Ash and ceramic debris discovered inside the kilns were apparently deposited after the kilns went out of use. An early form of the ‘Gaza’ wine jar, dating to the first–third centuries CE, was the most dominant type of vessel in the kilns, where it may have been produced. The debris also included a mixture of potsherds dating primarily to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with a small amount of potsherds from the Byzantine period.
Kiln 1 has an elliptical shape (2.5×3.0 m; Figs. 3, 4). The firing box was preserved to its full height (2.85 m). The remains of four brick arches, placed at identical distance (0.35 m) from each other, were uncovered. The fourth arch (W14; Fig. 5) was fully preserved, together with the brick substructure of the pottery chamber’s floor that was built between it and the brick-lined wall. The floor of the pottery chamber was 2.52 m higher than that of the firing box.
An opening (width 0.35 m), whose threshold was 0.15 m higher than the floor of the firing box, was revealed along the northeastern side of the firing box. It faced a corridor with stairs on the northeast, which was shared with Kiln 2. The corridor was used to feed fuel into the firing box and to remove the ash.
The kiln was built into a layer of sand. The external walls were lined with sun-dried mud bricks of a uniform size (0.12×0.18×0.35 m). The bricks were only fired if they were exposed to the operation of the kiln. The bricks of the arches were completely burnt, whereas the bricks lining the internal walls of the firing box were burnt to a thickness of 0.1 m. The heat of the kiln caused the sand around it to melt, turning it into a brittle brown layer (thickness c. 0.1 m).
A layer of black ash (L123) was exposed on the floor of the firing box. Potsherds were found above the collapse of the arches and below the collapse. This may indicate that their deposition took place after the use of the kiln was discontinued and before the arches collapsed.
Kiln 2 (diam 3 m; Fig. 6). The firing box was preserved to its full height (2.24 m) and the lower part of the firing chamber was preserved to a height of 0.8 m. The remains of brick arches, spaced 0.35 m. from each other, were discovered in a collapsed state over the floor of the firing box (L119; Fig. 7).
An opening (width 0.4 m) was revealed along the northwestern side of the firing box; it appears to have been supported by an arch. The opening faced the corridor with the stairway that Kiln 2 shared with Kiln 1. A layer of ash (L125), exposed above the floor of the firing box, was covered with the collapsed arches (L119). The collapsed arches were in turn covered with a layer of ash (thickness 1.7 m), mixed with potsherds (L113).
Kiln 3. The remains of this small kiln were discovered c. 2 m to the northeast of Kilns 1 and 2 (Fig. 8). Only the floor of the kiln (diam. 1.3 m) had survived together with a small amount of the surrounding wall. A layer of ash mixed with potsherds (thickness 0.5 m) was discovered above the floor. The elevation of the floor, as well as the potsherds overlaying it, are nearly identical to that found in the first two kilns, making it likely that all three kilns operated at the same time period. The close proximity of the third kiln to the first two suggests that they were originally part of a single installation.
Kiln 4. The firing box of this kiln was uncovered c. 5 m northwest of the three other kilns. The kiln, c. 70% of which was excavated, had apparently operated in two phases. In its early phase, the diameter of the kiln (3 m) matched that of the three other kilns. In its late phase, the diameter of the firing box was reduced (1.75 m) when a second internal wall (W13) was constructed inside the kiln. The space between the original wall and the new wall was filled with sea sand. The collapsed remains of brick arches and springers (width 0.35 m) were revealed. A sterile layer of ash was found over the floor and above it was a layer of ash and mud bricks mixed with potsherds. The original kiln was apparently renovated when a defect that resulted from faulty planning or construction was discovered in the space of the firing box. Another possibility is simply that it continued to be used for a longer period of time than the other nearby kilns. For whatever reason, a new internal wall and brick arches were constructed in the original kiln, which caused the reduction in its size.
Due to the topography, the kiln was discovered at a lower depth than that of the other three kilns. The ceramic material recovered from the kiln appears to have been deposited after it went out of use, although it is identical to that found in the other kilns.
Numerous examples of the earliest form of the ‘Gaza’ wine jar were found inside the kilns and in the exterior loci (Fig. 9). This is a large, barrel-shaped jar with a short, upright and slightly inverted neck set in a deep groove. The early form of the ‘Gaza’ wine jar has been shown to date to the Roman period (first–third centuries CE) in excavations at Marina el-Alamein (Majcherek G. 1995. Gazan Amphorae: Typology Reconsidered. In Hellenistic and Roman Pottery in the Eastern Mediterranean – Advances in Scientific Studies [Acts of the II Nieborow Pottery Workshop. Nieborow, 18–20 December 1993]. P.166, Pl. 4) and in excavations in the Negev (Erickson-Gini T. 2010. Nabataean Settlement and Self-Organized Economy [BAR Int. S. 2054]. Oxford. P. 105, Fig. 2:55–57).
Two stamped handles belonging to imported wine jars of the Hellenistic period were discovered (Fig. 10). The rectangular stamp (Fig. 10:1) is dated by the eponym Aristratos in the month of Dalios, and the secondary stamp on the side with a retrograde N seems to point to the workshop of the fabricant Midas (c. 129–120 BCE). The round stamp (Fig. 10:2) may read E[p'] i[ereo]s S[wda]mou, i.e., “under [the eponym] priest Sodamos”, and the fabricant may be Antigonos 2nd (c. 190–185 BCE).
Kilns like those in the excavation that produced this type of jar in the Ashqelon area were excavated in the Third Mile Estate (ESI 13:105). The rest of the assemblage is a mixture of vessel types, primarily of the Hellenistic and Roman periods and a smaller number of vessels of the Late Byzantine period. These include a variety of fine and plain ware bowls, kraters, unguentaria, juglets, jugs, storage jars, cooking wares and lamps (not illustrated). No kiln wasters that could be used to determine the period in which the kilns operated were discovered in the excavation.