Phase I compriseds farmhouse consisting of a courtyard surrounded by rooms. Four rooms were found along the courtyard’s western wall (W50.013). The northwestern room was excavated in its entirety, and two openings were revealed in it. One opening (width 0.8 m), situated next to a wall (W50.015) that divided the room into two spaces (L511, L560; Fig. 4), led northward, out the farmhouse compound. The location of the opening, at one side of the wall rather than in its center, is a phenomenon found in other entrances elsewhere in the farmhouse. Two dressed stones that formed a broad entrance threshold (width 1.05 m) were identified in the center of W50.015. The eastern part of the room was paved with stones, and a habitation level made of tamped earth was identified in its western part. Three adjacent rooms (L554, L550, L548) were located to the south. It was not possible to determine with certainty if they were large spaces or, like the northwestern room, were divided into two spaces. A habitation of tamped earth was exposed in Room 550; the excavation ended before the floors of the two other rooms were reached. Other rooms were situated along the southern wall of the courtyard (W50.019). The compound was not fully excavated; hence, it was not possible to determine the precise number of rooms it contained. A room that was entered from the east and which was divided into two spaces, one small (L531) and one large (L533; Fig. 5), was found near the courtyard’s northern wall (W50.005). There were probably two doorways in the small space. One led into the courtyard, whose original size is unclear because it was covered with collapsed stones, and another was a relatively narrow opening (width 0.5 m) in the eastern wall (W50.009) that led out of the farm compound. The large space was L-shaped and paved with flagstones. The pavement was 0.13 m lower than the base of the room’s northern wall (W50.000). The difference in elevations between the pavement and the surrounding surface indicates that some of the farmhouse’s rooms were partially dug into the ground. It seems that the farm’s central courtyard was on the surface, whereas one or two steps (which were not discovered) led down to the floor in some of the rooms. Wall segments (W50.021) that were exposed north of the courtyard suggest the presence of another room or rooms which were not excavated. Two rooms (L527, L553) were constructed inside the compound's courtyard. Room 527 had two openings, one in its eastern wall (W50.002; width of opening 1.07 m), apparently the main entrance to the farm, in which there was a built threshold, and another in the northern wall (W50.008; width of the opening was unclear due to collapsed stones), without a built threshold, which led into the courtyard. A habitation level made of tamped earth was exposed in the room.
An examination of the farm’s early construction phase reveals that the courtyard floor and the floors in the rooms were not at the same elevation; nor were the floors of the rooms uniform in elevation. The elevation of the habitation level in the courtyard was probably the surface level at the time when the building was constructed. There was a descent of c. 0.5 m from the central courtyard into the northern rooms. The floor of the southwestern rooms and the floor of Room 553 were 0.35 m and c. 0.1 m lower, respectively, than the courtyard. These differences in floor levels reinforce the hypothesis that the main entrance to the farm compound was through Room 527.
Phase II. In the late phase, three adjacent rooms were built east of the central courtyard. Their walls were constructed of a combination of fieldstones and dressed stones, which were larger than those of the earlier walls. Several installations, either built or dug in the ground, were found in the two northern rooms (Fig. 6). The construction of a course above W50.002 indicates that the rooms were built after the wall had collapsed. Habitation levels that were identified in the eastern rooms were c. 0.15 m higher than the level of the courtyard, unlike the habitation levels of the early phase, which were at a lower elevation than the courtyard. The nature of the installations and the elevation of the levels indicate that the rooms were an addition to the existing farmhouse structure. An Umayyad fals (post-reform) that dates from the first half of the eighth century CE (IAA 154639) was found where an early wall (W50.002) was connected to a later wall (W50.003). Other remains ascribed to the last usage of the farm were found in the western part of the courtyard—remains of a tabun (L546), the adjacent remains of an installation (L552)—and a tamped layer of ash and soil, c. 15 cm above the level of the stone pavement in the northern room (L532); these attest to the continued use of early farmhouse during the later phase.
Material Finds. Almost no artifacts were found in the excavated sections of the courtyard. Most of the finds were from the excavated farmhouse rooms, but they were meager and included a scant amount of pottery sherds (below) and glass fragments (not drawn). The pottery sherds included bowls of various sizes (Fig. 7:1–11), a cooking pot lid (Fig. 7:12), jugs (Fig. 8:1–8), jars (Fig. 8:9–15), a lamp (Fig. 8:16) and Mafjar type vessels (Fig. 8:17, 18). Several vessels are characteristic of the Early Islamic period, such as the Mafjar ware (Whitcomb 1988:53), jars that have a tall neck (Cohen-Finkelstein 1997:31*–32*) and vessels made of light cream-yellow clay (Figs. 7:1, 6–8; 8:1). Another group of vessels is the serving ware characterized by thin walls, levigated clay, ‘metallic’ firing and a dark core (Figs. 7:2–4, 9; 8:6). Many of the vessels have a matte slip (red, white and black; Fig. 8:4) that was applied after firing. Sometimes patterns were painted with a brush on the slip (Fig. 8:18); vessels of this type are known as Marble Ware (Arnon 2007:39–40, 49). The lamp is made of light colored clay and has an upright, a tongue-like handle, a gutter around the fill-hole, and it bears a mold-made floral pattern. The lamp is almond-shaped, and belongs to a type that first appears toward the end of the seventh century CE (Cohen-Finkelstein 1997) or, as revealed in the Bet Sheʽan excavations, in the mid-eighth century CE (Hadad 1999:212).
With the exception of a single bowl fragment from the Late Byzantine period (Fig. 7:13), which must have “rolled” into the excavation from the nearby Byzantine farm (Permit No. A-7026), the assemblage contains no Byzantine pottery types. It is also interesting to note that glazed pottery, which started to appear in the region in the late eighth century CE (Taxel 2014:119), was not found at the site. Other finds included a variety of stone implements used in the processing of food (Fig. 9:1–5), including beachrock (Fig. 9:2) and limestone (Fig. 9:3) grinding stones. The use of beachrock as a raw material for grinding stones is a known phenomenon of the Early Islamic period (Kletter 2005:91). In addition, a fragment of a basalt ‘donkey’ millstone (Fig. 9:5) and a fragment of an architectural element, probably a column base (Fig. 9:6), were found.
Both of the building phases and the use of the farm are dated to the end of the eighth century CE. A farm was exposed at Newe Menahem that is later than the farms that were excavated in the Ramot Nof neighborhood in Be’er Sheva‘ (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994). It is the only one that was revealed in the region that dates to the Abbasid period and no remains of a Byzantine farm are below it. Several farms dating to the Early Islamic period were excavated in recent years in the northern Negev: at Hura (Peretz 2012) and Lahavim (South; Permit No. A-7415); these are characterized by a single farm structure with a central courtyard surrounded by rooms, and two construction phases were identified there. The farm at Newe Menahem was built later than the farm at Hura, however, it corresponds to the second phase at Hura when rooms were added to an existing courtyard building. These farms join the Early Islamic villages that were excavated in the northern Negev (Peretz 2015; Permit Nos. A-6304, A-7178, A-7243).