Two excavation squares were opened (Figs. 2, 3) and remains of a building dating to the Late Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE) were revealed. Potsherds dating to Iron Age II (eighth century BCE) and the Chalcolithic period (late fifth millennium BCE) were found in a layer of loess that was excavated beneath the structure.
The Chalcolithic Period and Iron Age II
A layer of loess (L108, L111, L115; thickness 1.00–1.15 m) was exposed c. 3 m below the surface and above a natural accumulation of pebbles. The layer contained fragments of pottery vessels, including bowls (Fig. 4:1–4) and jars (Fig. 4:5, 6), characteristic of the sites of the Be’er Sheva‘ culture in the Chalcolithic period (late fifth millennium BCE); and bowls (Fig. 4:7–15), kraters (Fig. 4:16–20), jars (Fig. 4:21), holemouth jars (Fig. 4:22, 23) and jugs (Fig. 4:24, 25), dating to Iron Age IIB (eighth century BCE).
In addition, nine flint items were found, including five pieces of industrial debitage and four tools. The debitage included three blades, two of which are whole (Fig. 5:3–5), and two pieces of core debris, consisting of an overpassed blade (Fig. 5:2) and a tabular core (Fig. 5:1). The tool assemblage comprised a round scraper (Fig. 6:1), two denticulates (Fig. 6:2) and a side-scraper (Fig. 6:3). Although the flint repertoire is small, it can be ascribed to the Chalcolithic period based on the tools and the industrial debitage. Moreover, the core and blade debitage indicate that the provenance of these items was the Chalcolithic knapping site documented in the region, where blades prepared as sickle blades were produced (Davidzon A. and Gilead I. 2009. The Chalcolithic Workshop at Beit Eshel: Preliminary Refitting Studies and Possible Socio-Economic Implication. In S.A.Rosen and V. Roux, eds. Techniques and People – Anthropological Perspectives on Technology in the Archaeology of the Proto-historic and Early Historic Periods in the Southern Levant [Mémoires et Travaux du Centre de Recherche Français à Jérusalem 9]. Paris. Pp. 25–41; Gilead I., Marder O., Khalaily H., Fabian P., Abadi Y. and Yisrael Y. 2004. The Beit Eshel Chalcolithic Flint Workshop in Beer Sheva: A Preliminary Report. Mitkufat Haeven – Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society 34:245–265).
A Building from the Byzantine Period
A building ascribed to the Byzantine period was exposed above the layer of loess; two construction phases, early (2) and late (1), were discerned in the structure.
Phase 2. Parts of three rooms (1–3; Fig. 7) were exposed. The walls of the rooms (width 0.6–0.8 m, height 2.0–2.4 m) were built of different size fieldstones. The wall foundations were dug into a layer of brown loess soil and were mostly preserved twenty courses high (Fig. 8). Rooms 1 and 2 were found enclosed on three sides (W12, W15, W16, W17). The interior of Room 3 (W15, W17) was coated with two layers of gray hydraulic plaster (thickness c. 0.12 m), to which a layer of white plaster was applied. The three rooms were found filled with stone and mud-brick collapse. Tamped loess floors (L109/L112, L107, L110) were exposed in each of the rooms. A thin layer of ash was found on the floors of Rooms 1 and 3. The floor in Room 2 was covered with a thin layer of mud-brick material. A pair of ash pits was found dug into the floor in Room 1 (L116, L117; depth 0.20, 0.21 m). Another shallow pit (depth 5 cm) with burnt sides that seems to have been used as a hearth was exposed inside Pit 116.
Phase 1. Slight changes, including the addition of rooms, widening walls and raising floors, were made to the building. Fieldstones, ashlars and even architectural elements, such as column drums, were added to the upper courses of the Phase 2 walls. The architectural elements were in secondary use and probably brought to the site from the Byzantine church on a nearby street, which was not excavated (Fig. 9). This phase stands out especially in Wall 12, to which a row of stones was added on its southern side (overall width 1 m). The new walls (W11, W13, W14; width c. 0.6 m, height 0.3–0.5 m) formed 4 rooms (4–7). Tamped loess that served as a floor in the rooms (L101, L102, L106) was covered with limestone and chalk collapse. Column drums, a quern and a column capital in secondary use were found on the floor of Room 5 (L106). A depression for placing a jar base was hewn in the upper part of the capital; it seems that the capital was used as a stand for pottery vessels. Because of the limited excavation area and poor preservation of the walls, none of the rooms’ doorways were exposed.
The pottery found on the floors of the building of both phases dated to the sixth–beginning of the seventh centuries CE; it included bowls (Fig. 10:3–5; 12:1, 3), Late Roman C bowls (Fig. 10: 1, 2), African Red Slip bowls (Fig. 12:2), a krater (10:6), small cooking bowls (Figs. 10:7, 8; 12:4), casseroles (Fig. 10:9, 10), lids (Figs. 10:11–14; 12:5), closed cooking vessels (Figs. 10:15, 16: 12:6, 7), jugs (Fig. 11:1–3), a flask (Fig. 11:4), baggy-shaped jars (Figs. 11 :5–8; 12:8), Gaza jars (Figs. 11:9; 12:9), a Yassi Ada type jar (Fig. 11:10) and a lamp (Fig. 12:10). In addition, a bone comb was found (Fig. 12:11).
The glass finds were extremely meager. Four fragments of glass vessels were found, among them a small piece of a hollow base-ring of a wine goblet, a fragment of a hollow stem lamp and a bottle rim adorned with glass trails, all dating to the Byzantine period.
Five coins were found on the floor of the building from Phase 2 (Loci 102 and 107): one of Constantius II (330–335 CE; IAA 141641), one from the years 341–346 CE (IAA 141644), one of Theodosius I (383 CE; IAA 141642), one from the year 383 CE (IAA 141643) and one that is probably a half follis from the sixth century CE (IAA 141645).
It seems that a dwelling stood on the site during the Byzantine period. One of the rooms, where the remains of a fire and ash pits were found, was used for cooking. The layer of loess beneath the building’s floors contained pottery dating to Iron Age II and the Chalcolithic period. This stratum was evidently disturbed by the foundations of the Byzantine building. The excavation area seems to be located along the northwestern fringes of the Iron Age site, and in the center of the Chalcolithic site of the city of Be’er Sheva‘.