At the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, among their other many and varied pursuits, they occupy themselves with a very interesting and fascinating field of interest that requires imagination, creativity and understanding of historical processes.
Date: 05.03.12 Author: Menachem Adoni
On Tuesday, February 14th, we traveled to meet with the staff officer of the archeology branch in Judea and Samaria, Mr. Hanania Hizmi, who’s responsible for every aspect that concerns archaeological excavations in the field and publication of the findings, and to hear from him about past and present highlights of his occupation and pursuits.
One cannot help but be impressed from two specific projects that mostly attracted our attention.
The Avtimius Monastery (Khan el Ahmar) is located at the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. The monastery is named after its founder Avtimius – an Armenian monk who was one of the founding fathers of the Christian monasticism in the Judea Desert during the Byzantine period. The monastery was founded in 428 A.D., and it has two churches, one which is located at the southeastern corner of the monastery and the other one located at the eastern one.
At the southern part of the monastery, a guest house for pilgrims has been discovered and at its center a crypt has been found – a chamber tomb with many built and dug graves covered with stone slabs. Presumably, one of the graves is the grave of Avtimius – the head of the monastery.
At the western part of the monastery, an underground water reservoir has been discovered. In contrast with many other monasteries in the Judea Desert that were ruined and abandoned in the middle of the 7th century A.D., during the Arab conquest, the Avtimius monastery continued to exist also after the conquest and was apparently hit by the earthquake that occurred in 660 AD. Later on, the monastery was restored and also continued to be used during the period of the crusades.
The site was first built in the seventies, under the direction of Yanes Mamaris and its development went on under the direction of Izhar Hirschfeld. Subsequently, excavations as well as preservation and development works were carried out on behalf of the staff officer of the archeology branch, with the assistance of the preservation unit of the Antiquities Authority and with funding from the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria.
“The key goal of archeology is actually to reproduce life according to the material finding,” says Mr. Hizmi.
Khirbat Krikur – The Roman Bath-House
In the premises of the village “Kfar Oranim” (“Menorah”), there is an archaeological site named Khirbat Krikur, in which many findings from the Roman and Byzantine periods were found, including a bath-house apparently used by the soldiers of the Roman legion in the region. Its walls are built of hewn stones and field stones and it was constructed in two stages, according to a plan based on the “circular set” model, in which the bather is required to retrace his steps in order to leave the building. At the end of the Byzantine period the bath-house was converted to a dwelling house.
Stage 1 – five chambers mutually connected were built. During this stage, the entrance was from the southeastern direction, and it led to the cloakroom, and from there to the cold room, and then to the lukewarm room and finally to the hot room. The hot room has two niches, one against the other, each including a hip bath. The fire room, where the hot air flows from, is located west of the lukewarm room. The bath-house has a double floor with an inner cavity intended for hot air conduction. The lower floor is made of refined clay tiles, upon which hypocaust pillars were erected in orderly rows with arches laid upon. The upper floor was laid upon the arches and it’s adorned with white mosaics featuring colorful geometric models and a Greek inscription. Inside the walls, above the upper floor level, clay pipes which were used to conduct hot air to the room still exist.
Stage 2 – At the second stage, a few modifications were made. The fire room went out of use and a new fire room adjacent to the hot room was built in its stead, a large cloakroom with benches was built near to the old cloakroom and a new service room was built on the side of the new cloakroom. A wide entrance paved with mosaics was set up in the large cloakroom.
At the site, household utensils where mainly found, including: Jars, cooking pot, cups and bowls.
The bath house was excavated by the staff officer of the archeology branch in Judea and Samaria. The site was prepared and adapted for visits with funding from the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria and with the assistance of the Mate Biniamin Regional Council and the secretariat of the “Kfar Ha’Oranim” village.
“Archeology is a scientific pursuit that arouses the curiosity of every person concerning the lives of our ancestors,” added the staff officer.
The projects that are currently being conducted until the middle of March include a big project in the area of Patzel in the Jordan Valley that involves a 45 day excavation in search of a city built by king Herod in memory of his brother.
Another project that is being carried out right now is located at the “Nebi Samuel” site in the vicinity of Jerusalem, wherein a salvage excavation is being performed in order to prepare the entrance pathway for visitors, in order to make it safer and more convenient for the general public.
“According to the Antiquities Law, we are committed to invest efforts for the preservation of the findings and we try to perform our job in the best possible manner, while safeguarding the values and principles that guide us as from our beginning”, concludes Mr. Hizmi.