Three excavation squares were opened along W440, which runs along a northeast–southwest axis (Figs. 3, 4). Part of this excavation area was documented in the past as ‘Area 250’ (Kloner and Asaf 1994
), which included the entire outer perimeter of the amphitheater. At the western corner, between W440 and W421, Kloner described a flight of steps (W536) leading a tower (Kloner and Hübsch 1996:98). An excavation square opened within the corner of the two walls uncovered a layer of massive collapses (L800) of large stones (average stone dimensions 0.9 × 1.1 m) mixed with Ottoman-period potsherds. After removing the collapsed stones, the join between the two walls was unearthed (1.2 m below surface level; Fig. 5). The corner was built of large intersecting limestone ashlars with a bonding material composed of gray mortar and small stones. A small bowl (Fig. 6:4), two bowls (Fig. 6:5, 6) and a jar (Fig. 6:7) dated to the late Ottoman period were found on top of the walls.
The second excavation square was opened ten meters to the northeast, in an attempt to identify a wall that appears on a plan from the previous excavation. The square yielded a wall, the top of which was unearthed in prior excavations (W803; length 3.5 m, width 0.7 m, preserved height 0.3 m). It was built of medium-sized fieldstones bonded with tamped earth and small stones. Judging by the way this wall joins only the upper courses of W440 (Fig. 7), it seems that it postdates W440. Pottery from various periods and modern debris were collected near the wall (L801). A layer of archaeological fill (L804) containing only Byzantine pottery that included an LRC bowl (Fig. 6:1) and two jugs (Fig. 6:2, 3) was found to the southwest of the wall, at a depth of c. 0.5 m. These ceramic finds date the wall’s construction to the Byzantine period.
The third square was opened seven meters to northeast in order to identify a wall that appears on a plan from the previous excavations. A small wall stump (W806; 0.9 m long, 0.6 m wide, 0.27 m, preserved height; Fig. 8) was unearthed. It was surrounded by modern debris (L805) and pottery from various periods.
The Glass Finds
The glass finds comprise four vessel fragments (Fig. 9) found together in Fill 804 that probably contained mixed material. No. 1 is a rounded rim of a bottle with a conical mouth or neck, characteristic of the Late Roman–Byzantine periods. No. 2 is a ring base of a typical Roman beaker or jug. No. 3 is a large base with a thick trail wound around its perimeter; It supported a beaker, a jug or a lamp, and it represents a particularly large version of this type of base, which was typical of the Late Roman–early Byzantine period. Similar bases have been discovered in Jerusalem (Crowfoot and Fitzgerald 1929: Pl. XXI:7; Katsnelson 2006: Figs. 4, 5), in Ashqelon and its environs (Neve Yam neighborhood—Seriy 2012; Highway 3—Eisenberg-Degen 2016) and at Karanis in northeast Egypt (Harden 1936: Pls. XVI:464, 465; XX:788). No. 4 is a handle of a large jug, possibly from the Early Islamic period.
Three coins were identified: one from 364–375 CE (IAA 152789); the second from the fourth century CE (IAA 152790); and the third from 645–670 CE (IAA 152791). Two other coins could not be identified, but judging by their shape, they can probably be dated to the fourth century CE as well. All the fourth-century coins were recovered from L801 and L804, near the later wall (W803). The 645–670 CE coin comes from L805.
The excavation uncovered the west corner of the walls of the amphitheater compound. A tower whose existence was surmised by Kloner was probably destroyed in the Ottoman period. Work on adapting the amphitheater for modern visitors may have damaged the later walls in the north of the compound. The wall remains discovered in the current excavation were constructed later than the rest of the compound, probably in the Byzantine phase when the town market was located in the amphitheater (Kloner, Hübsch and Cohen 2007