Eighty-five excavation squares were opened, and the following antiquities were discovered: various remains from the Chalcolithic period; architectural remains and pottery kilns from the Roman period; walls and floors from the Byzantine period; and building remains, cesspits and refuse pits dating to the Ottoman period. Also found were pottery, coins and metal and glass fragments that date to the Late Bronze, Iron, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Late Ottoman periods.
The Chalcolithic Period.Two shafts (L338, L821; Fig. 2) were exposed. Shaft 338 (upper diameter 1.1 m, lower diameter 1.25 m, excavated depth c. 4.5 m; Fig. 3) was located in the northeastern part of the excavation area. Shaft 821 (diameter c. 2 m, excavation depth c. 3 m; Fig. 4) was in the northwestern part of the excavation area; its eastern half was disturbed by the construction of a kiln in the Roman period. The shafts were dug in hamra and contained gray soil mixed with body fragments of pottery characteristic of the Late Chalcolithic period: a variety of V-shaped bowls, jars, jugs, juglets, cornets and churns. In addition, flint flakes, fragments of stone vessels and a large assemblage of animal bones were found in the shafts. Due to technical and safety reasons, the excavation of the shafts did not reach their base.
The Late Bronze, Iron, Persian and Hellenistic Periods. These periods were represented at the site only by ceramic finds. The pottery assemblage dating to the Late Bronze Age comprises mainly jars and 0bowls, including numerous milk-bowl fragments. The finds from the Iron Age and Persian period were meager, and those of the Hellenistic period included bowls, jars, amphorae (including Rhodian amphorae), juglets and fragments of lamps (including an Attic lamp).
The Roman Period. The remains from the Late Roman period were discovered mainly in the southeastern part of the excavation area. Five pottery kilns for firing ceramics, and one metal-smelting kiln were exposed in addition to wall remains.
1. An elliptical kiln (L725; diameter 0.9–1.6 m, depth 0.7 m, wall thickness 7 cm; Fig. 5). The installation’s firebox was preserved. The stokehole (width c. 0.2 m) was identified in the northern part of the kiln. Collapsed mud-bricks—part of the firebox construction—were excavated inside kiln. Body fragments of cooking pots and jars dating to the Late Roman period (second–third centuries CE) were also found.
2. A circular kiln (L771; diameter 1.5 m, depth 0.9 m, wall thickness 0.1 m). The firing chamber, with its central pillar built of stone and bricks, were preserved. A collapse of fired mud-bricks was excavated inside the firebox. Seventeen intact vessels were found on four levels within the kiln, two–three vessels per level. These included cooking pots, jars, saqiye jars, cups and bowls dating to the Late Roman period (second–third centuries CE); damage was discerned on some of the vessels. The stokehole was not identified, but it was presumably located in the eastern wall of the kiln, in keeping with the plan of this type of installation.
3. A circular kiln (L761; diameter 1.7 m, depth 1.1 m, wall thickness 0.1 m; Fig. 6). The firebox and its central pillar built of horizontally stacked mud-bricks were all that remained of the kiln. A collapse of fired mud-bricks was excavated in the firebox, and pottery sherds dating to the Late Roman period (second–third centuries CE) were collected.
4. A circular kiln (L635; diameter 2.2 m, wall thickness 0.12 m; Fig. 7). The firebox, its central pillar and two arches that extended from the pillar toward the outer wall of the installation were preserved. Brown soil within in the firebox was mixed with body fragments of pottery vessels that were fired at high temperature, giving their clay a light greenish hue. Cooking pots and jars dating to the Late Roman period were mainly identified.
5. A circular kiln (L633; diameter 1.25 m, depth 0.4 m; wall thickness 7 cm). The firebox and its central column or pillar were preserved. Evidence of burning and slag, the result of firing at an extremely high temperature, were found on a plaster floor unearthed northeast of the firebox. The stokehole was probably located on that side of the kiln, and the pottery was removed from that side after being fired. As was the other kilns, the finds in this kiln comprised mainly cooking pots and jars.
