Ten squares were excavated (Fig. 3), yielding a Roman pottery kiln and a refuse pit containing production debris; a tomb located near the kiln; and a habitation level with remains from the Byzantine–Early Islamic periods.
The elliptically shaped firebox of the kiln was partially preserved (Figs. 4, 5). The walls of the firebox (L21) were built of smoothed kurkar stones lined with bricks. Within the firebox were remains of a central pillar (L35) with partly preserved springing arches (L22) that reached the outer wall. Its floor, made of stones (L38), was covered by a thick layer of fired brick material (L36). As the installation was poorly preserved, it was impossible to determine the location of the stoke hole. The remains of the pillar were covered with a layer of soil (L33) that contained a coin, probably an Umayyad fals (post-reform, 697–750 CE; IAA 165239).
A tomb (L39) lined with fragments of a basin in secondary use (L37; Figs. 6, 7) was uncovered to the northwest of the kiln; the basin, made of limestone, was elliptical and had a pouring spout. The tomb was dug in the ground, and the basin served to delineate it on one side. It contained human bones in a poorly preserved state, probably in primary burial: part of the right hand (humerus, radius and ulna bones) in anatomical articulation, folded toward the chest; the imprint in the earth of ribs and vertebrae; and fragmentary skull bones. The individual lay on a north–south axis, with the head in the north. Its age— over 15—was determined based on the fused ends of the long bones (for stages of long-bone epiphyseal fusion, see Johnston and Zimmer 1989:2).
A fragment of a Hellenistic-period lamp (Fig. 8:1), an Egyptian imported bowl from the Islamic period (Fig. 8:2) and remains of a tabun (L28), as well as brick material (L14) that probably came from the kiln were found near the tomb.
A refuse pit (L17; depth over 1.5 m; Fig. 9), which had been damaged by modern activity, was found c. 10 m northeast of the kiln. Five layers of use were identified in the pit (Fig. 3: Section 3–3). The bottom layer, which was yellow-brown, yielded a few potsherds, including Roman jars (Fig. 10:3, 5, 6) and a zoomorphic figurine, possibly of a horse or a dog (Fig. 10:8), which may come from the neighboring tell. The next layer contained a few potsherds (L31; not drawn). An overlying layer, darker than the previous one, contained fragments of Roman jars (L29; Fig. 10:1, 4). Above it was a layer of tightly packed grayish brown soil (L26) containing a few small stones and potsherds, including a Byzantine jar (Fig. 10:7). The pit’s upper layer (L17; max. depth c. 0.4 m) yielded numerous potsherds, including a Roman jar (Fig. 10:2). The pit was probably disturbed several times during its use; it may have been intentionally covered over and then used again, or it may have been flooded several times. The finds show that the pit was used at the same time as the kiln.
To the northwest of the kiln, a gray habitation level (L11–L13, L20; thickness c. 8 cm) unearthed in the hamra soil contained several potsherds, including a bowl (Fig. 11:1) and a jar (Fig. 11:2) dating from the Roman period; Byzantine-period jars (Fig. 11:3, 4) and a casserole (Fig. 11:5); and a jar (Fig. 11:6) from the Early Islamic period. A Byzantine–Arab follis (640–670 CE; IAA 165238) was also retrieved.
The excavation yielded ten identifiable and dateable glass fragments; most of them were retrieved from the habitation level (L11, B133). Two vessels—a bowl with a folded, hollow rim (Fig. 12:1), possibly belonging to a bowl-shaped oil lamp, and an end fragment of a handle belonging to a bowl-shaped lamp with three handles (not drawn)—date from the Byzantine or the late Byzantine period. Four vessels were dated to the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Umayyad period (Fig. 12:2–4; the fourth vessel was not drawn). No. 2 is a rim of a wineglass or a bottle made of light greenish glass, which was mold-blown and twisted to create spiral ribs; this pattern extends downward from the edge of the rim. Wineglasses and bottles decorated in such a manner are known from the Byzantine and the early Umayyad periods. No. 3 is a fragment of a bottle with a cylindrical neck. It is made of bluish-greenish glass, and is decorated with thin turquoise trails, horizontally coiled around the neck, of which three were preserved. The body of the bottle was decorated with fine, shallow and widely spaced mold-blown vertical ribs. Bottles with such a decoration are very typical of the late Byzantine period. No. 4 is another bichrome bottle, made of bluish to light greenish glass and decorated with a thick, wavy, yellowish brown trail. Ornamentation with a thick wavy trail and the use of yellowish brown glass were widespread at the end of the Byzantine period and during the Umayyad period. The fourth vessel is a flat bottle base, thickened in the center, which is made of greenish glass and has a crude scar in the center (not drawn).
Other vessels dating to the late Byzantine and the early Umayyad periods were found scattered in the excavation area (not drawn). They included a broken stem of a bead-shaped wineglass (L13); a shard from the neck of a bottle made of greenish blue glass and decorated with a wide, wavy trail of the same hue as the bottle (L28); and a small fragment from a base of a vessel (L25).
A sizable piece, clearly recognizable as glass-blowing debris (Fig. 12:5) known as ‘moil’—the residue that remains after a vessel is removed from the blowpipe—was also recovered. As it was found along with glass fragments dating from the Byzantine or the late Byzantine period, it attests to the blowing of glass vessels in this area during this period. Glass-production debris discovered in previous salvage excavations in the area (van den Brink 2005; Turgë 2005; the glass from these excavations is yet to be published) attests to the existence of a glass workshop. Most of the excavations in the area uncovered remains from the Byzantine and early Umayyad periods (e.g., Gorin-Rosen 2014), and it is thus may be reasonable to attribute the industrial debris to these periods. An example is an unpublished salvage excavation conducted on Herzl Street
(Permit No. A-4945) that yielded numerous glass vessels, including some similar to those found in the current excavation. These vessels represent very common types, and they may have been produced in a local workshop that operated alongside the pottery kilns that were uncovered at the site.
Seventeen animal bones were identified (see Appendix: Table 1). The most common find in the assemblage are sheep/goat bones (47%, N=8). The second most common species is equid (23.5%, N=4). Of these four bones, two are definitely horses (Equus caballus), and the other two belong to some type of equid, possibly a donkey. Pigs are the third most common species (17.7%, N=3), and one of the bones (L20, B154) may come from a non-domesticated individual. Cattle is the least common species in the assemblage (11.8%, N=2). The limited size of the assemblage does not present a clear picture of the site’s economy. Nevertheless, the pig bones indicate that the people that left these remains did not belong to a group that refrained from eating pigs.
The excavation finds augment our knowledge regarding the nature and extent of the settlement to the southeast of Tel Azor. The Roman kiln is the first of its kind to be discovered at the site, and it provides evidence of industrial activity here during this period. The remains of the basin discovered near the kiln cannot be dated and appear to be in secondary use. The habitation level contained only a few vessels from the Roman period, but was probably used by people who dwelt at the site in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.