In May 2014 a trial excavation was conducted at Khirbet es-Seiyah, adjacent to Highway 41 and north of Kvuzat Yavne (Permit No. A-7134; map ref. 173273–95/636779–801; Fig. 1), prior to the installation of a gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Authority Antiquities and financed by theIsrael Natural Gas Lines Company Ltd., was directed by L. Nadav-Ziv, with the assistance of Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), A. Dagot and M. Molokandov (preliminary inspections), A. Gorzalczany (photography and consultation), C. Ben-Ari and A. Dagot (GPS), M. Kunin (surveying), P. Gendelman (ceramics consultation), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), C. Hersch (glass drawing), as well as M. Ajami, Y. Marmelstein and U. ‘Ad.
The excavation was conducted in an agricultural area in the southern part of the site after the topsoil (0.5 m) had been removed using mechanical equipment. A habitation layer and a refuse pit were exposed in hamra soil. The finds consist mainly of pottery sherds from the third–seventh centuries CE and a small amount of glass dating to the third–fourth centuries CE.
The refuse pit was partially exposed in a trial trench (L112; 0.85 × 1.55 m, exposed depth 0.9 m; Figs. 2, 3). A burnt layer was discerned on the walls and floor of the pit. Pottery sherds dating to the Byzantine period were discovered in the pit, including early Gaza jars, from the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 4:6), and later Gaza jars, from the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 4:7); bag-shaped jars (Fig. 4:3, 4); and a cooking pot (Fig. 4:5). In addition, a tubulus (pipe; Fig. 5:1) and charred bricks (Fig. 5:2–6) were found, indicating a bathhouse existed nearby. Glass vessels from the Roman period (below) were also found in the pit. The finds recovered from the pit were mixed and unstratified.
A Late Roman C bowl (Fig. 4:1) and a krater (Fig. 4:2) were discovered outside the pit. A layer composed of Gaza jar sherds from the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 4:8–10) and compacted lumps of white plaster was exposed in clay soil on the eastern side of the excavation area (L104, L106; Fig. 6). Among the jar fragments were two Byzantine lamps. One is wheel-made, dating to the fourth–fifth centuries CE and common mainly in the south of the country (Fig. 4:11); a similar lamp was found at Ge’alya (Gorzalczany 1997: Fig. 93). The other is a mold-made Yavne type lamp (Fig. 4:12).
Another concentration of Gaza jar sherds (L113) was discovered west of the sherd layer and below it. Although no connection was found between the two sherds layers, they might belong to the same habitation level. Large white tesserae that are usually characteristic of industrial installations were discovered on the surface.
Six glass fragments found in the pit could be identified; four will be described below (Fig. 7). The fragments represent vessels that were very common in the region in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods. Most of the fragments discovered belong to various types of bowls.
Rim 1 belongs to a deep bowl. It is rounded and upright and has a thickened ridge below the rim. The bowl is made of light bluish green glass covered with patches of slightly pitted, silverish-black weathering. Bowls of this type are well known from assemblages dating from the late third century to the early fifth century CE. This type of bowl was found in an assemblage dated to the fourth century and early fifth century CE at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:93, Fig. 1:6, see additional references cited therein). A small fragment of a hollow ring base of a bowl and a tiny fragment of a concave base of a bottle, also from this time period, were found together with this bowl.
Base 2 represents a plain bowl that has a low, hollow tooled-out ring base. The glass is of a light greenish yellow shade, contains many black impurities and bubbles and is covered with several patches of black weathering. Given the nature of the glass and its treatment, the bowl should be dated to the late third century and the fourth century CE.
Base 3 probably belongs to a bowl or juglet. This base is made of a thick trail wrapped three times around the bottom part of the vessel. The trail has sometimes the same shade as the vessel, and is sometimes of a different shade, as is the case here, where the bottom part of the vessel is yellowish green in color and the trail is greenish blue. The glass is of poor quality and contains many black impurities and bubbles. These bases characterize the local industry of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods. A very large quantity of such bases was found at Khirbat el-Ni‘ana together with remains of a workshop that operated there (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007:88–90, Figs. 7; 26:206; 31). Other bases are known from excavations at Khirbat el-Fatuna (Jackson-Tal 2007: Fig. 6:3) and salvage excavations at Horbat Hermas (Permit No. A-6024).
Base 4 belongs to a bowl or beaker made of greenish blue glass, covered with silvery weathering. It has a coarse pontil scar at the center of the base. This is a solid base of a type that was very common in the fourth century CE. The type is generally characterized by a flat bottom side that is slightly thickened, but there are also bases similar to No. 4, which are convex at the bottom.
All of the vessels that were found in the pit date to the end of the Late Roman period; they were locally produced in one of the workshops whose remains were found in the region, such as at Khirbat el-Fatuna, Horbat Hermas (Gorin-Rosen 2006:34*–35*) or in a workshop located some distance away, such as Khirbat el-Ni‘ana (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2007).
The finds uncovered in the excavation are indicative of activity that took place at the site from the Late Roman period to the end of the Byzantine period. The meager amount of finds and their location at the bottom of the hill suggest that this was the along the margin of the site. On the basis of the finds from the pit and its surrounding area, there might also have been a bathhouse and an industrial building there. This is the first excavation at the site, and due to its scope and outcome it was impossible to draw any conclusions regarding the size of the site. According to the surveyors of the map of Gedera (Barda and Zbenovich 2005), it is apparently difficult to estimate the size of the settlements in the region due to agricultural activity that caused considerable damage to the sites.
Barda L. and Zbenovich V. 2005. Gedera Map, Survey. HA-ESI 117.
Gorin-Rosen Y. 2006. The Glass Finds from Horbat Hermas. ‘Atiqot 51:33*–35* (Hebrew; English summary, p. 236).
Gorin-Rosen Y. and Katsnelson N. 2007. Local Glass Production in the Late Roman–Early Byzantine Periods in Light of the Glass Finds from Khirbat el-Ni‘ana. ‘Atiqot 57:73–154.
Gorzalczany A. 1997. Ge’alya. ESI 16:89–90.
Jackson-Tal R.A. 2007. The Glass Vessels. In K. Sari. Khirbat el-Fatuna. HA-ESI 119.