6. An elliptical kiln (L808; diameter 1.7 m, width 1 m, depth 0.9 m, wall thickness 0.07 m; Fig. 8). The kiln severed a Chalcolithic shaft (above). All that was preserved of the kiln was the firebox and a piece of limestone in its center, probably the column that supported the firing chamber. The stokehole (width c. 0.18 m) was identified in the southern part of the kiln. The opening was well-built of bricks that were incorporated into the kiln wall. Mud-brick collapse was excavated in the firebox, and body fragments of cooking pots and jars dating to the Late Roman period (second–third centuries CE) were found. A column base (L814; diameter 0.8 m) built of medium-sized limestone blocks and lined with small, roughly hewn limestone blocks, was found c. 0.5 m south of the kiln’s opening. The column base, founded on the hamra soil and preserved two courses high, was evidently connected to one of the activities related to the operation of the kiln. In contrast of pottery-firing kilns, this kiln is smaller and by its configuration it is not suitable for firing ceramics. It may have been used for metal smelting.
The foundations of a rectangular structure (1.4 × 4.2 m), built along a northwest–southeast axis and bounded by three walls (W776 in the north, W766 in the east, W765 in the west; Fig. 9), were exposed in the southeastern part of the excavation area. The building’s foundations were constructed of partially hewn, medium and large limestone blocks without any mortar between them, and were preserved to a height of seven courses. The ceramic and numismatic finds collected in the accumulations above and alongside the building’s foundations date the structure was to the Late Roman period. The proximity of the building to the kilns suggests that it was used for some industrial purpose, possibly the storage of raw material or pottery vessels. It is unlikely that the building served as a dwelling since it was not customary to build a residential structure in the vicinity of kilns.
The Byzantine Period. Activity at the site was renewed during the Byzantine period: The area ceased to be used for industrial purposes, and what seem as dwellings or storerooms were erected at the site. The kilns went out of use at the end of the Roman period. It is apparent that they were covered and the area was intentionally filled and leveled with the construction of an extensive white plaster floor (L775; length c. 10 m, width c. 1.5 m, thickness 0.5 cm). Since the floor does not abut any of the walls belonging to this period and because of its exceptional size, we suggest that the floor represents the earliest phase of the Byzantine period at the site and was intended to even out the area.
Other remains dating to the Byzantine period were scattered throughout the excavation area. This include a building, channels, wall segments, a refuse pit and habitation levels. Foundations belonging to a rectangular building aligned in a northwest–southeast direction were discovered in the middle of the excavation area. They are delimited by walls (W516 in the north, W534 in the east, W509 in the west; Fig. 10). The structure was built of dry construction, utilizing roughly hewn medium and large limestone blocks. The building foundations were preserved to a maximum height of two courses and were set mainly on hamra. No openings were preserved. Pottery sherds dating to the Byzantine period were discovered in the accumulations above and around the foundations. The changes that were implemented in the building, such as the addition of a wall (W511), seem to indicate that it had at least two building phases.
Two channels (L502, L525) were discovered c. 6 m northwest of the building. Channel 502 was built in an east–west direction and sloped westward. The channel floor was coated with white plaster, and body fragments of ribbed pottery were incorporated above it—a construction technique known from various periods at numerous sites in Israel. Channel 525, c. 2 m to the north, was similarly aligned and built in the same style, but at a lower elevation. Nearby was a circular complex (L524); half of it was built of small and medium fieldstones and treated on the inside with white plaster. The complex may have been connected to the two channels and could have been used as a storage facility into which the channels led.
Walls segments that did not link up to form a coherent architectural plan were also discovered. They were discerned in two main concentrations: in the northeastern and in the southwestern parts of the excavation area. The northwestern cluster included the foundation of a wall built of medium and large limestone blocks in dry construction and running in an east–west direction (W816; length 8.8 m, width 0.8 m, preserved depth 0.35 m). The wall foundation, set on hamra, were preserved to a maximum height of two courses. A built pillar (length 0.7 m, width 1.1 m) engaged in the wall’s foundation was noted on its northern face, at the eastern end of the wall. It was built of small and medium limestone without mortar. The pillar was probably constructed to reinforce and support the wall. South of this wall was another wall oriented in an east–west direction (W830, length 1.6 m, width 0.3–0.6 m) built of medium and large limestone without mortar; it was preserved to a height of one course.
