The bathhouse. Remains of two rooms—northern (1) and southern (2), part of a large building (estimated dimensions: c. 20 × 20 m)—were exposed; most of the building continued beyond the excavation area. The southern part of Room 2 was discovered during an antiquities inspection after the completion of the excavation. Remains of a massive ashlar-built wall were noted along the course of the stream east of the excavation, and it seems that this wall was part of the bathhouse structure that extended as far as the eastern bank of the stream.
Part of the northern and southern walls of the northern room were discovered (W1, W2 respectively; Fig. 2). Both walls were constructed of an outer face of large ashlars and an inner face of medium-sized fieldstones. A circular depression (diam. 0.15 m, depth 9 cm) discerned on the easternmost stone of the exposed section of W1 was probably a door socket, indicating there was an opening in the wall leading into the room. A layer of brown soil, collapsed stones and fragments of bricks and marble pavement slabs were discovered inside the room (Fig. 3). A layer of brown soil found by the corner formed by W1 and W2 contained traces of fire (L114) and fragments of two bag-shaped jars, apparently placed in the corner of the room. A layer of ash and charred wood (L115; Fig. 4) lay under Soil Layer 114 and extended below the level of the opening in W1. This ash layer probably indicates that the room had a furnace (fornax) for heating the water. West of W2 were collapsed bricks of several types (L110; Fig. 5); they were probably used for paving the floor and lining the walls of the caldarium in the bathhouse. Three types of bricks (0.1 × 0.2 m, 0.2 × 0.2 m, thickness 5 cm; Fig. 6) were discerned: bricks that were treated with plaster on one side and were probably used to tile the walls and floor; bricks treated with plaster on both sides, which were used for paving; and bricks exhibiting no plaster. South of the collapse was brown soil containing traces of ash (L107), perhaps debris that had been discarded from the caldarium.
The southern room was delimited on the west by a wide wall (W3). Part of a pillar (L112; length 2 m), built of large ashlars (0.5 × 0.6 × 0.6 m) and preserved two courses high, was discovered on the eastern boundary of the excavation; part of the pillar was extended beyond the limits of the excavation. One of the pillar’s stones was coated with plaster, on to which a brick was affixed, indicating that the pillar was lined with bricks. Another pillar incorporated in W3 was found opposite Pillar 112. It seems that the two pillars, positioned opposite each other, formed an opening to Room 2. A layer of light brown soil containing remains of white plaster and collapsed bricks (L109) was discovered inside the room. Below Soil 109 were remains of a floor (L111) that was built of bricks treated with pinkish-gray plaster mixed with white and black grit (Fig. 7). A stone paver (Fig. 1: Section 1–1) that was probably part of a hypocaust columnette positioned on the bottom floor was discovered above one of the bricks. No remains of the upper floor seem to have been preserved. The white plaster remains and the bricks discovered in the room indicate that W3, like Pillar 112, was also lined with tiles in order to keep the room warm.
During inspections carried out following the excavation, the southern continuation of W3 was exposed. It consisted of two additional plastered pillars, on either side of an opening (width 0.8 m). A terra-cotta pipe coated with plaster was discovered near the doorway, next to the inner part of W3; thus, the opening might have served as a passage for pipes entering the room from outside. In addition, the southern wall of Room 2 was exposed. Its floor consisted of four courses of plastered bricks; a layer of ash covered the floor. Bedrock was exposed in a probe conducted with a backhoe beneath the brick floor, indicating that this was the bottommost floor of the bathhouse. This brick pavement was c. 0.3 m lower than Floor 111 in the northern part of the room. It seems that the southern room served as a caldarium or tepidarium, of which only the bottom floor was preserved. The northern part of the room, between the two pillars, was probably used as a corridor leading to another room, located outside the excavation area.
Ceramics. The assemblage discovered in the excavation includes mostly fragments of terra-cotta pipes (more than 80% of the assemblage), tubuli (c. 10% of the assemblage) and several fragments of pottery vessels.
The terra-cotta pipes were set along the walls of the building and served to heat the lower floor of the caldarium. Plaster was found affixed to the pipe fragments (Fig. 8). Most of the pipes revealed in the excavation can be divided into three main types that can be further classified into several sub-types (Fig. 9). The first pipe type has a folded gutter rim and grooves below it. The second type of pipe is characterized by a broad rim. These two pipe types connect to each other. Another variety of the second type has a ridge in the fold of the rim. The third type features a rim that thickens outward on the outside; it connects to the second type that has a ridge in the fold of the rim.
