In October 2019, excavations were conducted at El-Qusayyiba (El-Qusayyibe East; License No. G-4/2019; map ref. 269652–620/752890–900), as part of the Hippos Regional Project, focusing on the study of rural sites and fortifications in the territory of Hippos from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods. The excavation, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, was co-directed by M. Eisenberg (ground and aerial photography, metal detection), M. Osband (pottery) and A. Pažout (documentation, GIS and surveying, photogrammetry).
The site is located along a stretch of the Roman road that crosses the southern Golan Heights from east to west (Fig. 1). The site was first described during the Golan Survey as a small tower, located approximately 16 m north of the Roman road (Fig. 2). Four milestones or their fragments were surveyed in the vicinity of the tower (Israel Milestone Committee Numbers 293, 408, 409 and 415). The site was identified as a Roman-period mile station, an identification supported also by pottery found on the surface and dated to the Middle–Late Roman period (Hartal and Ben Efraim 2012: Site 79). Another mile station, also comprising a tower and four milestones, was excavated some 1,500 m (i.e., about one Roman mile) to the east along the road (Ma‘oz 1984). The area of the structure was cleared of topsoil, and a probe was sunk in the eastern room of the tower.
The structure is rectangular (c. 5.90 x 5.55 m; Fig. 3). Its dry-built masonry walls (width 0.85–0.90 m) survive only up to two courses high, built of two faces of hewn basalt blocks laid in headers-and-stretchers or in headers only. The outline of the western wall (W161) and the southwestern corner of the structure is mostly conjectural, because here the excavation did not continue below topsoil. Two short segments of a possible partition wall (W166; width c. 0.8 m), built as two faces of fieldstones, were uncovered adjacent to the northern and southern walls, creating two rooms (c. 1.55 x 4.20 m each). Since the central part of the wall was not found or identified in the section, it is possible that the two segments are a later addition of pilasters or an arch supporting the ceiling. The entrance (width 0.8 m) was identified in the center of the eastern wall (W159), where the threshold is preserved in situ (Fig. 4). The eastern room of the structure was composed of hard, lumpy dark brown basaltic soil (protogrumosol) with inclusions of fieldstones and broken pieces of masonry. A stone pavement (F163; Fig. 5) was exposed in the southern half of the probe, composed of small basalt stones set in a dark, clayey soil. Locus 165 lies below Pavement F163, composed of loose dark brown soil with fewer stones. Given that the inner faces of the walls of the structure at this depth were built of smaller, unhewn stones, L165 probably represents the foundation level of the structure.
The pottery found during the excavations comprises mainly local wares of the Kefar Hananya family (including Forms 1E and 4C), and wares common also in the northern Golan (Hawarit ware), dating from the late second–early third century CE. Two fragments of a discus lamp were also found. No clear Byzantine types or imported Late Roman Red Ware were present.
The only other find was an iron hobnail of a caliga (Roman military boot) that was found in the topsoil, adjacent to the threshold, on the outside. What may be a basalt door was found during the clearing of the topsoil above the northeastern corner (Fig. 6). The assumed door is however too narrow for the full width of the threshold and may have formed one wing of the doorway.
The site is a characteristic Roman watchtower erected along the imperial highway that connected the region around the Sea of Galilee with southern Syria, where it apparently joined a road leading from Damascus to Dera‘. Although no coins were found, the watchtower can be safely dated to the third century CE, but its erection in the late second century CE cannot be ruled out. The latest date for the pottery assemblage can be established in the second half of the third–first half of the fourth century CE, providing the latest date of the use of the tower.
Ma‘oz Z. 1984. Golan – Watchtower. ESI 1:32–33.