottoman period. Only one course of roughly hewn kurkar stones was discovered that was part of W50007.
Remains of black Gaza Ware dating to the Late Ottoman period and the time of the British Mandate were discovered in the excavation of the building remains and the walls, including a bowl (Fig. 26:1) and two brik-type drinking jugs (Fig. 26:2–4), as well as a single fragment of a shallow basalt bowl (Fig. 26:5), smooth on the inside and with a ring base.
The Coins
Gabriela Bijovsky
Eight poorly preserved bronze coins were discovered in the excavation (Table 2:1–8), three of which were not identified (6–8). Coin 1 is the earliest and only a very worn fragment of it has survived. Based on the remains of a rectangular countermark on one of the sides of the coin, it dates to the first–second centuries CE. Coin 2 (Fig. 27:1) is the only coin preserved in its entirety, a coin of Galerius Maximianus that was struck at the Heraclea mint in 295–296 CE. This coin was part of a variety of burial offerings discovered in the family tomb (L300) in Area S3. Coins 3 and 4 were discovered on the surface between the pit graves in Area S1; they are very worn and therefore could be broadly dated to the fourth–fifth centuries CE. Coin 5 (Fig. 27:2) is a rare fals of the Abbasid governor Matar, minted in Egypt in 773–776 CE. It was discovered above L525 in a building from the Mamluk period (L509).
Table 2. The Coins
Roman provincial, countermark, first–second centuries CE
Galerius Maximianus, Heraclea, 295–296 CE (Fig. 27:1) 
Fourth century CE
Fourth–fifth centuries CE
Abbasid, the governor Matar, fals, Egypt, 773–776 CE (Fig. 27:2)
The burial ground exposed in the excavation was part of a major Roman-period necropolis. Based on the dating of the funerary offerings, the burials in the pit graves of Area S1 can be attributed to the first–second centuries CE, those in the family tomb in Area S3, to the second–third centuries CE and those in the vaulted tomb of Area N, to the end of the Roman and the Byzantine periods, perhaps even the Abbasid period. It was impossible to determine with certainty whether some of the pit graves were built in the Byzantine period or later, but graves from the Byzantine period are usually characterized by stone linings (cist graves) that were not discovered in the pit graves uncovered in the excavation. The relation of the collecting installations to the cemetery is unclear. Collecting vats observed in or near cemeteries excavated in the past (Kol-Ya‘akov and Shor 1999; Ein Gedy 2002; Kol-Ya‘akov and Farhi 2012) were generally associated with a wine industry. The small number of artifacts from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods seems to reflect minimal activity in the excavation area then, when the site probably continued to be used for interments on a limited scale. The buildings and the pool from the Mamluk period exposed in Area N indicate a renewal of activity at the site during this period and a change in its use from a cemetery to a residential area.