In March 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted near Nahal Be’er Sheva‘ (Permit No. A-7654; map ref. 177693/569917), prior to construction of a new neighborhood in Be’er Sheva‘. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by N.D. Michael (Field Photography), with the assistance of M. Kahan (surveying and drawing).
The excavation (c. 65 sq m; Fig. 1), located 50–100 m south of Nahal Be’er Sheva‘, exposed a circular limekiln. Prior to the excavation, a concentration of fieldstones was visible on the surface of the site, and sherds of Black Gaza Ware from the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods were scattered throughout the area. The area was surveyed in 2013 (License No. S-447/2013).
The limekiln comprised of circular pit (L213, L218; inner diam. c. 2.5 m; Figs. 2, 3), partially dug into the loess soil and delimited by a wall (W205; preserved height 1.3 m) built of a single row of large fieldstones, with smaller fieldstones added for support. It was enforced on the southeast by a second wall (W202; preserved height 1 m) built along the outer face of W205 of one row of fieldstones (total width c. 1 m). The interior face of the kiln was most likely coated with mud, as indicated by traces of red burnt mud on the stones of the interior face of W205 and between them (Fig. 4), as well as on collapsed stones around the structure; these collapsed stones probably belonged to the walls of the kiln and the possibly to a ceiling. Since the walls curve slightly inward, the kiln may have originally carried a dome-shaped ceiling which was built of the fieldstones that later collapsed into the structure. Dome-shaped ceilings were uncovered in two limekilns excavated in the Be’
er Sheva‘ area (Negev 2002
An air channel (L215; width c. 0.2 m, height 0.5 m; Figs. 5, 6) built of partially dressed stones and large flat stones was installed through Walls 202 and 205 on the southeastern side of the kiln. The channel facilitated air circulation into the limekiln during the firing.
The kiln was emptied out before it was abandoned. Only a few remains of crushed lime and charcoal were found on its floor. No diagnostic finds which could have provided a precise date for its construction and use were discovered when excavating the limekiln.
Judging by the pottery sherds scattered over the surface of the excavation area, as well as the limekiln’s good state of preservation, it appears to have been constructed around 1900 CE or even later, when widespread settlement took place around the newly founded city of Be’
er Sheva‘. Several limekilns have been excavated in the Be’er Sheva‘ basin. Two kilns similar in size to that exposed in the current excavation were excavated at the sites of Nah
al ‘Ashan (Negev 2002
) and Tel Aro‘er (Negev 2003
). However, both limekilns lacked built walls, and according to the author, only their dome-shaped roofs were built of stone. Further north, at Nahal Lakhish, several limekilns were uncovered, some of which were partially hewn into the bedrock and partially built of fieldstones (Fraiberg 2013).
Negev N. 2002. Tel Aro‘er (north). HA-ESI 114:119*.
Negev N. 2003. Nahal ‘Ashan. HA-ESI 115:64*.