The excavation took place on the eastern and southern slopes of a low hill (270 m asl), north of the Good Samaritan Museum and adjacent to Highway No. 1 (Figs. 2, 3). Previous salvage excavations on the hilltop, directed by Y. Magen and Y. Peleg in 2003–2007, uncovered the remains of a Herodian-period building (the ‘Herodian Palace’), and remains of a Jordanian military communication trench (Judea and Samaria License Nos. 0972, 1081, 1135, 1171; unpublished). A strip of twelve excavation squares was opened on the eastern hillslope, and a probe trench was dug on the southern slope. The excavation yielded fragmentary architectural remains and finds dating between the first century BCE and the second century CE, and remains of Jordanian military trenches.
Eastern Slope. Soil fills overlay the bedrock in the six northern squares. A section cut here exposed meager remains of a north–south aligned foundation wall (L607), made of the same concrete as the Jordanian military trenches. In the middle of the excavation strip, fragmentary remains of the foundations of a southeast–northwest oriented wall (L614) were exposed; based on the associated pottery, this wall was dated to the Herodian period. The wall was probably part of the Herodian architectural complex since its northwestern continuation was uncovered in the previous excavation. An approximately north–south aligned Jordanian military trench exposed in the southern part of the excavation strip was built of medium-sized stones, lightly dressed on the interior, and preserved for five courses. The gaps between the stones were filled with coarse gray concrete, containing many white plaster fragments that may have come from the roof of the Herodian building (L610; Fig. 4). An ashlar stone lying on the floor in the middle of the trench was probably dismantled from the adjacent Herodian wall that surrounded the site. The trench yielded metal artifacts, bullets and bullet cases. The bedrock was exposed in the two southern squares.
Southern Slope. The probe trench (L623; depth 0.5 m) did not yield any ancient architectural remains. The continuation of a previously excavated east–west oriented Jordanian military trench (L624) was similar to the trench unearthed on the eastern slope.
The excavation yielded pottery (see below), glass fragments and seven bronze coins, five of which were identified (see below). A decorated bronze ring was also retrieved. The finds date from the first century BCE to the second century CE. The glass includes fragments of about ten vessels, one fragment identified as the solid flat base of a cup or bowl with vertical drawn ribs, and another as the rim of a bowl with an outer tubular fold (not drawn). These glass vessels date to the Early Roman period, specifically to the period between the two revolts (70–135 CE).
Yodan Fleitman
About 100 sherds were retrieved from the unstratified earth fills at the foot of the Herodian structure. The wheel-made pottery assemblage includes different types of dining, cooking and storage vessels, and a single oil lamp. A few vessel types, namely a locally painted jug, an Eastern Sigillata A vessel and probably also a single imported amphora, hint at the site’s affluent status.
The assemblage is dated between the first century BCE and the second century CE, being
similar to contemporary pottery assemblages from Judea, particularly near the Dead Sea, the Jericho Valley and Jerusalem. Since the pottery came from fills, only a few parallels are presented here, mainly from contemporary palaces and fortresses. The comparison of pottery assemblages from the Late Hellenistic Hasmonean period and the period between the two Jewish revolts shows that it is difficult to definitively identify changes in pottery types (Rapuano 2013:86). The extant vessels however, provide no evidence that the Herodian structure was preceded by an earlier Hasmonean architectural layer, as those uncovered in some Herodian palaces and fortresses, for example, at Machaerus and the Jericho palaces. Whilst some vessel forms continued in use in the first half of the first century CE, it is not clear whether the site was still occupied after the Herodian period.
The excavation yielded several storage jars, storage jars also being the most common vessels in the excavated Herodian palaces, as, for example, 40% of the assemblage at Masada (Bar-Nathan 2006:37–45). Assemblages of simple everyday ware together with imported and luxurious vessels, are particularly characteristic of assemblages from contemporary palaces and mansions in the Upper City of Jerusalem.