Tubuli were used to convey steam to the caldarium. Two types of tubuli were discovered (Fig. 10). The first type (diam. 8–10 cm) is made of orange clay and has a thick wall; it dates to the fourth–fifth centuries CE. The second type of tubulus is made of gray or orange clay; its wall is thinner and it is square in section. This type dates to the fifth–sixth centuries CE (Reuven 2011:125). Both types of tubuli were discovered in the northern bathhouse at the Temple Mount excavations (Reuven 2011:125, Fig. 41), where they were dated to fourth–sixth centuries CE, as well as at the Byzantine-period monastery excavated on Mount Scopus; the latter is dated to the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Amit, Seligman and Zilberbod 2000:173).
The pottery vessels date from the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE) to the Abbasid period (eighth–ninth centuries CE). They include jars with rims thickened on the inside (Fig. 11:5, 6) that were common in the region during the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE; Type B4; Magness 1993:225; Mlynarczyk 2005:150, Fig. 8:4). A jug decorated with circular incising arranged in three vertical columns and a horizontal row (Fig. 11:7) was discovered in Soil Layer 109, above Floor 111; it is the only indicative sherd found in an undisturbed locus. Similar jugs were discovered at Khirbat el-Jiljil, where they were dated to the Late Byzantine and Early Umayyad periods (de Vincenz 2005:135, Fig 8:4–6; Mlynarczyk 2005:164). This jug is common in the Bet Shemesh region and is part of a repertoire that consists of jars, jugs and amphoriskoi characteristic of Khirbat el-Jiljil (de Vincenz 2005). Other vessels discovered were a bowl with a bowed and slightly everted rim decorated with a thumb-indented design (Fig. 11:3), which dates to the Umayyad period (Stacey 2004:197, Fig. 5.10:3); two types of Abbasid-period basins that have parallels from the excavations at the White Mosque in Ramla—one hand-made and featuring a thickened and everted wall decorated with a wavy pattern below the rim (Fig. 11:1; Cytryn-Silverman 2010:177, Pl. 9.11:16), the other featuring a bowed rim decorated with a wavy design (Fig. 11:2; Cytryn-Silverman 2010:177, Pl. 9.16: 3); and an Abbasid-period bowl with a folded and everted rim, which is similar to a vessel from the excavations at the White Mosque in Ramla (Fig. 11:4; Cytryn-Silverman 2010:177, Pl. 9.8:4).
Other artifacts in the ceramic assemblage are fragments of jar bases with a hole at their center; these were probably used as vases in the bathhouse. Two types of such bases were discovered (Fig. 12): those with a well-shaped perforation that was drilled while the vessel was still leather-hard; and others with a perforation fashioned with less precision after the vessel was fired. Similar vessel bases are known from the Hellenistic and Herodian periods (Gleeson and Bar-Nathan 2013), and such sherds were discovered in the Roman Military Bathhouse at ‘En-Gedi (Stiebel 2007).
The architectural remains uncovered in the excavation are a small part of a much larger complex. It extends east, beyond the tributary of Nahal Yarmut, as indicated by, among other things, a section of a massive wall that is still visible inside that tributary (Fig. 13). In an aerial photograph taken in 1958 (Fig. 14), one can see the course of the stream that passed east of the current course, by the saqiya well that was unearthed to the northeast in a previous excavation (Permit No. A-2559). It is likely that the saqiya well was built where an earlier well, from which water was conveyed to the bathhouse, was once situated. The aerial photograph shows walls of a large building comprising a row of rooms aligned in a north–south direction to the south of the saqiya well. The bathhouse, the well and the building were possibly part of one architectural complex. The bathhouse belonged to the Byzantine-period settlement that existed at Khirbat el-Jiljil until the beginning or the middle of the seventh century CE. On the basis of the finds and the typology of the tubuli, its construction can be dated to the fifth–sixth centuries CE. The small number of Abbasid-period pottery sherds from the excavation may suggest that some sort of activity transpired at the site during this period as well.