In May 2013, an excavation was conducted at Khirbat al-Bira, in the northern industrial region of Shoham (Permit No. A-6807; map ref 196566–92/658625–68), for the purpose of completing an excavation begun in 2010 (Permit No. A-5840; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Hanit and Yossi Hason, the property owners, was directed by Y. Elisha (photography), with the assistance of A. Danzinger (area supervision), E. Bachar (administration), C. Ben-Ari (GPS) and M. Kunin (surveying and drafting). The author wishes to thank R. Lupu for the information and plans from her excavation at the site.
Khirbat al-Bira is located c. 1.5 km north of Nahal Beit ‘Arif
, in an area of limestone hills in the lower Shephelah and Lod Shephelah. Past surveys and excavations carried out at the site and in its environs revealed remains of small rural settlements consisting mainly of farmsteads dating from the Iron Age II to the Early Islamic period, as well as numerous installations, tombs, quarries, rock-cuttings and farming terraces (Gophna and Beit-Arieh 1997
: Sites 33–36; ‘Azab 2013
). The surveys and excavations conducted in and around the site indicate that the settlement remains at Khirbat el-Bira apparently extend over an area of c. 30 dunams in a ravine and on a moderate spur descending westward, whereas the settlement’s farmland stretched to its west, in a small valley with terra rossa
Remains of a colonnaded building dating to the Iron Age II, agricultural installations, stone clearance heaps, rock-cuttings and terrace walls were exposed in an excavation conducted at the site in 2010 (Permit No. A-5840). That excavation was halted after two burial caves and a cist tomb (F66) were discovered. The current excavation was intended to complete the exposure of the antiquities in this part of the area.
The excavation of a limekiln (L10; Figs. 2, 3) hewn in limestone bedrock was completed. A cist tomb (L11; Fig. 4) was cleaned c. 30 m north of the kiln; the tomb, which was found without a covering or finds, appears to have been plundered. A courtyard (L12; Figs. 5, 6) located just east of Tomb 11 was identified in 2010 as belonging to a burial cave; it was cleaned again in the current excavation. A stone that blocked the opening of a tunnel (L13; exposed length 1.3 m, width 0.7 m; Fig. 7) was exposed in the southeastern corner of the courtyard. The tunnel’s ceiling was found in a state of disintegration and therefore was only partially excavated. The tunnel led to an elongated cavity (L14; 1.5 × 3.0 m), in which several non-diagnostic body sherds were discovered. A building dating to the Roman period was exposed above the courtyard in the 2010 excavation. No evidence was found in the courtyard, tunnel or elongated cavity indicating that they were part of a burial cave. The tunnel and cavity that were revealed may have been part of a hiding refuge tunnel that was damaged during the development work at the site and probably dates to the Roman period. The cist tomb was apparently later than the tunnel and may date to the Byzantine period; the limekiln postdates the tomb.
Gophna R. and Beit-Arieh I. 1997. Map of Lod (80) (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.