Three excavation squares were opened, unearthing the remains of a Byzantine building which was destroyed in the 749 CE earthquake (Fig. 2). Two rooms were unearthed; two of their parallel walls were preserved—an east one (W17) and a southwest one (W13, W23; from here on, W23)—built of roughly hewn basalt stones of various sizes (Fig. 3). Wall 17 was abutted on the east by a tamped-earth floor (L16). A probe dug beneath the floor revealed that the wall was founded a fill that extended down to bedrock (L20; Fig. 5). Wall 23 retained evidence of the 749 CE earthquake, which shifted the wall and caused it to crack on its east side (Figs. 2: Section 2–2; 4). The wall was founded on bedrock and abutted by a tamped-earth floor (L25) that was uncovered beneath the surface level (L10).
Steps led from the northwest room to an entrance to the southeast room, which was at a higher level (Fig. 2: Section 1–1). The steps were flanked by two pillars (W21, W22) that were adjacent to the building’s walls.
In the lower, northwest room, a tamped earth floor was discovered (L24) beneath a stone collapse (L15) that lay beneath a layer of soil mixed with fieldstones (L11). In the higher, southeast room, a floor was uncovered that was composed partly of tamped earth and partly of flagstone paving (L19). The floor was buried beneath a massive collapse resulting from the earthquake.
The finds from above Floors 16, 19, 24 and from the collapses above the floors (L10, L11, L12, L15) are varied and unique, dating from the sixth–eight centuries CE. They include potsherds, lamps, pottery censers, a stone bowl, c. 30 glass vessels (see Gorin-Rosen, below) and scattered human bones (of a woman, a man and a baby) belonging to earthquake victims who were buried under the ruins of the quake (see Nagar, below). The pottery dates from between the Byzantine period and the mid-eighth century CE.
It includes bowls (Fig. 6:1, 2), frying pans (Fig. 6:3, 4), a cooking pot (Fig. 6:5), high-necked jars with a simple rim (Fig. 6:6–8) and a flask (Fig. 6:9). Such vessels are familiar finds from excavations containing seventh–eighth-century CE assemblages, as at Tiberias (Stacey 2004
). Four lamps were also retrieved. One is a locally made, red-slipped disc lamp dating from the third century CE (Fig. 7:1) and three other lamps date from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Fig. 7:2–4). Two stoppers were also recovered, one made of a marble slab in secondary use that was rounded by retouching (Fig. 7:5) and the other made of pottery (Fig. 7:6). A basalt slab that was used for grinding was also recovered (Fig. 7:7).
Another find consists of two grinding bowls made of basalt with two or four feet (Fig. 8).
Although glass vessels are representative of the Late Byzantine and Byzantine period (Gorin-Rosen, below), the use of vessels probably continued into the mid-eighth century CE. The disc lamp (Fig. 7:1), which is the earliest find from the excavation, attests to human presence at the site from the third century CE onward.
Clay incense burners (Fig. 9) and other pottery fragments were recovered. Incense burners are familiar in ancient sources from the time of the Mishna and the Talmud (Zevulun and Olenik 1978
:38–39); many excavations have yielded generally meager fragments of these vessels, which are usually open bowls, sometimes with a cover, and have distinctive decorations made on the outer walls of the vessel when it was leather-hard—geometric motifs excised from the clay, especially triangles combined with impressions made with a plant stem or rouletted leaf-like motifs. The censer from the current excavation is almost completely intact (Fig. 9:1) and it has unique features. It was made on a wheel and consists of an open bowl with an elongated, cylindrical base. On detailed examination, the upper section of the censer was found to consist of two open bowls inserted one inside the other. The upper bowl has a rounded base and it was inserted inside another bowl with an elongated cylindrical base. The sides are thick and made of black fabric with a brown-black core and small black and white inclusions. The upper bowl has a rounded, everted rim. Its exterior is decorated with closely spaced impressions made with the side of a plant stem. A tree-like motif is incised in a band around the middle of the body. On either side of the band are two protruding ridges impressed with the side of a plant stem for decoration. The lower bowl has a cut, incurved rim (similar to that of the bowl in Fig. 9:2). The body of the bowl is decorated with two rows of interconnecting triangular holes cut next to each other in the side of the vessel. Between the triangles, the side is decorated with impressions made with the end of a plant stem. The base of the bowl is concave with a plain exterior and it ends in a partially preserved elongated and ribbed hollow cylinder.
