Stratum 2 (fifth–ninth centuries CE)
Part of a winepress (Figs. 2, 3), consisting of a treading floor (L144), a base for a press screw (L136), a settling pit (L147) and a collecting vat (L140), was exposed. The square treading floor (6.2×6.2 m) was paved with an industrial mosaic (L114; 2×2×2 cm tesserae), set on a bedding of gray mortar (thickness 2 cm) and founded on a layer of small stones deposited on the bedrock (L142). Two of the treading floor’s walls, the western (W3; height 5 cm) and the southern (W11) ones, were exposed, as was the foundation trench of the eastern wall (W17), which was abutted by the treading floor. A recess exposed in the middle of the floor (L136) contained an ashlar (0.4×0.5 m) at its bottom, set in mortar, which was probably used as a base to anchor the press screw.
A plastered channel (L149; length 0.7 m, width 0.2 m) emerged from the southern part of the treading floor to Settling Pit 147, which was trapezoidal (length 0.95, width 0.8–1.0 m, depth 0.4 m) and plastered (thickness of plaster 1 cm). A terracotta pipe (diam. 0.1 m, length 0.7 m) that led to the collecting vat was installed in the northeastern corner, at the bottom of the pit.
Collecting Vat 140 was rock-hewn and square (2.2×2.2 m, depth 1.7 m). Its sides and bottom were coated with a layer of white plaster mixed with potsherds (thickness 3 cm), applied to a base layer of small stones (0.1×0.1×0.1 m), set in gray mortar. The terracotta pipe that linked the settling pit with the collecting vat emerged 1.2 m above the bottom of the vat’s northern side (Fig. 4). Below the opening of the pipe was an ashlar, set in the floor of the collecting vat (0.32×0.32 m) and affixed in tesserae, so that the must dripping from the pipe would not cause a depression in the floor. Two cantilevered steps were installed in the sides of the collecting vat, one in the northern side (0.5 m above the bottom of the vat; see Fig. 4) and one in the eastern side (0.9 m above the bottom of the vat). A stone basin (diam. 0.4 m, depth 0.1 m) for storing liquid was set in the southwestern corner of the collecting vat floor. Two walls (W8, W14) that had been cut by a wall (W2) from Stratum 1 were exposed c. 5 m west of the winepress. A floor (L123) abutted the western side of W8.
The excavation of the winepress did not produce any clean loci that could date its construction and the duration of its use. However, pottery vessels from the fifth–sixth centuries CE were discovered in the fill of Stratum 1, together with pottery from the eighth–tenth centuries CE, alluding to the time span of the winepress’ usage. These included shallow FBW bowls with an everted rim (Fig. 5:1, 2), a deep krater with a drawn-out rim (Fig. 5:3), a Yassi Ada type amphora with an everted rim and a cylindrical neck (Fig. 5:5), a Gaza Jar of Mayerson Type A (Fig. 5:4; Mayerson P. 1994. The Gaza ‘wine’ Jar [Gazition] and the ‘lost’ Ashkelon jar [Askalônion]. In P. Mayerson, ed. Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers and Saracenes: Papers on the Near East in Late Antiquity. New York, pp. 346–351) and a fragment of a ‘sandal’ lamp that was prevalent from the fifth to the seventh centuries CE (Fig. 6:1). A bronze coin from the end of the third century CE (IAA 136674) was found within an assemblage dating to the Early Islamic period (L135); it aids in dating the beginning of activity at the site to an early period.
A Late Roman bronze coin dating to the 395–408 CE (IAA 136673) was found in the bedding of Floor 123, which abutted W8; it corroborated the supposition that this wall was built in the Byzantine period.
Stratum 1A (sixth–tenth centuries CE)
An alley (length 13.5 m, width 3 m), oriented northwest-southeast and a tamped-earth floor (L103, L135, L145), were exposed close to the western side of the winepress. Parts of two residential complexes were uncovered west of the alley. Two walls of a room (W2, W5) were exposed in the southern complex. An entrance leading from the alley to a room was set in W5. The doorway had a stone threshold (0.4×0.7 m) and a socket stone (diam. of socket 0.1 m). The floor of the room (L113), founded on natural bedrock, was composed of soil mixed with small wadi pebbles (5×5 cm). An open courtyard (L108, L111, L141) and two walls (W1, W6) of a room (L110) that belonged to the northern complex were exposed. The floor of the room (L112) was covered with a layer of plaster (thickness 3 cm) and its foundation consisted of tamped soil mixed with small stones (L118), placed on top of the natural bedrock. A heap of various size fieldstones (W15) was exposed below the floor bedding. A limestone threshold stone (0.2×0.9 m) in the passage from the room to the courtyard was discovered in W6. The courtyard was delimited on the south by W2, on the east by the continuation of W5 and on the north by W6. The courtyard’s floor (L108) consisted of tamped earth mixed with small stones and was set on top of the natural bedrock. A considerable amount of ash that contained a metal ring, potsherds and two illegible bronze coins was found in the accumulation above the floor (L107). A tabun (L141; 0.8×1.3 m) surrounded by a row of fieldstones was exposed in the southern part of the courtyard. Wall 14 of Stratum 2 probably continued to be used in Stratum 1 and delimited the tabun from the west.
