During April–May 2001, in November 2002 and in January 2003 three excavations were conducted at ‘En Zippori (Permits Nos. A-3409*; A-3696*; NIG 229510–11/73751–52; OIG 175910–11/23751–52). The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Jewish National Fund, were directed by L. Porat, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Essman, A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), H. Tahan (pottery drawing), and D. Syon (numismatics).
The excavation area was located next to the spring (Fig. 1), south of the ancient town of Zippori (Sepphoris) and close to the site of Tel ‘En Zippori, which was a small village, dating from the Middle Bronze III to the Ottoman period. The goal of our excavation was to expose the springhouse for preservation works.
A sounding on the eastern side of the spring revealed building remains from the Roman period (Fig. 1). Traces of a small-stone floor, with two stones that formed a line of a wall, were found in L114; one of the stones had a circular hole and could be an oil-press weight in secondary use. The pottery (Fig. 2:1–5) dated from the first century BCE until the third century CE. Below these remains and north of W105, pottery and flint tools from the Wadi Raba culture, without any architectural remains, were discovered (Fig. 2:6–7). A basalt grinding stone (Fig. 3) was discerned in a nearby field close to the tell; it is dated to the Hellenistic period.
The original springhouse was a circular structure (diam. 6 m; Fig. 4) with a wide wall (W102; width c. 2 m) that had a foundation of two projecting courses and three buttresses (1.0 × 1.1 m). Wall 102 was partly preserved 2 m high and built of two faces of large dressed lime stones with a fieldstone core. A rectangular area in the center of the springhouse (3.5 × 4.5 m) opened to the north; in one of its corners, on the highest course of the wall, some stones were leaning inward, perhaps indicating a vaulted roof. It is possible that the adjacent room to the east of the circular structure, between W105, W127 and W104 (not excavated), was originally contemporaneous with it. In this case, it may have served as a ‘Persian-wheel’ (saqiye) well to irrigate the fields. Two walls (W115, W116) joined the southern wall of the eastern room (W127); between them were two tabunim (ovens), the later (L117) built on top of the earlier one (L119; Fig. 5). The tabunim had an inner compartment near the opening. Near them were fragments of Gaza and Rashaya el-Fuhar wares, suggesting an eighteenth century date as a terminus post quem for the springhouse. A narrow water channel, partly covered with medium-sized stones, was detected c. 16 m to the north of the springhouse (Fig. 1).
It is difficult to date the springhouse. The pottery is not illustrated due to the absence of diagnostic fragments. Six coins from surface loci have a wide chronological span; one coin is dated to the second century BCE (IAA 102897), a second coin is dated to the sixth century CE (IAA 102902) and four coins are dated to the nineteenth century CE.
A water channel (Fig. 1) was built during the British Mandate times; the top of its concrete walls that were covered with flat stones was 1 m below the northern entry to the springhouse. The channel was used to convey water to the nearby fields on the west. A pump-house was erected to the east of the springhouse during this period; it was survived by a concrete floor, stands for the pump and other installations. The water was pumped from the springhouse to the fields on the east.