Building Remains (Fig. 2). Rock-hewn portions of the northern and western walls were preserved in Room A. A small section of a red plaster floor (L109), set on bedrock, was exposed in the center of the room. The bedrock within the room was leveled; a natural depression in the northeastern corner that was filled with soil and covered with stone slabs. An ARS bowl (Fig. 3:1) was discovered in soil fill above the floor. In Room B a tamped-earth floor was exposed at a level lower than the floor in Room A. The room’s western and northern walls were rock-hewn, whereas its eastern wall (W7; Fig. 4) was constructed of stone: two foundation courses set on bedrock were preserved in its northern part. A threshold was situated in the northern end of the wall. A thick layer of earth (L111; thickness c. 0.3 m; Fig. 5) mixed with numerous mosaic fragments, some of which were leaning on their side and some upside down, was found on the room’s floor. Meager remains of a mosaic floor (L110) made of large white tesserae (2 × 2 × 2 cm) were revealed in Room C. Its substrate was built of flat fieldstones placed on soil fill covering the bedrock. The floor abutted the eastern base of a wall (W5) separating Room C from Room D. Room D, which had been partially unearthed in a previous excavation, was fully exposed (Fig. 6). The room’s western wall (W3; Fig. 7) was built of smoothed stones next to a hewn bedrock step. A large, dressed stone that was identified in the previous excavation as the southern doorjamb of a blocked opening was discovered in the southern part of W3. However, it became clear in the current excavation that the stone was actually used as an engaged pillar or as part of one. A single course of another wall (W2) was uncovered at the top of the bedrock step, next to W3. The room’s northern wall (W4) was partly preserved. The bedrock within the room was leveled and served as the floor; a cluster of five holes was drilled in it.
A soil fill (L108) was exposed along W5 and in the northeastern part of the room. It was mixed with numerous tesserae and potsherds, among them an LRC bowl (Fig. 3:2), a bag-shaped jar from the Umayyad period (eighth century CE; Fig. 3:4) and a sandal lamp from the Late Byzantine period (Fig. 3:5). In addition, ten iron nails, some of which were bent and broken (Fig. 8), part of a hinge of a wooden door and part of an installation – an architectural element fashioned from poor quality limestone (height 0.51 m, width 0.25 m; Fig. 9) were found; the latter had two slits cut in each of its sides. An unfinished rock-cutting (L107) was exposed slightly northwest of Room D. The soil fill covering it contained fragments of a mosaic floor, similar to those discovered in Rooms B and D, and a potsherd belonging to a Late Byzantine bag-shaped jar (Fig. 3:3).
The ceramic finds from the current excavation indicate that the building was constructed at the beginning of the Byzantine period (fourth century CE) and ceased to be used at the end of the period (seventh century CE); this assessment agrees with that of the previous excavator. After the building was no longer in use, it was covered with soil mixed with many mosaic floor fragments, possibly from a second story that had collapsed and whose remains were not preserved.
Installations. A square rock-hewn installation (L112; Fig. 10) paved with a white mosaic floor (1 × 1 × 1 cm) was discovered slightly northwest of the building remains. Since the bedrock in the installation’s northeastern corner was deep, it seems that this corner, which was not preserved, was most likely constructed and not hewn. Remains of hydraulic plaster survived on the installation’s bedrock walls. A small settling pit was hewn in its northwestern corner (Fig. 11). At some point, the settling pit was blocked and the area above it was paved with tesserae. This probably occurred as a result of a change in the function of the installation (Fig. 12). Rock-cuttings of another small installation were exposed to the north, near Installation 112. North of both of these installations were several stone slabs that were placed on a fill which leveled a deep depression in bedrock; these slabs probably represent the remains of a stone pavement. Four iron nails (Fig. 13) were discovered in the fill overlying Installation 112 (L104).
Cave. A natural cave was exposed c. 50 m northwest of the building remains. It was filled with alluvium (L106) mixed with several Byzantine-period potsherds, two glazed potsherds, a fragment of a tobacco pipe dating to the seventeenth century CE (Fig. 3:6; Rauchberger, below) and an iron knife blade (Fig. 14).
Clay Pipe
Lior Rauchberger
A broken shank of a clay tobacco pipe (chibouk; diam. of stem opening 0.7 cm; Fig. 3:6) was discovered in the alluvium fill in the cave. It is made of buff-colored clay and had a light orange-colored slip. Diagonal lines were incised on the shank. The tip of the shank is swollen and decorated with two rows of shallow, opposite-facing stamped impressions in a cypress tree pattern (size of the impression: length 0.8 cm, width 0.3 cm). Between the stamped impressions in the upper row is a deeply stamped pattern of a rhombus, in the middle of which is a circle with radiating diagonal lines (the impression: length 0.7 cm, width 0.3 cm). The bottom end of the swollen shank is decorated with a double-serrated rouletted line. The upper end of the swollen shank is decorated with a serrated rouletted line that separates the shank from a thick termination ring. An almost identical pipe dating to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century CE was discovered at Tel Yoqneʽam (Avissar 2005:83–84, 93, Fig. 4.1.1, Type 1). Based on the distribution of pipes decorated with stamped cypress tree impressions throughout Israel and the absence of such pipes outside of Israel, Simpson (2008:433) suggests that they were locally produced.