Two areas were excavated. Area A contained a water cistern used until the nineteenth century CE, and Area B contained an underground basement with six rooms dating from the Byzantine period (Figs. 2, 3). The remains from the excavation have been published (Eisenberg-Degen 2018a) and the current report describes the finds. The basement was associated with an overlying Byzantine farmhouse that was previously excavated (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994).
Finds retrieved on the floors of the basement rooms and amongst the rubble of the walls and the ceiling above them include pottery sherds, roof tiles and glassware, a piece of metal, and snails. The pottery and glassware date the basement to the latter part of the Byzantine period (sixth–early seventh centuries CE). Since no Early Islamic pottery was recovered, the basement was probably no longer used in that period.
The Pottery
Most of the pottery comes from Rooms 3 and 4; it consists of jars (45%), cooking ware (33%), table and serving ware (20%)—half of which are imported bowls—and oil lamps (2%). Three intact jars were found in situ in Room 4 and one of these contained several olive pits.
Bowls and basins. A fragment of a FBW Form 1A bowl or cup was recovered (Fig. 4:1). The FBW vessels are made of brownish orange clay, fired to a metallic hardness, and are decorated with an incised wavy line below the rim; they were produced in Jerusalem in the second half of the sixth and the seventh centuries CE (Magness 1993:193–198). Rooms 3–5 yielded Late Roman Red-slipped bowls imported from Cyprus (Fig. 4:2, 3) and Africa (Fig. 4:4), that were first produced in the sixth century CE (Hayes 1972:152–155, 379–382). The rooms also contained locally made, deep bowls with an everted, inward-folded rim (Fig. 4:5) that were manufactured in a pottery workshop near Kibbutz Mefalsim in the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Eisenberg-Degen 2018b). Other pottery vessels include basins of the Arched-Rim Basin form, Types 2a and 2b (Fig. 4:6–9), with a thickened or slightly downward-slanting rim and thick walls decorated with wavy and straight combing; these date from the sixth–seventh centuries CE (Magness 1993:206–208).
Cooking ware vessels. Various-sized deep cooking pots or casseroles with thin, upright walls date from the sixth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 4:10; Magness 1993:211). Various-sized cooking-pot lids were recovered, some deep and bell-shaped (Fig. 4:11, 12), and some shallow (Fig. 4:13, 14); lids of this kind are known from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (fourth–tenth centuries CE; Magness 1993:215). A kitchen jug has a slightly convex neck and an everted rim, with one or two handles attached to the rim and shoulder (Fig. 4:15); another kitchen jug has a stepped neck and a thickened everted rim (Fig. 4:16). Similar jugs were used in the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Amir 2006).
Amphoras and jars. An amphora sherd has a long cylindrical neck and two handles extending from the neck to the shoulder (Fig. 4:17). Similar amphoras were imported from the northeastern Mediterranean basin and date from the sixth–seventh centuries CE. Most of the jars (72%) are bag-shaped jars (Fig. 4:18–20) with an upright rim, sometimes infolded and slightly everted with a ridge at the base of the neck. These jars resemble jar Types C1 and C2 found at Rehovot-in-the-Negev (Rosenthal-Heginbottom 1988:83–84). Recent excavations at Shivta date jars of this type, with a ridge at the base of the neck, from the second half of the fifth to the first half of the seventh centuries CE (Tepper et al. 2018). Gaza Ware jars (Fig. 4:21, 22) with a narrow cylindrical body and a short, upright rim correspond to Majcherek’s Type 4 (Majcherek 1995), dated to the late sixth–early seventh centuries CE.
Oil lamps. A few fragments of wheel-made slipper-shaped oil lamps were recovered (Fig. 4:23). These lamps are common at sites in southern Israel and southern Jordan and are dated from the second half of the fifth to the second half of the seventh centuries CE (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978:122).
Decorated pottery sherds. Several fragments of jugs, juglets and jars were decorated prior to firing, the decorations including a stamped fishbone pattern, lines, and dots (Fig. 5:1, 2). One sherd has traces of an inscription (Fig. 5:3); other sherds have holes drilled after firing (Fig. 5:4), possibly to repair them or to create a filtering device.
Roof tiles. The few fragments of convex and flat roof tiles (Fig. 5:5, 6) had evidently collapsed into the basement from the farmhouse above.
Glass Vessels
Tamar Winter
The excavation recovered 23 poorly preserved glass fragments, mostly diagnostic, of bottle fragments dating from the fourth–seventh centuries CE. One bottle, from Room 3, has a thin wall and an infolded rim (Fig. 6:1). A similar bottle was found in a previous excavation in Be’er Sheva‘ (Permit No. A-3773). The several glass fragments from Room 3 include another bottle with a very thin wall and an optic mold-blown body, whose upper part is decorated with a pattern of shallow vertical ribs (Fig. 6:2). Two small, light olive-green shards decorated with optic blowing, one with a shallow ribbed pattern and the other with rounded protrusions, were found in the same basket. Optic blowing is known from the latter part of the Byzantine and the Umayyad periods. Bottles with similar ribbed decoration were found in previous excavations in Be’er Sheva‘ (Talis 2015), and in a tomb fill in Ashqelon (Katsnelson 1999: Fig. 4:15).
The basement story uncovered in the excavation is one of the best-preserved, Byzantine-period basements uncovered in Be’er Sheva‘ in recent years. The vessel repertoire resembles assemblages from other Byzantine-period residential sites in the south of the country and sheds some light on the functions of the basement rooms. The eastern rooms (Rooms 3–6) were used for storage and cooking: the jars stored liquids and grain, and the basins were probably used to preparing the dough before baking the bread in Room 4, where a tabun was uncovered (Wodzińska 2010:301; Eisenberg-Degen 2018a). In addition, the serving ware shows that the basement was used on a daily basis. The cooking facilities in the basement were used together with an upstairs cooking area (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994). Basements with cooking and baking areas are known from sixth-century CE farmsteads in the Be’er Sheva‘ valley.