Byzantine Period. A large residential dwelling was discovered in Areas A, C, F and G. The building was partially preserved; it was damaged mainly in its southeastern part by the construction of tombs during the Islamic period and the construction of the soccer stadium in the 1960s. Two construction phases were discerned in the building: in the first phase (fourth century–mid sixth century CE) the central part of the structure was built, namely the rooms in Areas A and C; in the second phase (late sixth century CE) additional construction took place, mainly in the central part (Area C). The structure was rectangular (c. 15.5 × 19.0 m; Fig. 3), built in a general north–south direction and consisting of two main wings: a northern wing whose rooms were built widthwise and a southern wing whose rooms were built lengthwise. A courtyard was probably located east of the building (Area F).
Three rooms were discovered in the northern wing (44.65 sq m; Fig. 4). The walls were usually preserved to a height of one course above the floors. The western room, which may have served as an entrance hall, was paved with ceramic tiles (Fig. 5). In a later phase construction was carried out there, mainly in its northwestern part. The middle room had a mosaic pavement decorated with a Solomon’s knot in the center and a pair of red sandals to the south (Fig. 6). Another sandal pattern, this time in black, was discovered in the eastern room. The middle room in the building was characterized by a mosaic of impressive size when compared to the other rooms of the structure. Repairs and additions conducted in a later phase of the Byzantine period (mid-sixth century CE) were also noted in the middle room. A pillar built next to the southern wall of the room damaged the edge of the mosaic. The eastern room in the northern wing was paved with a mosaic; neither repairs nor later construction were discerned in it. Evidence of destruction was discerned in the mosaic floors in the northern wing of the building, indicating an earthquake which may have occurred either during the Byzantine period or at the end of the Umayyad period (749 CE); damage might have also been caused by later disturbances.
The southern wing (150 sq m) was only partially preserved, as it was damaged by later construction. As mentioned previously, its rooms were built lengthwise; three spaces could be reconstructed in its west, center and east. The segments of thick walls (width c. 1 m) that were discovered allow us to reconstruct three rooms in the western space, no internal partition in the center space and two rooms in the eastern space.
Some 5 m east of the building was a wall (Area F) that may have been the enclosure wall that surrounded the entire complex. Sections of a floor and a floor bed—perhaps evidence of an interior courtyard pavement—were discovered west of the wall. Graves dug in this area in later periods prevented the complete exposure of the architectural complexes from the Byzantine period. A limestone architectural element found near the courtyard was adorned with decoration of a pointed arch ('ogival arch'; Fig. 7). The item was probably part of a pillar or a lintel. Although the item was not discovered in situ, it most likely belonged to the building and reflects its splendor. Similar elements were found in the Severan theatre at Bet Sheʽan and in Tiberias (our thanks to G. Mazor). A pavement of small fieldstones (L100; Fig. 3) was revealed northwest of the building (Area G). It was set on a tamped bedding that sloped to the north and consisted of a layer of medium fieldstones mixed with pottery sherds. The ceramic finds suggest the pavement was constructed at the same time as the building and was probably related to it, but it was impossible to associate it with the general architectural plan.
The building went out of use or was destroyed toward the end of the sixth century CE. The reason for this might have been an earthquake. The building was not re-inhabited, and the area was used for burial from the Islamic period onward.
