Seven excavation squares were opened in a row running from west to east over 80 m along the mostly hewn-out course of the planned road (Sqs 1–7; Fig. 2). In Sqs 1 and 2, the unauthorized earthworks reached down to the bedrock. Hence, the excavation focused on the architectural remains visible in and protruding out from the southern balk in the easternmost square (Sq 6) and on the scanty remains extant on the bedrock in Sqs 3–5 and 7.
This square yielded remains belonging to two strata (II, I; Fig. 3). Stratum II comprised fragmentary walls of a house dated to the Late Hellenistic – Early Roman periods (first century BCE – first century CE) that was built directly on the bedrock. Overlying these remains were several segments of walls and floors and a rock-hewn cistern (Stratum I), probably part of a large building that dated to the transitional Late Roman – Early Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE).
Stratum II. The fragmentary remains of an east–west wall built of two rows of stones (W125; length c. 4.8 m, width c. 0.6 m, height 0.3 m; Fig. 4) were exposed on the chalky limestone bedrock sloping northward. The wall remains comprised a single course of damaged, partially dressed, medium-sized stones and a very shallow incision in the bedrock surface that continued the course of the wall both to its west and to its east. A short segment of an additional wall (W116A), consisting of a double row of large, flat, dressed stones set on the bedrock, is perpendicular to the eastern continuation of W125 and may have adjoined it to form a corner. The ceramic finds on the bedrock surfaces (L122, L124) adjacent to these two walls include a few Late Hellenistic sherds (see Fig. 12:3); however, most of the finds are from the Early Roman period (see Fig. 12:4, 6, 8, 15–17).
Stratum I yielded the outer, northwestern corner of a building (W113, W115; Fig. 5) constructed partially on the bedrock and partially overlying the fragmentary Stratum II wall remains. Wall 113 (Fig. 6) was built of carefully laid, large dressed stone blocks. A narrow slit was left between the stones of its second and third courses, probably for drainage purposes. The tiny area exposed within the delimited building was full of collapsed stones (L123). A north–south wall (W116; 1.1 m preserved height; Figs. 3: Section 1–1; 5; 6), partially overlying W116A of Stratum II, perpendicularly abutted the outer face of W113; the wall was inaccessible due to the unstable stone collapse overlying it in the eastern balk (L118). The northern face of another wall of the building was just visible in the southern balk, probably adjoining or abutting the western face of W115 (W127; 0.7 m preserved height in the balk; see Fig. 3: Section 2–2).
A wall-like feature (L121; Fig. 7) built of two courses of carefully laid, large dressed stone slabs—the upper course comprising slightly smaller slabs—was set against W127 up to the western face of W115. These slabs roofed a large, irregularly shaped rock-hewn cistern (L126; diam. 3.8–4.5 m, depth 2.8 m). The cistern was treated entirely with a layer of cream-colored hydraulic plaster (thickness c. 2 mm; Figs. 3: Section 2–2; 8). Its opening was at the western end of the row of roofing stone slabs: a worn, dressed limestone block with a hewn square opening (internal dimensions 0.35 × 0.35 m). No finds were retrieved from the soil that accumulated inside the cistern, as some of it was emptied-out with a mechanical digger at the end of the excavation.
A floor (L120), made of packed earth with some very small pebbles and thin chalky patches, ran up to the base of W115 and to the cistern’s stone-slab roofing. This area with its underground cistern was a courtyard, probably located outside the building. The accumulation overlying Floor 120 contained a few smashed, in-situ Late Roman – Early Byzantine pottery vessels and two basalt grinding mortar bowls (L112; see Figs. 13:2, 10; 14:1, 3, 5, 7, 9; 17:1, 2). The accumulation on the sloping bedrock between Walls 113 and 116, similarly contained Late Roman – Early Byzantine sherds (L114; see Figs. 13:5, 6, 9, 11; 14:2). Accumulation 114 and Floor 120 with its overlying Accumulation 112 were covered by piles of stones that collapsed from the walls (L106; Fig. 9). Among the stones were Late Roman – Early Byzantine sherds (see Figs. 13:3, 7, 12; 14:4).
