The Hellenistic Period
The excavation area (c. 1,000 sq m; Figs. 1, 2) consisted of five pottery kilns that were built inside a mud-brick structure from Iron Age II; three kilns were excavated. The large number of kilns in such a small space indicates that the area was an industrial region. Pottery dating to the Hellenistic period was found scattered on the surface.
Kiln 4 is circular, with a column in its center (diam. 2.4 m, wall thickness 0.15 m, preserved height 0.3 m; Fig. 3). Remains of two pillars with a collapsed arch built of mud bricks between them were discovered; the arch supported the ceiling. The kiln’s stoke hole was not found. A concentration of debris (L8) containing a large quantity of slag and potsherds from the Hellenistic period was discovered south of the kiln; noteworthy in the debris was a group of fifteen coarse and damaged spindle bottles that had been discarded. Pottery vessels were also discovered inside the kiln.
Kilns 116 and 919. A column that served as a base for an arch supporting the roof was also built in the middle of these two kilns, which probably had a second story. Vessels dating to the Hellenistic period were found on the floor that probably collapsed from the upper story. A shallow debris pit (L180) that contained a large number of bowls was discovered next to Kiln 116.
The pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period included bowls with a thickened inverted rim, curved side and flat or ring base (Fig. 4:1–10; remains of soot on Bowls 3 and 7); bowls damaged during production (Fig. 4:11, 12); a krater with an angled and everted rim and two handles drawn from the rim to the side (Fig. 4:13); cooking pots (Fig. 4:14, 15); jars (Fig. 4: 16, 17); juglets (Fig. 4:18, 19); spindle bottles (Fig. 4:20–22) with a long neck, a very small elliptical body, high pedestal and flat base; an inkstand (Fig. 4:23), which is an extraordinary handmade vessel with a small hole in its center, a thick wall, a pair of tiny lug handles and a flat base.
The kilns were apparently operated in the Hellenistic period in an industrial zone that specialized in the production of pottery vessels. Similar pottery kilns were discovered at Tel Ashdod in Areas D and M, on the southern and eastern slopes of the tell (O. Tal 2007. The Archaeology of Hellenistic Palestine: Between Tradition and Renewal. Jerusalem, p. 196 [Hebrew]; Dothan M. 1971. Ashdod II–III: The Second and Third Seasons of Excavations 1963, 1965 [‘Atiqot {ES} 9–10]. Jerusalem, pp. 115–117). The kilns were mainly operated in the second half of the second century BCE, based on the finds, although several types of vessels began to appear in the third century BCE and continued into the second and even to the beginning of the first century BCE.
The Late Roman Period
Three tombs were exposed but were not excavated; they too were built inside a structure from Iron Age II (see Fig. 2). An arcosolium tomb (L16; 5.8 × 8.1 m; Figs. 5, 6), aligned north–south, had a central hall with a barrel vaulted ceiling (max. height 2.4 m) and six arcosolia, three on each side, aligned east–west. The tomb was partially filled with sand that had penetrated via the opening and a hole that was breached in the ceiling during the development work (Fig. 5; Section 1-1). It seems that a staircase led to the opening of the tomb, which was coated with white plaster on the inside and outside. The walls of the tomb were built of dressed kurkar, and the ceiling was composed of a conglomerate of stones and mortar.
The tomb was not excavated and it is therefore impossible to date it accurately. Potsherds dating to the Late Roman period were found in the pit into which the tomb was built; these included cooking pots and jars from the fourth–fifth centuries CE and several imported bowls of the Late Roman period pottery types (Late Roman Ware; not drawn).
Rectangular Tombs (L17, L18). Tomb 17 (1.7 × 2.7 m, height 1.7 m; Fig. 7), oriented east–west, was entered from the east; its walls were built of dressed kurkar stones in dry construction and its ceiling was vault-like. The pottery discovered in the pit that was dug for the construction of the tomb consisted mostly of baggy-shaped jar fragments dating to the Late Roman period (not drawn). Tomb 18 was located c. 1.5 m north of Tomb 17.
Vaulted tombs were common in the southern coastal region of the Land of Israel in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Eighty-five tombs, built in a variety of shapes and sizes and dated to the third–sixth centuries CE, were found in another excavation (Y. Huster and O. Sion. 2006. Late Roman and Byzantine Vaulted Tombs in the Southern Coastal Plain. Jerusalem and Eretz Israel 3, pp. 49–67 [Hebrew]).