A large complex winepress was revealed c. 20 m southwest of the building (Figs. 8, 9). Most of the winepress was exposed; trial trenches dug with a backhoe to the north and west revealed it’s the continuation of the winepress, indicating that it extended at least across an area of 225 sq m. The winepress had a large treading floor flanked by rectangular cells to the south and east, and three collecting vats to the north. The main treading floor (L140, L141; 7.5 × 8.5 m) was rectangular and paved with an industrial mosaic that was discovered only along the edges of the floor. The treading floor’s foundation was an aggregate consisting of stones and mortar (thickness 0.5 m). The grapes were presumably pressed by means of a screw, as was customary in complex winepresses in the Byzantine period. Since the central part of the treading floor, where the screw is usually installed in this type of winepress, was not excavated, it is impossible to determine with certainty if a screw was indeed used to produce the must. The must flowed from the treading floor to a plastered channel in the middle of the northern wall of the floor, and from there to the main collecting vat and perhaps also to the two adjacent collecting vats. The collecting vats were not excavated and only partially exposed. The main vat was circular (diam. 1.5 m) and larger pits (diam. 3.1 m) were built on either side of it; it was impossible to determine if they were connected. The side collecting vats were likely used for producing must by means of a secondary process. This contention seems to be corroborated by a niche that was discovered just south of the western collecting vat. This niche, which was built of ashlars and faced the treading floor of the western collecting vat, might also have been used for pressing grapes. Four rectangular cells (c. 1.6 × 2.6 m, max. depth c. 1 m) were discovered south and east of the main treading floor; however, there seems to have originally been five cells. The cells were built near each other, c. 1.6 m apart. The spaces between them were probably used to transfer the produce between the cells. The cells were treated with white plaster and paved with a white industrial pavement. They drained into a gutter (width 0.35 m, depth 0.2 m) that led to the main treading floor; a tile (0.17 × 0.24 m) was found at the bottom of the gutter. Each cell had three niches (0.3 × 0.3 m depth 0.1 m; Fig. 10), which had a stone tile at their bottom. The niches were probably used as a base for a raised treading surface. The cells were probably used as storage spaces and for the initial aging of the must. The winepress probably went out of use in the late sixth or early seventh century CE, and from the Abbasid period was used as a refuse pit.
Islamic Period. Twenty graves (Fig. 2) were identified, and clusters of stones, possibly graves, were discovered. Most of the graves were located northeast of the excavation area, c. 0.2 m above the level of the Byzantine-period building; some penetrated the floors of the building. Several pit graves and burials covered with stone slabs, probably cist tombs, were found. A majority of the graves were not excavated, and therefore cannot be dated with certainty. However, one excavated grave suggests that it was a typical Muslim burial, oriented in an east–west direction with the deceased placed on its right side and facing south. Judging by the ceramic artifacts dating to the Abbasid period found in the accumulation above and alongside the grave, it seems to belong to a burial field that was established during the Abbasid period. It was probably used also to bury the Arab population that lived in Yehudiya village during the Ottoman period. This assumption is corroborated by the presence of a nearby sheikh’s tomb.
The Finds. Pottery sherds from the Byzantine period include body fragments of jars and cooking pots. In addition, many fragments of Late Roman-type bowls were found inside the building; some are decorated with a Maltese cross in their center. Most of the pottery vessels date to the sixth century CE, but several sherds date to the Early Islamic period. Also found were fragments of glass vessels and of window panes from the Byzantine period. In addition, several coins, most of which date to the sixth century CE, were discovered.
The building was apparently a luxurious residential villa. The sandal pattern found on the mosaic floor in the northern wing is found in both churches and bathhouses, point to the possible nature of the northern wing. However, until more detailed scientific research is carried out, it is impossible to determine whether it were a church or a bathhouse. The building is the first of its kind to be discovered in the city of Yehud. Its distance from the tell indicates that the Byzantine-period settlement extended beyond the currently known boundaries of the tell. The complex winepress that operated alongside the building served most certainly as the economic basis of the house. The press facility that was discovered belongs to a series of complex winepresses that are characteristic of the Lod Valley. Similar ones were found in Bet Dagan (Peilstöker and Kapitalkin 2000), Rishon Le-Ziyyon (Haddad 2013), Petah Tiqva (Gudovitch 2009), Ashqelon (Israel 1995; Israel and Erickson-Gini 2013:189–194) and Horbat Zikhrin (Taxel 2005). Toward the end of the sixth century or beginning of the seventh century CE, the building went out of use or was destroyed. During the Abbasid period the site was used for burial, and the winepress was turned into a refuse dump.