The Excavation in Rooms 1–4
The Early Strata. A stone quarry (L100, L101, L103; Figs. 2, 3) of unknown date, descending from north to south, was exposed. Severance channels were identified around variously size boulders that had not been detached.
The Intermediate Strata. A building was erected over the quarry after the latter went out of use. The walls of the structure (W1, W2A, W2B, W3, W6, W7, W8A, W8B, W10–W13) were constructed of medium and large, roughly hewn stones bonded with mortar, laid directly over the quarry; the wall foundations were wider than the walls above them. An arched doorway was installed between Rooms 2 and 4 (between W8A and W8B; Fig. 4), and architectural elements in secondary use were used in the doorjambs: a fragment of a column in the western doorjamb (Fig. 5) and a column base in the eastern doorjamb (Fig. 6).
A storage pit (L105; 0.60 × 1.15 m, depth 2.25 m; Figs. 7–9, Sections 1–1, 2–2) was installed in the northeastern corner of Room 4; the pit adjoined the corner formed by W8A and W12. All that remained of the pit was its northern and eastern sides. Two construction phases were discerned in the installation. In the first phase, the pit was treated with red lime-based plaster mixed with grog applied directly to W8A and W12, and white plaster applied above it; pottery sherds were integrated in the plaster that covered the floor of the pit. In the second phase, the pit walls were thickened with small fieldstones that were affixed with gray mortar. One of the stones was a marble fragment in secondary use. Above the pit, on the steps that led from the upper story of the building to the cellar, was a built channel that drained water from the upper level (Fig. 9: Section 3–3). The cellar’s ceiling above the pit was arched and extended from W8B to W13; the ceiling was built of cement mixed with a large pottery sherds, including fragments of a gray Gaza ware jar form the late Ottoman period (eighteenth–twentieth centuries CE; below, Fig. 14:9).
The Late Strata. Repairs and building additions were carried out in the structure, such as closing an entrance (height 1.75 m) in the eastern wall of Room 2 (W7; Fig. 10).
The ceramic finds date to several periods. These include bowls (Fig. 11:1, 2) and a hole-mouth (Fig. 11:3) from the Iron Age II; a jar (Fig. 11:4) from the Hasmonean period; a bowl with a ledge rim (Fig. 11:5) from the Roman–Byzantine periods; a bowl (Fig. 11:6), an imported amphora (Fig. 11:7), a pithos (Fig. 11:8) and a jar (Fig. 11:9) from the late Byzantine period; arched-rim basins (Fig. 12:1–6), an African Red Slip bowl (Fig. 12:7) and a Gaza jar (Fig. 12:8) from the late Byzantine – Early Umayyad period; a krater (Fig. 13:1) and a jar (Fig. 13:2) from the Early Islamic period; a Soft-Paste Ware glazed bowl (Fig. 13:3) and an imported amphora (Fig. 13:4) from the Crusader period; Glazed Aegean Ware bowls (Fig. 13:5, 6), a Yellow Slip Painted Ware bowl (Fig. 13:7) and a gritty-ware bowl (Fig. 13:8) from the Crusader–Ayyubid periods; two imported and Glazed Aegean Ware bowls (Fig. 13:9, 10) and a fragment of a lamp (Fig. 13:11) from the Ayyubid period; and a plain bowl (Fig. 13:12) and two glazed bowls (Fig. 13:13, 14) from the Mamluk period. The Ottoman-period pottery included bowls (Fig. 14:1–7), of the which Bowl 1 was handmade, Bowl 6 was slipped and imported from Turkey and Bowl 7 was an imported glazed bowl; a krater (Fig. 14:8); two jars (Fig. 14:9, 10), of which Jar 9 is of gray Gaza ware; and a fragment of a light gray tobacco pipe from the seventeenth century CE (Fig. 14:11).
Documentation of Rooms 6–12 (Fig. 15)
Several construction styles were evident in the cellar. Over time, changes were made to it: walls were breached, partitions were built, additions were built and installations were removed. For example, an installation in Room 8, where a cistern was installed in the past was canceled and dismantled; remains of the cistern were visible in the ceiling, where its opening survived. Although all the doorways were arched (e.g., Fig. 16), they differed in their construction, dimensions, size of stones, type of limestone and its treatment. The two adjacent arches situated between Rooms 8 and 9 (9A, 9B; Fig. 15: Sections 6–6, 7–7) make for a good example: the western one (9A; height 2.9 m) was built of large soft limestone ashlars, and the eastern one (9B; height 2.6 m; Fig. 17) was constructed of roughly hewn, elongated harder limestone blocks, and it seems that it was added at a later phase to reinforce the ceiling.
Three strata were discerned during the excavation and documentation of the cellar. At first, the site was used as a quarry; the structure was erected over the quarry, and later changes and additions, some during the Ottoman period, were made to the building. The variety of construction styles and ceramic finds confirm that there was a settlement sequence at the site and in its vicinity, which ranged from the Iron Age II until the modern era.