Khirbet el-Mahma - Monastery

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Source of knowledge
Archaeological remains
Surveyed site
Magen and Finkelsteirn
Finkelstein, Lederman and Bunimovitz
Excavated site
The excavator suggested identifying the site as a monastery based on the various components such as a wall surrounding a complex of structures, a tower and a church. However, the strange location of the church, outside the precinct, casts a strong doubt as to this identification. It is more likely that the church served as a parochial church. If the site was indeed a monastery, one would expect to find a chapel well inside the boundaries of the monastery. Considering that the complex was only partially excavated, it is not beyond reason that further investigation would locate a church within the precinct, thus confirming the identification.
State of certainty: 
Uncertain / Questionable
Architectural evolution
Phase name (as published): 
Phase III
General outline: 
The Byzantine complex was established over the remains of a Second Temple period settlement and incorporated a late Roman period tower. A basilical church and improved winpress were added at this stage.
Dating material: 

Dated by the excavators to the Byzantine period. The only slightly more specific date provided was the addition of the winepress in the sixth century CE.

Phase date
6th c.
Phase name (as published): 
Phase IV
General outline: 
The compound remained in use at the beginning of the Early Islamic period. At this time some changes were made in the form of partition walls added to various wings of the complex. The church continued in use at this time. The winepress was converted into an oil press, the collection vat being cut into the earlier mosaic floor.
Phase date
7th-8th c.
General outline: 
The church ceased to function sometime in the Abbasid period, indicating that the monastery also no longer functioned. The oil press had been converted into a slaughter house and the site was abandoned sometime towards the end of the ninth century CE.
Dating material: 

An abundance of animal bones indicates a slaughterhouse where the olive press had been.

Phase date
8th c.
Within century: 
First half
Post Arab conquest history: 
Still in use
Post conquest history comments: 
A Christian population continued to exist at the site in the early years of the Arab conquest and the church remained in use. The wine press ceased to function and was converted into an olive press. Apparently, the Christian population abandoned the site sometime in the first half of the eighth century and it became a slaughter house in the Abbasid period.
The location of the church outside the main precinct casts a doubt on the identification of the site as a monastery.