The ceramic finds from the dwelling complexes and from the alley are characterized by vessels dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE, together with vessels dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE. These finds, indicating that the complexes were used over a long period of time, include open cooking pots with an everted rim (Fig. 7:8, 10), dating to the sixth and first half of the seventh centuries CE; a small bowl with an everted rim (Fig. 7:2), dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE; a buff-ware bowl with a straight rim, decorated on the inside with glazed painted stripes (Fig. 8:11), dating from the second half of the eighth to the tenth centuries CE; a jug with a rim that slopes downward and out (Fig. 7:4), dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE; a krater with a straight rim that curves in and is decorated on the outside with combing (Fig. 8:3) , dating to the seventh–tenth centuries CE; a baggy-shaped jar with a straight neck (Fig. 8:7), dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE; a small cooking pot (Fig. 7:12), dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE; a small cooking pot with a tall neck and a rim that slopes downward and out (Fig. 7:13), dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE; baggy-shaped jars with a tall neck and a slightly inverted rim (Fig. 8:6, 9), dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE and a large knob handle of a buff-ware lamp from the ninth–tenth centuries CE (Fig. 6:2, 3). A bronze coin minted in Damascus (IAA 136672) was also found in the courtyard.
Stratum 1B (ninth–tenth centuries CE)
A structure that had an open courtyard flanked by rooms to the north and south was located to the east of the alley, on top of the winepress remains from Stratum 2. Only the western part of the courtyard was exposed, and there were probably rooms along its eastern side as well. The entrance to the courtyard was through a doorway in Wall 3 (width 0.8 m), which had survived by two smooth stones placed on their narrow side that served as the bottom part of the doorjambs (Fig. 9). Two steps (0.3×0.9 m, height c. 0.25 m) built of roughly hewn stones descended from the doorway to the courtyard floor that was 0.35 m lower than the level of the alley. The courtyard floor was the mosaic floor of the winepress from Stratum 2 (L114), which continued to be used in Stratum 1. The walls of the winepress were dismantled, except for W3. The settling pit was filled with soil to create a leveled surface. Two square installations (L115, L116) built of smooth stones set on their narrow sides were discovered in the southwestern corner of the courtyard. Only part of Installation 115 was preserved while Installation 116 survived in its entirety. A large amount of ash, stone pounding tools, a basalt millstone and fragments of an oven were found around the installations. A room (L117; 2.5×2.8 m) whose walls (W3, W7, W12, W16) were founded on the sides of the collecting vat from Stratum 2 was built south of the courtyard. The collecting vat was filled with ashlars and architectural elements (L124, L128) that included a lintel decorated with a cross (Fig. 10). The entrance to the room was not exposed, although it can most likely be reconstructed in the northern wall. The floor of the room consisted of tamped soil and was overlain with fragments of pottery vessels and ash.
Three walls (W9, W10, W13) of another room (L138) were exposed north of the courtyard. The walls were built of smoothed stones and founded on natural bedrock. A fragment of a grinding stone with a hole in its center and a semicircular stone, possibly of a crushing stone, were incorporated in secondary use in W13.
The pottery assemblage found in the collecting vat and the room above it indicates that the winepress went out of use only in the ninth century CE. The finds included a FIW type cup (Fig. 8:2), dating to the seventh–eighth centuries CE; a krater with a straight rim that curves in and is decorated on the outside with combing (Fig. 8:4), dating to the seventh–tenth centuries CE; a jar (Fig. 7:7), dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE; jars (Fig. 8:5, 10), dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE; a white-slipped, buff-ware bowl decorated with painted stripes (Fig. 8:12), dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE; a cooking pot with a straight rim (Fig. 7:9), dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE; a buff-ware lamp that has a large knob handle and is decorated with a pattern of grape tendrils (Fig. 6:4), dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE; and a steatite bowl with a curved rim, a straight side and a lug handle (Fig. 6:5), dating to the eighth–ninth centuries CE.
The pottery found in the building east of the alley included a FIW type cup (Fig. 8:1), dating to the seventh–eighth centuries CE; a bowl with a plain slightly everted rim (Fig. 7:1), dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE; a buff-ware bowl with a straight rim, decorated on the inside with glazed painted stripes (Fig. 8:13), dating from the second half of the eighth to the tenth centuries CE; jars with a straight neck (Fig. 7 :5, 6), dating to the seventh–eighth centuries CE; a baggy-shaped jar with a straight neck (Fig. 8:8), dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE; a buff-ware juglet base (Fig. 7:3), dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE; an open cooking krater (Fig. 7:11), dating to the Byzantine period and a closed cooking pot with an upright neck that slopes outward (Fig. 7:14), dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. An Umayyad coin (IAA 136671) was found on the surface level.
