orbat Gannim stretches across a hill inside Moshav Yish‘i, c. 1 km southwest of Tel Bet Shemesh. Plundered burial caves and walls of ancient buildings are evident on the hill. Several previous excavations conducted at the site uncovered a Hellenistic building, an Early Roman miqveh
, and tombs (Sion 2010; Sion 2017
[Fig. 1: A-4745]), field walls (Kogan-Zehavi 2010
[Fig. 1: A-5677]) and wall segments dating from the Byzantine period (Kogan-Zehavi 2016
[Fig. 1: A-6268]).
Probe trenches dug with a backhoe before the current excavation began uncovered the tops of walls. The current excavation (Fig. 2) opened six squares (1–5) and two smaller sections (6, 7) along a 100 m stretch from the top of the hill to its foot. The excavation revealed architectural remains from the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods. An Ayyubid coin was discovered on the surface (a fals of the emir al-Aziz Muhammad, 1216–1225 CE; IAA 144344).
The dispersal of the squares in the area prevented interpretation of the buildings’ plan, making it impossible to establish a clear connection between the various architectural remains. The remains and finds are therefore presented according to the excavation squares.
The square was opened at the foot of the hill, where the remains of a bathhouse were discovered in which there were three phases (A–C; Fig. 3) dating from the third–sixth centuries CE. In a later phase (D), probably in the seventh century CE, a limekiln was built that rendered the bathhouse unusable.
Phase A — Early Byzantine. A wall (W5b; length 4 m; Figs. 4, 5) attributed to the earliest phase was founded on smoothed rock and built of rectangular dressed stones; it was preserved to a height of three courses (height 0.5 m). Its outer side faced southeastward. This wall marked the outer edge of the bathhouse, which extended northwestward, beyond the excavation limits. An opening at the bottom of the southwestern end of the wall was probably used to channel hot air. To the south of W5b was a semi-circular wall (W16; diam. 4 m; Fig. 6) built of roughly dressed rectangular stones that were triangular in section. The wall formed a kind of alcove that was open to the north, only the western part of which was excavated; W16 apparently originally abutted W5b in the west of the excavation square. Much of the alcove was concealed by walls and bedding from Phases B and C (Fig. 7). Inside the alcove, a thick plaster floor (L141) was laid on a bedding of small stones (L143); the floor yielded an Aelia Capitolina coin (IAA 144343) and Early Byzantine pottery (Fig. 8, below). Traces of a similar plaster floor (L144) were also uncovered to the west of W16.
Phase B — Byzantine. In this phase, W5b was built higher with the addition of large rectangular ashlar blocks (W5a; preserved height 1.69 m). The seam between the earlier wall and the later addition was clearly visible (see Fig. 4). Wall 16 was canceled by a fill of small stones that provided bedding for a plaster floor (L124) abutting the south of W5a. Parts of the floor were preserved; a bronze coin dating from 324–408 CE (IAA 144341) was found in the southern part of the floor. On the eastern side of the square, the plaster floor was not preserved, only the stone bedding (L136). Square pottery tiles and fragments of tubuli found on the floor attest to the presence of a bathhouse at the site.
Phase C — Late Byzantine. In this phase, the bathhouse building was enlarged to the southeast by the construction of three walls (W6, W14, W17) around two new rooms. Wall 5a continued to be used. Wall 6 abutted W5a at right angles to it; it was preserved to a height of four courses (max. height 1.7 m). The building’s two new rooms were divided by W6. Wall 14 enclosed the southern part of the easterly of the two rooms; it was preserved to a height of two courses (height 0.6 m) and continued eastward beyond the excavation limits. The south side of W14 was abutted by a plaster floor (L145) that probably belonged to another room or a courtyard. In the eastern room, the floor was paved with stone slabs (L120) that incorporated a threshold stone. The rubble between the stones (L110) yielded three coins dating from the first quarter of the fourth–early fifth centuries CE (IAA 144336, 14437, 14438). The western room was delimited on the south by W17 and contained a tamped earthen floor (L132). Floor 132 was cut into by a wall (W18), which was built immediately west of W6 and was probably added as a supporting wall.
Phase D — Early Islamic. A circular limekiln (L100) that cut into the layers of the bathhouse building is attributed to the latest phase. Due to the kiln’s proximity to the surface, there were no floors or finds that could be attributed to it
The Finds. The four phases in Sq 1 yielded a rich variety of pottery, coins, bone objects and glassware (Gorin-Rosen, below), which date the use of the bathhouse to the third–fifth centuries CE and possibly slightly earlier.
