The excavation area is located several hundred meters from the Byzantine-period synagogue, on the fringes of the ‘quarry’ where faces of fieldstone walls, potsherds and an ash layer were noted in a survey (Fig. 1). A sounding in this area was conducted by the author in 1984, revealing the tops of walls, as well as potsherds and fragments of soft limestone ‘measuring vessels’ that were commonly used during the Second Temple period.
A residential complex was exposed during the three seasons of excavation, including two complete adjacent buildings, the ‘Pebble Building’ and the ‘Northern Building’ (Fig. 2), as well as other contiguous buildings located to the south, west and north. Walls of the ‘Zukim Building’ were uncovered east of the complex (Fig. 3). The complex’ walls were built of fieldstones and mud mortar (average width 0.6 m, preserved height c. 1 m). The upper part of the walls was built of sun-dried mud bricks that disintegrated following the destruction of the site and filled the interior of the buildings. The walls, floors and ceilings were coated with mud plaster. The general plan of the residential unit consisted of a courtyard and a living room.
The ‘Pebble Building’ was rectangular in plan (c. 9 × 11 m) and comprised two dwelling units, the ‘Pebble Building’ and the Western Residence. The entrance to the living room (L2012) was from the courtyard (L3014), which contained six ovens and one cooking top [stove], indicating the prolonged use of the structure (Figs. 4, 5). Cooking tops were also found in the rooms of the building.
The courtyard of the Western Residence (L3007) included a silo, an oven and a cooking top, with shattered pottery vessels near them (Figs. 6, 7). An installation whose nature is yet unclear was exposed below the floor of the room (L3024; Fig. 8).
The rectangular ‘Northern Building’ (6 × 11 m) had a front courtyard (L1004, L3025), an inner courtyard (L2025) and a living room (L3017). Ovens and cooking tops were located in the courtyards. Cooking tops were found also in the room, below whose floor two narrow drainage channels were excavated.
A single room was exposed in the ‘Zukim Building’ (3.5 × 4.0 m), its walls extending southward.
The assemblage of pottery vessels consisted mostly of domestic and kitchen ware, such as jars, jugs, juglets with distorted handles and small conical bowls. A few complete vessels, in situ, were mostly cooking pots buried below the floors, sometimes with a stone lid (Fig. 9). Several pared nozzles of Herodian lamps, as well as a complete specimen, and a gray lamp like those at ‘En Gedi and Masada, were found.
Numerous fragments of soft limestone vessels were retrieved from the excavation area, mostly small spherical bowls turned on a lathe, pared cups and a few square basins (Fig. 10), as well as a minah limestone weight. A few Nubian sandstones, one used as a whetstone and the rest––as masonry stones, were discovered.
The remains of burnt wood, mostly date-palm beams, as well as tamarisk, jujube and imported wood were uncovered throughout the excavation area.
Near the entrance to the ‘Pebble Building’ were large iron nails that remained from the door, which probably burned down. Many large concentrations of nails together with much burnt wood were located in the Western Residence and the ‘Northern Building’, as well as iron blades of knives and a small fragment of a saw blade.
Numerous tiny lead droplets and lead alloys indicate melting at high temperature, probably from the conflagration of the site. Nevertheless, two square lead weights (Fig. 11), a few bronze nails and a bronze handle of a Roman jug, were also found.
Several hundred bronze coins, half of them prutot from the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, a few Hellenistic coins and some silver coins, among them a Tyrian shekel and Nabatean coins, were found.
The site constitutes a single stratum and represents a single period. It was ascertained that the residential buildings continued to the north and west of the exposed buildings. The large number of cooking ovens and tops in the courtyards indicate the everyday life at the site during the Second Temple period and demonstrate the perseverance of halachic laws, concerning ovens and cooking tops. The half a meter thick habitation level and the repairs or changes to the walls of the houses point to a prolonged usage.
The residents of this site were probably simple people, who perhaps worked at the oasis and used very few glass vessels and no imported pottery. The ‘measuring vessels’ may have been the only imported vessels to ‘En Gedi. Judging by the pottery, the clay lamps and the latest coins from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 CE), the site was destroyed and burnt in the first century CE.
Settlement remains from the later part of the Second Temple period were excavated for the first time in ‘En Gedi during the 1960s by B. Mazar, who exposed a Herodian residential building on Tel Goren and a Roman bathhouse in the adjacent palm grove. A habitation layer that dated to the Second Temple period (Y. Hirschfeld, Qadmoniot 128:64–65) was recorded near the Byzantine-period synagogue and in isolated places where archaeologists excavated below the bottom of the Byzantine occupation layer. Excavation next to the synagogue (Hadas, ‘Atiqot 49:41–71) revealed a destruction layer of the village from the Bar Kokhba period.