The Residential Complex
The complex consisted of a central rectangular courtyard (C1; 5.3×6.3 m) that was bounded on the east and north by a series of rooms (A1–A9). The bedrock was worked in part of the courtyard to create a leveled surface. A hewn channel (length 4.5 m, width 0.6 m) covered with fieldstones crossed the courtyard in a northeast-southwest direction, toward a cistern located outside the building. Several sections of a terracotta pipe that drained into the channel were found in the courtyard.
Two doorways that led to rectangular rooms (A2, A3) were identified in the eastern part of the courtyard. An earthen floor was exposed in Room A2 (1.8×3.6 m), together with the leveled bedrock on which fragments of ceramic roof tiles were found. Room A3 (3.2×7.7 m; Fig. 3) was the most magnificent room in the building and could have been used as a salon. The room was oriented east–west and its entrance faced the courtyard and the direction of the wind that blows from the west. Built column bases were installed in the four corners of the room and in three of the corners, the bases were preserved in situ; four other bases, two near the northern and two near the southern walls, were discerned. The column bases were set opposite each other and enabled to cover the room with arches. The floor of the room was decorated with a mosaic of white tesserae, in whose center was a rectangular carpet, enclosed within a double frame; the tesserae outside the frame were placed diagonally and those in the center carpet were set in straight lines. The inner frame was adorned with 14 decorations, two on each of the short sides and five on each long side, simulating a small oval warrior’s shield that was common in the Roman army or an axe head (peltae; Fig. 4).
Two doorways in the north wall of Courtyard C1 led to Rooms A1 and A6. Room A1 is square (3.2×3.2 m) and in its center was a basin coated with pale gray plaster, without potsherds (1.2×1.2 m, depth 0.6 m; Fig. 5), whose top was fashioned as a step. An elliptical depression (diam. 0.25 m) in whose center was a vertical lead pipe was exposed on the floor of the basin. Two lead pipes passed through the southern side of the basin; another pipe, passing through its northern side, apparently conveyed water under high pressure to the vertical pipe that served as a water column in a fountain. The basin was blocked with hundreds of complete ceramic roof tiles.
Room A5 was located east of Room A1. The two rooms were separate in the first phase of the building; in the second phase, the wall dividing them was removed and a plaster floor was installed. Ceramic pipes that led to the plastered basin were exposed in situ beneath this floor, to which several repairs were made.
Room A9, to the north of Room A1, had a well-preserved plaster floor and was rectangular in the first phase; in the second phase, its northern wall was redesigned in the shape of an apse where a statue may have been placed (Fig. 6). A doorway in the eastern wall of Room A5 led to Room A4 (3.8×5.4 m), whose floor consisted of a thick layer of plaster. Stone-built pillars (0.6×0.6 m), which served as part of the roofing system and were intended to narrow the span of the room, were discerned in two of the room’s corners. Only the northern pillar survived, whereas a negative in the plaster floor had remained of the southern pillar. Pottery vessels, characteristic of the second and third centuries CE, were found on the floor. A doorway that served as a passage between the residential and service complexes was installed in the northern wall.
Three other rooms (A6–A8) were identified in the western part. Room A6 (2.8×2.9 m) was north of Courtyard C1 and west of Room A1. Its floor consisted of the leveled bedrock and tamped earth. Room A7 to its west was partly excavated and in its collapse were potsherds and coins dating to the second and third centuries CE. North of this room was Room A8 (presumed length c. 5.5 m, width 2.8 m). It was partially excavated and on its floor was a thick layer of plaster that scaled the bases of the walls. Two channels, covered with stone slabs (width 0.3 and 0.5 m; not in the plan; Fig. 7) and associated with a plastered installation (1.3×1.5 m) that was located in the southwestern corner, crossed the room. A channel covered with stone slabs (length 0.8 m, width 0.1 m) that contained a lead pipe was embedded in the installation. A circular shallow plastered depression (diam. 0.45 m) was installed at the western end of the channel and a terracotta pipe was discovered in situ. The installation and the channel may have been used as a latrine that had a drainage channel attached to it.
