The Structure

Yuval Baruch, IAA

The main building (19 x 9 m) facing all four points of the compass is built directly on rock without foundations. The slope of the ground was leveled in several places with earth fill or field-stones. The walls of the structure (70 cm-1 m thick) are preserved to a maximum height of 2.1 m. Of the first construction phase, two rooms of a building remain, together with an open courtyard in which are water cisterns, caves, and burials. In the second construction phase the building was extended by the addition of several rooms; the courtyard was encompassed with walls; and the water cisterns were used as cellars(?). The changes in the third phase were minor – mostly the addition of a strong wall around the courtyard and another wall in the burials area. Of the first structure, two rooms (A and B) survive. Their walls show two construction methods: on the outside, dressed field-stones with a distinct boss on their outer face; and on the inside, natural field-stones bound together with mortar. Apparently, both sides of the wall were originally covered with plaster, but plaster only remains on the outer, southern, face of Wall 100. A rock-cut, plastered channel, parallel to the wall was discovered in Sounding-pit L4.
The walls of Room B (11 x 4.6 m) continued in use also in the subsequent construction phases – except for Wall 100 that was dismantled.


A few surviving stone slabs suggest that the entire room may have been paved in this way. The entrance to the courtyard was in the western part of Wall 100, with the door opening into the yard. This is attested by a 1.6 m wide sillstone with an angular recess along its outer edge and pivot holes for doorhinges, that was discovered in a sounding-pit dug along the course of the wall, beneath the level of the mosaic floor. A similar sill-stone was uncovered between Room A (4.6 x 4 m; Locus 1) and the courtyard (H) on the south. Fundamental changes were made in this yard in the later construction phases, altering its original plan. Two large water cisterns (L13) in the courtyard most probably antedate the structural changes.


Building stones in secondary use in the walls of the west phase hint that
the structure of the first phase had additional rooms. North of the structure (L19), apparently already in this first phase, natural caves were fitted to serve as storage spaces. In the second construction phase the structure (19.5 x 9 m) was extended and received its final form. Rooms were added in the west (F), on the east (C), and south (D,E). Room B – the large room of the first phase was widened to the south over the debris of Wall 100. This room seems to have been adapted for use as the hall of a church (11 x 5 m), and the courtyard was encompassed by a wall (Walls 22-44 and Wall 21).


Five piers – some freestanding and others adjoining remains of earlier
walls – stood along the longitudinal axis of the room. The stone floor of
the earlier phase (L3) was completed to the east and west with a mosaic
floor made of tesserae of 1 cu. cm, and of which only a few sections sur-
vive (in L2 and L22). At the eastern part of the room, a bema was built
with one step leading up to it. The elevation of the bema (L22) was ob-
tained by putting down a layer of earth and small stones, lime, and tesserae as a foundation for a mosaic carpet pavement. At the western part of Room B the mosaic floor was laid over the roof of Tomb C1.
South of the church hall, a square vestibule (3.5 x 3.5 m) and a corridor (D) were added. The walls of these spaces survive to a maximum height of 2.1 m; many building stones in secondary use were integrated in the walls, among them ashlars. In the rubble filling Room E, column bases
and column fragments were discovered, along with capitals and parts of a
carved frieze. Two columns bore capitals with a decorated frieze of geo-
metric pattern; one of the capitals has carved crosses. All these attest a
sumptuous entrance that was apparently built into Wall 100 of the first construction phase.

The floor of the corridor (D) was laid on a layer of small stones and
earth. The opening leading to Room C is constructed of stone slabs and
worked jambs on a foundation of flat stones; in one of the jambs there is a recess. The sill is 40 cm above the floor.


Room C (7.2 x 3.1 cm) and expanded Room A have identical floor plans. The walls remain to a maximum height of 1.8 m. The floors are not preserved, except for remains of plaster filling the rock surface – perhaps
the foundation for the pavement. Along the axis of the piers of the central
hall, another pier, 90 x 45 cm in section, adjacent to the eastern wall (W70) of the room, was built up of fragments of finely-worked, soft limestone ashlars, of roughly-shaped stones, and of field-stones.

Room A was now expanded to the south ( 7 x 3.2 m) by construction
employing field-stones and ashlars in secondary usage, bound together with mortar. The remains of the early Wall 100 that stand here to a height of one course, separated the two levels (70 cm between them) of the room. A few sections of a white plaster floor survive on the lower level. The opening in Wall 100 continued in use from the earlier phase (see above). The continuation of Wall 90 is built in a slovenly manner, in irregular sections, of stone fragments in secondary usage. In the center of the wall, the opening with its two well-cut jambs between Room F and E is preserved. The direction of the recesses along the edges of the jambs indicates that the door opened into Room E. On the upper level (Room A) a mosaic floor was uncovered, and in the rubble was found a column base and two capitals of soft limestone, carved with crosses and geometric patterns identical to those in the expanded Room A. Since the margins of the mosaic do not survive, the stratigraphic relationship of the floor to Wall 100 could not be determined. In the middle of the mosaic carpet made of white 1.2 x 1 cm tesserae was an inscription measuring 1 x 1 m.
encompassed by several frames in red and black tesserae.


The inner frame has little crosses along the bottom and sides, and a pattern of scattered crosses decorates the mosaic floor around the inscription. In the southwestern corner of the mosaic pavement is a conical cistern in which water used to wash and clean the mosaic floor was probably collected. In this phase, Wall 21 was constructed; it too survives to one course only (the foundation course?). This wall, which was exposed in the courtyard area, remains to a length of about 20 m. Both faces of the 80 cm thick wall are carefully built of dressed stones interspaced with field-stones and mud.


Near the wall of the structure, about 1.2 m from it, are the remains of a sill made up of a sill-stone with an angular recess cut along its outer edge and pivot holes for hinges, attesting that the door opened into the courtyard.To the east, Courtyard G was encompassed with Walls 22-24.
Within the courtyard, the corner of a well-constructed building was discovered of the second phase, and next to it, a channel (L18). The area delimited between the corner and Walls 22 and 23, is paved in a careless manner with rectangular stone slabs, some of them broken. The paving stones represent the third construction phase of the building. They were laid on a thin bed, up to 10 cm of earth. The reconstruction of the floor of the second construction phase is of rather poor workmanship.


In the third phase of the structure, Walls 25, 26, and 32 were built in a
slovenly manner of different kinds of stone, in a crooked line and of un-
even thickness up to 1.5 m. An elevated, squarish platform, 1.5 m high, was now created in the corner of the courtyard. The floor was repaired and the broken paving stones were again used, some of them laid over the remains of Walls 18 and 22 of the preceding phases. A limestone column about 1.8 m high and shaped stone elements were discovered within the courtyard area.

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