Six excavation squares were opened, revealing remains of walls in a poorly preserved state (Fig. 2), as well as numerous robbers’ trenches that had harmed walls and buildings. In the course of the excavation, the site was flooded several times by rain, and the archaeological finds were damaged (Fig. 3). The site dates from the fifth–seventh centuries CE—the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period. Two phases were identified: early and late.
The Early Phase. A space (L35; 2.5 × 3.5 m) enclosed by three walls (W104, W105, W107) was unearthed. Remains of additional walls (W108, W109; Fig. 4) attested to spaces that were not preserved. At the north end of W107, a column drum was found inside a robbers’ trench that was covered with clean sand (Fig. 5). To the south of W104 was a large space, possibly a courtyard (L28), demarcated by the corner of a wall (W101, W103; Fig. 6). The floor in this space was covered by a layer of kurkar and a patch of a floor comprising the remains of plaster and kurkar (L19) that had been damaged by a refuse pit (diam. 1.8 m; Fig. 7). The remains of three Gaza Ware jars were found within a layer of potsherds and soil identified in the section to the south of W101 (Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 8).
Between W103 and 106 was an alley (width c. 2 m; Fig. 2) with part of a floor made of kurkar and plaster fragments (L36).
Evidence of digging by robbers was visible on the fringes of the excavation squares (Figs. 2: Section 2–2; 9).
The Late Phase. A wall (W102) attributed to this phase was poorly preserved.
 
Pottery finds. Numerous potsherds were retrieved from pits, and a few others were found on the floors. The finds from the floors included imported bowls (Fig. 10:1, 5); seventh-century Fine Byzantine Ware bowls (Fig. 10:2–4), characteristic of the transition from the Byzantine to the beginning of the Early Islamic periods; a local krater (Fig. 10:6); a casserole (Fig. 10:7); imported amphoras (Fig. 10:8, 9); and a Gaza Ware jar (Fig. 10:10). A Byzantine marble bowl (Fig. 10:11) was discovered beside W101.
 
The Coins
Gabriela Bijovsky
 
Forty identified coins (Table 1) were retrieved as surface finds from inside refuse dumps; no coins were found on the floors. The earliest coin dates from the Late Roman period, and the latest from the Abbasid period. Since the site seems to have been plundered over the years, it was impossible to date the stratigraphy based on the numismatic finds.
 
Table 1. Coins
 
No.
Description and coin (date CE)
Locus
Basket
IAA No.
1
Constantius Gallus (351–354)
27
1036
117411
2
364–375
20
1028
117422
3
383–395
20
1028
117420
4
Fourth century
14
1022
117407
5
See No. 4
26
1045
117410
6
See No. 4
30
1043
117413
7
See No. 4
35
1050
117416
8
See No. 4
37
1052
117417
9
Eudoxia, Constantinople
24
1038
117428
10
Fifth century
9
1014
117402
11
Fourth–fifth centuries
17
1025
117418
12
Fifth–sixth centuries
20
1028
117421
13
512–538
8
1013
117400
14
See No. 13
20
1028
117419
15
Justinian I (518–522)
30
1043
117415
16
Justinian I, Constantinople (522–527)
5
1006
117392
17
522–537
7
1012
117396
18

522–537, Ashqelon

9
1016
117403
19
See No. 18
16
1024
117408
20
See No. 18
24
1032
117431
21
See No. 18
29
1042
117412
22
See No. 18
30
1043
117414
23
Ashqelon (522–540)
6
1015
117399
24
See No. 23
23
1031
117426
25
Justinian I, Carthage (548–565)
21
1029
117424
26
Justinian II (565–578)
26
1035
117429
27
Justinian II, Nicomedia (571/2)
11
1018
117404
28
Maurice Tiberius (592–602)
22
1039
117425
29
Phocas, Alexandria (602–608)
7
1012
117397
30
Seventh century
23
1031
117427
31
Heraclius, Constantinople (610–615)
7
1012
117395
32
Heraclius, Alexandria (613–618)
7
1009
117394
33
Heraclius, Alexandria (618–628)
13
1020
117406
34
Constans II, Constantinople (660/1)
20
1028
117423
35
Umayyad (post-reform)
7
1012
117398
36
Umayyad (post-reform)
16
1024
117409
37
Muhammad Ibn Sa‘id (possible Abbasid governor; 769–774)
5
1008
117393
38
Abbasid
6
1015
117430
39
See No. 38
8
1013
117401
40
See No. 38
11
1018
117405
 
