In the current excavation, an earthen section was cleaned and documented, revealing the remains of two vaults from the Middle Ages (twelfth–sixteenth centuries CE), which went out of use in the early Ottoman period (sixteenth–eighteenth centuries CE). Due to safety restrictions, the fill in the vaults was not excavated, but a few sherds were retrieved from the earthen section.
The two vaults (L4, L5; max. height 2 m, width 2.5 m; Fig. 2), built along an east–west axis, have an arched profile; they were founded on the bedrock and constructed of dressed fieldstones and stone slabs bonded with grayish-white bonding material containing black and white grits. Two types of earthen fill were identified in the eastern volt (L4): brown-reddish terra-rossa soil (L2; thickness 1 m), which covered the bedrock, and above it light brown–yellowish soil (L3; thickness 1 m) that extended up to the top of the vault. Between the two layers of fill was a surface of small fieldstones (L7). A fill of brown-reddish terra-rossa soil (L6) was discerned in the western volt (L5). The few potsherds (not drawn) that were retrieved from the later fill (L3) Vault 4 included ‘Gaza’ jar sherds and a Handmade Geometric Ware bowl, which indicates that the vault went out of use during the Ottoman period. A fragment of worked mother-of-pearl seashell (Pinctada margaritifera; Fig. 3) was found in topsoil; such shells were often embedded in souvenirs sold to Christian pilgrims at the end of the nineteenth century CE (Ktalav 2016:80).
Vaults of similar style and building technique were a common ceilings feature in Palestine during the Middle Ages (twelfth–fifteenth centuries CE; Fuchs 1999:84). Despite the meager archaeological finds from the excavation, one can cautiously propose that the vaults were built at the earliest in the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fifteenth centuries) and went out of use during the Ottoman period. The volts corroborate the historical evidence of the Abu Madyan endowment and previous the archaeological finds (Landes-Nagar 2017) that indicate that the settlement at the site was renewed during the Mamluk period near the ruined Crusader churches. The location of the excavation site near the Church of St. John Ba-Harim explains the presence of the worked seashell, a common component in pilgrim souvenirs.