The bowls were placed one inside the other and fused together, joined on their outer edge by a third, thick, prominent ridge. Like the two ridges above it, this ridge was also impressed with the side of a plant stem for decoration.
Although there is no certainty regarding its exact use, the vessel was probably either a censer or a lamp. The upper bowl, whose base was only partially preserved, may have contained the aromatic resins. A flammable substance may have been inserted through it into the lower bowl and the cylindrical base may have served to hold the vessel or been used to hold it in a stand.
Fragments of other vessels were recovered. The fragment shown in Fig. 9:2 has an inward slanting, cut rim. The outer side of the bowl is impressed with a leaflet motif that may have been rouletted on it while it was still leather-hard, in a straight line or in circles. Two adjacent holes were made in the side of the pot beneath the rim. Two other fragments (Fig. 9:3, 4) have a leaflet motif made with a tool, in lines or circles, and a band with a repeat tree-like motif similar to the decoration on the intact vessel (Fig. 9:1); another fragment (Fig. 9:5), probably from near the base of the vessel, is plain with a leaflet motif above it; the side of this vessel was also perforated with a hole.
Vessels featuring excised geometric fenestrations are known from the Byzantine period, for example at ‘Uza (Avshalom-Gorni 2009
:68–69, Fig. 2.43:10, 11) and at Tel Mefalsim (Rahmani 1983
:222–224, Pl. 27:A, B), where they were dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. These vessels may be attributed to the type of pottery ornamented in imitation of woodcarving (‘Kerbschnitt’ decoration)—patterns carved on the outside of the vessel, without fenestration, and dating from the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, e.g. at Yoqne‘am (Avissar 1996
:122–123, Fig. XIII.74:1–4).
The censers retrieved from the excavation date from the Late Byzantine–Early Islamic periods.
The excavation yielded c. 30 glass vessels, most from the surface of the floor in the north room (L24; Fig. 10:2–5), dating from the Byzantine and Late Byzantine periods. The other glass finds were scattered throughout the excavation area—the double-kohl bottle (L11; Fig. 10:7) from the Byzantine period, and the bottle (L19; Fig. 10:1) and stem-lamp base (L19; Fig. 10:6) date from the Byzantine, Late Byzantine and even the Umayyad periods and are among the most common types of glassware from this era.
The bottle has a slightly everted and inward-folded, pressed rim (L19, Basket 1050; Fig. 10:1). The glass is light bluish-green covered with golden creamy and silvery-iridescent weathering. The rim diameter is 5.8 cm. Bottles of this type began to appear at the end of the Roman period and early in the Byzantine period, continuing into the early Umayyad period. A similar bottle was found in a tomb at Z
efat ‘Adi (Gorin-Rosen 2015
:2–3, Fig. 6:1 and references there to Kh. el-Shubeika and the church at Shave Z
iyyon). Numerous bottles of this type were found in Umayyad assemblages at Bet She’an (Hadad 2005
: Pls. 8:155–159, 9:166–168, 170–175).
A jar has a wide, inward-folded funnel rim and a short, wide neck (L24, Basket 1076; Fig. 10:2). The glass varies in shade from a greenish-blue to a greenish-yellow nearer to the rim. It is covered with silvery, golden creamy and sandy weathering. The fabric is of a poor quality. The rim is 8 cm in diameter. Jars with a wide, open infolded rim and a short neck began to appear in the Late Roman period, as in a burial at Kafr Kama (Gorin-Rosen 2007
:113–114, Fig. 1:4 and further references there). This ware continues to appear in the Late Byzantine and Umayyad periods, with slight changes, e.g. jars from Umayyad assemblages at Bet She’an (Hadad 2005
:369–375, Pl. 20).