A few glass fragments were found in Accumulations 112 and 118 and in Stone Collapse 106, all pertaining to Stratum I (Gorin-Rosen, below).
It seems that the Stratum I walls were the outer walls of a large Late Roman – Early Byzantine-period building, but the excavation exigencies and the high southern balk precluded the possibility of extending the excavation further to the south to expose the interior of the building.
Squares 3–5, 7
Squares 3–5 and 7 (Fig. 2) did not yield any architectural remains. The remains in these squares are presented below in chronological order.
Fairly irregular negative imprints of a limestone quarry were found about 35 m to the west of the building remains (Sq 4; Fig. 10). An area of uneven bedrock, which may have been partially hewn, was unearthed in Sq 7 (Fig. 11). A few Late Hellenistic and several Early Roman sherds were found in association with these bedrock surfaces (L104, L110, L111, L117; see Fig. 12:1, 2, 5, 7, 9–14). In Sq 5, a large pit or cistern that was destroyed by the mechanical works may have been hewn out in the Early Roman period, as it yielded a few Early Roman potsherds (not drawn).
Late Roman – Early Byzantine pottery sherds were found in accumulations in Sqs 4 and 7 (see Figs. 13:1, 4, 8; 14:6, 8, 10), and an Early Islamic sherd and some Mamluk and Early Ottoman pottery (see Fig. 15) found in Sq 3 reflect some activity that took place during these periods in the immediate vicinity.
The pottery retrieved in the excavation (Figs. 12–15) comprised Late Hellenistic, Early Roman pottery, transitional Late Roman – Early Byzantine finds and sporadic Early Islamic, Mamluk and Early Ottoman-period sherds.
Late Hellenistic Period
(Fig. 12:1–3).The few Late Hellenistic sherdsassociated with the Stratum II house and the quarry in Sq 4 comprise the rim of an everted bow-necked cooking pot (Fig. 12:1) and a few rims of bag-shaped storage jars with everted thickened rims (Fig. 12:2, 3). These forms are characteristic of Late Hellenistic, first century BCE pottery repertoires in the Lower Galilee, for example at Z
ippori (Balouka 2013
: Pl. 1:1–4, Type CP 1; Pl. 1:22–24, Type HSJ 1c).
Early Roman Period
(Fig. 12:4–17). The Early Roman pottery retrieved in the excavation is typical in forms and wares of contemporaneous pottery repertoires in the Lower Galilee; references are cited here to the established classifications of these common wares (Díez Fernández 1983
; Adan-Bayewitz 1993
; Balouka 2013
, on the Z
ippori pottery). Nevertheless, a few sherds of a delicate red-slipped cup (including a handle fragment) belong to an uncommon Eastern Terra Sigillata vessel (Fig. 12:4). The krater is the Early Roman ‘Shikhin’ krater form common at Z
ippori (Type KR 1a; Fig. 12:5). The cooking ware vessels are all Kefar H
ananya forms and are probably made of Kefar H
ananya ware, as were cooking bowls (KH Form 1B; Fig. 12:6); open cooking pots of KH Form 3A (Fig. 12:7) and the KH Form 3B (a single sherd; Fig. 12:8); and closed cooking pots (KH Form 4A; Fig. 12:9, 10). The bag-shaped storage jars have the everted wide-band rims that were common from the first century BCE to the first century CE, down to around 70 CE (Díez Fernández Type T1.3; Fig. 12:11–13); only a few of these jars have the ridged neck and internal rim gutter dated to the latter first and second centuries CE (Díez Fernández Type T1.5; Fig. 12:14). A juglet, with an everted rim and a ridge below the rim, is made of pale grey ware with black grits (Fig. 12:15). Two lamp fragments were also found: the nozzle of a knife-pared lamp (Fig. 12:16) and the round nozzle of a round lamp decorated with concentric circles and dots (Fig. 12:17).
