During October–November 2009, a salvage excavation was conducted in the eastern part of Kabul (Permit No. A-5758; map ref. 220519–27/752452–60; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Abu Raya, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Hajian, M. Kunin and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), N. Getzov (ceramics), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), H. Tahan-Rosen (drawing), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and I. Ktalav (mollusks).
Several excavations had previously been conducted in Kabul and the following antiquities were exposed: remains of a building from the Hellenistic period (Permit No. A-6339), a rock-hewn installation from the Early Roman period (HA-ESI 119
; Fig. 1: A-3938), a hiding refuge from the Early Roman period (Permit No. A-5956) and remains of a building from the Mamluk period (HA-ESI
114:110*; Fig. 1: A-3101).
Three excavation squares were opened and remains of a bathhouse from the Byzantine and Umayyad periods were exposed (Fig. 2). Upon completion of the excavation, the bathhouse remains were covered with soil.
Part of a rectangular hall, used as a caldarium (4.0×4.7 m), was exposed. It was built of large soft limestone ashlars and preserved to a maximum of c. 2.2 m high. A bottom level built below the hall contained a hypocaust. The floor of the hall (L150, L151) was built of ceramic bricks covered with crushed chalk. A single marble slab that was preserved in the southwestern corner of the hall was set on the floor of ceramic bricks and crushed chalk; it therefore seems that the entire hall was paved with marble slabs that had not survived. A wall (W4; Figs. 3, 4), with an opening in its center, divided the hall into in an eastern and western wing. Another wall with an opening in its center (W14) was built east of W4 and parallel to it, indicating there may have been another wing that was not excavated. The two doorways in the walls were located along the same axis. Pipes of square ceramic sections (tubuli) were placed inside vertical channels built in Walls 4 and 14. The pipes conveyed hot air from the hypocaust on the lower level to the upper level of the caldarium. Two square installations (L130, L131) built of ceramic bricks and coated on the inside with hydraulic plaster were exposed in the hall; it seems that they were used for bathing. A lead drainage pipe (diam. c. 5 cm) was discovered at the bottom of the southern side of Installation 131. The floor of the hypocaust on the lower level (L133, L137) consisted of different size square ceramic bricks and was preserved in its entirety. Round and square colonnettes (height 1.15 m) were built above the floor; several colonnettes were completely preserved. The square colonnettes were mostly built of square ceramic bricks (c. 0.3×0.3 m, thickness 2–4 cm) next to the walls and they bore round arches. The round colonnettes were built of round ceramic bricks (diam. c. 0.25 m, thickness 3–4 cm; Fig. 5) in the center of the hall, on a square base of square ceramic bricks (c. 0.35×0.35 m); a capital of square bricks (0.3×0.3 m) was at the top of the round colonnettes. The walls of the hypocaust were lined with different size square ceramic bricks on the interior.
A water channel (L135) built north of the hall was incorporated in the northern wall of the caldarium (W5) and conveyed water from east to west. It seems that W5 and Channel 135 were severed in a later phase by a square installation (L134; Fig. 7), partly hewn and partly built of ashlars, which was partially preserved. The southern part of the installation was connected to the eastern wing of the hypocaust. Presumably, the installation was used as a small furnace in a later phase of the bathhouse. To operate the caldarium in the first phase, a furnace located c. 2 m south of the southwestern part of the excavation area was probably used. The furnace was identified in the section created by the bulldozers that worked in the area and was not excavated due to safety precautions. An accumulation of dark soil (L102) was discovered north of Channel 135.
West of the caldarium were several sections of walls (W1, W6–8, W13) and floors (L113, L115), two installations (L132, L141), short water channels aligned in an east-west direction (L136, L140, L142) and a main channel aligned north–south (L139); these remains were damaged by the bulldozers working at the site. Channels 136, 140, and 142 drained into the main Channel 139. Installation 141 also drained into that channel by means of a lead pipe (diam. c. 5 cm), similar to the pipe exposed in Installation 131 (Fig. 8).