Dining Ware. Four cup sherds and eight sherds of two bowl types were found. One bowl has thin slightly rounded walls, a flat base and a simple inturned rim (Fig. 5:1). Two other bowls (not drawn) are roughly coated with a blackish brown slip. This was the most common bowl type in Judea in the Hasmonean period, for example, in the Hasmonean palaces and at Masada (Bar-Nathan 2002:79–80; 83–87, Pls. 14; 15:199–228), and it was also common in the Herodian period, and continued to appear in the early second century CE (Rapuano 2013:65–66, Fig. 3:35; 36). Parallels were found at the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavations in Jerusalem (Tchekhanovets 2013:110–112, Figs. 5.5:1–3; 5.10:1–3; 5.15:1, 2), and at Herodium (Gärtner 2015:368, Pl. 8.II:20).
Cooking Ware. The assemblage includes seven sherds of three fairly similar types of casseroles, and 25 sherds of two types of cooking pots. The illustrated casserole is a wide vessel with a short neck and an out-curved rim with a groove on its upper side (Fig. 5:2). The body may have been deep, shallow, rounded or carinated, the extant high shoulder and the abrupt downward curvature is reminiscent of casseroles from the early first century CE. Similar casseroles were found at Masada, mostly in the context of the Roman garrison (Bar-Nathan 2006:163–171, Pls. 30, 31, especially vessels 72–76), one also coming from a context dated to the period between the two revolts (Rapuano 2013:70, Fig. 5:78).
The illustrated cooking pot has a closely ribbed spherical body, a rounded or slightly pointed base, a relatively short neck, a rim with a triangular section, and two handles from the rim to the shoulder (Fig. 5:3). This cooking pot type was common in Judea, its characteristic rim leading to its classification as the ‘triangular-rimmed cooking pot.’ Based on finds from the pottery workshop at Binyanei Ha’uma in Jerusalem, these cooking pots began to be manufactured in the Herodian period (Berlin 2005:36–38, Fig. 4). The type was common until the Great Revolt, some variants continuing to appear in contexts dated to the period between the two revolts, in the early second century CE, (Rapuano 2013:66–68, Pl. 3:49, 50). Additional parallels were found in the Jewish Quarter excavations (Geva 2012:278, 281, Pl. 8.1:14–16) and at Masada (Bar-Nathan 2006:54–158; 176–178, Pls. 27; 28:1; 29).
Storage Jars. Ten jars of nine different jar types were identified, most having a bag-shaped body, sometimes more elongated, a round slightly bossed or pointed base, fairly narrow necks and two loop handles on the shoulder. This jar form has a long tradition and is characteristic in Judea from the late Second Temple period until the Roman period.
Two illustrated jars have long folded rims with a square section, and a pronounced step at the neck join (Fig. 5:4, 5). These jars first appeared in the last quarter of the second century BCE and continued in use until the last quarter of the first century BCE. They were common in first century BCE Judea, for example in the Hasmonean palace complexes at Jericho (Bar-Nathan 2002:28–31, 253–255, Pls. 3–5:18–27, Type J-JS4). Two sub-types are illustrated, with parallels to the first sub-type (Fig. 5:4) at Herodium (Gärtner 2015:366, 383, Pl. II:4, 5) and in the Jewish Quarter excavations (Geva and Hershkovitz 2014:137, 152, Pl. 3.2:3, 16), and parallels to the second sub-type (Fig. 5:5) at Masada (Bar-Nathan 2006:51–52; 81, Pl. 4:17) and in the Qishle excavations in Jerusalem (Rapuano 2018:115, 148, Pl. 1:4, 5).
One jar has a long thin-walled neck with a pronounced ridge at the base and a simple, slightly drawn-out rim (Fig. 5:6). These jars first appeared in the last third of the first century BCE, replacing the earlier jar type described above, and becoming common in Judea, widely distributed in the second half of the first century CE. They are less common in the period between the two Jewish revolts, or slightly later, when they decline and finally disappear. This jar form is characteristic of assemblages in Herod’s fortified palaces, with parallels at Masada (Bar-Nathan 2006:55, Pl. 5:21–26) and at the Hasmonean palaces (Bar-Nathan 2002:21–22, 33–34, 152, 256, Pl. 6:40, 41, for discussion of this jar type). One jar has a long neck and a short, slightly drawn-out rim that is triangular in section (Fig. 5:7). This jar type appeared in the first century CE and was common in the period between the two Jewish revolts; it disappeared toward the end of the first century or early in the second century CE (Bar-Nathan 2006:74–75; 93, Pl. 16:95–104).
