During April–May 2001 a trial excavation was conducted in Neighborhood H, in Shoham (Permit No. A-3410*; map ref. NIG 20673/64517; OIG 15673/14517), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Industrial Buildings Ltd., was directed by H. Torgë and A. Golani, with the assistance of R. Abu-Khalaf (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), T. Sagiv (photography) and E. Hadad.
The area where the excavation was located, along the top of a gentle hill and toward the bottom of its eastern slope, had been excavated in the past (HA–ESI 112; ‘Atiqot, in print). Sixteen probes (2 x 2 m) were opened on the hill, in places where hewn installations were visible, or surface seemed to indicate settlement remains. In addition, five trial trenches were dug by mechanical equipment. Architectural remains from the Early Islamic period were discovered in three of the squares (Areas A–C), which were subsequently expanded. The size of the site is estimated at three dunams.
Area A. Four squares (a total of 10 × 10 m) were opened on the hilltop, revealing the remains of a building from the Umayyad period (Fig. 1). The walls (W502, W507) were built of fieldstones and preserved one course high. A rock-cut threshold was uncovered in the bedrock-hewn part of the building’s main wall (W502). Part of a room (1) was exposed to the east of W502. Its floor was founded on the smoothed bedrock (L18) in the northern section, and in the southern section it consisted of beaten soil and large paving stones (L47). Stone collapse overlaid the floor, which abutted the southern wall (W507) of the room. Remains of another room (2) were visible to the west of W502; they were delineated on the south by a robber trench that was probably the western continuation of W507. To the south of the robber trench was a floor of meticulously arranged pavers (L45), whose northern edge ended in a straight line where it apparently abutted the wall. Segments of a plaster floor (L51) that had probably abutted the plundered wall in the past were discovered to the north of the trench. A large stone collapse (L48), which covered large sections of the plaster floor (L51), was mostly removed. A well-preserved entrance threshold built of ashlar stones was discovered, in situ, near the collapse. The threshold was incorporated in a wall (W501) that did not survive and was oriented east–west; it probably extended originally toward W502. The threshold was blocked in a later phase by several fieldstones that were carefully set in place. To the southeast of W501 was a beaten-earth floor (L42) that extended as far as the line of the wall. The area was not completely excavated, which precluded the determination whether the two rooms belonged to the same phase or Room 2 was a later addition to Room 1. A section of a wall, which may suggest the existence of another room that was not excavated, was visible to the north of W502. To the south of Room 1, several rows of well-placed stones were not fully excavated, but may indicate the continuation of the building southward.
Area B (7 × 8 m) was opened to the southeast of Area A and east of a bedrock outcrop. Wall remains, incorporated with the roughly dressed bedrock, and floors that evidence two constructions phases (Fig. 2), were excavated. A rectangular building with three walls (W500, W504, W510), whose western side was merged with the high bedrock outcrop, was erected. The building’s southern wall (W500) consisted of an outer face, built of large fieldstones roughly dressed on their exposed side, and an inner face of small and medium-sized fieldstones. A floor (L37), which included sections of beaten earth, leveled bedrock outcrops, and medium and large paving stones, abutted the northern side of W500, which probably formed a corner with W510––built of small and medium-sized fieldstones. The outer face of W504 was integrated with a bedrock outcrop that was hewn to serve as a foundation for W504, on whose sides were leveled bedrock surfaces. The robber trench (L26) of Wall 511, which contained mortar and other binding remains, was discovered west of W504. The trench continued northward, where another room seems to have existed. To the east of the robber trench was a pavement segment (L14) that included medium-sized paving stones in the east and an industrial mosaic (size of tesserae 2 × 2 cm) in the west. To the west of the trench, another pavement that had two phases was discerned. The early phase (L19) consisted of medium-sized paving stones that were placed next to each other and formed a uniform surface; its eastern end abutted the robber trench and its western end abutted the bedrock outcrop. Floor 19 was overlaid with a section of a white plaster floor (L3; thickness 1 cm) that continued westward, where it consisted of medium-sized stones, and southward, where it abutted the bedrock outcrop. A scant amount of potsherds, dating to the Umayyad period, was discovered between the two floor levels and on bedrock.
A wall (W508) discovered in the southern part of the area may suggest the continuation of the building. Between W508 and W500 was a layer of beaten earth mixed with crushed chalk (L46) that abutted the two walls.
Area C. On the northeastern slope of the hill three soundings were opened, revealing light gray layers of beaten soil and chalk, along with several wall stumps and a robber trench. The finds indicate that this region was incorporated within the settlement.
Other Excavation Squares. Six probes were opened on the hilltop and along its eastern and northeastern slopes, aiming to determine the limits of the settlement. Indicative remains were discovered in only two squares, including stone collapse in one and a layer of light gray soil, similar to that discerned in Area C, in the other.
Installations. A hewn trough (L2; 0.54 × 2.41 m, depth 0.39 m; Fig. 3) was exposed on the bedrock outcrop at the western end of Area B. A shallow step was hewn on either side, to the north and south of the trough. A mass of piled long bones in secondary burial that belonged to two adult individuals and a child was discovered inside the southern part of the trough. The burial could not be dated. To the southeast of the trough was a shallow winepress that included an irregular-shaped, bedrock-hewn and crudely smoothed treading surface, which led to a collecting vat (diam. 0.8 m, depth 0.33 m).
To the east of the winepress that was excavated in 1977 (HA–ESI 111:45*), a water cistern (L17; Fig. 4), was discovered. The cistern was clover shaped––circular with two hewn oval niches on the sides. The upper part of a plastered wall was exposed in the eastern niche. The water cistern, which contained a pile of human and animal bones, was probably converted for a different use, possibly for burial. The excavation of the cistern was suspended after the discovery of the human bones. Analysis of the bones prior to the suspension of work indicated that the bones belonged to at least two adult individuals, one 20–30 years of age and the other, over 60 years of age, as well as a child, less than 10 years of age.
To the north of Area A, the opening of an arcosolium burial was discovered. The tomb was ajar and after the anteroom and the two arcosolia were partially excavated, it was ascertained that its walls had been enlarged and rounded. At the western end of the southern arcosolium was a hewn opening, whose top was excavated. The opening led to the west. It seems that the tomb was converted into an installation, possibly an underground storehouse, when the site was occupied.
The pottery finds recovered from all the excavation areas included bowls (Fig. 5:1–3) kraters (Fig. 5:6, 12, 13), a cooking pot (Fig. 5:14), jars (Fig. 5:7, 15, 16), a jug (Fig. 5:8), juglets, oil lamps (Fig. 5:9, 10) and part of a glass window. In most of the squares large quantities of jar rims and a few cooking pot sherds were found and it seems that there were storehouses and farm installations in this region. The ceramic finds also included Late Roman Ware bowls (Fig. 5:11) and Fine Byzantine Ware cups and bowls (Fig. 5:4, 5). These vessel types point to an affluent population that resided here.
The architectural remains apparently belong to a large farmstead that included a courtyard with installations. The two phases at the site date to the Early Islamic period.