The pottery assemblage from Phase A includes potsherds found on and beneath the plaster floor in the alcove (L141) and to its west (L137). The assemblage includes a rim of a rouletted bowl with a decorated rim (Fig. 8:1) dating from the third–fifth centuries CE; a deep casserole (Fig. 8:2) with a shelf rim, typical of the first–third centuries CE; a cooking pot whose rim is triangular in section (Fig. 8:3; Form 3A according to Magness’s typology in Jerusalem) of a type that was common in the second–fourth centuries CE; two kinds of jars—a Gaza Ware jar (Fig. 8:4) common in the fourth–sixth centuries CE and a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 8:5, 6) of a type that was common in the second–third centuries CE; a juglet with a thickened everted rim (Fig. 8:7; Magness’s Form 1), dated to the second–fourth centuries CE; one juglet with a cup rim (Fig. 8:8; Magness’s Form 2A) and another juglet with a spout rim (Fig. 8:9) that is common in the second–fourth centuries CE; and two fragments of oil lamps (Fig. 8:10, 11; Magness’s Form 1) dated to the third–fifth centuries CE.
The ceramic assemblage from Phases B–C is presented as a single assemblage, since no typological differences were identified between the pottery from the two phases. The assemblage includes imported red-slipped bowls, among them an LRC bowl (Fig. 9:1), dated by Hayes to the last quarter of the fifth century CE, a CRS bowl (Fig. 9:2), dated by Hayes to 550–600 CE, two rounded rouletted bowls (Fig. 9:3, 4) of a type common in the third–fifth centuries CE, and a fifth–seventh-century CE bowl with a rope decoration on the rim and horizontal handles (Fig. 9:5); a casserole featuring rich stamped ornamentation on the side (Fig. 9:6), which is similar in form to undecorated examples dated by Magness to the third–fourth centuries CE; casseroles with several rim types (Fig. 9:7–9; Magness’s Form 2A), common from the sixth to the early eighth century CE; a cooking pot (Fig. 9:10; Magness’s Form 1B), dating from the fifth–sixth centuries CE; bag-shaped jars (Fig. 9:11), common in the fifth–sixth centuries CE; an amphora (Fig. 9:12) common mainly in the coastal area in the fifth–sixth centuries CE; a jug with an everted rim (Fig. 9:13), dating from the second–fifth centuries CE; and a slipper lamp (Fig. 9:14), representing the later type that was in use from the fifth to the late eighth century CE. Decorated pottery tiles (Fig. 9:15), tubuli fragments (Figs. 9:16; 10), a Frit or Faience bead (Fig. 11) and glass fragments (Gorin-Rosen, below) were also found.
The ceramic assemblage from Phase D was found near the surface and is attributed to the time of the limekiln and the abandonment of the bathhouse. Although no pottery was retrieved that can be directly attributed to the kiln, since no pottery dating from the seventh century CE was discovered in the proximity, the kiln was clearly built no earlier than the seventh century CE. Casseroles of two types were found, one characterized by a shelf rim (Fig. 12:1; Magness’s Form 2B), dating from the sixth–eighth centuries CE, and the other featuring a thumb-impressed decoration below the rim and a decorated side (Fig. 12:2), dating from the fifth–seventh centuries CE; a wide-mouthed jar rim with rope decoration (Fig. 12:3) dated following Magness to the third–fifth centuries CE; an amphora with a plain everted rim and a long narrow neck (Fig. 12:4), common in the fifth–seventh centuries CE; decorated jug handles (Fig. 12:5); and a body fragment of a vessel with stamped decoration (Fig. 12:6). A handle made of bone and engraved with a geometric pattern was also discovered (Fig. 12:7).
About 0.3 m below the surface, remains were uncovered of four rooms (1–4; Figs. 13, 14) of a building that extended beyond the limits of the excavation area on all sides. The rooms’ walls (W7–W9, W15; width 0.7 m) were built of dressed stones of various sizes held in place with small fieldstones; they were preserved to a maximum height of two courses (height c. 0.8 m). Room 1 was paved with stone slabs (L112) and may have been a courtyard. Room 2 had a crushed chalk floor (L129). A fill on top of this floor (L117) yielded two coins dating from the mid-fourth–early fifth centuries CE (IAA 144339, 144340). Rooms 3 and 4 contained crushed chalk floors (L128, L134). The stone threshold of an opening linking the two rooms together was set in W15.