While the various vessel forms are attributed to slightly different chronological ranges, almost all were in common use during the first century CE, down to around 70 CE. The only vessel with a later chronological range is the open cooking pot (KH Form 3B; Fig. 12:8), whose earliest appearance is dated to the early second century CE.
Late Roman and Early Byzantine Period
(Figs. 13, 14).The pottery retrieved in and around the Stratum I building is attributed to the transitional Late Roman – Early Byzantine period, dating from around the mid-fourth century CE. This pottery is similar to the pottery repertoire uncovered in the destruction layer attributed to the earthquake of 363 CE at Z
ippori (Balouka 2013
). Similar contemporary Lower Galilee repertoires were found at Kefar Nah
um and Jalame (Johnson 1988
; Loffreda 2008
All the cooking ware bowls are Kefar H
ananya forms. These include a single bowl of the KH Form 1D (Fig. 13:1), dated from the mid-third to the later fourth century CE, and several bowls of the KH Form 1E (Fig. 13:2, 3), dated from the mid-third down to the early fifth century CE. The only imported bowl is a Phocaean Red Slip bowl (Fig. 13:4; Hayes 1972
:329–338, PRS Form 3), whose first appearance in Israel is dated within the fifth century CE. This bowl came from the vicinity of the Stratum I building, not from the building itself.
No parallels were found for the large krater in Fig. 13:5. The krater in Fig. 13:6 is the Late Roman evolution of the ‘Shikhin’ krater, which appears in the 363 CE destruction layer at Zippori (Type KR 1c; Fig. 13:6).
Three open cooking pots or casseroles are neither Kefar Hananya forms nor made of Kefar Hananya ware. They exhibit a sharply carinated body profile and a grooved horizontal rim (Fig. 13:7–9). A similar open cooking pot was found at Zippori (Type OCP 5), where it was dated to the first two thirds of the fourth century CE. A single, fairly small open cooking pot or casserole with horizontal handles is similar to Late Roman casseroles at Zippori (Type OCP 7b), which are dated to the mid-fourth to fifth centuries CE (Fig. 13:10). The cooking pots in Fig. 13:11, 12 are Kefar Hananya pots with short necks and flat rims (KH Form 4D), which were common in the first two thirds of the fourth century CE. There are, however, no examples of the new Byzantine cooking pot forms that predominated in the destruction layer at Zippori (Types CP 4a, CP 5a).
The storage jars are the most common vessels; they are all bag-shaped jars with various rims. These include the late evolutions of the ridged-neck jars that were in use down to the early fourth century CE (Zippori: Type SJ 3; Fig. 14:1–3); a characteristic folded rim that is common in the 363 CE destruction layer at Zippori (Type SJ 4b; Fig. 14:4–7); and a single example of a flat rim that is also found in the destruction layer at Zippori (Type SJ 9; Fig. 14:8).
Only one juglet (Fig. 14:9) and one bowl-shaped lid characteristic of the third and fourth centuries CE (Zippori: Type LID 3; Fig. 14:10) were found.
A comparison of the pottery from the excavation with the rich pottery repertoire of the 363 CE destruction layer at Zippori indicates that our assemblage dates within the fourth century CE, possibly around mid-century. The pottery repertoire from the site is too small to determine whether the absence of the new Byzantine cooking pot forms is incidental, or if it is of chronological significance and indicates a pre-363 CE date.
Early Islamic, Mamluk and Early Ottoman Periods (Fig. 15). A handle of a buff-ware jug is the single Early Islamic, Ummayad–Abassid period vessel (Fig. 15:1). There are a few glazed bowls (Fig. 15:2, 3), cooking pots (Fig. 15:4) and storage-jar rims (Fig. 15:5) attributable to the Mamluk and Early Ottoman periods.
