A cross-regional initiative for the study of
monasticism in the late antique Near East
Dipinti Cave Building - Room 1
Initial work in the room involved the recording and subsequent removal of a considerable collapse layer. Visible among the rubble in the photos below are large stone roof slabs.
The team carefully exposed the various architectural elements from the collapse, which appears to have been caused by an earthquake in late antiquity. In addition to the roof slabs, there were also the remains of an arch. Below (right) is a photo of one of the stone blocks of this arch.
Arch springer in Wall 2. Arches were a common architectural form. The image below shows an example of one in place among the unexcavated dwellings on the western slope of Avdat.
Wall 3, the northern wall of the room, has a small window along its upper courses nearer to the western end. At the eastern end is a doorway, which provided our section. This doorway had a stone threshold, but no built frame. Remains of the earthquake collapse can be seen in front of this wall (by the sign board and directional arrow).
On the doorjamb to the left of the doorway in Wall 3, the team discovered some faded dipinti (area indicated by red arrow below). A circular stone installation (purple arrow) was documented on the floor of the room, just below the dipinti. The top portion of another stone installation (blue arrow) can be seen in the corner made with Wall 2 and was subsequently excavated.
A large amount of well-preserved organic materials were recovered during the excavation. Near the doorway in Wall 1, the team discovered an especially heavy concentration, just under the collapsed roof slabs. The arrow in the photo below (left) points to the area; the other photo below (right) shows the roof slabs in situ (from outside the room) prior to their removal. Click here to learn more about the organic finds from the excavation, which included desiccated animal dung, seeds, cordage, wood, twigs, and a textile fragment.
General plan of Room 1 (left) and
photo at the completion of the excavation (below)
One of the dipinti is a Christian cross of approximately 10 cm in height. To its right is a circular design, which perhaps contained another cross.
The stone installation against Wall 3 (below left) has a tapered interior that may be intended for holding the "torpedo-style" of Gaza Wine Jars well represented in the pottery assemblage - click here for more information about the Gaza Jar finds.
Plan by Avraham Hajian, Israel Antiquities Authority
The stone installation in the corner of Wall 3 and Wall 2 (below right) is a basin and seems to have gone out of use at some point, given the lower level at which it was found. This basin is perforated at the bottom for drainage and near the installation itself, a small opening was made at the base of Wall 3 (blue arrow) also for drainage purposes.
As the excavation proceeded, the other two walls of the room were exposed. Wall 4, the eastern wall of the room, is shown at left with its articulation point at Wall 1 (and the doorway in Wall 1).
An interesting feature the team discovered in Wall 1 is an opening beneath the window in the southwest corner (purple arrow). Originally, the team thought this opening functioned as a large cupboard or niche, but subsequent digging revealed a well-worn stone threshold at its base, indicating that the feature was a doorway, leading to either the adjacent room or a subterranean space beneath the room. Further investigation will be necessary.
Detail of feature in Wall 1