Most of the ceramic finds from the excavation date to the Umayyad period (second half of the seventh–first half of the eighth centuries CE) and include kraters (Fig. 9:1–3), cooking vessels (Fig. 9:4–6), jars (Fig. 9:7–12) and jugs (Fig. 9:13, 14). These artifacts date the final use of the bathhouse. Other ceramic finds in the excavation were fragments of pottery vessels from the Roman period, including bowls (Fig. 10:1–3), a Kefar Hananya type cooking vessel (Fig. 10:4) and Shihin type jars (Fig. 10:5–7), as well as fragments of pottery vessels from the Byzantine period, including imported bowls (Fig. 10:8–12) and jar rims (Fig. 10:13, 14).
Several indicative fragments of glass vessels (see below) were discovered in the excavation. Noteworthy among them are fragments of a cosmetic kohl bottle that is decorated with wavy trails and dates to the Byzantine period.
Two coins were recovered from the excavation; one was in the soil accumulation north of Channel 135, dating to 383–395 CE (IAA 141640) and the other is illegible.
An assemblage of fourteen shells (Glycymeris insubrica) was discovered inside the collapse of the bathhouse, north of the southern wall of the caldarium (W3). A hole was crudely drilled in the dorsal side of each of the shells; the location and size of the hole differs from shell to shell. It seems that the holes were drilled haphazardly and it is obvious that these were not jewelry. The shells were probably used as game pieces or possibly as tokens in the bathhouse.
A bronze rod with a square cross-section (Fig. 11) was also discovered in the bathhouse collapse. One end of the rod is a loop that was formed by bending the rod and at the other end the rod becomes rounder and wider and has a hole in its center. It seems that the rod was used as a handle of some tool or as part of a lamp fixture. The collapse also contained several pieces of plaster, painted with reddish brown patterns of rings and medallions (Fig. 12) and an intact square marble tile (0.28 × 0.28 m, thickness 3 cm) with a raised boss in its center that is etched with a row of lines.
The excavation yielded 50 fragments of glass vessels, including 35 non-diagnostic body fragments and 15 fragments of identifiable vessels. The earliest fragment is an upright and rounded rim of a bowl that dates to the Late Roman or Early Byzantine period. A fragment of a rounded wine glass rim and a hollow base ring of a wine goblet are both dating to the Byzantine period. At least two rounded and thickened rims were identified and a simple thickened base of a cup-and-saucer type vessel that was very common in the Late Byzantine and Umayyad periods.
In addition, two fragments of a kohl bottle, used for cosmetics, were discovered (L128). One of these fragments is of the upper part of the vessel (Fig. 13:1) and the other belongs to the lower part of the body, including the base (Fig. 13:2). This vessel is decorated with wavy trails that extend from the upper part of the vessel to its base, with three trails on each tube. On the upper part are two loop handles and a basket handle that extends above them. This vessel was used for kohl and in many instances bronze or bone applicators were discovered inside it. There are numerous sub-types, decorated and undecorated and with different additions.
A single kohl cylinder with a basket handle and loop handles was discovered in a tomb at Kabul that dates to the early Byzantine period (Vitto 2011:112, 115–117, Fig. 10
). Vessels of this type usually serve as funerary offerings in tombs; their appearance in settlement assemblages is quite rare and only several instances have been recorded. Hence, the discovery of this vessel in the bathhouse is of great importance. Despite the wide distribution of the kohl bottle and the similar characteristics of many such vessels, this vessel has no exact comparison that combines the decoration of vertical trails and the array of handles.
The exposure of the bathhouse and the finds it contained reflect the wealth and power of the settlement in the Byzantine and Umayyad periods. It seems that the bathhouse was constructed in the Byzantine period, continued to operate on a smaller scale in the Umayyad period and went out of use at the end of this period. It joins two other bathhouses that were discovered in the Lower Galilee, at Rama (Tzaferis 1980
) and at Nah
f (Permit No. A-5931).