In November 2006, a trial excavation was conducted at Kibbutz Allonim (Permit No. A-4939; map ref. 214101–10/736290–9), after antiquities were damaged during the construction of an addition to a residence. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Kibbutz Allonim, was directed by W. Atrash, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi and Y. Lavan (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS), A. Hajian and T. Meltsen (surveying and drawing), H. Smithline (photography), D. Sandhaus-Re’em (ceramics) and H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing).
Part of a cellar (2.5 × 2.5 m, height c. 1.7 m) with three openings, all hewn in soft limestone bedrock, was exposed. Two of the openings were shafts hewn in the cellar’s ceiling. The northern one was round (L101, diam. c. 0.75 m, height c. 1.1 m; Fig. 5), whereas the southern one was rectangular (L102; 0.5 × 0.9 m, height c. 0.95 m). In the upper part of both shafts were three small recesses (each c. 0.10 × 0.10 × 0.15 m) that were probably used to anchor a lifting device or door, or perhaps to secure a ladder. The third opening was hewn in the northeastern wall of the cellar (L103; width 1 m, height 1.4 m). The threshold of the opening, situated c. 0.6 m higher than the floor of the cellar, was built of limestone slabs (Fig. 6). A wall (W104; length 1.8 m) that supported the ceiling and the side opening was exposed inside the cellar. Founded on bedrock, it was built of ashlars in secondary use preserved four courses high (0.70–1.36 m); several of the ashlars had drafted margins. Three rock-cut steps were revealed to the east of the side opening. The cellar floor, only partially preserved, was made of white lime plaster applied to the bedrock. An accumulation of gray alluvium and collapse revealed on the floor consisted of well-dressed building stones (L105; Fig. 7) that included two limestone doorjambs and a column drum (diam. c. 0.32 m, height 0.95 m).
Potsherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods (Fig. 8) were discovered in the accumulation in the cellar. The Roman assemblage includes a krater with a thickened and out-folded rim (Fig. 8:1); two carinated casseroles from the second century CE (Fig. 8:2, 3); and bag-shaped jars (Fig. 8:4–6) from the first–second century CE. The Byzantine assemblage includes a CRS bowl (Fig. 8:7) and a carinated bowl with a flat rim (Fig. 8:8), both dating to the fifth–sixth centuries CE; two kraters from the sixth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 8:9, 10); cooking pots with a grooved rim and ribbed body from the fourth century CE (Fig. 8:11, 12); bell-shaped lids (Fig. 8:13, 14); Galilean jars from the sixth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 8:15–17); and a jug with a long neck and thickened and grooved rim with an inner gutter (Fig. 8:18) dating to the third–fourth centuries CE.
The bedrock-leveled surface above the cellar sloped slightly to the south and was damaged when foundations were dug there. The northern part of a rectangular rock-cut installation (width 0.5 m, exposed length 0.45 m, depth 0.15–0.35 m; Fig. 9) was exposed on the western side of the bedrock, near Opening 102. Alluvium and stones that blocked the openings had accumulated above the cellar. Those accumulations yielded potsherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods similar to those discovered inside the cellar. The ceramic assemblage ascribed to the Roman period included a krater with a thickened and out-folded everted rim (Fig. 10:1) a krater with a ledge rim (Fig. 10:2) dating to the first–second centuries CE; a cooking pot from the second century CE (Fig. 10:3); and a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 10:4) from the first–second centuries CE. The ceramic assemblage from the Byzantine period included the base of an LRC bowl decorated with a reticulated pattern and dating to the sixth century CE (Fig. 10:5); a CRS type bowl (Fig. 10:6); a casserole with a rope-cut rim and horizontal handles from the sixth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 10:7); a grooved-rim cooking pot from the late fourth century CE (Fig. 10:8); and a bag-shaped jar, characteristic of the coastal region, with a round, low rim that is thickened in the middle and dates to the fifth and early sixth centuries CE (Fig. 10:9).
The cellar exposed in the excavation was probably part of a dwelling dating to the Roman period (first–second centuries CE), which has not survived; presumably, the building stones and column drum discovered inside the cellar and outside belonged to the structure that stood above it. Houses in Jewish settlements in the Galilee during the Roman period are characterized by rock-cut cellars used for storage and ritual baths (miqwa’ot).The cellars were probably also used for hiding in times of emergency. In the nearby Jewish settlement at Ramat Yishay, ritual baths were hewn in the cellars of houses (Permit No. A-7054). At Zippori, ritual baths, cisterns and storerooms were discovered in the cellars of houses from the Roman period (Weiss 2008:24). Cellars and hiding caves below the courtyards of houses were discovered in Nazareth and at Karm er-Ras in Kafr Kanna (Alexandre 2008:75*–77*). It seems that the cellar discovered in the excavation at Allonim was used for storage. Apparently, it was first entered via the shafts from the dwelling above, but in a later phase—by way of the side opening leading from the courtyard. Wall 104 could have been associated with renovations carried out sometime in the third–sixth centuries CE, as suggested by the ceramic finds.
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Weiss Z. 2008. Sepphoris on the Eve of the Revolt against the Romans in Light of Josephus’ Writings and the Archaeological Finds. In O. Guri-Rimon ed. The Great Revolt in the Galilee (Hecht Museum Catalogue 28). Haifa. Pp. 21–26 (Hebrew).