The finds discovered on and beneath the building’s floors include two imported LRC bowls (Fig. 15:1, 2) dating from the mid-fifth–early sixth centuries CE; a CRS bowl (Fig. 15:3) dating from 550–600 CE; a rouletted bowl (Fig. 15:4) dating from the third–fifth centuries CE; a casserole with a thumb-impressed decoration on the rim (Fig. 15:5), common in the fourth–seventh centuries CE; casseroles of a type featuring combed decoration on the sides (Fig. 15:6, 7), common in the sixth–eighth centuries CE; a cooking pot with a protruding rim (Fig. 15:8), dating from the fifth–early eighth centuries CE; a jar lid resembling a small bowl (Fig. 15:9), common in the sixth–eighth centuries CE; and numerous bag-shaped jars with a simple rim and an upright neck (Fig. 15:10), common in the fifth–eighth centuries CE. Two fragments of Byzantine glass bracelets were also discovered on the floor of the building (Gorin-Rosen, below).
Squares 3 and 4
The two excavation squares (Figs. 16, 17) were opened on either side of a field wall (W1) that protruded above the surface; it was built of boulders and crossed the area from north to south, evidently in order to prevent soil from sliding down the steep easterly slope. On dismantling the wall, potsherds from the Mamluk period were found, and, in both squares, the remains of a poorly preserved earlier building were uncovered (depth beneath W1, c. 0.5 m). The walls of the building (W2, W11, W12; width 0.7 m) delimited three rooms (1–3) and were built of fieldstones and roughly dressed stones of different sizes interspersed with small fieldstones; the walls were preserved to the height of a single course (height 0.4 m). Room 1 contained a tamped earthen floor (L111) and a tabun (L111a) and probably served as a courtyard. Room 2 had a tamped earthen floor (L118). Room 3 had a tamped earthen floor (L115, L123) that incorporated a tabun (L115A) and abutted the west side of W2. A coin dating from 383–392 CE (IAA 144338) was found on the floor. The southwestern corner of a rectangular rock-hewn installation (L135) was discovered to the east of W12; the installation yielded no finds and was probably used for storage.
The building’s floors yielded meager ceramic finds, including fragments of three Gaza Ware jars (Fig. 18:1–3), dating from the fourth–seventh centuries CE (Johnson and Stager 1995:101–103, Fig. 5.6), and a fragment of a jar with a rope-decorated rim (Fig. 18:4), common in the third–fifth centuries CE (Magness 1993:235–236, Form 2).
Floor 118 overlaid a layer of reddish soil on top of the bedrock (L121) that yielded Early Roman potsherds hinting at the existence of an earlier building; the pottery includes jars (Fig. 18:5–8) of a type common in the first–second centuries CE (Bar-Nathan 2006: 95–104, Pl. 16) and a fragment of a Bet Natif oil lamp (Fig. 18:9), common from the second half of the third to the first half of the fourth centuries CE (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978:104–105).
The architectural remains belonged to two phases, early and late. A thick chalk floor (L113) abutting a wall (W13) built on a roughly east–west alignment of which one course was preserved was attributed to the earlier phase. A previous excavation at the site (Kogan-Zehavi 2016
[Fig. 17: A-6268]) uncovered another wall (W508) to the southwest of W13 whose construction was similar, which was dated by the ceramic finds to the Byzantine period. Wall 13 may originally have continued westward, and W508 may have abutted it at right angles. These architectural remains probably belong to the same building, which was part of the Byzantine settlement that stretched from the top of the hill in the west to its slopes in the east.
A section of a wall (W3; see Fig. 16) for which the course of W13 provided a foundation was attributed to the later phase. The continuation of W3 was also uncovered in the excavation to the west of the current square (W501). Wall 3 (width 0.5 m) was built of fieldstones of different sizes interspersed with small stones; it was preserved to a maximum height of two courses (height c. 0.6 m). The wall was abutted on the north by a tamped earthen floor (L107) that bore signs of a fire. Meager finds were discovered on the floor, including small potsherds with colored decoration dating from the Mamluk period (not drawn).
Sections 6 and 7
Section 6 (see Fig. 13) revealed the top of a wall on a northeast–southwest alignment (W16), which extended beyond the limits of the section and lay c. 0.7 m beneath a level of collapsed building stones (L133). The wall’s construction resembled that of the walls of the building excavated in the adjacent square (Sq 2). The excavation around it was halted when the rubble was cleaned, exposing the top of the wall. Wall 16 probably abutted W15 at right angles. The continuation of the building found in Sq 2 to the southeast shows that it was a large building.
