An ornamented stone was found in April 2004 at ‘Ein el-Hanniya, to the south of Jerusalem, in the course of archaeological inspection during the upgrading works of the railway tracks (map ref. NIG. 2149/6279; OIG 1649/1279). The stone was documented by Y. Mizrahi on behalf of the Antiquities Authority.
The ornamented stone (0.3 × 0.8 m, height 0.4 m; Figs. 1–3) was in secondary use within a fill of stones behind the nympheon at the site (SWP III:59–60; Fig. 4). A clandestine dig removed it, as well as many other ornamented stones from the fill. The stone was detected at a height of 1.1 m above a water channel that had once conveyed water to the nympheon.
The stone, a Corinthian capital of a pillar, is adorned on two of its edges with various decorations. A relief of leaf motifs (0.4 m wide) in the Corinthian style is on one wide edge; to its right, a corner cornice relief (0.1 m wide). The decoration of leaves is off-centered (0.3 m from the end of the stone to the relief of leaves on one side, 0.1 m on the side with the cornice relief) and is clearly associated with the corner cornice relief. On the narrow long edge of the stone, beneath the vegetal relief, two crosses are carved––the larger one in the center and the smaller one on the side, each one enclosed within a double circle.
It appears that initially, in the Late Roman period, the stone served as a capital of a Corinthian-style pillar. Subsequently, in the Byzantine period, the crosses were added and finally, it became part of the stone fill that covered the water channel, which extended to the entrance of the nympheon. Buttresses flanked the nympheon and it is posited that our stone rested on the northern buttress, judging by its ornamentation and measurements.