In November 2018, a trial excavation was conducted in Sefat Emet Street, in Neighborhood B of Ramat Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A-8374; map ref. 199623–72/627696–762; Fig. 1), prior to the erection of a public building. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Bet Shemesh Municipality, was directed by M. Balila (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), N. Benenstein-Taich (antiquities inspection), S. Gendler (metal detection), E. Marco (aerial photography and photogrammetric documentation), H. Bitan (GIS) and A. Eirikh-Rose and Y. Zelinger (scientific consultation).
The excavation was conducted c. 200 m to the south of H
orbat ‘Illin. A previous survey documented several sites (Dagan 2010
: Sites 11.2, 33.1, 33.2, 34.1, 34.2, 35–37, 39, 40). Excavations at Upper H
orbat ‘Illin (the north side of the ruins) unearthed settlement remains, burial caves, plastered pits and installations dating from the Hellenistic to the Abbasid periods (Weksler-Bdolah 2012
), as well Early Islamic architectural remains (Greenhut 2004
). Lower H
orbat ‘Illin (the south side of the ruins) yielded remains from the Early Bronze Age I (Braun 2004
) and architectural remains from the Early Bronze Age IB (Mizrahi 2012
Prior to the current excavation, development work with mechanical equipment at the site encountered rock cuttings, prompting the ensuing excavation. The excavation yielded two clusters of hewn elements (A, B; Fig. 2), located c. 20 m apart. These included installations—the remains of a winepress, a bodeda and cupmarks—two vertical shafts and five rectangular rock-cuttings leading to an underground cavity via hewn steps. These rock-cut areas may have served as entrances to ritual baths or antechambers to burial caves. The shafts and rectangular rock-cuttings had negated some of the installations; they were not fully excavated out of concern that they might be burials.
Cluster A. A level rock outcrop hewn in numerous places was uncovered in the eastern part of the cluster. The first installation hewn here was apparently a winepress; it was damaged by subsequent quarrying. The winepress’s roughly hewn, irregularly shaped treading floor was preserved (L100; 3.5 × 5.5 m, 0.14 m deep; Figs. 3, 4). The location of the winepress’s collecting vat could not be established, as it may have been obliterated by later quarrying (below). A shallow rectangular surface hewn in the southwest side of the rock outcrop (L106; 0.40 × 0.85 m, 8 cm deep; Fig. 5) drained eastward through a shallow channel. It may have been part of the winepress and served for piling up the treaded grapes for secondary treading aimed at extracting every last drop of must.
To the east of Surface 106 was a rectangular cutting (L107; 0.85 × 2.00 m; Fig. 6)— probably an entrance to a burial cave; it may have destroyed the winepress’s collecting vat. Two vertical shafts (L104, L108) hewn in the northern and eastern parts of the rock outcrop led to an underground cavity located beneath the hewn winepress.A channel (0.9 × 1.0 m, 1.7 m excavated depth; Fig. 7), natural in part and roughly hewn in part, led to Shaft 104 from the west; it is not clear whether the channel was in any way associated with the winepress’s treading floor. Shaft 104 may have been cut into the winepress’s original collecting vat and thus destroyed it. Shaft 108 (0.9 m diam., 1.2 m excavated depth; Fig. 8) was carelessly hewn, and a square frame was cut around its mouth.
Four round cupmarks (L117, L119, L121) were also hewn into the rock outcrop; these may have served for milling and grinding grain.
A bodeda (Fig. 9) cut into a separate, small rock outcrop was unearthed immediately to the west of the large rock outcrop. It comprised an elliptical pressing surface (L110; 0.40 × 0.55 m, 0.25 m deep) that drained into a round basin (L111). The bodeda was apparently used to produce olive oil.
In the western part of Cluster A were two north–south rectangular rock cuttings (L114, L116; 0.8 × 2.0 m each; Figs. 10, 11) with steps leading to an underground cavity. As they were only partially excavated, their use and date could not be determined, but they may have served as antechambers to ritual baths or burial caves.
Complex B. The excavation unearthed a roughly smoothed surface (L102; Fig. 12) sloping slightly to the northeast and delineated to the south by a low, rock-hewn wall. This may be part of a winepress which was never completed. A round cupmark cut to the southeast of the surface may have served as a stand for a jar.
To the north and south of Surface 102 were two rectangular rock cuttings, one (L112; 0.8 × 2.0 m; Fig. 13)on a north–south alignment and the other (L115; 0.8 × 1.8 m; Fig. 14) on an east–west alignment. The rock surface around Rock Cutting 112 was smoothed; the surface was delineated to the west and the north by natural rock walls, whereas on its south side it was enclosed by a hewn rock wall. The two rock cuttings were only partially excavated, but it seems that they were used as entrances to burial caves.
The excavation unearthed rock-hewn installations associated with agricultural activity—most probably for the production of wine and olive oil—in the region. Nevertheless, due to the paucity of diagnostic finds, it is difficult to establish when they were hewn and used. The underground installations were only partially excavated for halakhic reasons, and it was therefore impossible to determine their nature and the period of their use. The area appears to have been used as a burial ground in the later periods.
Braun E. 1994. Lower Horvat ‘Illin. ESI 12:79–80.
Dagan Y. 2010.The Ramat Bet Shemesh Regional Project: The Gazetteer (IAA Reports 46). Jerusalem.
Greenhut Z. 2004. Early Islamic remains at Horbat ‘Illin (Upper). ‘Atiqot 47:15*–32* (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 210–211).
Mizrahi S. 2012. Bet Shemesh, Wadi ‘Illin. HA-ESI 124.
Weksler-Bdolah S. 2012. Horbat ‘Illin (Upper): Rock-Cut Installations from the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Periods, and Remains of a Settlement from the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods. ‘Atiqot 71:13–75 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 112*–116*).