During July–August 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted at el-Qabu, in the compound of the Elat-Ashqelon Pipeline Company (Permit No. A-3692*; map ref. NIG 15553–61/61681–91; OIG 10553–61/11681–91), after ancient remains were discovered during infrastructure work. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Haimi, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), and I. Lidsky (drawing). Many thanks are extended to Mr. E. Sakal whose help greatly contributed to the success of the excavation.
Four excavation squares were opened, revealing a plastered water channel (W110) and two built pools (L13, L26; Fig. 1). The finds from the excavation are dated to the latter part of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period. Tunnels dug during infrastructure work throughout the excavation area damaged the site and hindered the archaeological excavation. Veteran workmen at the compound stated that at the beginning of the 1970s remains of an ancient bathhouse were exposed during the course of development work just east of the excavation area and an administration building was eventually built on top of them.
The plastered water tunnel traversed all the excavation squares (length 17 m) and apparently conveyed water from a well, as yet undiscovered. Remains of plaster were preserved on the exterior face of the tunnel’s eastern wall. Numerous fragments of saqiye vessels were discovered in the excavation and therefore, it may have been a saqiye well. A 9 cm elevation difference exists between the southern and northern ends of the tunnel. A smooth plastered pool (L17) at the southern section of the tunnel had two outlets; the one in the west led to a ceramic pipe sealed with a plug and the one in the south connected to a plastered tunnel (W114; length 2.2 m), which was lower than the northern tunnel (W110).
The two pools were built parallel to and east of the water tunnel. Fragmentary ashlar stones were exposed in the area between the tunnel and the pools, evincing a wall that once stood and separated between them. The larger of the two pools (L26; 3.3 × 5.8 m) was paved with a white mosaic, enclosed within a frame of red tesserae in three straight rows. The floor sloped northward and was overlaid with numerous fragments of Gaza jars. A settling pit (L27; 0.6 × 0.7 m) was cut in the northwestern corner of the pool and to its south a decorated ceramic bowl was incorporated in the mosaic floor of the pool. An outlet in the center of the pool’s southern wall (W102) may have been used to convey liquids to the small pool (L13; 2.35 × 3.30 m), which was entirely plastered and contained a large quantity of plaster remains and potsherds in its southern part.
The ceramic finds from the excavation dated to the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period and included fragments of jars (Fig. 2:1–4), saqiye jars (Fig. 2:5) and a wheel-made lamp from the end of the sixth century CE (Fig. 2:6), as well as fragments of two glass goblets and the lower part of a bottle (Fig. 2:7–9), dating to the Byzantine period, a stone bowl fragment from the end of the Byzantine period (Fig. 2:10) and a fragment of a decorated marble column in secondary use (Fig. 2:11).