Section 7 (L138; see Fig. 3) unearthed the top of a wall covered with collapsed stones c. 1 m beneath the surface (Fig. 19). The wall (length 3 m, width 0.7 m) was built of well-dressed stones on a roughly north–south alignment and extended beyond the excavation limits. When the top of the wall was uncovered, the excavation was halted due to the limited scope of the investigation. Since the wall’s construction resembles that of W5b/a in Sq 1, the wall may well be a continuation of the bathhouse. The bathhouse may therefore have extended westward and measured at least 15 m from east to west.
The Glass Finds
The excavation retrieved 360 glass shards, 260 of which are unidentifiable body fragments. One hundred fragments belong to vessels and other artifacts, among which 25 vessels and five bracelets have been selected for publication, representing two main periods.
Second–Third Centuries CE
The first group of vessels features mostly colorless glass, which was used to produce bowls and bottles with distinct typological characteristics (Fig. 20). The group dates from the second–third centuries CE.
Bowls (Fig. 20:1–3). Bowl 1 was found in the Byzantine building’s chalk floor (L134). It is a colorless bowl covered with creamy white weathering whose rim is pinched to form a wavy pattern. The fragment is tiny, and so the bowl was reconstructed based on similar bowls in collections. A bowl with a similar rim, made of colorless glass with a greenish tinge, was found in an excavation at Khirbat Badd ‘Isa in Qiryat Sefer, where it was dated to the Late Roman period (Magen, Tzionit and Sirkis 2004: Pl. 9:10). A rim fragment of a similar bowl was discovered in the village of ‘En Gedi, where it was also dated to the Late Roman period (Jackson-Tal 2007:483, Fig. 6:1, and see therein references to other bowls found in Yavne, Lod, Karanis in Egypt, and Carthage in Tunisia). Bowl 1 was assigned to the group of vessels dated to the second–third centuries CE based on the colorless glass fabric that is characteristic of this period. It is likely that this bowl represents the early appearance of bowls decorated with pinched wavy rims.
The bases of Bowls 2 and 3 are made of a glass trail wound around the perimeter of the base. The base of Bowl 2 (L124) is pushed-in in the center, and the base of Bowl 3 (L137) was probably formed in a similar manner. The base of Bowl 2 belongs to a rather small vessel, such as a small bowl or a beaker. It was made of bluish green glass and is covered with black and silver weathering; the pontil scar is relatively rough for a delicate vessel. Based on the quality of the fabric and the production method, it belongs to the earliest groups of glassware found at the site. Only a small part of the base of Bowl 3 was preserved, but it probably belongs to a medium-sized bowl. The glass is colorless and covered with crackled white weathering and crizzling. Colorless glass vessels with similar weathering are known in assemblages dating from the second–third centuries CE, such as those from the Negev caravansary cities. As the fragment comes from a fill beneath a floor and a wall, it may belong to a phase prior to the construction of the building.
Bottles (Fig. 20:4, 5). Bottle 4, discovered in the same fill (L137), characterize by an upright cut-off rim, unfinished, a relatively thick wall compared to other vessels, and it has a constriction at the join between the neck and the body. The glass is colorless with a greenish tinge, and its silvery weathering has penetrated the spirals marks created by the rotation of the vessel during the blowing process.
From cylindrical bottle 5 (L140), the lower part of its body was preserved along with its thickened flat base. The bottle is made of colorless glass with a slight greenish tinge and is covered with silver and brown weathering. The base of the vessel has a rough pontil scar retaining remnants of glass.
Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries CE
The second group of glassware is larger, with a wide variety of vessels and items dating from the fourth and early fifth centuries CE (Figs. 21–24). This group represents common types produced in local workshops, such as those at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana, Khirbat el-Fatuna and Jalame. The vessels are characterized by the quality of the glass and its color, as well as by their forms and ornamentation. The vessels were found in most of the excavation areas (Sq 1—L100, L124, L136, L137; Sq 2—L134, L140; Sqs 3, 4—L105).
