This week we continued the excavations in the southern part of the late Roman to early Byzantine urban villa in a 75-square-meter area. After removing two erosion layers, we discovered new wall structures in a destruction layer.
The private courtyard, which had been turned into a stable during the sixth century A.D., proved to have been surrounded by an arcade composed of four arches on the east and three on the south. Numerous painted (mainly bluish) stucco fragments indicated that the back wall of the arcade had been richly decorated. We exposed its southern wall for nearly 15 meters. Beam holes indicated that the arcade originally had a wooden ceiling.
This south wall had two phases. An older wall, largely composed of alternating mortared-rubble and brick layers, was originally pierced by a doorway leading to a series of rooms south of the arcade. In late Roman to early Byzantine times, this southern rooms were closed off from the arcaded courtyard by a new wall. This wall was built of rough fieldstones against the other one, forming a new south face. In its easternmost sector, we found this wall still covered by large sections of cream-white stucco.
It contained a vaulted niche (0.82 m high, 0.68 m wide, 0.36 m deep) that was completely covered by a light whitish stucco. The rear wall of the niche was decorated with a red painted wreath with two knotted ribbons above, surrounding a Chi-Rho (Christ) symbol in the same paint stucco (see the find of the week). Red garlands decorated the sides of the niche. In front of it, we found the remains of a rectangular bench-like structure of uncertain nature.