Three walls of a structure (W1–W3; Fig. 4) were revealed during the 2005 season. The walls were constructed from hard limestone blocks (average size 0.25×0.35 m). The only complete wall was W2 in the west, oriented north–south (length 12.5 m), which was preserved to at least two courses high above the surface. A possible entrance is indicated along this wall, slightly west of its center. The other two walls appear to have been of the same length. The structure had entirely collapsed in the earthquake of the early second century CE; it was apparently damaged in recent times along its northwestern corner, at the end of W1. Collapsed building stones were found on the exterior of this wall and of W2 (L400, L420) together with the upper part of a ridged-neck storage jar of the second century CE (Fig. 5:16). Similar collapse was observed at a greater depth in a probe that was dug along the southern side of W3 (L320). The structure, which was apparently a two-story building, appears to have been stripped for building stones, probably after the earthquake destruction.
In the collapse of the upper storey (L100, L500, L600), potsherds dating to Late Hellenistic period were discovered, including painted fine-ware bowls (Fig. 5:1, 3, 4), a bowl of the fish-plate tradition (Fig. 5:9), as well as painted fine-ware bowls of the Early Roman period (Fig. 5:5–7). Large fragments of a fine-ware painted bowl of the second half of the first century CE were discovered, in situ, in the middle of the building (L100; Fig. 5:8).
A 4-m square was opened over the southwestern corner of the structure in an attempt to uncover both its interior and exterior sides in the short time available for the excavation. The interior corner (L200, L201; 2×2 m) consisted of hardened wind-blown soil down to a dept of c. 0.4 m. The soil below this level became too hard to excavate using regular tools. However, parts of a Nabataean Aqaba Ware jar (Fig. 5 :15), dating to the early second century CE, were discovered next to W2, with potsherds turning up in the upper level and also in the harder level below, as well as rims of a painted fine-ware bowl and a plain-ware bowl of the Early Roman period (Fig. 5:2, 11).
The exterior of the square along W2 (L300, L301) contained the remains of a clay tabun, which was largely destroyed (F1; Fig. 6). However, traces of ash and pieces of clay lining marked its location. Potsherds found in the immediate area around the tabun included the rim of a krater (Fig. 5:14) and a Nabataean cooking pot (Fig. 5:18). The tabun was found close to a low partition wall (W3a) that extended from the southwestern corner of the structure. The area south of W3a (L320) may have formed part of an exterior courtyard. The square outside the southwestern corner of the structure was later covered and backfilled to protect the integrity of the walls.
Two squares were opened inside of the structure in the 2006 season: L500 (4×4 m) in the southwestern corner and L600 (4×5 m) further north; Sq L500 was opened over the small probe (L200, L201) excavated in 2005.
Excavation in both squares revealed the collapsed upper floor of the building. Small, flat stones, a number of which were covered with traces of charring, were discovered and can be clearly seen in the east section of L600/L601. An Eastern Sigilatta A bowl was found in L601 (Fig. 5:12) and parts of a Nabatean Aqaba Ware jar, similar to the jar from L200/201 (Fig. 5:15), were found in the surface layer above the upper floor collapse in L600 (Fig. 7). The corresponding layer in L500 yielded numerous shells of freshwater gastropods, Melanopsis, and some animal bones. Two Nabataean coins were discovered in the upper part of L501 and L601, presumably from the upper floor collapse. The first coin appears to belong to the early years of Aretas IV reign (9 BCE –40 CE; IAA 115290). The second is dated generally to the period between 25 and 106 CE (IAA 115291). Other finds discovered in L501 included fine ware plain bowls (Figs. 5:10, 13), an amphora (Fig. 5:17) and large animal bones (camel?).
A group of collapsed stone ceiling slabs (F2), standing nearly upright, was uncovered in the middle of the L601 square (Fig. 8). Locus 500 was divided into half and the southern side (L501) was excavated down to a hard natural surface, revealing walls that belonged to the ground floor of the structure. These included a wall (W4) with an opening on the east that abutted W3 (Fig. 9) and a wall, also with a probable opening in the center of the square, oriented west–east (W5; Fig. 10). These walls were built of hard limestone medium and small-sized stones, smaller than those of the main enclosure walls.
