Moshav Kefar Uriyya was founded over ruins named Khirbat Kefr Urieh as seen in the 1880 Palestine Exploration Fund’s map. Several springs are marked on the map in the vicinity of the ruins; these probably refer to wells, a few of which are still visible today. Several excavations have taken place at the site: in 2005, a salvage excavation conducted c. 500 m southeast of the current excavation area uncovered segments of an ancient road, winepresses, field towers, a stone-clearance heap, a cistern, a quarry and tombs that probably date from the Roman and Byzantine periods (Zilberbod 2016
); in 2009, a Byzantine winepress was excavated c. 250 m northeast of the current excavation area (Finkielsztejn 2010
); and in 2011, an entire bathhouse from the Byzantine period was excavated in the fields about 2 km east of the current excavation (Permit No. A-6327). Adjacent to the excavation area to the south, wall remains (preserved height c. 2 m) and large quantities of Byzantine-period pottery vessels were documented in a section that cut through an artificial mound when a road was constructed.
The current excavation (Figs. 2, 3) revealed a quarry from the Hasmonean or late Second Temple period. In a building above it two construction phases were discerned; an early phase, when the building was probably part of a Late Roman–Byzantine bathhouse; and a later phase dated to the Late Byzantine or the beginning of the Early Islamic period. A rock-hewn cave dated to the latter part of the Byzantine period was also discovered.
The exposed quarry was small (L59; Fig. 4), and it was severely damaged by the trench dug for the sewer line. In the quarry a horizontal hewn surface (length 1.34 m, width 1.25 m), a vertical hewn bedrock wall (height 0.34–0.47 m) and two severance channels. A small oval depression (diam. 0.15–0.25 m, depth c. 0.3 m) was found in the northeastern corner of the horizontal surface. The quarry yielded no diagnostic finds; however, based on the earliest finds retrieved from the excavation it probably dates from the Hasmonean or Early Roman period. The finds include pottery sherds from the late second–first half of the first century BCE, including a bowl (Fig. 5:1), a casserole (Fig. 5:2), a jar (Fig. 5:3), jugs (Fig. 5:4, 5), and a juglet (Fig. 5:6), as well as a coin of Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE; IAA 140908).
Most of the building’s walls were encountered 0.2–0.3 m beneath the current surface level. Their proximity to the surface is probably the result of leveling work carried out when the moshav was built and while constructing the dirt track that crosses the site.
The Early Phase. The quarry was covered with a deliberate soil fill, which yielded pottery sherds from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods, such as a storage jar (Fig. 5:7). A building constructed on top of this fill comprised at least four rooms (A, B, E, and F). The building had wide walls built of large, dressed stones founded on bedrock. Room A had an entrance in its northern wall (W1006; Fig. 6). Wall 1006 was abutted to the north by two walls (W1008, W1012) whose function is unclear. Room A was paved with square ceramic paving tiles (L14; tile size 0.21 × 0.21 m; Fig. 7) that were only preserved in the room’s southern half. The paving tiles were poorly preserved, and some were even shattered, possibly from exposure to a high temperature (below). Similar ceramic tiles lined the room’s walls. The floor paving and wall cladding imply that the room may have been a bathhouse caldarium. This interpretation is strengthened by fragments of clay pipes (tubuli; Fig. 8:22, 23) typical of Roman and Byzantine bathhouses that were found throughout the excavation area. In Room E a plaster floor (L56) abutting the east side of the room’s western wall (W1001) was found. Rooms B and F are later than Room A, at least structurally since their eastern wall (W1003) leans against W1001 of Room A. Room B had an entrance in its southern wall (W1016). A thick layer of ash (L60) was revealed inside the room. At some stage, W1016 went out of use and was covered with layers of earth and reddish soil (L57). The large amount of ash suggests the presence of a praefurnium (furnace) in or near Room B that was used to heat for the caldarium. Only the foundations of Room F were preserved.
Based on the pottery from beneath the floors of Rooms A and E (L53, L56) and from the soil fills in Rooms B and E (L46, L57)—including, for example, a basin (Fig. 8:1)—the building was probably built in the Late Roman or Byzantine period, but its main use was during the Byzantine period.
The fills above the floor in Room D (below) yielded an upper Olynthian millstone (L16, B150; Fig. 9) that was not found in situ. Since this type of millstone is known from Hellenistic and Roman assemblages, it possibly belonged to an early phase of the building itself or was associated to the phase of the quarry.
The Late Phase. Two more rooms (C, D; Fig. 10) were built to the west of Room B. These rooms were built during the Byzantine period, possibly after the bathhouse fell into disuse, as shown by fragments of a clay pipe (Fig. 8:23) found beneath the floor of Room D. The walls of both rooms were founded on bedrock, and they were narrower than the walls of the rooms from the earlier phase. No floor or habitation level was found in Room C. The room’s southern and northern walls (W1009, W1015) abutted the western wall of Room B (W1010). Room D had two entrances, one opposite the other, in its southern and northern walls (W1002, W1004), and its floor was made of beaten earth and crushed limestone (L20). To the south of Room D was a channel coated with white plaster (L50; Fig. 11) that ran in an east–west alignment. The channel builders were apparently aware of W1002, and it should thus be attributed to the later phase.
The building, including the bedding of Floor 20 (L24) and a soil accumulation on top of it (L42), yielded pottery from the Late Byzantine or Early Islamic period, including basins (Fig. 8:1–6) and a casserole (Fig. 8:8), a cooking pot (Fig. 8:9), a cooking jug (Fig. 8:10), jars (Fig. 8:11–18) and jugs (Fig. 8:20, 21).
A rock-hewn cave (c. 2 × 3 m; Fig. 12) was discovered c. 50 m west of the excavation area at a depth of c. 2 m beneath the surface. Due to safety considerations, only the cave entrance was cleaned; it was measured and then covered over with soil. The cave had a vaulted ceiling. It was found filled with soil and crumbled rock (L44) up to one meter below the ceiling. Late Byzantine potsherds found in front of the cave include a basin (Fig. 8:7) and a jar (Fig. 8:19).
The excavation uncovered a small quarry dating from the Hasmonean era or late Second Temple period and the remains of a building with two construction phases. In the earlier phase, the building was probably part of a bathhouse. It was impossible to determine the building’s size or plan, but probes dug with a tractor while the excavation was being covered over suggest that the main part of the bathhouse extended northward and eastward, beyond the limits of the current excavation area. The bathhouse seems to attest that during the Byzantine period, the site was occupied by either a small village or a farmstead belonging to a wealthy family.