The current excavation was conducted on a moderate rocky hill with several bedrock surfaces. It focused on the installations discovered in the survey: three caves, a winepress and a surface on which were several rock-cut installations (Fig. 2).
Cave 1 (3.6 × 4.5 m; Figs. 3, 4), partly excavated, was a natural cave entered by way of an irregular-shaped shaft that descended from the surface (L300; 1.2 × 1.6 m, depth 2.1 m). The cave’s interior was asymmetrical and consisted of several bedrock levels. No evidence of rock-cutting was discerned in the cave and the finds recovered in it were meager: a few fragments of pottery vessels, mainly jars (Fig. 5:4, 7), dating to the first century BCE–first century CE, several animal bones and two identical plain bronze rings (each 2.5 cm in diam.).
Cave 2 (2.80 × 2.85 m, max. height 1.25 m; Figs. 6, 7) was a natural cave that was adapted for use. Its interior was round. The cave’s opening (L400) faced north and two rock-cut steps (upper step—width 1.3 m, height 0.37 m; lower step—width 1.15 m, height 0.15 m) descended into the cave’s interior (L401), filled with earth and stones that yielded several fragments of non-diagnostic pottery sherds. A floor made of irregular stone slabs (F402; Fig. 8) was set on a layer of soil (L403) devoid of finds, c. 0.7 m above the cave floor. A small cupmark (diam. 0.12 m, depth 0.07 m) was hewn in the bedrock surface above the ceiling of the cave.
Cave 3 (Fig. 9), also a natural cave, showed traces of quarrying marks inside it. The cave’s opening (L100; 1.4 × 2.0 m) was irregular and faced east. From it, a short corridor (length 1.3 m, width 0.7 m, height 0.8 m) led to the cave’s interior. A stone wall (W103; preserved length 1.5 m; Fig. 10) consisting of two preserved courses of large fieldstones was set inside the corridor’s entrance, along the southern side of the cave. The cave’s interior was asymmetrical (L101; c. 4.8 × 7.3 m, average height 1.5 m). The northern part of the cave was left unexcavated, but a niche in the bedrock may indicate another opening that may have led to a cave to its north. An irregular-shaped installation (L102; 2.65 × 2.70 m, max. depth 1.2 m; Fig. 11) was hewn in the bedrock floor of the cave, next to the southwestern corner. Two plastered steps (upper step—height 0.5 m, lower step—height 0.45 m) descending from east to west led to the floor of the installation. A round niche (diam. 0.65 m, depth 0.35 m), also plastered, was hewn in the floor, close to its western side. The installation may have been a ritual bath (miqwe). A narrow rectangular rock-cutting (L104; length 0.7 m, width 0.2 m), of unclear purpose, was found c. 0.2 m east of the installation. Hewn in the cave’s ceiling was an elliptical opening (0.75 × 1.05 m), leading to the surface. Next to the opening, on the bedrock surface above the cave, was a hewn plastered rectangular depression (0.50 × 0.75 m, depth 0.35 m; Fig. 12) with narrow round holes (diam. 0.08–0.12 m) hewn in the floor in two of the corners that penetrated the cave’s interior.
Fragments of pottery vessels, mainly jars (Fig. 5:1–3, 5, 8–10) and cooking pots (Fig. 5:11) dating to the first century BCE–first century CE, were found in the cave.
Winepress 1 (Fig. 13) was hewn in a bedrock surface c. 5 m south of Cave 3. It was delimited on the south by a wall (W501; width 1.1 m, length 6 m, height 0.45 m) built of medium-sized fieldstones and had a large treading floor (L500; 4.0 × 4.4 m, max. hewn depth 0.6 m; Fig. 14) equipped with a hewn step (0.30 × 0.55 m, height 0.4 m) in its northeastern corner that was probably meant to provide access to the floor. A somewhat square-shaped depression (1.45 × 1.80 m, depth 0.6 m), of unclear purpose, was hewn in the eastern part of the treading floor, apparently after the winepress ceased to be used. A shallow channel led from the southeastern corner of the treading floor to a trapezoidal settling pit (L502; 0.90 × 1.05–1.20 m, depth 0.9 m). A triangular recess was in the eastern wall of the pit was probably a foothold, used to descend into it. Remains of plaster were visible in the southwestern corner of the settling pit. A through-hole in the northeastern corner of the pit led to a circular collecting vat (L503; diam. 1.2 m, depth 1.5 m; Fig. 15) that also had plaster remnants on its walls. Fragments of jars dating to the first century BCE–first century CE (Fig. 5:6) were found in the winepress.
Rock-Hewn Winepress and Basins (L200; Fig. 16, 17). In the southern part of the excavation area was a bedrock surface with a winepress and four hewn oval basins. The winepress, hewn in the southern part of the surface, had an irregular-shaped treading floor (L202; 1.5 × 1.8 m, max. hewn depth 0.25 m) that sloped from east to west. South of the surface was a hewn oval basin, probably a collecting vat (L201; 0.95 × 1.40 m, max. depth 0.25 m). East and northeast of the treading floor were four hewn oval basins (L203—1.15 × 1.30 m, depth 0.65 m; L204—1.1 × 1.2 m; L205—1.2 × 1.4 m; L206—1.1 × 1.3 m, max. depth 0.75 m); the northwestern end of Basin 206 was destroyed.
A scant amount of non-diagnostic pottery sherds was found on the bedrock surface. The function and purpose of the round rock-hewn basins is unclear.
The caves and agricultural installations attest to the region’s agrarian nature in ancient times. Judging by the meager finds discovered in the excavation, the caves and installations were used during the Early Roman period. If the installation in Cave 3 was a ritual bath, it was used by a Jewish population. Ritual baths adjacent to agricultural installations are a well-known phenomenon in the archeology of Israel. In the absence of finds from the Roman period at Horbat Zur, west of the excavation area, the caves and installations should be attributed to the estates of the residents of Shilo during this period.