Bowls (Fig. 21:1–4). Bowls 1 and 2 (L136) feature a thin-walled, everted rim decorated with fine trails in a darker color than that of the vessel. Bowl 1 is made of colorless glass and is decorated with blue trails sunk into its wall. Bowl 2 is made of greenish-yellowish glass and decorated with dark blue trails. The glass is poor-quality, full of small bubbles and impurities. The trails protrude slightly from the vessel’s wall. Bowls of this type were found in an assemblage dated to the fourth–early fifth centuries CE from Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:84–85, Fig. 5:1–2).
Bowl 3 (L105), from which a fragment of the rim and a fragment of the base with part of the wall are preserved, is made of light bluish green glass covered with silver and black weathering. Based on the quality of the glass and the weathering, the two fragments are attributed to the same bowl. The bowl features an infolded rim, a carinated body and a raised ring base. Bowls with infolded rims are relatively rare. The bowl was found in a fill above a floor.
Fragment 4 (L136), made of greenish glass, belongs to a massive hollow ring base retaining the lower part of a thick wall. The fragment belongs to a large bowl or jar, and it was found together with Bowls 1 and 2, which are trail-decorated; thus, the fragment should probably be dated to the same period.
Bowls and Beakers (Fig. 22:1–8). Bowl 1 (L140) is made of light greenish glass, and beaker 2 (L136) is made of colorless glass with a greenish tinge and is covered with silver and white creamy weathering. Both feature an unfinished cut-off rim and bear polishing marks and a pattern of thin horizontal bands incised on the vessel’s wall. Beakers and bowls of this type are typical of fourth-century CE assemblages; similar examples were found at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:83–84, Fig. 4:1, 90–92, Fig. 8:1, 132, Fig. 29, and see therein references to a large assemblage found at the glass-production workshop in Jalame from the second half of the fourth century CE). Bowl 1 was found in a fill beneath the floor in Sq 2, and Beaker 2 was found in a fill above the floor in Sq 1.
Bowl Rim 3 (L140) is made of greenish-blue glass and features an asymmetrical double fold below the rim. The type is characteristic of the fourth century CE. The bowl was found in a fill beneath a floor. The same fill yielded also a thickened, pushed-in hollow ring base (No. 4; L140). It is made of light greenish glass and may belong to a bowl, a beaker or a juglet.
Base 5 (L136) is made of light greenish glass trail wound several times around it, forming a raised coiled base. This base may also belong to a bowl, a beaker or a juglet. Such bases are characteristic of the glass from Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:88–90, Fig. 7:3–5, with further discussion and references therein) and date from the fourth and early fifth centuries CE.
Rim fragment 6 (L124) is made of light bluish glass and is decorated with a turquoise trail below the rim. The rim is characteristic of beakers with a solid base, as are bases 7 and 8 (L136, L140 respectively). Base 7 is made of greenish-blue glass, and base 8 is made of bluish green glass; both are covered with silver and black weathering. Beakers of this type were found at the Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:90–93, Fig. 8:1–8, and see therein references to their widespread distribution, which includes the workshop at Jalame, where such beakers were first classified).
Bottles (Fig. 23:1–7). Vessles 1 and 2 (L136, L140 respectively) are bottles or juglets. They have a stepped funnel rim with an open fold below the rim, and a short neck that is slightly constricted at the join with the body. Bottle 1 is made of light greenish glass and is covered with silver and black weathering. The rim is broken in one place, where a handle may have been joined from the shoulder. Bottle 2 is made of light greenish-blue glass and is covered with silver and black weathering. Bottles with a stepped rim were found at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana and dated to the fourth and early fifth centuries CE (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:96–98, Fig. 10:3).
Bottles 3–5 (L136) have a short funnel mouth and an infolded rim with a wide fold and cylindrical neck. Bottle 3 is made of unevenly colored glass, part purplish and part colorless, and is covered with silver and black weathering. Bottle 4 is made of greenish-blue glass and is likewise covered with silver and black weathering. Bottle 6, found in the same locus, has a wide, fire-rounded funnel rim; its walls are thin, made of light greenish glass and covered with silver weathering. These bottles were found together in a fill above a floor in Sq 1.
Bottle 7 (L100) has an upright rim made of light bluish glass and is decorated with blue wound trails of a darker hue than that of the vessel. The bottle is characteristic of the Byzantine period, including the end of the period, and may represent the site’s latest phase. It was found in a fill immediately below topsoil in the vicinity of the bathhouse.
Windowpane (Fig. 23:8). The same locus (L100) also yielded a fragment of a round window; the windowpane was found still attached to its original plaster frame. The window may have been used in the bathhouse. The use of round windows in bathhouses is known mainly from the Late Islamic to the Ottoman periods, but here round windows appear alongside Byzantine ware.