The base of a large jug or juglet was made of a glass pad added to the base of the vessel (a ‘pad base’; L24, Basket 1067; Fig. 10:3). The base is intact, thickened and irregular, with signs of working around its circumference and the underside is concave and very much thickened. The glass is bluish-green covered with patches of silvery white creamy weathering, with partial pitting, bubbles and impurities. The base bears a coarse pontil scar (1.3 cm). The maximum diameter of the base is 9 cm. Similar bases classified as jug bases were found in the remains of a burial cave at H
efat ‘Adi in Galilee (Gorin Rosen 2015
:5–6, Fig. 2:14–16 and further references there to burial caves in Galilee: Kh. el-Shubeika, and in the Haifa region: at Castra and Qiryat Ata). These jugs date from the Late Roman period to the Byzantine period. A very similar base discovered at Bet She’an was also dated to this era (Katsnelson 2014
:30*–31*, Fig. 2:4).
A mold-blown wine goblet has densely spaced ribs twisted to form a diagonal pattern (L24, Basket 1076; Fig. 10:4). The glass is a pale greenish shade covered with white creamy and silvery weathering overlain with sandy encrustation. The ribbed pattern protrudes only on the outer wall. The manner in which the vessel was twisted is visible around the foot. Two non-consecutive fragments of the vessel were preserved that appear to belong to the same goblet. Mold-blown goblets are relatively rare compared with goblets decorated with trails beneath the rim or with no ornamentation. At Bet She’an, the base of a goblet was discovered bearing signs of mold-blown ribbing (Katsnelson 2014
:33*–34*, Fig. 5:6 and further references there).
A lamp bowl has a slightly everted fire-rounded thin, delicate rim (L24, Basket 1071; Fig. 10:5). The glass is a very pale bluish shade, covered with silvery iridescent weathering. The poor-quality fabric contains a large number of bubbles and impurities. The rim is 10 cm in diameter. Lamps of this type appeared in the Byzantine period and continued into the Umayyad period.
A lamp with a hollow conical base (L19, Basket 1050; Fig. 10:6). The glass is bluish-green covered with patches of white creamy and silvery iridescent weathering overlain by a layer of calcareous encrustation. The wide cylindrical foot has a trimmed base with a pontil scar (0.8 cm). Two bottle rims folded inward at the edge, like the bottle in Fig. 10:1 were found beside the lamp.
A double-kohl bottle (L11, Basket 1010; Fig. 10:7). The glass is bluish green and the handle is greenish-yellow. The glass is covered with silvery-white, iridescent weathering and a sandy encrustation and it contains bubbles and impurities. The rim is folded inward and broken on one side. The body is divided into two plain containers, the handles were drawn out from the body to the rim. Based on the break at the top of the preserved handle, the vessel may also have had a basket handle. The base has a pontil trimming scar. Height: 10 cm. The base of a hollow conical lamp and remains of a double-kohl bottle with composite handles were found in a burial cave in the Gilboa and dated to the Byzantine period (Gorin-Rosen 1999
: 67*, Fig. 8: 16, 17). It is rare to find double-kohl bottles in such a well-preserved state in a dwelling, rather than as a grave good. A similar double bottle that was also retrieved from a domestic context was found in an excavation at Bet She’an (Katsnelson 2014
:31*–32*, Fig. 4:5 and further references there).
The glassware from the floor of the room probably represents the Byzantine and the Late Byzantine periods.
Human bones were found scattered inside a building that collapsed in the Early Islamic period (L12, L16, L24). The bones appear to be those of individuals buried beneath the ruins by the earthquake that occurred in the mid-eighth century CE. The finds consist of a few cranial dome fragments and postcranial bones in such a bad state of preservation that it is difficult to reconstruct full anthropological indices. Nevertheless, the fragments clearly represent at least three people: an infant aged between 0.5–3.0 years and two adults identified as a man and a woman.
Human bones from this period have been found in a similar context, under the rubble of a building, in the center of the nearby city of Bet She’an (License No. G-15/1996), where at least seven people were identified, all adult males, attesting to the fact that the find was not random and that they were indeed casualties of the earthquake. Despite the small sample, the demographic differences between those killed in the two cases is clear and it is consistent with the different functions of the buildings where they were found: the man, woman and infant are in a domestic context, as opposed to only adult males in a building (shop?) in the center of the city of Bet She’an.