Thursday, March 26, 2009

Byzantine Bathhouse Excavated Near Sderot

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports in a press release:

A bathhouse that dates to the Byzantine period was exposed in an archaeological excavation undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Kibbutz Gevim (at the site of Horvat Lasan) and underwritten by the Israel Railways, prior to laying a railroad track from Ashkelon to Netivot.

According to archaeologist Gregory Serai, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The bathhouse, which covers an area of 20 x 20 m, was apparently destroyed in a cave-in and was later used as a rubbish dump that was filled with household refuse. It was ascertained in the excavation that the furnace (hypocaust) was dug into the natural soil and its ceiling was built of a cement-like material that was lined with ceramic tiles. The ceiling was supported by means of one meter high colonnades built of mudbricks. The bathers entered the changing room (apodyterium) and passed from there into a room with cold water (frigidarium) where there were probably stepped tubs. From there they continued into the room with warm water (tepidarium) and on to the room with hot water (caldarium – comparable to today’s sauna). The floor of the caldarium was paved with marble flagstones, some of which were as big 1 x 1 m. Evidence of the ceiling’s destruction is attested to by the manner in which the hypocaust columns were toppled in different directions”.

Following its destruction, the structure served as a source of building material as evidenced by the stone walls that were robbed. Secondary use of the stones was noted in the center area of the excavation. A number of residential buildings were discovered in this part of the site and they contained storage jars that were still in situ.

The village’s buildings and bathhouse join the finds that were revealed in a previous excavation that was conducted on the other side of the road. In the opinion of Gregory Serai, “We are dealing with a village whose economy was based on the production of wine and the manufacture of pottery vessels. The site was situated on a road that linked Beer Sheva with Gaza and probably began as a road station in the Roman period.

There’s a brief article about Kibbutz Gevim, including its location, at Wikipedia.  Eight photos of the excavations can be found with the article at this temporary link, or directly here (zip).

HT: Joe Lauer

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