This area (c. 175 sq m; Fig. 1), located in the east of the excavation, is the highest part of the site. This season, 80 sq m were excavated. Work continued in several squares where the excavation had begun in the previous season (MN/17–18). The excavation area was also enlarged to the south with the addition of several new squares (OP/17–18) and a new room (17) was exposed. The eastern part of the area was damaged by the digging of a modern trench, which constituted the eastern stratigraphic section of the area. Walls that extended to the west, beyond the excavation area, were discerned in this section, as well as habitation levels, which were dated from the Iron Age to the Early Islamic period, based on ceramic finds that were collected while straightening and cleaning the section.
British Mandate and Ottoman Period
Pieces of scrap iron and metal, glass bottles and porcelain dishes, beads and a very a large quantity of black Gaza ware, including fragments of bowls and jars (ibriks) were discovered. A large concentration of black Gaza ware, probably a refuse pit, was uncovered in Sq N17.
Early Islamic Period
Several fragments of bag-shaped jars and a bronze coin that dated to the time of the Abbasid dynasty were discovered in a disturbed locus in Sq M18.
Remains of a floor (width c. 0.3 m) were exposed while removing the excavation’s eastern balk in Sq M18. Pottery dating to the Byzantine and Late Roman periods, including the neck of a juglet that comes from the Nile region and two minute coins (fifth–sixth centuries CE), were found on the floor.
Room 1 (Sqs N18–19; Fig. 2). The excavation area from the previous season was enlarged c. 1 m to the east and south. Two walls (W112, W113) that enclosed Room 1 (3.6 × 4.2 m) were revealed. Wall 113, which separated Room 1 from Room 17, was built of fieldstones and a few ashlars in secondary use. The finds in the room included three broken bag-shaped jars from the Byzantine period and a few fragments of glass vessels and animal bones. No other remains beneath the Byzantine stratum were discovered.
Room 17 (Sq O18; 4.2 × 4.4 m). The room is delimited by four walls (W102, W113, W115, W116) and it seems that W116 was the continuation of W112. A habitation level, which included a large quantity of ceramic material, a basin of soft limestone, two fresco fragments and an ostracon, was discovered in the room. A partition wall (W114) divided the room into two. Two installations (Loci 557 and 559), which contained broken cooking pots, were found in the northern half of the room.
The southern part of the excavation (Sqs OP17) is a slope that was created when the area had been leveled in preparation of the parking lot. It was ascertained that the ceramic tile floor from the Late Roman period (L517; Sq O17), whose northern part was excavated last season, is severed by a modern pit (L519). A plastered installation (0.7 × 1.9 m) was discerned in the middle of Sq O17; it is apparently divided into two cells, but was not excavated due to time constraints. Remains of a hypocaust (L569; 1.30 × 1.35 m; Fig. 3) that probably belonged to a bathhouse were discovered to the south of the installation. Its floor consisted of fired ceramic tiles with a layer of hydraulic plaster between them. Parts of two plastered cells (0.18 × 0.24 m, 0.32 × 0.72 m, depth 0.19 m) were exposed in the northern part of the hypocaust. A gray patch on top of the hypocaust was overlain with potsherds from the Late Roman period. A tamped chalk surface (0.76 × 1.00 m) that probably abutted the wall to its west (W117) was exposed below the level of the hypocaust. Mosaic fragments (Fig. 4) were discovered on a small area above W117, to whose west was a level of small fieldstones and a large amount of tile fragments (L570).
Iron Age (Fig 5)
Room 5. The excavation from the previous season had continued and two levels of ash and several levels of soil fill, which sloped to the west, were discovered. Fragments of bowls and jars that dated to Iron II (eighth–seventh centuries BCE), numerous animal bones and charcoal remains were discovered in each of the levels, as well as a lump of raw copper.
Room 6. Potsherds dating to Iron II were discovered at a depth of 0.2 m (L534), when the area between a stone pavement (L530) and the southern wall of the room (W108) was examined.
Toward the end of the excavation, a few flint artifacts were discovered in Room 5.
This area (c. 250 sq m) is located in the middle of the excavation and the work, this season, continued in four squares (c. 100 sq m; MNO16, N15).
British Mandate and Ottoman Period
A few potsherds of black Gaza ware and fragments of a beer bottle, probably from the time of the British Mandate, were found inside a shallow patch of ash (hearth?), close to the surface in Sq O16.
