. Remains of a building constructed in a general north–south direction were exposed in the eastern part of the excavation area. The building is attributed to the Early Roman period. The structure was damaged and robbed in later periods and therefore the remains that were discovered were meager. At least three rooms could be identified. The northern room was well-preserved and its walls were built of limestone blocks that were coated with white plaster on the side facing inside the room. The room had a colorful mosaic pavement (red, black, white; Figs. 1:2; 3), decorated with geometric designs. A very similar mosaic was discovered near the site in the past (Yannai and Erlich 2015
:215–217). The mosaic was covered by later walls that were built on top of it. The two other rooms were only identified in the sections after having been almost completely demolished by late construction. A section of an opus signinum
pavement was discovered near the rooms (Fig. 1:10), probably part of a corridor that connected them. There was a system of channels in the building, but only the bottom part of one channel survived. Remains of other walls that that could be ascribed to this stratum were discovered in the southern and the northernmost parts of the excavation area. Only the foundations of these wall fragments survived, however, their fairly massive construction was apparent and indicated one or more large buildings in the area. Fragments of stones cups were found in the accumulations that were next to the remains attributed to this stratum, evidence of a Jewish community that resided at the site.
Stratum VII. This stratum is ascribed to the Middle Roman period. Very few remains can be attributed to it, and its ascription to the period is based solely on stratigraphy. A long and very massive wall was assigned to this period. It was oriented north–south (Fig. 1:11), and was preserved to the height of its foundations, which were constructed of very large, well-dressed limestone blocks. The wall was built over the remains of the Early Roman building mentioned above, and in some places it severed the earlier remains. Judging by its monumental construction, it was presumably part of a large complex. Two other rooms paved with mosaics, which were apparently part of a villa, were discovered in the southeastern part of the excavation area. The rooms were built in a north–south direction and corresponded with the orientation of the northern wing. Most of the walls were robbed to their foundations. South of the rooms the foundations of a tile floor was discovered, which retained the imprints of tiles embedded in gray plaster (Fig. 1:12). Although no tiles were found, they were presumably made of clay or stone. Judging by the direction and elevation of the imprints, which correspond to those of the rooms, the foundations can be ascribed to the construction phase of the villa.
Stratum VI. A villa consisting of three wings was excavated: two wings were roughly aligned north–south and a third was situated east of them. The longitudinal axis connecting the northern and southern wings (total length 42 m) was not straight, and had several slight angles in it, evidence that the wings were not constructed at the same time and that the southern part was a later addition. Nevertheless, it seems that the building was in use for a long time and when the villa reached its maximum size all of the wings were in use. It was not always possible to identify the line of the walls due to their poor state of preservation and extensive robbing of stones. The route of the walls was reconstructed mainly by the robber trenches which marked their location. During the 2014 excavation season, two walls (northern—width 0.8 m, eastern—width 0.6 m; Fig. 1:1) which formed the boundaries of a magnificent triclinium were identified. Part of the traclinium had been excavated in 1996. Two parallel walls, one delineating the central mosaic and the other forming the boundary of the building from the west, formed a long corridor (width 2 m; Fig 1:3) or possibly a series of long rooms that bordered the main triclinium from the west. The southern wall of the room separated it from a vestibule (3.5 × 11.0 m; Fig. 1:4), which was oriented east–west, and paved with white mosaics within black rectangular frames in a very poor state of preservation. The vestibule led to the eastern wing (Fig. 1:5), which was probably reached by descending a flight of stairs that did not survived.
South of the vestibule, a peristyle courtyard (11 × 13 m; Figs. 1:4, 6) was exposed. At its center was a mosaic divided into rectangular frames (outer frame dimensions 8 × 9 m), and in each frame medallions arranged in three columns and three rows (diam. c. 1.2 m; Figs. 5–7), decorated with images of animals, hunting scenes, and animals fighting each other. A trio of fish appears in two of the medallions and in two others birds face a basket of fruit or an amphora with flowers in it. The figures in the medallions all face the frame and can be seen from any point around the courtyard. It seems that the courtyard, which sloped gently to the southeast in order to drain rainwater, was surrounded by porticos (Fig. 1:7). A rectangular column base, which was found in situ in the western part of the courtyard, above a robber trench of a stylobate that did not survive, suggests that there were columns in the courtyard. The column base was next to an Umayyad cistern (Figs. 1:15; 8), which was dug through the courtyard. Fortunately, the cistern damaged only the peripheral frame of the mosaic and not the images in it. The capstone of the cistern, which had a built and plastered installation—a trough or settling pit—attached to it, was associated with a massive pavement from the same period (below), which was laid over a fill that terminated the use of the mosaic. It was not possible to determine with certainty if there was a portico along the eastern side of the courtyard, because another cistern had been installed there in the Byzantine period and damaged the mosaic (Fig. 9). Nevertheless, based on symmetry and by comparison to known plans, it is possible to reconstruct a roofing. The northeastern part of the mosaic collapsed into an ancient cistern (Fig. 1:8) and pottery that was found beneath the southern mosaic aided in dating it to the third or early fourth centuries CE.