Glass Finds
Yael Gorin-Rosen
 
Of the 222 glass fragments recovered, only 83 could be identified and dated. Most of the glassware dates from the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods. A small group of vessels dates from an earlier phase—the end of the Late Roman and the early Byzantine period. 
 
Glass Vessels from the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Periods. Several vessels are represented. These include bowls with outfolded hollow rims (not drawn); a bowl or juglet with a base made of a thick trail wound around the bottom of the vessel to form a raised ring (L35; Fig. 11:1)—a type of base that was very common in the center of the country during the fourth and early fifth centuries CE; and a bottle or juglet with a short funnel-mouth and a cylindrical neck made of olive-green glass, decorated with a thick blue trail below the rim (L31; Fig. 11:2). The latter is a vessel that represents a well-known type from the fourth or early fifth century CE. Its glass is covered with black weathering, and the wall of the vessel is relatively thick. The quality of the glass and the color combination are characteristic of vessels from Egypt during this era. Bottles and juglets characterized by a funnel-mouth ornamented with a horizontal trail and another trail on the neck are well-known from sites throughout the country.
Also included is a bichrome vessel with a yellowish body covered with shiny iridescence, and a blue glass handle coated with black and silver weathering, severely pitted (L20; Fig. 11:3). The handle is pinched and fashioned at both ends. Such handles are known from jars and juglets of this era.
 