The Service Complex
A peripheral wall that was exposed in the east surrounded the complex and adjoined the wall of the residential complex; the architectural seam between them is evident by the different direction the stone laying. A terracotta pipe (diam. 0.12 m, length c. 30 m; not in the plan), installed alongside the wall to its east, was set inside a foundation composed of a level of tamped limestone; based on the width of the foundation layer, this area functioned as a passage or a street. A round column base, a column drum and two dressed boulders (Fig. 8), as well as numerous ceramic roof tiles, were exposed in the courtyard (B2) between the residential complex and the kitchen area (below); this may have been a stoa covered with a tiled roof. The spaces between the columns were blocked with fieldstones in a later phase. The stamped seal of the Tenth Legion (Fig. 9) was identified on one of the roof tiles; this is the southernmost example of such a stamped roof tile ever discovered in the country.
The walls of a rectangular room (B3; 2.3×2.7 m), north of Courtyard B2, were built of roughly hewn qirton and preserved a single course high. A clay oven (diam. 0.8 m, height c. 0.3 m; Fig. 10) in the center of the room was lined with small stones for support and a wide terracotta pipe (diam. 0. 12 m) in its western side was used to decrease the amount of air entering the installation. The room was paved with qirton flagstones and a round stone basin (diam. 0.5 m) was placed on top of the floor. The oven, layers of ash and fragments of ceramic cooking pots, indicate that the room and the courtyard to its south were used as a kitchen.
Part of a wing with pools, consisting of two rooms (D1, D2), was exposed north of the kitchen. Room D1 is rectangular (3.3×3.7m) and a square pool with rounded corners (2.3×2.3 m; Fig. 11), coated with gray plaster and preserved in its entirety, was exposed between its walls. It is apparent that the northern side of the pool was repaired in a later phase. The terracotta pipe that extended alongside the eastern wall of the building terminated near Pool D1 in a siphon that was apparently used for filling the pool. Room D2 was partly exposed north of Pool D1; its walls in the south and east were coated with gray plaster, similar to Pool D1. On the floor were three round clay drums, used as part of the hypocaust columnettes in bathhouses, and pottery vessels, including cooking pots, kraters and a fragment of a round Roman lamp that is characteristic of the second–third centuries CE.
Sixty coins were discovered in the excavation, fifty-three of which were identified. Most of the coins (47) ranged in date from the first century BCE to the beginning of the third century CE. Apart from the Hasmonean and Herodian coins and the provincial Roman coins (Jerusalem, Ashkelon) and Nabataean coins, which were widely circulated at the time, an impressive and interesting group of coins that dated mainly to the second century CE was discovered. This group comprised a relatively large number of silver coins, among them Roman dinars (Vespasian; 69–70 CE; IAA 122537; Fig. 12:1) and a tetradrachma from Tyre (Trajan; 100 CE; IAA 122538; Fig. 12:2), and relatively rare bronze provincial coins from Dor (Trajan; 111/112 CE; IAA 122546; Fig. 12:3), from Egypt and even from far off Apamea in Phrygia, Asia Minor (Antoninus Pius; 138–161 CE; IAA 122549; Fig. 12:4).
Based on the finds, the construction of the residential wing should be dated to the first century CE; however, it is noteworthy that no stone vessels, characteristic of Jewish sites from the period, were found. The simple plan of the building in this phase, to which no changes were made, is known from other sites in Israel. A large village from the Early Roman period that included hiding refuges, two ritual baths and an olive press was surveyed north of the building; it probably existed until the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt and may have even participated in the uprising. The building was abandoned during the revolt but was not destroyed. It was later renovated and Roman-style features, reflecting a culture of luxuries and splendor, were added to it, such as the mosaic, a water basin and fountain, apse and a latrine alongside a service wing that consisted of a paved kitchen and a bathhouse. This second phase is dated to the second and the beginning of the third centuries CE, based on the artifacts that included ceramic lamps, a roof tile bearing the seal of the Tenth Legion and coins. The finds suggest that the building was an estate house or villa of a Roman nobleman from the veterans of the Tenth Legion, and demonstrates the process of Romanization that the rural area around Bet Guvrin underwent in the Middle Roman period.