In July and August 2013, a second season of excavation was conducted at the site of Shihin (Asochis; License No. G-28/2013; map ref. 225640–6870/740810–1710). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in affiliation with the American Schools of Oriental Research, was directed by J.R. Strange (Samford University, finds drawing). Project staff included M. Aviam (Kinneret Academic College, associate director), J.F. Strange (University of South Florida, architect and senior consultant), C. Cope (zooarchaeology), J. Keller (glass finds), Y. Dray (restoration), A. Kedmy (Survey of Israel, surveying), T. Allyn and G. Laron (photography), K. Clements (registration), C. Strange (camp manager), R. O’Neill (field and area supervisor) and A. Carr, L. Collins, C. Oldfather, A. Ramos, R. Stivers-Bender and M. Stauble (area supervisors). Sponsoring institutions were Samford University (Birmingham, AL, USA), Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology (Israel) and the University of South Florida (Tampa, USA). Funding was provided by Samford University, Kinneret Academic College and The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology, with additional private donations from Dr. J.F. Strange and Mrs. C.M. Strange, Dr. S. Salyers and Mrs. S. Salyers, and Mrs. P. Fletcher-Dauer.
Work in Field I (Fig. 1) continued to explore remains discovered in 2012. The excavation was conducted in three squares opened in 2012 (I.4–I.6) and in five new squares, which were opened in order to expand the excavation field to the northeast (I.8–I.10, and I.14) and south (I.12). In the southern part of the field, Sq I.13 was opened as a small probe around a large ashlar block that protruded from the ground; it turned out to be a battered drum of a heart-shaped corner column. The square was then more fully excavated along with three additional squares in this part of the excavation (I.15–I.17; Sqs I.16 and I.17 were dug only a few centimeters deep and do not appear on the plan). The northern rows of squares (Sqs I.4–I.6, I.8–I.10, I.12, I.14) yielded a series of plaster floors and walls that belonged to a series of buildings associated with pottery manufacturing, whereas the southern squares (Sqs I.13, I.15) yielded building remains belonging to what has tentatively been identified as a public building.
In Field III, a single square (III.1) was excavated to expose three sarcophagi.
Northern Field I—Pottery Production Buildings
Square I.4 was excavated down to bedrock everywhere except in its western part (L4020), where a leveled stone-constructed space was exposed (Fig. 2), built perhaps as a wall foundation. The pottery in this square generally dates from the mid-fourth century CE, except for material found directly on the bedrock and dating from the mid-third century CE. The precise relationship of the architectural remains in Sq I.4 to other building remains in this part of the excavation remains unclear, although a northwest–southeast wall (W4013), unearthed in 2012, may continue into Sq I.5, where it comprises a late phase in the sequence of wall construction.
Square I.5 (Fig. 3). As observed in most squares of Field I, the residents of Shihin left hewn cavities in the bedrock, either deliberately or as an unintended consequence of quarrying; the date of this quarrying could not be determined. This quarrying activity left a clear bedrock step running across most of the square in a northeast–southwest direction, facing northwest. After the quarrying had ceased, a wall (W5029) was built perpendicular to and abutting the hewn face of the bedrock step. A niche hewn in the bedrock face of the quarried step (its riser) may have served to anchor the end of W5029 to the rock step. The building unearthed in 2012 (W5004, W5005) was built atop the step, with W5004 running along its edge. It is unclear whether W5029 and this building were contemporaneous.
The building extended northward, as it appears that a wall in Sq I.8 (W8003; below) joins with W5004 at a right angle. Several stages of construction could be identified in the building. Initially, Walls 5004 and 5005 were bonded in the corner. Later, possibly due to a repair, the upper courses of W5005 were built to abut W5004; the lowest course of this secondary construction is all that remains. The corner formed by W5004 and W5005 enclosed a pool-like structure. To its north was a hewn cupmark (diam. c. 0.33 m) with a slot (width 0.11 m), which may have held a wooden post that supported a superstructure associated with the industrial activity that took place in the pool or near it. At some stage during the building’s use, the pool-like structure was filled in to form a level surface (L5019). After the building went out of use, a wall (W5018; removed prior to drawing the plan) was built parallel to and against the southern face of W5005; W5018 extends northwest, into Sq I.4 (W4013). The space west of W5004, north of W5018 and south of W8003 (Sq I.8) was filled with a thick layer (over 1.5 m) of pottery-production waste, which was then covered with a plaster floor (L5002). Floor 5002 originally reached both the northern face of W5018 and the western face of the upper, surviving course of W5004, indicating that in this phase of construction these walls were part of a single structure.
The latest pottery from the building—from immediately under Floor 5002, from the walls and from the fill around them, which was laid when the most recent building went out of use—dates from the Late Roman period. This means that the building activity in this area comprised two major construction and destruction phases, both taking place within the third and the first half of the fourth centuries CE.
Square I.6. Following the removal of the badly damaged sections of the plaster floor unearthed in 2012 (L6014, L6015), the remains of a rock-cut and plastered pool were discovered. The walls of the pool were raised with construction (W6020) along the edge of the vertical bedrock walls, which was similarly plastered. This pool appears to have extended southward, although no remains associated with it were uncovered in Sq I.4. The latest pottery from this context dates from the Late Roman period, as does the pottery from Sq I.5. This suggests that the plaster floor was laid over the pool during this period, and that additional remains of the building with which the pool was associated were removed at that time.