Glass Vessels from the Byzantine and Beginning of the Early Islamic Periods. These included bottle rims that are characteristic of the period. One rim belongs to a bottle made of light bluish glass, mold-blown, twisted to create closely spaced spiral ribs, and decorated with a turquoise trail, horizontally wound beneath the rim, of which three coils were preserved (L14; Fig. 11:4). The workmanship of the vessel, which is covered with silver weathering, is of rather good quality. These bottles are characteristic of the Byzantine period, and they continued to appear at the end of the period and at the beginning of the Early Islamic period. A very similar bottle, decorated with blue trails over bluish green glass, was found in the Byzantine-period fill of the Roman tomb in Ashqelon (Katsnelson 1999: Fig. 4:9).
A few wineglass bases were retrieved, including the hollow ring base of a wineglass with a thin stem narrowing toward the top and a prominent join between the stem and the base (L35; Fig. 11:5). The wineglass, made of light bluish green glass, is covered with golden weathering and iridescence. It was carelessly made and has a crude pontil scar retaining remnants of glass. Another, slightly heat-deformed wineglass is distinctive for its relatively small size (L11; Fig. 11:6). It has a flat hollow ring base, and its short stem protrudes upward into the body. It was made of light bluish green glass and is covered with silver weathering and sand deposits. These wineglasses are characteristic of the Byzantine period.
Also found was a bottle with an elongated funnel-mouth with a rounded rim, joined to the shoulder by a very short neck (L35; Fig. 11:7). The bottle, made of light bluish green glass, is covered with golden weathering, iridescence and pitting. Bottles of this type, which are very typical of the late Byzantine and Umayyad periods, were found in the Byzantine-period fill of the Roman tomb in Ashqelon (Katsnelson 1999:73*–74*, Fig. 3:9, 10).
Another fragment belongs to greenish glass juglet with a funnel-mouth and an infolded rim, pinched to form a trefoil rim (L15; Fig. 11:8). The neck is decorated with a thickened wavy glass trail. The glass bears no weathering. Based on the combination of the juglet’s form, the thick, wavy trail decoration and the quality of the glass, it dates from the Umayyad period.
An intact round loop handle of a type characteristic of the Early Islamic period (L20; Fig. 11:9) was also found. It is made of light bluish green glass that contains bubbles and impurities and is covered with silver weathering. The base of the handle is wider than the looped end.  
Two other handles have a pinched decoration on one side, either at the top or the bottom, depending on how they will be restored (L35; Fig. 11:10). The handles are made of colorless glass and are completely covered with thick black weathering. They may belong to bowl-lamps that have loop handles and a pinched decoration, like the large bowl lamp found at Nizzana, which is pinched in the upper part (Harden 1962:85, Pl. 28:56). The Nizzana lamp was dated to the ninth–eleventh centuries CE. However, the report on Nizzana was one of the earliest reports to describe glassware, before all the currently known data was available. It is now common to date the appearance of lamps with a cut rim, a globular or barrel-shaped body and three handles, like the Ashqelon handle, to the Byzantine period, although they did continue to be used during the Early Islamic period.
The most important fragment from the excavation is distinctive—a zoomorphic vessel in the form of an animal bearing a vessel on its back, possibly representing a donkey or a camel carrying a vessel on its hump (L31; Fig. 11:11). A lattice design surrounds the container and connects it to the animal. Only a small fragment of the vessel was preserved, and all that remains of the lattice design is the part that is attached to the head or the tail of the animal; it is difficult to tell which, due to the small size of the fragment. The vessel is made of yellowish brown glass, and it is covered with black and golden weathering and severe pitting. Such artifacts were manufactured in two stages: first, the glass maker inflated and shaped the vessel, and then he added strips of hot glass and used them to form the animal, its legs, its head and additional details. The item was shaped on the pontil, which left a scar on its base; in many cases, the glass maker’s tools left pinching marks on the ends of the legs and tail. Indeed, the fragment retrieved from the excavation retains such pinching marks on the tip of the tail.
The majority of vessels of this type belong to collections that make no mention of their provenance, such as the Corning Museum of Glass, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum and the Israel Museum. They are most often in the form of an animal bearing wares on its back—a container wrapped in a net or a basket. Their small size suggests that they probably contained cosmetics. No two vessels are alike, since they were crafted free-hand and were used as decorative, non-standard objects.
As for the origin of these artifacts, several scholars attribute it to the region of Syria, whereas others have proposed an origin in the Eastern Mediterranean, possibly in Egypt. To date, only a few fragments have been recovered from scientific archaeological excavations, and most have not yet been published. Two vessels of this type were found in excavations in the Byzantine cemetery church at Horvat Karkur ‘Illit in the Northern Negev (Katsnelson 2004:286–288, Fig. 64:1, 2, Photos 285–287, and see therein references to collections and examples from Samra and Susa). A fragment of a zoomorphic vessel was recently found in an excavation at Re’em (Masmiya) Junction (N. Katsnelson, pers. comm.). Another, slightly better preserved zoomorphic vessel was recovered from a salvage excavation at Ramat Yishay along with glassware dated to the Umayyad period (Gorin-Rosen 2007: Fig. 8). The examples from the Israel Antiquities Authority excavations have been dated to the beginning of the Early Islamic period, mainly to the Umayyad period. The Ashqelon fragment is an addition to the fragments retrieved in the past, and it confirms the dispersal pattern of these distinctive objects in the region during the Early Islamic period.
 
The glassware retrieved from the excavation corresponds to the dates from the pottery and coins and attests to a settlement sequence extending from the late fourth or early fifth century to the eighth century CE.
 
The buildings unearthed in the excavation were part of the settlement of Ashqelon during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The Abbasid coins provide evidence of continued activity in the region until at least the end of the eighth century CE. Numerous potsherds from different periods, as well as coins, were retrieved from the pits. The robbers’ trenches attest to the massive plundering of building stones and explain the paucity of wall remains in the excavation area.