During April 2012, a trial excavation was conducted in Ramat Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A-6484; map ref. 199874–920/623608–39), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by E. Kogan-Zehavi, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying), A. Peretz (field photography) L. Belashov (drafting), and C. Hersch (pottery drawing).
A quarry (L100; Fig. 3) was discovered in the southern part of the excavation area. A hewn L-shaped pit was found inside it, whose upper part was only exposed (depth to the level of the soil fill 1.2 m; Fig. 4). It was not excavated due to objections by extremist orthodox religious factions. The end of an arched opening that led to a rock-hewn cavity inside the bedrock was visible in each side of the pit. These cavities were blocked with soil and collapse from the bedrock ceiling. The rock-cuttings of the openings in the east and north were carelessly fashioned, whereas those in the west and south were meticulously done. The openings in the west and south were also lower than the other two openings. It seems that the four openings were not hewn at the same time. The pit and the openings in it might be part of a burial complex or a cross-shaped columbarium that is characteristic of the Judean Shephelah. A fragment of a Late Roman C red slipped bowl that is dated to the late sixth–early seventh centuries CE (Fig. 5:2) was discovered in the quarry.
A section of an agricultural enclosure wall (W2; length 6 m, width 0.7 m; Fig. 6) was exposed c. 5 m west of the quarry. It was built of fieldstones set on the bedrock and was preserved to a maximum of two courses high (0.5 m). Pottery finds that mainly dated to the Byzantine period were discovered next to the wall, including a Late Roman C red slipped bowl (Fig. 5:1) dating to the mid sixth century CE, a krater with a ledge rim and a wavy pattern decoration (Fig. 5:3), a hole-mouth jar (Fig. 5:6), a krater with a rim that protrudes outward (Fig. 5:8) and a jar with a rim that is thickened on the outside (Fig. 5:10). Other ceramic artifacts included a bowl with a rim that is thickened on the outside (Fig. 5:7) dating to the late Iron Age, and a jar with a flared rim and a long neck (Fig. 5:11), dating to the Early Roman period.
A section of a wide farming terrace (W1; width 2.5 m, height 1.3 m; Figs. 7, 8) was exposed in the northern part of the excavation area, c. 25 m northwest of Enclosure W2. The continuation of the terrace was apparent on the surface for a distance of hundreds of meters. The enclosure wall was built along a dirt road that led to Bet Natif, and it delimited the fields to its west. A probe excavated widthwise across Enclosure W1 revealed that it was founded on a thin layer of clayey soil, and was built of two rows of dressed limestone and a core of different size fieldstones that had probably been cleared from the adjacent fields. Modern objects were discovered in the wall’s core. At the bottom of the core were potsherds from the Ottoman period, including a porcelain cup decorated with a blue floral design (Fig. 5:4). A cup of this type is a continuation of the coffee cups that were very common in the Ottoman period and later (‘Atiqot 31:129–136, Pl. III: 5a, 5b). Other finds were two jars characteristic of the Ottoman period (Fig. 5:12, 13). The eastern side of Enclosure W1 was built on an earlier agricultural wall (W3; Figs. 9, 10). Wall 3 was built of two rows of large boulders and dressed stones in secondary use and was founded on the bedrock. The ceramic artifacts discovered on the bedrock included a jar rim from the Byzantine period (Fig. 5:9) and a flask rim decorated with blue paint dating to the Ottoman period (Fig. 5:5).
The excavation area was part of an extensive agricultural region. The enclosure walls in the excavation delimited cultivation plots. On the basis of the ceramic finds, Walls 2 and 3 were built in the Byzantine period, while Wall 1 was probably built in the Ottoman period and continued to be used to date. Recently, two nearby wells that had been renovated in the Ottoman period and continued to be used until the recent past were excavated (Permit No. A-6485). The renovation of the wells shows that intensive agricultural activity occurred in the vicinity during the Ottoman period.