Massive Byzantine bathhouse uncovered near Gaza-belt town

A large Byzantine bathhouse has been uncovered in an archaeological excavation near the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The ancient bathhouse found was discovered by Kibbutz Gevim in the Negev Desert during an ongoing salvage excavation ahead of the laying of a new rail track in the area that will service the Ashkelon-Netivot line. The site, which covers an area of 20 x 20 m, included an elaborate underground heating system, and is the largest bathhouse ever found in southern Israel, said Gregory Serai, the director of the excavation at the site. The ancient village where the bathhouse was located was situated on a road that linked Beer Sheva with Gaza, and likely began as a road station in the Roman period, he said.