Although an attempt was made to reach the original floor surface of the ground floor, the soil in L502 became very hard packed, as noted already in the former season, and time did not permit excavating it down to the floor surface. The reason for the hardness of this layer is probably a combination of geological features, namely the water table over which the structure is built, which may have risen periodically over the centuries, flooding the lower part of the structure, and the presence of windblown soil and gypsum.
Also of interest is the fact that the Aqaba Ware jar discovered next to W2 in L200/L201 continued to appear along this wall at a greater depth this season. Nearly all the fragments of this jar have been found, including the neck and rim, the handles and the high ring base. This type of jar is dated to the early second century CE. Elsewhere in the structure, Nabataean pottery from the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, similar to that found in the previous season, was found.
The structure uncovered in the 2005 and 2006 excavations appears to have been occupied from the late second century BCE until the early second century CE. The two-story high building did not evince any mud-brick construction, which was not discovered anywhere at the site, and it appears to have been built entirely of stone, including stone walls, flooring (upper floor) and even stone ceiling slabs, similar to the construction found in the Negev highlands or at Petra. Notably, mud-brick architecture is quite prominent in other periods at the Yotvata oasis, as can be seen in the Late Roman fort, the Early Islamic khan, and in other buildings. Further investigations are required to determine the function of the building. It may have been a watchtower or a farmhouse built next to the spring. If a farmhouse, it was apparently extremely well built. The building stones of the structure appear to have been stripped out in antiquity, possibly to provide stones for the foundations of the mud-brick walls in the nearby fort.
The building was apparently destroyed in an earthquake in the early second century CE. Evidence of this disaster could be seen in the collapsed upper floor in both squares, the collapsed ceiling slabs and in the collapse of the structure’s exterior walls. In addition, parts of the same Nabataean Aqaba Ware jar, found in the last season, were discovered deep in L502, somewhere above the surface of the lower floor. The coins recovered from the debris of the upper floor are Nabataean coins of the first century CE. The pottery assemblage includes forms of the earliest Nabataean painted wares of the Late Hellenistic period, Nabataean painted ware bowls of the Early Roman period, and plain ware Nabataean vessels, spanning the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. The latest datable pottery vessels discovered in the structure are the Nabataean Aqaba Ware jars, dated to the early second century CE.
The destruction and abandonment of the building in the early second century CE parallels that found further north in the ‘Arava Valley in the Early Nabataean fort of 'En Rahel (Krojenkov A.M. and Erickson-Gini T. 2003. The Seismic Origin of the Destruction of the Nabataean Forts of Ein Erga and Ein Rahel, Arava Valley, Israel. Archäologischer Anzeiger 2:39–50). Although unreported in historical sources, a growing body of archaeological evidence points to widespread earthquake destruction in several Nabataean sites in southern Jordan and the Negev, including Petra (Kolb B. 2002. Excavating a Nabataean Mansion. NEA 65/4:206–261), Khirbat Tannur (Khirbet et-Tannur. NEAEHL 4, p. 1444. Jerusalem), Aqaba (Dolinka, B.J. 2003. Nabataean Aqaba from a Ceramic Perspective: Local and Intra-Regional Trade in Aqaba Ware during the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD [Bar Int. Ser. 1116]. Oxford), Horbat Dafit (Dolinka B.J. 2006. Arabia Adquistita? Ceramic Evidence for Nabataean Cultural Continuity during the Antonine and Severan Periods: The Aqaba Ware from Horvat Dafit. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. The University of Liverpool), Moyat ‘Awad, Nahal Neqarot, Sha‘ar Ramon, Ma‘ale Mahmal, Oboda, Mampsis and Horbat Hazaza (Erickson-Gini T. 2010. Nabataean Settlement and Self-Organized Economy in the Central Negev [Bar Int. Ser. 2054]. Oxford).