In the southeastern part of the excavation area was a massive wall (W735) aligned in a northeast–southwest direction; seven courses of the wall were exposed. It too was built of medium and large limestone blocks in dry construction. A mass of collapsed stones was found to its west—probably stones that tumbled from the wall. The western face of the wall was slightly inclined toward the west, possible evidence of the interior of an installation. The elevation of its uppermost course was lower than that of all the other habitation levels of the Byzantine period, suggesting that the complex was subterranean. South of this wall was another section of a wall (W764), oriented in an east–west direction and built of large limestone blocks without mortar. Large stones that collapsed near the wall probably originated in it. Massive clusters of collapses stones were also found c. 5 m east of the aforementioned walls.
In addition, two refuse pits were discovered: in the northern part of the excavation area (L253; diameter 2 m, depth c. 0.5 m) and in its southern part (L718; diameter c. 5 m, depth 0.65 m). Body fragments of bowls, jars and cooking pots dating from the Late Byzantine period were discarded into the refuse pits. The location of the refuse pits in relation to the other Byzantine-period remains may point to a variety of activity areas. Habitation levels dating to the Byzantine period were also discovered in the center of the excavation area (L243, L207, L217).
The Early Islamic Period. The complexes from the earlier periods (as described above) were not in use during Islamic period. However, several body sherds of vessels that date to this period were found, mostly at the northwestern end of the excavation (L152). It is thus concluded that during this period the settlement probably extended to the west of the excavated area.
The Ottoman Period. The nature of the excavated area changed once again in the Late Ottoman period, when it was turned into a residential quarter. At least one building can be attributed to this period on the basis of the elements discovered in the excavation area (for more information, see Jakoel 2012). Clusters of black soil (L213, L220, L237, L259), which had accumulated in depressions formed due to the undulating topography of the hamra, were found north and east of the building foundations. An assemblage of pottery characteristic of the Late Ottoman period was collected from inside the depressions, including tobacco pipes, bowls, jars, jugs and juglets of Gaza Ware. One amorphous cluster (L257, L259) contained, among other things, intact vessels from the Late Ottoman period. It is thus concluded that refuse was probably discarded in the region. In addition, several cesspits (L254, L261, L805, L824) were found. Remains attributed to the Late Ottoman period were also discovered in the southern part of the excavation area; these included mainly collapsed stones and cesspits (L604, L621 respectively).
Besides these, several pits (L513, L518, L530, L531, L533) dug in the hamra were exposed. They contained an accumulation of brown soil with pottery sherds dating to various periods. Consequently, most of the pits could not be dated with absolute certainty, but it seems that they might have been used for storage.
The first evidence of activity at the site dates to the Chalcolithic period. Two broad, deep shafts with pottery characteristic of the Late Chalcolithic period were exposed. These were part of a wide-scale complex of shafts and pits that were uncovered in recent years in Yehud. The purpose of the shafts and pits is still unclear, and the suggestions that have been proposed (refuse pits, cisterns and storage pits) require further study. No settlement remains apart from the shafts were found at the site, giving rise to questions regarding the nature of the activity at the site and the location of the settlement during the Chalcolithic period.
The location of the settlement during the Bronze, Iron, Persian and Hellenistic periods is still unknown. No architectural remains from these periods were identified. Furthermore, the meager ceramic assemblages do not indicate any activity centers, but rather a penetration or erosion associated with the deposition processes at the site.
During the Late Roman period, the site was used as an industrial region for the production of pottery vessels, as evident by six pottery kilns that were located in three activity centers. Near two of the kiln centers were the remains of a building that was most likely associated with the operation of the kilns or with other activities related to the production of pottery, or was used to store raw materials. The technology needed to build the kilns demonstrates specialized knowledge. The ceramic assemblage produced in these kilns comprised mainly domestic vessels, such as cooking pots, jugs, juglets and bowls. It therefore seems that the kilns were operated by the residents of a settlement, the location of which is still unknown. By the end of the Late Roman period, the kilns were no longer used.
The settlement at the site was renewed in the Byzantine period. The area where the Roman-period kiln centers were was intentionally reshaped by means of filling and leveling and other measures, such as the laying of a plaster floor that stretched throughout the area. Underground installations were apparently constructed near buildings that probably served as dwellings. Two distant concentrations of refuse pits may indicate that several activity centers were located in the area. The buildings went out of use at the end of the Byzantine period, and were not reinhabited in the Early Islamic period. Following a long settlement hiatus the area was used as a residential quarter in the Late Ottoman period.