Square I.8 yielded a surprisingly large number of lamp fragments in its southern half. Wall 8003, which, as noted above, seems to join with W5004 (Sq I.5) at a right angle, bonds on the west with another wall (W8009). A square-shaped cavity in the bedrock, uncovered in the western part of Sq I.5, extends into the southwestern corner of Sq I.8. Together, W8003, W5004, W5018 and probably the southwestern extension of W8009 formed a structure around this cavity. The latest pottery from this square, down to the lowest excavated levels, is Late Roman in date.
Squares I.9, I.10, and I.14 contained the upper courses of several walls found close to the surface. In Sq I.9, a stone—probably a column drum in secondary use—was found partially hollowed out, possibly to serve as a base for a slow potter’s wheel.
Square I.12. A probe in the northern half of this square revealed only rock cuttings in the bedrock. One edge of a cutting clearly showed that it was quarried to accommodate a wall foundation. The orientation that this wall would have had matches no other building in the area. Most of the finds date from the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE), but some lamp fragments and one complete lamp from the Islamic period (seventh century CE) were also found.
Southern Field I—A Public Building
The discovery of a partially aboveground heart-shaped column drum in the southwest part of Field I led to the opening of Sq I.13. Three more squares (I.15, I.16 and I.17) were opened in this area, but only squares I.13 and I.15 yielded findings.
Square I.13. The excavation exposed to the southwest of the column drum the remains of a wall foundation (W13009) and of what seems to be a stone-paved floor (L13010). The wall, which runs up in the south to a cut in the bedrock (Fig. 4), is built of stones whose eastern faces have crudely drafted margins in the Herodian style, suggesting that they are spoils from an earlier building in secondary use. To the north of the column drum were two battered parts of a very large threshold made from hard, dolomitic limestone: one lay tipped on its side (length 1.45 m), and the other, which was not fully unearthed, lay upside down. Their size allows us to estimate that the entire threshold was around 2.9 m wide, and would have accommodated a door about 1.6 m wide. This indicates that the remains belonged to a public building that was oriented in the same direction as the pottery workshop to its north. Although no sealed loci were found, the latest material from this square dates from the fourth century CE, suggesting that the two buildings were contemporaneous and that they may have gone out of use at the same time.
Architectural elements belonging to a public building, including a column base, column drums, molding and fragments of Ionic capitals, were found in a terrace wall that runs through Sq I.1; it forms the western boundary of the upper terrace of the hill of Shihin (Strange 2012). These finds, c. 10 m to the northwest of Sq. I.13, probably belonged to the public building whose remains were unearthed in Sq I.13.
Square I.15 yielded a wall segment (W15004) comprising a row of four ashlars founded on bedrock in an orientation matching that of the public building uncovered in Sq I.13. The soil covering the bedrock south of this wall contained no pottery or other objects that are later than the Early Roman period. This is the only locus with a probable Early Roman date discovered so far. This may put in question the date of the public building in Sq I.13, suggesting that it may be of an Early Roman date, or it may be built over the remains of an Early Roman building.
A single square (III.1) was opened around three sarcophagi on the western slope of Jebel Qat (D.10 in the 2011 survey), near one of several tombs (T-3) identified around Shihin in the 2011 survey (Strange 2012). All three sarcophagi (Figs. 5, 6) were oriented east–west, with headrests in the east and space for the legs in the west, facing Shihin. No lids were found over the sarcophagi, but the lid of the southernmost sarcophagus was lying upside down immediately to its north. The sarcophagi were all damaged to some extent and were unadorned, except for the southern face of the northernmost sarcophagus, which bore an unfinished carving in a non-representational style with garlands and raised circles, similar to another sarcophagus (D.9 in the 2011 survey) lying a few meters to the north. This style of carving resembles that of second and third century CE non-figurative sarcophagi. The sarcophagi may have been placed on the hill in preparation for moving them into a tomb, or they may have remained where they were carved, waiting to be completed.
The pottery assemblage included a significant number of uncommon pottery forms, many of which were wasters. It also included 129 lamp fragments, all from Field I (of these, 62 from Sq I.8 alone). One very small fragment of a lamp (less than 2 cm in length and width) is decorated with a seven-branched menorah flanked by palm branches (Fig. 7); it was found in the fill beneath Floor 5002 (Sq I.5). The stone items include four fragments of stone vessels and seven molds made of soft chalk for the production of lamps (Fig. 8; two were found in 2012). All the molds are fragmentary, but it seems that they were used for making lamp types that were common from the late first century into the second century CE.
The rather high number of pottery wasters, lamps and lamp molds seems to indicate that the pottery vessels and lamps were produced for trade within the Galilee as well as to neighboring regions. However, questions remain about the pottery and lamp forms that were produced in Shihin for sale and export between 37 BCE and the middle of the fourth century CE, and how far the distribution of these goods extended within the Galilee and in neighboring regions.
Our conclusions following two seasons of excavation in Field I is that Shihin’s potters manufactured most of the familiar Galilean forms of the Roman period along with several uncommon forms. In addition, they produced oil lamps belonging to types from the late first and second centuries CE. The public building in Field I, which was eventually robbed out in the fourth century CE, was built at least in part using spoils of an older structure whose stones had Herodian-style drafted margins. It thus seems that this area of Shihin had at least two different phases of a public building, perhaps built on the same property.