Bracelets (Fig. 24:1–5). The excavation yielded several bracelets, some plain, with a D-shaped cross-section. Bracelets 1 and 2 (L140) are made of monochrome glass, whereas Bracelets 3–5 (L107, L119) are made of glass in two or three colors wound together and twisted to form a multi-colored bracelet that is circular in section. Bracelets 1 and 2 were found in a fill beneath a floor in Sq 2, and should be dated to either the end of the Late Roman period or the Early Byzantine period. Multi-colored twisted bracelets are also known from the Late Byzantine period and particularly from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Bracelet 4 was found on a floor in a building where remains of both these periods were found.
The glass finds from the current excavation join other glassware assemblages from sites in the Judean Shephelah, attesting to local workshops that produced similar vessels in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods.
The excavation results combined with the data amassed from previous excavations in the area make it possible to understand much about the nature of the site over the years. The earliest finds from the excavation are Early Roman potsherds, indicating human presence at the site during this period. Settlement in this period is known from excavations conducted in the past on the northern side of H
orbat Gannim (Kogan-Zehavi 2010
; Sion 2010).
The current excavation shows that there was a settlement on the southern side of Horbat Gannim during the third–seventh centuries CE and later. The Byzantine settlement covered a large area and its remains were found on the entire hillside, over an area at least 100 m long. In the east of the site stood a large ashlar-built building in which three phases were identified; based on the discovery of pottery tiles and tubuli fragments, it was evidently a bathhouse. The construction of the bathhouse is dated to the third century CE based on the glass finds from the building. In the east of the building, an alcove (W16) characteristic of cold plunge rooms (frigidaria) is attributed to its earliest phase. In the fourth–sixth centuries CE, alterations were made to the bathhouse, the alcove was rendered obsolete and new floors were laid. A settlement lay to the west of the bathhouse and dwelling remains were discovered on the slope and at the top of the hill.
The kiln discovered at the southern end of Sq 1, which canceled the bathhouse, is attributed to the Late Byzantine period or later; due to its proximity to the surface, no floors or associated architectural data were found and it is therefore unclear whether the settlement continued to exist during this period or was abandoned, with only the kiln continuing to be used in the area.
Farming may have begun on the site in the Mamluk period, based on pottery found while dismantling the field walls that cross the site. These field walls may have been built using stones dismantled from the walls of buildings from the Byzantine settlement.
The ancient nucleus of the settlement therefore appears to have been in the northern part of the site, and in the Byzantine period or slightly later the settlement expanded southward. The hiatus between the settlement from the first century BCE–first century CE and the settlement from the later periods was caused by historical events in the Judean Shephelah. During the first century BCE–first century CE, there was a highly-developed settlement continuum of numerous Jewish villages in the region, including the settlement at the current site. The anti-Roman rebellions, and especially the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, resulted in drastic demographic changes throughout the rural region of the Judean Shephelah. Many Jewish settlements in the region were abandoned or destroyed and new settlers occupied the region from the Late Roman period onwards. Bathhouses inside the settlement are one of the prominent hallmarks of new, non-Jewish settlers who began to repopulate the area. Bathhouses were popular in the Roman and Byzantine periods as part of the Roman tradition first established in large cities in the country, such as Bet She’an (Mazor and Bar-Natan 1999) and Caesarea (Porat 1998). At the end of the Roman period and the beginning of the Byzantine period, this phenomenon also spread to rural parts of the Judean Shephelah, as at the Roman-period farmsteads at Khirbat ‘Urqan el-Khala (Ganor et al. 2010), Bet Guvrin (Cohen 2002) and Menora (Hizmi 2004). Some of the settlements continued to exist during the Byzantine period, together with the bathhouses, such as the one at Emmaus (Gichon 1992:39–41) and bathhouses discovered during excavations at Moshav Tarom (Permit No. A-6327), in nearby Kefar Uriyya (Betzer 2022
), in Yad Binyamin (Sion 2001) and at Bet Neh
emya (Nagorsky 2009
). The many bathhouses from the Byzantine period throughout the Judean Shephelah are linked to the flourishing pilgrim trade along the main road from Gaza via Bet Guvrin to Jerusalem (Roll and Dagan 1988:175–179). The settlement uncovered at the site may have been established for this reason and would have been part of the network of Christian localities situated along the main road between Gaza and Bet Guvrin.