The Glass Finds
Twelve glass fragments were found in the excavation, seven of which could be identified (Fig. 16). All of the fragments were discovered in Sq 6, and most of them date from the Early and Late Roman periods. The vessels belong to the repertoire of glassware that is known from these periods in the Galilee and more widely throughout Israel. The vessels have various shades of greenish blue and are covered with a thick layer of silverfish black weathering that corroded part of the wall.
Bowl No. 1 (L118) is shallow with a rounded, upright rim rounded by fire and a wall that curves toward the base. Bowls of this type were found in assemblages that date from the third–fourth centuries CE in the Galilee. Base No. 2 (L118) is thickened; it belonged to a bowl or beaker. Such bases are known from assemblages dating from the third–fourth centuries CE. Base No. 3 (L112) belonged to a very common vessel, dubbed a “beaker with a solid base”. The beaker is typical of the fourth century CE, and numerous examples were found in the workshop debris at Jalame, dating from the second half of the fourth century CE (Weinberg and Goldstein 1988
:60–61, Fig. 4-23), in Bet Sheʽan, where a whole beaker of this type was discovered (Katsnelson 2014
:28*, Figs. 2:9–11; 14:6, see additional references cited therein) and at other sites around the country.
Fragment No. 4 (L112) belongs to a small spoon. This is quite a rare object; hence its importance. A very similar spoon was found in the excavations at Bet Sheʽan, where it was dated to the Late Roman – Byzantine periods (Katsnelson 2014
:31*–32*, Fig. 5:6, see additional references cited therein). The quality of the spoon’s material and the weathering it bears are very similar to those of the glass vessels from Bet Sh’an, suggesting that the spoon is contemporary. The ceramic artifacts from L112 also date from the end of the Late Roman period and the beginning of the Byzantine period (fourth century and early fifth century CE)
Stone Vessels (Fig. 17)
Two basalt tripod grinding mortar bowls were found. These are long-lived forms, and their attribution to the Late Roman period is based on their Stratum I context.
The excavation at Bu‘eina yielded architectural and ceramic remains of an Early Roman-period house (Stratum II). The presence of Late Hellenistic sherds (first century BCE – first century CE) suggests that the house was first constructed during this period, possibly as part of a new village founded during the Hasmonean expansion and settlement of the Galilee under the Hasmonean rule. The house was probably abandoned by the late first century CE, possibly around the time of the first Jewish Revolt or in the early second century CE. While no occupation remains from the second and third centuries CE were uncovered, the limited excavation precludes any clear conclusion regarding an occupation gap in the Middle Roman period.
A new building was constructed in the Late Roman – Early Byzantine period (Stratum I). Despite the limited extent of the remains, the well-constructed walls raise the possibility that this was a public building, possibly the synagogue or part of the synagogue complex of a Jewish village that was established here during the late fourth and the fifth centuries CE. While the site of the building — in the village nucleus — provides some contextual support for this interpretation, its location adjacent to the old-and-since-rebuilt mosque may further reflect a centuries-old veneration for a sanctified spot. Guérin (1880
:364; see Fig. 1) notes that the mosque was unusual in its west–east orientation, and suggests that it was once a Christian church. The official government site register also records the presence of a mosque that was formerly a church (Yalqut
Ha-Pirsumim 1091 [18/05/1964]:1391).The evidence from Josephus, the Mishna and the Talmud, along with finds from the multiple excavations and surveys carried out over the past century in the central and eastern Lower Galilee, have led to the clear understanding that during the Roman period this was an overwhelmingly Jewish region, dotted with numerous Jewish villages (for a comprehensive synthesis, see Leibner 2009:329–351; unfortunately, Bu‘eina-Nujidat lies about half a kilometer west of the western limits of the survey reported in this publication). It can thus be concluded that over the centuries, a synagogue, a church and a mosque were probably built on the same plot of land. The collapsed stones from the walls of the large structure may reflect the destruction or the abandonment of the site sometime in the Byzantine period, probably over the course of the fifth century CE.