Byzantine and Late Roman Periods
The excavation continued in the levels of fill and ash patches in Sq O16 (Loci 703 and 705); a few potsherds that dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered. Potsherds from these periods were also recovered from the stone collapse that covered a staircase in Room 9.
Room 18 (Sq O16). This season, 12 sq m were excavated and the northern wall of the room (W208) was exposed. A massive pillar stone was revealed at the base of the northern and southern walls of the room (W208, W209); the two stones (0.4 × 0.7 m, 0.5 × 0.6 m) were 2.6 m apart. A row of small fieldstones was discovered at the bases of the pillar stones, which were placed on a level of tamped earth that did not yield any datable finds. This room may have served as an entrance to a complex that was exposed in Areas A and B, and the possibility that it was built in the Iron Age cannot be negated. The artifacts in the room included a base of a square columnette of soft limestone, a Gaza jar with traces of slip or remains of red paint, a Fine Byzantine Ware juglet, miniature coins from the fifth–sixth centuries CE, ancient iron nails, an iron ring and a bead of stone that is not indigenous to the area.
The excavation in Sq N15 unearthed the top of a wall (W207) that enclosed a staircase, which was built in Room 9 during the Iron Age and continued to be used in later periods.
Rooms 8a, 8c (Fig. 6). A partition wall (W209) that divided the room (2.0 × 4.3 m) into two was exposed. Most of the room’s area was covered with stone collapse and a single layer of stones was removed from the collapse during this season. A strip of mud-brick material and at least one course of complete mud bricks (width 1.6 m) were adjacent to the southern wall of the room (W210). Among the finds recovered from the strip were several body fragments of Iron II jars (eighth–seventh centuries BCE) and a needle-like artifact made of bone that may have been used for applying makeup.
Room 8b (1.8 × 1.9 m). Light brown earth that contained mud-brick material was exposed. A layer of fieldstones, arranged in five rows, was discerned in the room’s foundation. Potsherds from Iron II and a few animal bones were discovered in the room. The ceramic finds included a fragment of a deformed jar that was apparently distorted during the firing process.
Area C (Figs. 7, 8)
This area (c. 225 sq m), located in the western part of the excavation area, is the lowest part of the site. Five and one half squares (c. 138 sq m) were excavated this season. The work that had begun the previous year in Sqs N12 and O12–13 continued this season, whereas Sqs P12–13 and half of Sq N11 were newly excavated.
Room 12 (Sq N12). This room was leaning against a building from the Late Roman period. The eastern wall of the room (W303), which was built in the Late Roman period, continued to be used in this period. The room’s southern and western walls (W309, W310) were built in this period. A wall stump that dated to the Late Roman period was exposed below W310; it seems that the floors from the Late Roman period were destroyed in the Byzantine period.
Room 13 (Sq O13). A habitation level and soil fill that dated to the Byzantine period were excavated while removing the northern balk of the square. A coin of 40 nummi from the Byzantine period was discovered on the habitation level. A layer of fill was deposited directly on a layer of alluvium that overlaid the habitation level from the Late Roman period (below).
Courtyard 14 (Sqs O12, P13). A courtyard, delimited in the east by Wall 301 and dating to the Byzantine period, was exposed. Two built installations (W306, W308) were discovered in the courtyard. The collapsed doorjambs of the entrance to Room 12 were discovered north of Installation 306. Another wall (W319; length 4.9 m) that continued into the southern balk of the square was exposed south of W301. It seems that the western, outer side of W319 enclosed part of the courtyard. However, no Byzantine stratum was discovered in Sq P12, although it appears that such a layer was removed when mechanical equipment operated at the site.
Room 15 (Sqs OP/12–13; Fig. 9). The room was delimited by three walls (W302, W313, W319). Wall 302 initially dated to the Late Roman period, whereas Walls 313 and 319 were built in the Byzantine period. An installation (W318) in the northeastern corner of the room was built of wadi pebbles and leaned against W302 and W313. Only two foundation courses of W313 and Installation 318 were preserved. A tabun (L961; 0.52 × 0.60 m) that dated to the Byzantine period was discovered at the same level as Installation 318. Six coins from the Byzantine period were discovered in Sq P13; five of them were found in the square’s northern balk.
Late Roman Period
Room 12 (Sq N12). Collapse that consisted of dressed chalk stones (L925) and remains of arches and doorjambs were discovered. These finds originated in the Late Roman–Byzantine periods.
