The subterranean hiding complex (Fig. 1) included a central, bell-shaped pit (A1), from which two main tunnels lead out (A, B; average width 0.6 m, height 0.6–0.8 m). Five rooms (A2–A6) were hewn in Tunnel A (length c. 25 m), and four rooms (B1–B4) were hewn in Tunnel B (length c. 30 m). The rock-cutting was meticulous, and chisel marks were clearly evident on the walls and ceiling. Twenty semicircular niches (c. 0.10 × 0.12 m) for placing lamps were hewn at the top of the walls of the complex, near the ceiling. Pit A1 (diam. c. 3 m, depth c. 3 m) was not plastered. The original opening of Tunnel B was found blocked; during the illicit excavation, a backhoe was used to break through the ceiling of Room B1. The complex was documented, and Rooms A2, A5 and B3, which were apparently left undisturbed, were excavated. The three rooms were fully excavated down to the bedrock floor (Leibner, Shivtiel and Distelfeld 2015).
is elliptical in plan (max. dimensions 2.5 × 3.5 m, height 1.3 m). A tunnel (length c. 7 m) led from Pit A1 to Room A2. A quadrans of Trajan (IAA 146420; Fig. 2), minted in Rome in the early second century CE, was discovered in the tunnel, near the opening of the room. A bell-shaped pit (depth c. 1 m) was hewn in the room’s bedrock floor; the floor was covered with a layer of soil (thickness c. 0.4 m). An opening that led to a tunnel was hewn in the northern wall of the room. Only the first two meters of the tunnel were open; the rest was blocked with earth. The soil from the room was sifted in its entirety
, allowing for the discovery of pottery sherds from the Early Roman period. Noteworthy among the finds were a smal bowl with an inverted rim (Fig. 3:2) and a krater (Fig. 3:3), both of which are rare (Balouka 2013
:47, 49, Types KR3 and BL1); a restorable jar with a plain rim and a ridged neck (Fig. 3:8), dating from the end of the first century BCE to the time of the Jewish Revolt (Díez Fernández 1983
:135, Type T1.3); a jar with a rounded and everted rim and a short neck with a ridge at its base (Fig. 3:9) from the first century CE (Díez Fernández 1983:107, Type T1.5); a jug with a rounded and everted rim (Fig. 3:12) from the end of the first century to the third century CE (Loffreda 2008
:151); and the upper part of a Herodian lamp (Fig. 3:17) from the first century CE.
Room A5 is rectangular in plan (1.5 × 2.5 m, max. height 1.3 m; Fig. 4) and located deep in the complex. Its bedrock floor was covered with a layer of soil (thickness c. 0.3 m). The quarrying in the room and its preservation are of better quality than those of the two other excavated rooms. Since access to the room was difficult, the accumulated soil in the room could not be sifted; instead, it was packed into sacks, and these were stacked in an adjacent room. The only artifact discovered in this room was a base of a mold-made lamp, probably a Roman-period local imitation of a discus lamp (Fig. 3:18). Lamps of this type are generally dated to the second century CE, although they appeared already in the second half of the first century CE and continued to be used at the beginning of the third century CE.
Room B3 is elliptical in plan (2 × 4 m, max. height 1.1 m) and located at the end of a short tunnel that emerges from Room B2. Its bedrock floor was covered with light-colored soil (thickness c. 0.3 m), apparently as a result of the weathering of the room’s walls. A small bell-shaped pit (depth c. 1 m) was hewn in the room’s floor, near the eastern wall. The soil from the room was sifted in its entirety, yielding the following pottery vessels: a bowl with an inverted rim (Fig. 3:1); two restorable jars (Fig. 3:4, 5; Types T1.3 and T1.5 respectively; see above); jars similar to Type 1.5 jars (Fig. 3:6, 7), but with a thicker wall and a longer neck; jar lids (Fig. 3:15, 16) from the second–third centuries CE; an omphalos base of a jug from the Early and Middle Roman periods (Fig. 3:13); a juglet from the Early Roman period (Fig. 3:14); and a circular, flattened lid made of soft limestone that was probably used to cover a jar (Fig. 3:19). Also found was an iron finger-ring a setting for mounting a gem, of a type common in the Roman world during the second half of the first century and the second century CE.
The remains of a residential building were located on the surface above Room B1. These included a wall preserved to a height of five courses (1.5 m) and a small section of beaten-earth floor at its foot, which was covered by a burnt layer. Two restorable jars, characterized by a folded rim and a long neck with a prominent ridge at its base (Fig. 3:10, 11), were discovered within the building remains; they date from the third century CE. A rare coin of Trebonianus Gallus (251–253 CE; IAA 146422; Fig. 5) minted in the city of Neapolis (Shechem) was found in a backhoe-dug section inside the building. Another coin, probably of Caracalla (198–217 CE; IAA 146421), was discovered in the excavation debris that were removed from the building.
All the finds discovered in the rooms of the subterranean hiding complex date to the Early and Middle Roman periods, suggesting that the complex remained undisturbed from the second or third century CE until it was recently exposed. This is important, since the dating of most of the hiding complexes in the Galilee is imprecise because they were used over extended periods of time and bore finds from several periods or materials that penetrated into them from the surface. Most of the finds exposed in the complex date to the first–second centuries CE, suggesting that the activity that took place within it should be dated to this priod of time. However, some of the finds date back to the end of the first century BCE, and others continued to appear in the third century CE. The hiding complex is located beneath a residential building that was inhabited during the Roman and Byzantine periods, at the heart of the Jewish settlement in the Galilee. Apparently, the quarrying of the complex was related to the Jewish revolts against Rome in the first and second centuries CE, and it seems to have been designed from the outset as a hiding complex. The plan of this refuge resembles that of the sophisticated hiding complexes in the Judean Shephelah, which are characterized by long, winding, well-hewn tunnels leading to barely accessible cavities. Y. Shahar (2003
:217–240) argued that as in Judea, the sophisticated complexes in the Galilee were hewn in preparation for the Bar Kokhba uprising, a revolt that ultimately did not spread to this area. However, some of the finds discovered in the complex, particularly the two jars of Type 1.3, do not appear in assmblages that are later than the Great Revolt, and therefore indicate that the complex was hewn during the first century CE and not prior to the Bar Kokhba uprising. The finds in the complex, including the coin of Trajan, indicate that it was still used during the second century CE, perhaps as part of the preparations for the Bar Kokhba revolt.
The complex may have been initially hewn in the first century CE as a small and simple complex, and was later improved and expanded in preparation for the Bar Kochba revolt. This suggestion, however, cannot be corroborated with evidence. In light of the survey finds and the remains of the residential building above the complex, it is clear that the settlement at the site continued, probably uninterrupted, into the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
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