During August–September 2000 and April–May 2001 excavations were conducted at Horbat Leved, Horbat Anusha and at installations in their vicinity (Firing Zone 203; Permits Nos. A-3270, A-3405; map ref. NIG 1977–2005/6608–6619; OIG 1477–1505/1608–1619). The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, were directed by O. Sion, with the assistance of M. Haiman, G. Parnos, G. Birman, H. Eliaz, U. ‘Ad and D. Sklar-Parnes (area supervision), H. Dangor and Y. Rahamim (administration), A. Hajian and V. Essman (surveying),
E. Belashov (drafting), T. Sagiv and C. Amit (photography), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology) and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass).
The excavation area extends across 3 sq km (Fig. 1) on the Samaria lowlands. Excavations were undertaken in the two ruins and in 59 agricultural installations, roads and quarries.
The Gofna-Antipatris Road
The road from Gofna to Antipatris demarcated the excavation area to the north. While cleaning a section (c. 40 m long) of the road, its southern curb (width 0.8 m) was exposed. The road (width 7 m) was paved with irregular-shaped flagstones; part of it was bedrock hewn. This road was part of the Roman road system, connecting the hill country in the region of Jerusalem to the coastal plain.
Horbat Leved (map ref. NIG 1982/6617; OIG 1482/1617)
The site (3.5 dunam) is located in the center of a flat platform. The excavations on the western fringes of the site revealed four rooms, wherein two main phases of construction were discerned. In the first phase, one unit, probably a farmhouse dating to the Byzantine period was built. In the second phase, which dated to the Early Islamic period, the building continued to be used and subsequent construction divided its rooms into secondary units. The finds included fragments of pottery and glass vessels from the Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid periods, as well as a stone decorated with a cross in relief.
Horbat Anusha (map ref. NIG 1994/6613; OIG 1494/1613)
The ruins extend across c. 10 dunam. Walls built of ashlars with drafted margins, and fieldstones were visible on surface. Some of the walls bore later construction of additional courses. An excavation square was opened in the center of the site to enable dating the remains. A circular building that may have been a guard tower was exposed. Based on the ceramic finds, the antiquity remains in the middle of the site should be dated to the Mamluk period.
Dozens of limekilns were scattered across the excavation area; eight were excavated. The lower part of the kilns was bedrock hewn and the upper part was built, but not preserved (outer diam. 4.4–7.5 m, depth 1.30–3.75 m). The wind tunnels in most of the kilns were built on the western side. The 14C analysis of the kilns revealed that all but one dated to the end of the Ottoman period.
Underground reservoir. The reservoir (outer dimensions 8.7 × 9.6 m) was using an abandoned quarry. It was covered with arches supported by two columns that were positioned in the center of the reservoir. The reservoir’s square opening was located in the ceiling, which probably functioned as the floor of a dwelling above it. A rock-cut manger was discovered south of the opening. The excavation ascertained that during the initial phase in the Byzantine period, a quarry existed at the site and in the second phase, dating to the Mamluk period, the reservoir and the building were constructed.
A Pool and Mosque (?). A pool (7.3 × 12.1 m, depth 2.8 m) and a settling vat to its southwest, which collected surface runoff, were discovered. A semi-circular rock cutting was at the bottom part of the vat’s southern wall. This was probably the mihrab of a mosque, dating to the Mamluk or Ottoman periods.
Quarries and Pools. Some 32 quarries, disperesed across an area of 90 dunams in the region south of Horbat Anusha, were documented. The cavities formed by the quarrying provided a suitable foundation for pools and reservoirs that were utilized for the highly developed irrigated farming, conducted, most likely, near the pools.
Two farmsteads in the heart of the agricultural areas were excavated. The two houses were small and plain, having two–three rooms each. The entrances faced east or south, taking advantage of the light and avoiding the western winds in the winter. The ceramic finds included pottery fragments from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. This type of farmstead is very common throughout the country.
Eight field towers, which are divided into the circular and square types, were excavated. They were built of dry construction, using mainly large roughly hewn stones, and were preserved 0.3–1.5 m high. Entrances were discovered in several of the towers, yet no signs of windows were discerned. In all of the towers, except one, evidence of activity in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods was found.
A single fortified tower (3.5 × 8.1 m; width of walls 1 m) that was located at the top of a spur overlooking the region was excavated. The ceramic finds included fragments of pottery vessels from Iron Age II, as well as the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. Another fortified tower was documented near a pool close to the Gofna-Antipatris road. It seems that this tower was used as a road station.
Agricultural Terraces and Dams
Hundreds of terraces and dams were surveyed, reaching the peak of their distribution in the Byzantine period. They caused changes in the natural landscape of the Samaria lowlands, until they became the prevailing feature of the countryside. Some twenty dams and terraces were excavated. The terraces were founded on bedrock and built of clearance stones, retaining the soil that accumulated behind them. The fieldstones and dry construction of the terraces allowed the surface runoff to flow easily through them, thereby preventing pressure from being exerted on the fences.
Dozens of dams were built in the small stream channels, such as Nahal Mazor and its local tributaries. They spanned the entire width of the channel and conformed to the length and gradient of the slope.
Stone Clearance Heaps
Hundreds of stone clearance heaps were discovered; nine were excavated. The diameters and height of the heaps differ (diam. 6.5–12.5 m, height 0.5–1.5 m); sometimes they were supported by a framework of large stones, standing three courses high.
Four cupmarks were cleaned; two were next to field towers (diam. 0.30–0.41 m, depth 0.21–0.30 m). The cupmarks were conical in section, except for one that had a rectangular cross-section.