During April 2006 and October 2007, a community-educational excavation was conducted on the hill next to the settlement of Newe Shalom (Permit Nos. A-4788, A-5033, A-5404; map ref. 19842–61/63602–21; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Jewish-Arab school “Wahat al-Salam-Newe Shalom” and Keren Karev, was directed by G. Solimany, with the assistance of T. Kornfeld and A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), H. Dayan (Jewish National Fund), D. ‘En Mor (antiquities inspection), D. Ilan (Hebrew Union college), H. Neugeborn, N. Aga-Sa‘id, R. Qashqush and K. Masarwa (Jerusalem district archaeological education center) and B. Mark (Newe Shalom). Pupils of the Jewish-Arab school “Wahat al-Salam-Newe Shalom” participated in the excavation.
An architectural complex, comprising a room and a corridor with mosaic floors from the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE), was exposed on a hill, 320 m above sea level. A mosaic floor with a central medallion decorated with a red and black cross motif, had been discovered thirty years ago when the Jewish National Fund planted a forest in the area. The hill served as an observation post for the army along the Israel-Jordanian border between the years 1948–1967.Communication trenches dug in the hill severely damaged the site, destroying most of it; additional damage was caused to the site when the forest was planted and a dirt road was cut from the south.
A rectangular room (L100; 3.5×5.0 m; Fig. 2), whose southern side did not survive, was excavated. The floor was entirely paved with mosaic of white tesserae with a medallion (diam. 1.5 m) of red and black tesserae in its center. A cross motif in the middle of the medallion divided it into four equal parts (Fig. 3). A smaller cross motif occurring in a variety of patterns is integrated in each of the medallion’s sections (Figs. 2, 4). Other patterns were inlaid in the floor between the medallion and the northeastern wall, including a fish motif located next to the doorway (Fig. 5). A pit (depth 0.4 m) in the northwestern corner of the room was also paved with a white mosaic.Its function is unclear, but it was probably used as a base for a large ceramic vessel, possibly a jar that was placed inside it. The walls of the room were built of small and medium fieldstones (preserved height 0.1 m). The plan of the building is mainly determined by the outline of the mosaic floors. An entrance (width 1.2 m; Fig. 6) with a threshold built of two dressed stones was located in the northeastern wall. The door’s socket was set on the western side of the entrance. The opening led to a northeastern space, whose plan is still unclear. A line of plaster adjoined the northern side of the threshold (L109) and descended to a considerable depth. The line of plaster also appeared in the east and west and formed a frame (0.8×2.0 m) that delineated large fieldstone construction. The connection between that construction and the entrance threshold is unclear.
A wall built of medium-sized fieldstones (W1; width 0.6 m) and founded on the bedrock was in the east. It separated the room with the mosaic medallion from a corridor (L101; exposed area 1.8×3.0 m; Fig .7) that was paved with a white mosaic floor. An opening (width 1 m) led from the room with the medallion to the corridor. The mosaic pattern on the corridor’s floor was rectangular (1×2 m; Fig. 8) and divided into twenty-one squares (0.3×0.3 m) containing a variety of cross motifs. The rectangular frame and cross motifs consisted of red and black tesserae.
Stone collapse and large plaster fragments with large potsherds embedded in them were found on the floors of the rooms. Red stucco fragments were also found amongst the collapse. Other interesting finds included fragments of clay tiles (0.3×0.3 m) in the collapse. Fragments of glass and pottery vessels were discovered but no coins were found.
It seems that this is a public building complex, whose use has still not been clarified. The repeating cross motif that occurs in a variety of patterns in the mosaic pavement suggests the building had a religious use. However, the ceramic tiles of the type known from bathhouses and potsherds embedded in the wall plaster suggest the building was used for public bathing. The decorated and painted stucco reflect the magnificence of the structure.The few potsherds found are those of jars dating to the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE).