Stratum 3 (The Early Roman period)
Architectural remains, a clay tabun, stone collapse and ash levels were exposed. All the remains were founded atop the natural loess soil, beneath Building 1 of Stratum 2 (below). A wall (W27; height 0.18 m), oriented southeast-northwest and preserved a single course high, was discovered in the northeastern corner of Square E4. The base of the wall was abutted by a floor of tamped earth (L146; thickness 0.05 m), overlaid with a layer of fine ash. A floor of tamped loess (L150) with a tabun (L158) above it was exposed in Square D4. The tabun area was delimited on the west by medium and large fieldstones (W28), but no actual walls were preserved in this region. Stone collapse (L141, L152), which mostly consisted of roughly hewn sandstone blocks (0.5 x 0.7 m) that bore the remains of white plaster (thickness 1.5 cm), was found in Squares D2 and D3. Several superposed layers of ash (L147, L157; thickness c. 0.8 m) were revealed below the stone collapse; these were probably the remains of a refuse dump.
The pottery vessels recovered from this stratum dated to the first–second centuries CE and included a krater (Fig. 4:1), cooking krater (Fig. 4:2), cooking pots (Fig. 4:3, 4), lids (Fig. 4:5, 6), jars (Fig. 4:7–11), cooking jugs (Fig. 4:12, 13), jugs (Fig. 4:14–16), including a base of an Eastern Terra Sigillata Type A jug (Fig. 4:16) and a flask handle (Fig. 4:17).
Stratum 2 (The Byzantine period)
Parts of two buildings (1, 2; see Figs 2, 3) that sealed the remains of Stratum 3 were discovered. Most of the walls were built of mud bricks, fieldstones and wadi pebbles. Two main phases were exposed in the two buildings, along with building additions, canceled walls and raised floor levels.
Stratum 2b. Four of the building’s rooms were exposed (1–4; Fig. 5). The walls of the structure (W12, W16, W17, W21, W22, W25) were built of fired mud bricks, with sandstones inserted in the interstices. The tamped loess floors in all the rooms were found sealed beneath a layer of mud-brick collapse. It seems that Walls 22 and 25 were the outer walls of the building and delimited it from the east and north. Wall 22 (width 0.8 m, height 0.76 m) was completely robbed and only its foundation trench, with potsherds at its bottom, was exposed. Wall 25 (height 1.54 m, width of foundation 1 m; Fig. 6) was built of roughly hewn sandstones and its foundation penetrated the stone collapse (L152) and ash layers (L157) of Stratum 3. The structure’s interior walls (height 0.31–0.42 m, width c. 0.5 m) were built of a single row of square mud bricks (0.4 x 0.4 x 0.1 m).
Room 1 was delimited on three sides by Walls 12, 16 and 22 and its southeastern corner was excavated. Only meager foundations of Walls 12 and 16 survived. The floor of this room was not preserved due to a refuse pit from the Abbasid period (see below, L135) that was cut into it.
Room 2, west of Room 1, was delimited by Walls 12, 16, and 17. Its southern part was excavated and a floor of tamped loess (L119; thickness 0.06 m) was exposed.
Room 3, west of Room 2, was delimited by Walls 12, 17 and 21. Its eastern half was excavated and a tamped loess floor (L122; thickness 0.07 m) was exposed.
Room 4, to the north of Rooms 1–3, was delimited on the north by Wall 25. The tamped loess floor in this room was overlain with mud-brick material, founded on a base of small fieldstones bonded with loess (L131; thickness 0.15 m). Due to the building’s poor state of preservation and the limited excavation area, no openings leading into the rooms could be found.
Stratum 2a. Walls 12, 17 and 21 were canceled in the later phase of the building and a new wall (W15) was added south of and parallel to Wall 12. Wall 15 was built of fired mud bricks that were a lighter shade than those used in the walls of Stratum 2b and its base was reinforced on the southern side by a row of small stones. Abutting these stones was a tamped-earth floor (L107; thickness 0.12 m) with a hearth above it, indicating this was an open area, probably a courtyard. Wall 17, which separated Rooms 2 and 3, was canceled and a tamped loess floor, overlain with mud-brick material (L110; thickness 0.05 m), was placed above it; traces of ash were found on the floor. The plan of Room 4 was not altered, yet a new floor of tamped loess (L108; thickness 0.11 m) was set above the old floor and a tabun with traces of ash around it was discovered on it.
Stratum 2b. Three of the building’s rooms (5, 6, 7; Figs. 3, 7) were exposed. The walls of the structure (W19, W20, W23, W24, W26; width 0.70–1.15 m, height c. 0.5 m) were built of different size mud bricks (0.40 x 0.25–0.40 x 0.40 m). Wall 19 consisted of two rows of square, light colored mud bricks, bonded with brick material. Wall 26 was built of three rows of dark colored rectangular mud bricks (0.25 x 0.40 m). Wall 24 was built of mud bricks with small fieldstones inserted in the interstices. Wall 20 was built of three rows of rectangular mud bricks of a darker shade. Wall 23 was built of mud bricks with small and medium fieldstones inserted in the interstices.
Room 5 was delimited by Walls 19 and 26 on the north and east; its northeastern part was excavated.
Room 6 was delimited by Walls 19, 20 and 24. The tamped loess floor in the room was overlain with a thin layer of mud-brick material (L137). The room was covered with loess soil, which contained numerous colored ceramic floor tiles that were not in situ. These tiles were probably the room’s floor, they were placed above Floor 137, which was the floor’s bedding, and they were disturbed or robbed in Stratum 2a.
Room 7 was enclosed by Walls 20 and 23 and its southwestern part was excavated.
Stratum 2a. The walls of the structure continued to be used in this phase; however, new floors were installed.
Room 5. A tamped loess floor (L149; thickness 0.07 m) was exposed and resting above it were nine architectural elements of chalk, which probably were taken from a public building that was not exposed (Fig. 8). These elements included a fragment of a column (length 0.53 m, diam. 0.22 m) and ‘southern’ capital decorated with engraved crosses, a base and column fragment (length 1.16 m, diam. 0.25 m), several ashlars and two column drums. The distribution of the architectural elements in the room indicates that it was used to store building stones in secondary use.
Room 6 had a partially preserved flagstone floor (L130) that abutted the northern side of W19 and the western side of W24. The bottom of the southern side of W20 was lined with fragments of pottery vessels that constituted a base layer for plaster, which was not preserved. A rectangular basin (L160; 0.3 x 0.8 m) made of chalk was found inside the room.
Room 7 was paved with limestone flagstones (L136) that were founded on fill consisting of loess mixed with mud-brick material. Three stairs of large fieldstones were exposed in the eastern part of the room. The stairs, abutting Wall 20, ascended from north to south, and probably led to the front door of the room.
The pottery from both phases of Stratum 2 is dated to the Byzantine period. The ceramic assemblage is characteristic of the western Negev and the southern coastal plain in the sixth and seventh centuries CE; it included imported Late Roman C type bowls (Figs. 9:1, 2; 10:1, 2), locally produced bowls (Figs. 9:3; 10:3–10), combed kraters (Figs. 9:4–6; 10:11, 12), a cooking krater (Fig. 9:7), a cooking pot (Fig. 9:8), lids (Figs. 9:9–11; 10:13), Gaza jars (Figs. 9:12; 10:14), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 9:13, 14; 10:15), jugs (Figs. 9:15–17; 10:16), including a stirrup jug (Figs. 9:17; 11), a stand (Fig. 10:17) and a sandal lamp (Fig. 9:18).
Stratum 1 (The Early Islamic period)
Three refuse pits (L128, L132, L135; see Fig. 2) and foundations of two walls (W10, W11) were exposed. The pits were dug into habitation levels from the Byzantine and Early Roman periods (Strata 2 and 3). Pit 128 (diam. 1.8–2.0 m, depth 0.72 m) was discovered in Square D4 and contained loess and large building stones (Fig. 12). Levels of loess and ash mixed with fragments of pottery vessels were found in Pit 135, near the western balk of Square E4 (diam. 1.3 m, depth 1.12 m), and in Pit 132, adjacent to the southern balk of Square G2 (diam. 3 m, depth 0.25 m). Meager foundations of two walls (W10, W11; height 0.2 m) were exposed in Squares D4 and E4. The walls were built of fieldstones and survived a single course high. The fill in the refuse pits of Stratum 1 contained a ceramic assemblage, characteristic of the tenth–eleventh centuries CE, including shallow bowls (Fig. 13:1–5), one of which is decorated with a zigzag design (Fig. 13:1), a handle and base of a cooking pot (Fig. 13:6, 7), jars (Fig. 13:8–10) and a rim of a jug (Fig. 13:11).
The glass finds from all strata are scarce and poorly preserved; the fragments are small and weathered. Most of the identified fragments belong to bottles and goblets typical of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Nineteen coins were found, of which thirteen could be identified. Three of these predate the Byzantine period and ten are from the Byzantine period. The early coins include a small bronze Seleucid ‘palm tree’ type coin that was struck in Tyre in the third–second centuries BCE (IAA 120631) and was found south of Building 1 in Stratum 2b; a prutah from the time of the procurator Antonius Felix from 54 CE (IAA 120630) that was found on the surface in Room 5 in Building 2; and an antoninus, made of silver alloy, of the Emperor Probus (276–282 CE) that was struck in the imperial mint in Antioch (IAA 120629) and was found on the floor of Room 6 in Building 2 of Stratum 2b.
Of the ten coins from the Byzantine period, seven small bronze coins date to the fourth–fifth centuries CE (IAA 120621, 120623, 120624, 120627, 120628, 120632, 120633) and three large bronze denominations are from the beginning of the sixth century CE (IAA 120622, 120625, 120626). Most of the Byzantine coins were found in Rooms 6 and 7 in Building 2, in loci ascribed to the later Stratum 2a.