The eastern wing was only partially excavated, because part of it was below modern buildings, outside the boundaries of the excavation. It contained at least two rooms, which were paved with fine quality mosaics. The rooms (probably cubicula) were also used in the Byzantine period, after their plan was modified and some of the floors were raised. Remains of a street that separated the villa from a building to its south were discerned south of the peristyle courtyard (Fig. 1:9). Numerous levels of repairs and episodes of raising of the street level were identified, and it is obvious that the villa was used for a long time in the Byzantine and Umayyad periods and maybe even as early as the Roman period (Fig. 10).
Strata V, IV. Remains from the Byzantine period were discovered in the southeastern part of the excavation area, including segments of floors made of a coarse white mosaic. The remains indicate three rooms or spaces (Fig. 1:13), albeit their boundaries were insufficiently defined. Based on the remains of installations discovered in previous excavations, the floors were presumably used in conjunction with some form of industrial activity. Byzantine-period pottery that was found in the robber trenches of the Late Roman villa, date the dismantling of the walls to this period.
Stratum III. A segment of a mosaic of much poorer quality than the Roman mosaics, was discovered overlying a fill in the western part of the excavation (Figs. 1:14; 11). Umayyad-period pottery was found above the mosaic. The principal remain from this period was a very massive stone pavement that covered most of the southern part of the site (it was removed and does not appear on the plan). After the magnificent dwellings of the Roman and Byzantine periods went out of use, the area was filled with a thick layer of compacted earth. A meticulously laid pavement of square or rectangular limestone (Figs. 12, 13), which was laid over the fill, indicates a change in the use of the area, and taken in conjunction with the cistern in its western part (Fig. 1:15; above), is consistent with a large courtyard or a street.
Stratum II. A meager wall oriented northeast–southwest was discerned above the pavement of Stratum III. It was aligned diagonally to the other walls at the site (not on the plan), and dates to the Abbasid period, representing a phase that cancelled the pavement. The ascription of other remains in the eastern part of the site to the Islamic period was based mainly on stratigraphy, since the fill and accumulations above them were disturbed, and no clean pottery assemblages that could be used for the purposes of dating were found. The sherds that date to this period were found in fills in the northern and eastern parts of the excavation and in a refuse pit in which a large quantity of jugs, bowls, jars and lamps were discarded. Four other complexes which can be attributed to this stratum were exposed in the eastern part of the excavation area. They consist of thick walls and very large stones arranged in a square. Based on the massive construction style of two of the complexes it has been suggested they were fortifications and a watch tower (Fig. 1:16).
Stratum I. Several remains from the Ottoman period were discovered, particularly cesspits whose construction damaged earlier strata (Fig. 14).
. In the upper levels of the excavation or when cleaning the surface level, several objects were found without any stratigraphic context. These were of a military nature and date to the time of the British Mandate, and include a bonnet badge of a British soldier from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Gorzalcany 2012
; Fig. 15).
An impressive affluent house from the Roman period was exposed in the excavation. Numerous items that reflect opulence and a life of luxury and allude to a high standard of living were uncovered—remains of opus sectile, many fresco fragments and marble architectural items (Fig. 16). It was also determined that the house—a magnificent villa that was built in several stages during the third–fourth centuries CE and remained in use for a long time—was erected on top of an earlier structure (from the first–second centuries CE), from which walls and a mosaic floor decorated with geometric patterns were preserved. The inhabitants of the ancient building were probably Jewish. The identity of the occupants in the Late Roman period is unknown, since no indicative finds were discovered, nor were there any distinguishing artistic motifs. Other structures, which partly conformed to the original plan of the Roman period, were built in the architectural complex during the Byzantine period. A very significant change occurred in the Umayyad period, when the area was paved with large stones, and probably turned into part of a street, or a large courtyard that was associated with a cistern. In the Abbasid period thick walls—probably fortifications that included a watch tower—were constructed in the eastern area of the excavation. Several installations from the Ottoman period were also found, as were a few objects from the time of the British Mandate. The finds from the excavation supplement previous information about the site and about the area, in which many segments of mosaics were exposed in the past. Based on these discoveries it was determined that the magnificent building did not stand alone in the area, but rather was part of a wealthy and well-established residential district, characterized by opulence and luxury as befits the high status of the residents of Diospolis—as Roman Lod was called—during it golden age.