In November 2020, a community excavation was conducted at the spring house in ‘En Sharona, northeast of Mount Tabor (Permit No. A-8863; map ref. 2448/7355), in preparation for conservation work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Shukron, with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), A. Ibrahim (photography, photogrammetry), R. Be’eri (scientific guidance) and E. Armon (educational guidance). With thanks to W. Atrash for his assistance in documenting and photographing the site.
The spring is located near Khirbat Sarona, which has been identified as a large settlement in the Roman and Byzantine periods. The Onomasticon of Eusebius refers to a region named Saron, between Mount Tabor and “Lake Tiberias” (Wolf 1971: Line 890). The region was an independent administrative area, which became part of the territory of the town of Helenopolis, associated with the nearby village of Kafr Kama, where Byzantine churches were discovered (Bagatti 2002:231–232; Notley and Safrai 2005: Line 888). Despite the Christianization of Sarona and the surrounding region, it appears that the settlement at Sharona had mainly a Jewish population, which is incongruous with its identification as Helenopolis. In the thirteenth century CE, the Muslim geographer Yaqut el-Hamawi writes of ‘Aqabat Saruniyyah, a pass on the route from Tiberias to Mount Tabor (Ilan 1991:167). At the neighboring site of Ed-Deir, earlier excavations uncovered the remains of a room paved with a colored mosaic and an installation that may have been a winepress (Gal and Hanna 2003).
The excavation took place inside a square spring house (8.62 × 8.94 m; Fig. 1), which contains a central pool (3.18 × 3.18 m) surrounded by three walls on its eastern, northern and western sides (W14, W15, W17). Along the pool’s southern wall and along the southern part of its western wall, an L-shaped passage was built (width c. 1 m, height c. 1.6 m; Fig. 2) that was roofed with basalt stone slabs (L16). The passage, which opens into the pool, is supported by square pillars (0.36 × 0.36 m; Fig. 3). The southern part of the passage opens into a plastered inner chamber (2.28 × 2.34 m, height 2.6 m; Fig. 4; not excavated) that is roofed with a barrel vault. This passage carried water from two built spring tunnels covered with stone slabs that led from the spring; sections of the tunnels were discovered at the southeastern end of the spring house (Fig. 5). Alluvial soil accumulated in the pool yielded a few potsherds dating from the Roman period to the modern era (not drawn).
Bagatti B. 2002. Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria (SBF Collectio Minor 39). Jerusalem.
Gal Z. and Hanna B. 2003. Ed-Deir. HA-ESI 115:26*–27*.
Ilan Z. 1991. Ancient Synagogues in Israel. Tel Aviv (Hebrew).
Notley R.S. and Safrai Z. 2005. Eusebius, Onomasticon: The Place Names of Divine Scripture, including the Latin Edition of Jerome (Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series IX). Boston.
Wolf C. 1971. The Onomasticon of Eusebius Pamphili: Compared with the version of Jerome and Annotated. Washington, DC.