Corridor A and Rooms B and C. Corridor A (length c. 6 m, width 1.7 m) leads from the surface to three rooms (B–D), and it might have included a staircase. The corridor was mostly blocked by alluvium, and it seems that it continues toward the southeast. The corridor and the rooms are arranged in a clover-leaf-like plan, which is characteristic of Hellenistic- and Early Roman-period sites in the Judean Shephelah (Kloner and Zissu 2013). An opening leading to Room B (2.0 × 3.8 m) was hewn in the corridor’s western wall. This is a rectangular chamber that was apparently used as a storeroom and was filled with alluvium. An opening (height 2 m) leading to Room C (7 × 7 m) was breached in the corridor’s eastern wall, opposite the entrance to Room B. This is a large square room where blocks of chalk were quarried. A staircase (width 1 m) hewn along the room’s wall leads from the opening down to the floor; a stepped banister was hewn in the staircase. Signs of quarrying and the detachment of stones from the bedrock are visible on the room’s floor (Fig. 2).
Rooms D–F. A wide opening (width c. 1.1 m) leading to Room D (4.4 × 11.5 m, height 2.2–3.0 m; Fig. 3) was cut in the northern wall of Corridor A. A small schematic engraving of a sailboat (6 × 14 cm; Figs. 4, 5) with a long narrow deck and prow pointing left was discovered on the opening’s eastern doorjamb. A diagonal line is drawn from the left end of the deck to the top of the stern; it appears to be a furled sail. Another sail may be identified in the form of a triangle above the deck. The engraving of the vessel is similar to drawings of sailboats from the Roman period and particularly to the drawing of the merchant ship discovered in the chapel of Saint Vartan in the Holy Sepulcher, dating to the second–fourth centuries CE (Broshi and Barkay 1985:125–128). A sailboat was thought to guard against evil spirits (Kashtan 2001), and the engraving in the doorway to the room may have been meant to protect its contents. Twelve tethering installations were hewn in the bottom third of the room’s walls, and a small trough was hewn next to the southern wall of the room, west of the opening. Thus, it seems that the room was originally used as an animal pen. Fragments of more than one hundred jars dating from the last third of the first century CE to the first third of the second century CE were discovered on the floor of the room (Fig. 6:1–8). Similar jars were discovered in hiding caves and refuge caves from the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising.
Fragments of cooking vessels were discovered in Room D. These included a cooking krater with an inverted rim that formed an inner gutter for a lid (Fig. 7:1), pots with an everted triangular rim (Fig. 7:2, 3) that date to the first century–early second century CE and a cooking jug from the first century – early second century CE (Fig. 7:4). Three lamp sherds consisting of a nozzle of a knife-pared Herodian lamp from the first century – early second century CE (Fig. 7:5), a fragment of a handle of a Southern lamp typical of the period between the revolts against Rome (Fig. 7:6) and part of a round discus lamp dating from the late first century – early third century CE (Fig. 7:7) were found as well. In addition, fragments of glass vessels characteristic of the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising were discovered in Room D, including a bowl with a folded-out rim adorned with a horizontal band with stamped impressions (Fig. 8:2), an amphoriskos (Fig. 8:3), a glass jar (Fig. 8:4) and fragments of a juglet that has an everted rim and a wide loop handle with three folds (Fig. 8:5). Judging by the numerous jars found in the room, it seems that it was converted into a storeroom.
An opening (width 0.6 m, height 2 m) leading to Room E was hewn in the northern wall of Room D. The room has an irregular shape; it was probably used at first as a quarry. A tethering installation is hewn next to the opening. A small, round, bottle-shaped storeroom is hewn at the bottom of the northwestern corner in Room D. The storeroom’s opening (diam. 0.5 m) is surrounded by a hewn groove intended for a circular cover. A small bronze key that was probably used to open a box was found in the room (Figs. 9, 10:1). This key might be associated with several bronze objects (Fig. 10:2–7) that were removed from the complex by the antiquities robbers and were discovered in the building remains above the opening to the hiding complex. A small opening (0.5 × 0.5 m) cut in the wall of the storeroom leads to Room F (c. 3 × 3 m), which is elliptical.
Room G is square (3.8 × 3.8 m, height 2.2 m). Two openings lead to tunnels. The southern of the two is surrounded by a frame adapted to receive a plug-shaped closing stone; the stone was discovered lying next to the opening (Fig. 11). The stone was secured in place by means of a sophisticated bolt installation composed of two hewn pillars on either side of the opening and a through-hole in their center (diam. 0.15 m; Fig. 1:Section C–C) for a thick wooden beam designed to lock the stone. In the northern wall of Room G is a hewn opening surrounded by a frame which leads to a tunnel (g-h; below). Part of the room’s stone wall above the opening was intentionally broken; the robbers may have removed here an engraving or an inscription (Fig. 12). Triangular recesses for placing oil lamps were hewn in the walls of the room. On the room’s floor were numerous fragments of jars dating from the last third of the first century to the first third of the second century CE (Fig. 6:9–13) and fragments of a glass plate (Fig. 8:1). The room was quarried when the complex was converted into a hiding complex, probably in preparation of the Bar Kokhba uprising.
The Tunnels. A winding tunnel (d1; length 15 m, average width 0.5 m, height 0.7 m) extends from the eastern wall of Room D. The tunnel widens five meters from its beginning, where a boulder may have been set to close off the tunnel. The tunnel does not lead to any cavity; it is therefore apparent that its quarrying was interrupted before being completed. Another tunnel (d-g; length 23 m) extends from the western side of the northern wall of Room D. The tunnel’s opening is hewn c. 1.7 m above the room’s floor. There are several sharp right-angle turns along the tunnel, and it ends in a sharp right-angle turn next to a narrow hewn opening that leads into Room G; entering the room is difficult due to the sharp turn. The northern opening in Room G leads to another tunnel (g-h; length c. 22 m). A sharp right-angle turn near the opening makes it difficult to enter the room. Several other sharp right-angle turns were hewn further along the tunnel. The tunnel terminates in a narrow passage leading to Tunnel H. The latter is irregular in shape, with alluvium and stone debris accumulated at its ends. Many recesses meant for placing oil lamps were installed in the walls of the tunnels.
It seems that Corridor A and Rooms B–F were first hewn for various purposes by the residents of the settlement above the underground complex: probably a farm situated near the main settlement of Khirbat Khallat Qays. Later, in preparation of the Bar Kokhba uprising, Room D, which had been used as an animal pen, was converted to a storeroom for storage jars, and the tunnels and Room G were hewn. Room G was used for hiding, as indicated by the bolt mechanism. The most important aspect of the complex is the assemblage of finds discovered in the tunnels and Room G, which dates their quarrying to the period between the two revolts against Rome (the last third of the first century and the first third of the second century CE). Judging by the artifacts discovered in the complex, it seems that it was not used after the second century CE, probably in the wake of the Bar Kokhba uprising. Thus, it was only recently that the complex was disturbed by robbers. A variety of architectural elements were discovered in the complex. These are typical of hiding refuges from the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising, many of which are known in the vicinity.