When the area of the excavation was surveyed by N. Zori (1962), he discovered small mounds with remains of building foundations, as well as pottery sherds and fragments of glass vessels from the Byzantine and Islamic periods. Remains from the Byzantine period were identified at Tell H
aman), southwest of the excavation. These included exposed tombs, a building and many mosaic floors, some of which were decorated. Two milestones were found east of Tell H
ammam, near Highway 90 (Zori 1962
:144). Remains of a water-channel inspection and cleaning compartment were uncovered south of the excavation area (Zidan 2014
; Fig. 1:A-6838) and architectural remains ascribed to the Middle Bronze Age were exposed c. 150 m southeast of the excavation (Fig. 1:A-6975).
Area A (Figs. 3, 4)
A section of a water supply system oriented in a northeast–southwest direction was exposed. It was partially damaged as a result of earthmoving work carried out at the southwestern end of the area (L4). Light brown alluvium covered the remains (L1; depth 0.9 m). These were constructed inside rock-cuttings in the limestone bedrock. The northeastern part of the system was a channel (width 0.5 m, depth 0.35 m) aligned in a northwest–southeast direction, which contained a pipe (exposed length 4.55 m; Figs. 3: Section 1–1; 5) placed horizontally atop a bedding of fired brick fragments bonded with pinkish-orange waterproof plaster. The pipe was lined on both sides with rectangular bricks, brick fragments and copious amounts of hydraulic plaster. The channel was sealed with large, flat bricks placed on top of the walls at the same level as the natural bedrock surface; the covering was only partly excavated (L6, L7). The pipe was made up of terra-cotta sections (length per section 0.28 m, outer width 0.23 m; Fig. 6) joined together with male and female connectors; the male side of the connector faced northeast. The pipe connections were all sealed with white hydraulic plaster.
The southwestern part of the system was trapezoidal and consisted of a base constructed of four courses of flat bricks with thick layers of pinkish-orange hydraulic plaster between them set inside a trapezoidal rock-cutting. A vertical pipe, also made of terra-cotta sections, was exposed at the southwestern end of the base; it continued downward to an unknown depth (outer diam. 0.23 m, exposed depth 0.23 m; Fig. 7). The pipe was set along the axis of the horizontal pipe.
Presumably, the trapezoidal brick base served as foundation for an inspection compartment that was situated between the horizontal pipe that continued to the northeast and the vertical one; such compartments usually look like small pools, and they were designed to release pressure and regulate the flow of water and could be used to clean the pipe. The walls and floor of the inspection compartment were not preserved, but it would seem that they too were constructed of bricks and treated with waterproof plaster. The vertical pipe apparently conveyed water to the inspection compartment. The water flowed from there to the horizontal pipe and continued to the northeast. The inspection compartment was probably connected to the horizontal pipe by means of an elbow from which a short vertical pipe rose above the compartment’s floor level.
Pottery sherds from the Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE; not drawn) were discovered above the pipe and the natural bedrock (L1, L17). These date the installation of the pipes and the inspection compartment to the fifth century CE at the latest.
Stratum 3 (Figs. 8, 9). A trial trench and a probe (L11) were dug in the northeastern part of Area B prior to the excavation. A surface of small basalt and soft limestone stones, apparently a floor, was exposed beneath layers of alluvium. This floor extended to the northwest, into the area of the square, and to the northeast, beyond the boundaries of the excavation. The ceramic artifacts from this stratum were sparse and non-diagnostic.
Stratum 2—Hellenistic period. A column base and a section of structure to its south, which continued beyond the excavation area, were revealed in the southeastern corner of Area B (Fig. 10). The remains were discovered below brown alluvium (L12, L15). The column base was founded on brown soil and resembled a large ring (average diam. 0.55 m) consisting of packed pebbles and very small stones that surrounded a small circular depression (diam. 0.15 m, depth 9 cm). The structure was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones founded on brown soil and preserved to a height of one course. The pottery gathered from this stratum dates to the Hellenistic period (second–first centuries BCE) and included a mortarium (Fig. 11:1), a bowl with red slip on the outside (Fig. 11:2) and a jar (Fig. 11:3).
Stratum 1—Byzantine period. A wall (W3) oriented in an east–west direction was exposed in the southeastern part of Area B. Wall 3 was built of limestone and basalt fieldstones of various seizes. It was founded on alluvium that contained pottery sherds and was preserved to a height of one course. A floor foundation (L12) that abutted W3 was found southeast of the wall. The foundation was built of very small stones and was only preserved near the wall. A layer of alluvium (L16) north of W3 was excavated above the habitation layer that is associated with the wall. Presumably, these remains belonged to a building that stood outside the city of Scythopolis. Its location and construction style may indicate that the building was associated with agricultural activities conducted there.
Among the fragments of pottery vessels discovered in this stratum was a bowl made of buff-colored clay, slipped red on the outside and decorated with incisions beneath the rim (Fig. 11:4); it dates to the sixth century CE. A jar from the fourth–seventh centuries CE (Fig. 11:5) was also found.
The excavation’s results suggest that the site was first settled prior to the Hellenistic period. The nature of the remains from this period is unclear, but their location—east of the Hellenistic city on Tel Izt
abba, northeast of the northern gate (Damascus Gate) of Roman Scythopolis and outside the Byzantine city wall—is indicative of an active presence there. The remains from the Byzantine period belong to two building complexes. The remains discovered in Area B may be part of an agricultural structure that was only partly revealed, or are related to some sort of agricultural activity. The remains of the water supply system exposed Area A and the pipe that was discovered southwest of the excavation (Zidan 2014
) were probably part of a single water installation. It seems that the elaborate water system that was built in the Byzantine period was designed to serve the agricultural hinterland northeast of Scythopolis. In may have provided water to the Byzantine settlement at Khirbat et
wal as well. This site, northeast of the excavation and further along the axis of the pipe channel, was clearly an important settlement, as indicated by the remains of lavish buildings found there (Zori 1962
:144). The source of the water that fed the channel is not known; it may have been Nah
arod, which flows to the south, or one of the city’s aqueducts.