The excavation was conducted east of the theater at Shuni, in a previously identified pool complex (Shenhav 1989: Area C; Abumokh 2001). Four squares were excavated to the pool’s north and six to its south and southwest, beside the theater’s outer wall and the aqueduct to Caesarea. The excavation uncovered remains and finds from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Roman Period. In the south of the area, next to the theater’s eastern wall, the excavation uncovered a paved plaza and steps (Fig. 1), probably leading to the spaces at the theater’s rear (not excavated). The theater’s longitudinal walls were partially uncovered in its eastern (rear) part, including supporting pillars that also served to roof the space between the walls. The room delimited by these walls was stone-paved and yielded potsherds and coins. Probes dug down to bedrock revealed that, in this phase, the open area to the east of the theater was smoothed by chiseling and overlain with a packed, buff-colored soil that may have been a floor bedding. It seems this area served as a large courtyard. The excavation reached bedrock throughout the area, and, based on the pottery and coins, its architectural remains can be dated to the second century CE or later.
Byzantine Period. A built and plastered aqueduct was uncovered beside the theater’s eastern exterior wall. It was founded on natural bedrock in the north and on the paved floor of the Roman courtyard in the south (Fig. 2). Its construction also canceled the stone floor of the room uncovered in the theater’s rear. The large Roman-period courtyard floor that was paved with white mosaic and formerly identified as a pool (Shenhav 1989:39) was deepened by quarrying and reduced in size. Two perimeter stone walls were built around this area. The fill between the two perimeter walls contained large stone blocks (Fig. 3), small and medium-sized stones, and soil. It yielded coins and pottery dating from the fifth century CE.
Crusader and Mamluk Periods. An installation, probably a kiln, was excavated in the southwestern part of the area, at an elevation higher than the aqueduct, which continued southwest. The installation was built of reused stones, including a theater seat and other architectural features. The finds include pottery and coins dated to the twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE.
Ottoman Period. A rectangular building with at least two rooms was partially excavated in the northern part of the area. It was built on top of the soil fills that superimposed the Byzantine period perimeter walls and produced Ottoman-period finds from above and beneath the floors.
The excavation results enable a reassessment of the architectural complexes at Shuni. The theater was probably erected in the Roman period, not before the second century CE. Later, the aqueduct to Caesarea was built along the theater’s eastern façade, and, in the Byzantine period, in the fifth century CE, an open public complex was erected beside the aqueduct, consisting of a large courtyard. The current excavation ascertained that this complex was not an open-air pool. Installations and buildings dated to later periods attest to settlement continuity at the site, which lasted into the Ottoman period. Historical evidence shows that the building was also used in the British Mandate era.