Area A1 – The Farmhouse and an Oil Press Complex
A farmhouse at the northeastern edge of the hill in Area A, on the slope facing Nahal ‘Anava and ‘Anava Park, was partly excavated in the past (Onn et al. 2002). In addition to fully exposing the farmhouse, the current excavation revealed a limekiln from the Ottoman period and agricultural terraces, some dating to the Abbasid period (eighth century CE) and others to the Ottoman period (nineteenth century CE), in its immediate vicinity.
The farmhouse (Fig. 2), comprising two strata, was exposed on the upper part of the slope. The farmhouse in Stratum 1 is dated to the Umayyad period (seventh century – early eighth century CE) and consisted of two wings, each with five preserved rooms. Remains of the earlier walls of Stratum 2 could be seen in several of the rooms below the walls of the farmhouse. These walls were oriented differently from those of the farmhouse.
Stratum 2, dating to the sixth century CE, revealed wall remains of a building that was probably a dwelling, and next to it the remains of a stable and an oil press. The stable was identified on the basis of three mangers and a trough. It seems to date to the Byzantine period (sixth century CE).
A cistern and staircase were discovered on the high bedrock to the west of the mangers. The upper part of the staircase was rock-cut and delineated a level bedrock surface that had several colored tesserae in its southeastern corner. The negatives of walls that were part of a building that did not survive were apparent to the east, south and west of the bedrock surface. The bottom part of the staircase was constructed. Its eastern part sealed a section of wall built of ashlars, some of which had drafted margins that also date from the sixth century CE. The wall adjoined the eastern end of a natural cave.
The cave consisted of two parts delimited by ashlar-built walls that protruded north, beyond the area under the cave’s ceiling (Fig. 3). The eastern part of the cave was paved with stones on which two large basins were revealed (Fig. 4). A staircase with three steps, at the top of which was an entrance threshold, led to the western part of the cave. An oil press was set up inside the cave (Fig. 5). All of its components were found: a pressing installation, two piers and a crushing installation, and a nearby collecting vat and a screw base. The oil press was sealed by the massive heaps of debris resulting from a collapse of the cave’s ceiling, which occurred in the late sixth century CE. Covering the ceiling remains were collapsed ashlars and architectural elements—capitals, a threshold stone, a leg of a marble table—probably of a building that gave way when the cave’s ceiling fell. A later pavement, which abutted the corner of walls delimiting it from the north and west, was discovered in the western part of the cave. The floor was ascribed to the Umayyad period and postdated the collapse of the cave. A refuse pit discovered under the southern part of the pavement contained numerous pottery sherds, all of which date from the sixth century CE.
It seems that the cave gave way in stages, as reinforcements for supporting the ceiling put in place when the oil press was still in use were visible in many spots in the area. However, these measures did not prevent the eventual collapse of the ceiling that sealed the oil press.
Areas A2, B and C – Field Installations
One hundred twenty one installations of various types were found in these areas.
Seventeen field towers were found, of which eight were excavated (Figs. 6–8). Also excavated were six limekilns, of which several date to the Late Ottoman period (early nineteenth century CE; Figs. 9, 10); walls delimiting an enclosure, possibly an animal pen or an orchard (Fig. 11), that were partially excavated; and two complexes comprising rock-hewn basins and cupmarks. Mechanical equipment was used to investigate twelve caves and underground cavities; no remains of ancient activity were found in them.
Two ancient roads bounded by thick walls were identified in the western part of the excavation (Area C). Several trial squares were excavated down to the bedrock across the roads (Fig. 12).
A winepress (Fig. 13), a small trough and an installation used to extract oil (bodeda) dating to the Iron Age were identified and excavated near farmhouse in Area A1. A large cistern that was identified to the southeast of the farmhouse was not excavated due to safety factors.
Other field installation (Fig. 14)—fences, enclosure walls, terraces, stone clearance heaps and heaps of stones ready for burning in kilns—were selectively excavated and documented by means of GPS and aerial photography.
Areas A3, A4
Most of the finds were concentrated in two areas on the southern and southwestern slopes of Area A. On the southern slopes (Area A3; Fig. 15), eight agricultural terraces founded on bedrock were examined, and a wide variety of flint tools, flakes and debitage, as well as a large amount of weathered natural flint were found.
Flint items were scattered throughout Area A3. They originated both in human activity on the hilltops and from the weathering of the flint nodules strewn in the area. The area was characterized by large bedrock outcrops, numerous terrace walls and natural accumulations of soil (rendzina/terra rossa); where examined, the soil was shallow (max. depth 0.5 m).
On the southwestern slope (Area A4), deeper probes were conducted in two places. The first yielded a field tower that abutted a terrace wall. To the north of the wall was a surface of natural soil with a concentration of flint items. The second yielded an enclosure comprising a long central wall (c. 20 m), running in a general north–south direction, adjoined on the west by smaller walls (1.5–3.0 m) that may have delimited rooms; the wall that delimited the rooms on the west had apparently been robbed. Several sections were excavated down to bedrock, and the soil was carefully sifted. The finds included a variety of flint items: scrapers, denticulates, awls, drills, retouched items, cores, flakes, chunks and chips. The items in this area were fresher, and less natural material from weathered nodules was found. The majority of flint items date from the PPNA (9,500–8,500 BCE), and only a few were produced using the Levallois technique and date from the Middle Paleolithic period (250,000/200,000–40,000 YBP).
Installations, terraces, limekilns and field towers comprise the main finds in the western and northern excavation areas. Most of the installations and terraces cannot be dated, although the construction method of several of the limekilns and a few of the pottery sherds that were discovered around them suggest that they were built in the late eighteenth – early nineteenth centuries CE.
A prehistoric site was discovered on the southern slope of Area A. Surveys and excavations conducted in the area have shown that the PPNA is the predominant prehistoric period represented on most of the hills around Modi‘in. The provenance of the flint scatter is very likely a site located on the hilltop. It probably washed down the southern slopes of the hill as a result of natural erosion, possibly aided by cleaning and leveling done on the upper part of the hill in later periods. Similar phenomena—eroded sites without any architectural remains—are known elsewhere throughout the Modi‘in region. The site adds to our knowledge about the PPNA finds in the Modi‘in region, it illustrates how the flint was carried down the slope in post-depositional processes and supplements our information on the Middle Paleolithic period.
The importance of the finds in the farmhouse and oil press is primarily the consequence of the collapse of the cave’s ceiling, which sealed the oil press and dates the duration of its use. The pottery discovered beneath the floors at the entrance to the oil press and to its east are dated to the early sixth century CE, while the sherds discovered beneath the caved-in ceiling date to the end of that century. The collapsed ashlars covering the collapsed boulders of the ceiling indicate that an entire building gave way. Several fragments of Phocean Ware decorated with crosses, an oil lamp with a cross handle and fragments of a marble table denote the religion of the inhabitants that resided there in the Byzantine period. There are quite a number of monasteries and churches throughout the region (Horbat Hammim, Mevo Modi‘in, Hermeshit, Horbat Hadat, Horbat Sher and north of Khirbat Umm el-‘Umdan), and it is thus possible that the building that collapsed together with the cave’s ceiling was part of a Christian house of worship.