Jugs and Juglets. Eleven fragments of jugs and juglets were found, these vessels used for serving and for cosmetics. The small size of the rim sherds makes it difficult to classify types, but the vessels may be identified by their fabric and general shape. One jug has a spherical body, a painted geometric decoration and a wide disc base (Fig. 5:8); these jugs have different neck and rim forms, and sometimes have several handles from the neck to the shoulder. The jug is painted with brown, black and red lines in a herringbone pattern bordered by bands, a pattern that was common in the first century BCE. The handle was attached to the jug after the body was decorated, as evidenced by the smoothed clay at the join that covered part of the painted band. Geometric and floral patterns appeared on jugs in the Herodian period down to the time of the Great Revolt, and they cease to appear in the early second century CE (Bar-Nathan 2002:122–128; 2006:246). Parallels are found in the Hasmonean palaces at Jericho (Bar-Nathan 2002:260, 270; Pls. 10:91; 20:332–334).
A spherical or pear-shaped juglet has a curved neck and an inverted rim, and a handle from the rim to shoulder (Fig. 5:9). These juglets often have a closely ribbed body and a round, flat or concave base. This juglet form is very common throughout Judea, appearing as early as the first century BCE and ceasing to appear in the second century CE (Bar-Nathan 2006:189–194, 211, Pl. 33:1–14). There are parallels at Machaerus (Humbert 2019:217, Pl. 5:4, 5, 7, 8), Qumran (Magen and Peleg 2007:15, 18, 21, Pl. 3:4) and Khirbet er-Rasm in the Judean Shephelah (Sandhaus 2011:124–125, Pl. 2.7: 4).
Lamp. A single characteristic Herodian lamp fragment was found (Fig. 5:10). The Herodian lamp has several sub-types, but the sherd is too small to permit precise classification. The Herodian lamps probably appeared as early as the last years of Herodian rule and they were common until the Great Revolt, the latest lamps appear in the second half of the second century CE, for example in the Bar Kokhba refuge caves (Barag and Hershkovitz 1994:44–53). Parallels were found at Machaerus (Mlynarczyk 2019:286–292, Pls. 30–32) and in the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavations in Jerusalem (Tchekhanovets 2013:124, Figs. 5.14, 5.19).
Imported Ware. Two small and poorly preserved sherds of imported vessels were found (not drawn). One fragment probably belongs to a Terra Sigillata bowl (Eastern Sigillata A) and the other was probably part of the rim of an imported Aegean amphora. Both vessels are characteristic of the contemporary affluent society and were found in palaces and luxury residences (Berlin 2005:37–38; Bar-Nathan 2006:307–314).
Haim Shkolnik
The excavation yielded seven bronze coins, five of which were identified (Table 1). One is an Alexander Jannaeus coin; the other coins date to the latter half of the first century CE.
Table 1. The coins
SOA (Staff Officer of Archaeology) No.
Alexander Jannaeus
80/79–76 BCE
Agrippa I
42/1 CE
Procurator Porcius Festus
59/8 CE
Great Revolt
Year 2 (67 CE)
Great Revolt
Year 2 (67 CE)
The pottery assemblage dates the occupation at the site mainly from the second half of the first century BCE to the early second century CE. The variety of vessels and the imported ware in the assemblage reflect contemporary assemblages in luxurious residential compounds in Jerusalem, attesting to the wealth of the site, and indicating that it was evidently owned by rich members of society connected to the Roman authorities. The strategic location of the site commands the ancient road that connected Jerusalem with the palaces in Jericho. Although the Herodian building exposed in the previous excavation has not yet been published, one can cautiously propose that an Early Roman fortress was situated on the hilltop to control the road. This proposal finds support in Josephus’ description of the destruction of the ‘palace-fortress’ of Kypros/Cypros (Netzer 1975:61), mentioning that the rebels captured both the fortress and the defenses: “It was now that the insurgents took the fortress called Cypros, which dominated Jericho, massacred the garrison and leveled the defenses.” (Josephus War II, 484). The site was probably a fortress rather than a palace, despite the original identification. In the Hasmonean and Herodian periods, the Judean desert fortresses fulfilled both military and administrative functions (Guri-Rimon 1996).