Room 13 (3.7 × 3.7 m; Sq O13). The northwestern corner of the room (W301, W304) was exposed while removing the square’s northern balk. Continuing the work of the previous season, the entire occupation level from the Late Roman period (L940) was excavated. An installation (L945), built of fieldstones arranged in a circle, was exposed in this level. A bone needle was found in the installation. At the same level in the east of the square was a small section of a floor bed of wadi pebbles (L953), part of which had been exposed in the previous season. Fifteen coins and a medallion from the Late Roman period, as well as a miniature coin may be dated to either the Late Roman or Byzantine periods, were discovered on the occupation level (L940).
A large pit (2.0 × 3.8 m; L990) was exposed below the tabun from the Byzantine period in Sq P13. The upper layer of the pit contained potsherds from the habitation level of the Byzantine period, whereas numerous potsherds that dated to Iron II and the Chalcolithic period were recovered from the rest of the pit. The pit was severed by W313 of the Byzantine period. Strata dating to the Iron Age (Loci 966, 972) that contained a wealth of potsherds were exposed in the western part of Sq O13, below the floor level of the Late Roman period (L964). Remains of a wall (W315; length 1.68 m) that dated to Iron II were discovered next to W304 from the Late Roman period.
Room 16 (Sq P12; Fig. 9). Two walls (W314, W316) that formed the corner of a room were discovered. The walls’ foundations were built of wadi pebbles and the superstructure consisted of mud bricks. A bench of mud bricks (0.56 × 1.50 m) was exposed south of W316. Two ash levels that abutted the wall of the building were discerned in the western balk of the square; it seems that these were two habitation levels. The ceramic finds from the levels dated to Iron II. Three fragments of ceramic figurines, decorated in white, red and yellow, were discovered in the bottom ash level (L949). Two other fragments of ceramic figurines that were decorated in white and yellow were discovered below the bottom ash level (L981).
The excavation in Sq N12 continued in the habitation level (L925), which was first exposed in the previous season. A habitation level (L947) in Sq O12 was revealed directly below Courtyard 14 from the Byzantine period. Another habitation level (L988; Fig. 10), in which the foundations of W314 from the Iron Age had penetrated, was exposed in Sq P12. The three levels were founded on bedrock and contained numerous flint artifacts, a few potsherds and copper ores. The flint assemblage is rich and includes blade cores, tools and debitage and it seems that a workshop for the production of flint blades had existed here. The cores and the flint blades highly resembled the flint-tool assemblage from the workshop that was exposed during antiquities inspection, which was conducted in the adjacent area of Compound E.
Settlement remains from four main periods were unearthed in Area C: the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE), the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE), Iron II (eighth–seventh centuries BCE) and the Chalcolithic period (end of the fifth millennium BCE). It seems that a public building stood in the eastern part of the excavation area in the Byzantine period. Tesserae and fragments of roof tiles were discovered in this area. The importance of Be’er Sheva‘ in this period is apparent, among other things, from its appearance on the Madaba map. A large army camp whose foundations were already built in the Late Roman period was situated next to the northern side of the excavation area. A massive structure, probably a public building that was divided into secondary units, was situated in the eastern part of the excavation in the Late Roman period. It seems that this building was originally founded during Iron II (below) and it continued to be used, on soil fill that covered the Iron Age remains, during the Late Roman period. The remains of a bathhouse were exposed in the southwestern part of the excavation and in the western part of the excavation (Area C), remains of buildings, not as massively constructed, were exposed. During the 2004 season, a floor discovered in Room 13 of Area C was overlain with dozens of coins from the third–fourth centuries CE, three copper vessels, possibly for medical purposes and stone and ceramic stoppers, one of which bore a Greek inscription. A massive building was constructed at the site during Iron II and continued to be used in the Late Roman period. The fill below the building’s floors contained only potsherds from Iron II. Floors and installation from Iron II, which were several centimeters lower than those of the Late Roman period, were discovered in the building. Based on the different elevations of the walls discovered in the excavation, it seems that several secondary phases were in the Iron Age, mostly belonging to the eighth century BCE. Habitation levels that dated to the Chalcolithic period were discovered in Area C, although the construction in the Byzantine period apparently destroyed the remains from the Chalcolithic period. The latter ceramic finds are characteristic of Be’er Sheva‘ culture sites, among them Bir es-Safadi and Abu Matar. The exceptionally large amount of flint artifacts in Area C indicates that a workshop, possibly for the production of flint blades, may have existed at the site.