A small amount of poorly preserved glass fragments was found. Nevertheless, it was possible to identify and date types, whose contribution is important to the study of the distribution and use of glass vessels, as well as for dating and understanding the site. Forty-four fragments of glass vessels were discovered, half of which could not be identified. The identified fragments are very small and covered with a thick layer of silvery gray weathering, which precludes identifying the shade of the glass. The weathering pitted the side of most vessels and any attempt to remove it caused it to crumble. Of the twenty-two identified fragments, six could be drawn and are described below. All the vessels date to the Early Islamic period and are typical of the eighth–ninth centuries CE (Fig. 11).
Three fragments of bottles represent very common types (Fig. 11:1–3). The bottle in Fig. 11:1 is medium sized and its rim is folded in with a very broad fold and a short neck. The color of the glass fragment cannot be discerned and it has severe black pitting and decay. Bottles of this type have a globular or oblate body and a concave base with a thick center. They first appear in the Umayyad period, mostly in small and medium sizes, and were made of glass characteristic of the period (HA-ESI 114: 97*–98*, Fig. 156). In the Abbasid period, the size of the rim usually increased and the quality of the material declined. These two features are evident in the bottle and aid in dating it. The small bottle in Fig. 11:2 has a short funnel-like mouth connected directly to the shoulder and a rounded rim. The color of the fragment is unclear and it has severe gray pitting that is characteristic of the period. The bottle is identified with a group of small bottles that mostly have a rectangular or cylindrical body; as the shoulder of this bottle is broken, its body cannot be reconstructed. The bottle in Fig. 11:3 is a base with a hexagonal body. The color of the fragment is unclear and it has severe black decay. Only part of the base survived and almost nothing is left of the sides. Small and medium hexagonal bottles that are mold-blown or carved were very common to the Abbasid period. A fragment of another bottle of this type with a thicker base was found, but due to its poor state of preservation it was not illustrated.
The other three fragments belong to alembics (Fig. 11:4–6). This vessel has a small body, shaped like an elongated half-egg. The rim is folded out and pressed and a long spout is affixed below it. The fragment in Fig. 11:4 is part of an alembic rim. The shade of the glass is unclear because of a very thick layer of black and silvery decay, covered with a sandy encrustation. Another very similar fragment was discovered but not drawn. The fold of the rim on both fragments is not identical and it is difficult to determine if they belonged to a single vessel or were part of two very similar alembics. The fragment in Fig. 11:5 is part of a rim and the inside of a spout. The color of the glass cannot be identified, the weathering is gray and severe and the side of the vessel is very thin. The vessel in Fig. 11:6 is a spout fragment with the connection to the vessel, covered with very severe pitting. This vessel was found together with a rim of the same type of alembic that was not drawn. Alembics first appeared in the Umayyad period and were widely distributed. Their use is unclear, yet based on their shape they were probably used for distillation or in medicine (for discussion and parallels of the type, see Gorin-Rosen Y. 2010: The Islamic Glass Vessels. In: O. Gutfeld, Ramla: The Excavations to the North of the White Mosque [Qedem 51]. Jerusalem, p. 227, Pl. 10.2:18–21). Later versions appear in miniature paintings, related to medicine and alchemy.
In any case, the high concentration of these vessels at the site point to their use in one capacity or another. It is noteworthy that these vessels were found, to date, in urban centers like Ramla, Bet She’an, Tiberias and Caesarea, whereas H. Kasif is a small settlement on the desert fringes. Since all the fragments recovered from the excavation are of small and medium-sized vessels, could it be that due to their size, use and contents, these vessels were brought by their owners to the northern Negev settlements in the Early Islamic period?
The pottery, glass and coins from the excavation indicate that the settlement at H
orbat Kasif existed from the fifth or sixth centuries CE until the tenth century CE. This conclusion is also in keeping with the results of the survey and the previous excavations at the site (see above). The industrial winepress exposed in the excavation and the walls and floor from Stratum 2 that were discovered in the western part of the excavation area were built in the fifth or sixth century CE. The winepress was used until the beginning of the ninth century CE, while the early building in the western part of the excavation went out of use shortly after it was constructed. So far, only two winepresses have been discovered in the Be’er Sheva‘ and ‘Arad Valleys, both of them within the precincts of the modern city of Be’er Sheva‘ (HA-ESI
113:115*–116*; HA-ESI 120
). The exposure of the winepress at H
orbat Kasif indicates the eastern boundary of the winepresses’ diffusion in this part of the Negev. The winepress was destroyed in the ninth century CE and a residential building was constructed on top of it. During the construction a stone lintel decorated with a cross was discarded into the collecting vat. The conclusion drawn from the excavation is that the residents of H
orbat Kasif in the Byzantine period produced wine and continued to do so at the beginning of the Early Islamic period, while in the ninth century CE, the residents of the ruin no longer needed the winepress and utilized its location for dwellings. The glass artifacts that included a fairly large number of alembics, which were common to the urban centers of the country, probably reflect the appearance of a new population in the settlement. The glass vessels and the elimination of the winepress indicate a cultural change that took place at the site in the Early Islamic period.