Pen 20. The building, located at the bottom of a slope, was probably rectangular in plan (width 14 m, length unknown; Fig. 3). It was built of medium-sized roughly hewn stones and preserved two courses high. Two walls found inside the western part of the building appear to have enclosed an inner room (L155), where a few potsherds from the Byzantine or Early Islamic period were found (not drawn).
Dwelling Cave 39. The entrance to the cave lies at the foot of a slope, near a system of agricultural terrace walls. The entrance leads to a stepped passageway that leads to a chamber hewn in the calcareous rock (4.0 × 5.8 m; Fig. 4). A niche (height and depth 0.9 m, 0.6 m above the floor) was discovered in the northwest corner. Since no finds were recovered, the cave was impossible to date. According to the local villagers, the chamber was cleaned and used again in the modern era.
Building 19.The building, which is almost square (6 × 7 m; walls preserved two courses high; Fig. 5), is located on a hilltop and commands a view of the surrounding region; it was built of local fieldstones laid directly on the bedrock and probably had an entrance in its north wall. Two potsherds dating from the Ottoman period were found inside the building.
Open Mosque(?) 47
. The structure, located on a hilltop, is elliptical (4.15 ×
4.80 m; Figs. 6, 7) with a niche protruding on its south side—probably a mihrab
(prayer niche). The structure is very similar to the open mosque unearthed at Ramat Barne‘a (Avni 1992
:75*–76*, Fig. 8). No diagnostic finds were retrieved that could serve to date the structure.
Water Cisterns 15 and 54. The cisterns were hewn in the limestone rock at a low elevation, to enable runoff water to drain into them. When the cisterns were in use, they may have been fed by channels. Cistern 15 has a square opening (0.5 × 0.5 m; Fig. 8) in its south corner. Its interior is trapezoidal in plan (4.0 × 4.5 m; depth 3.8 m). The cistern, which according to the locals was still in use in the modern era, yielded no diagnostic finds.
Installation 11. An elliptical installation (max. diam. c. 7 m; Figs. 9, 10) was built of fieldstones set on the bedrock and preserved to the height of a single course. Its purpose is not clear; soil samples taken for laboratory analysis provided no explanation. The few sherds that were found were mostly body fragments of Byzantine or Early Islamic pottery.
Semi-Circular Walls 23, 46 and 65. These semi-circular walls were found on the lower part of several slopes and built of large fieldstones set on the bedrock and preserved to a height of two courses. The walls were designed to create leveled plots for runoff-based agriculture. A flat topsoil layer was found on top of the natural rocky soil in the area delineated by W46 (length 22 m; Fig. 11). All the remains yielded potsherds from the Byzantine, Early Islamic or Ottoman periods.
Terrace Walls 21, 22, 30, 43 and 44
(Fig. 12). This system of agricultural terraces was apparently used for runoff-based agriculture. It harnessed rainwater that flowed down the hillsides to irrigate stepped plots formed by the terrace walls, which were constructed across a small, dry steam beds; the plots were delineated by walls on their sides as well. According to the local population, they were still in use in modern times. Most of the terrace walls, which are built of four courses of large fieldstones, were unearthed beneath modern stone-clearance piles consisting of small, randomly arranged stones. No pottery or other finds were retrieved from the plots. Agricultural plots of this type are a familiar feature in the Negev, were the ancient settlement reached its zenith during the Byzantine period (Avni, Avni and Porat 2009
Dams 1, 2, 7, 56 and 58. Dam walls built were across both wide streambeds (e.g., 56, 58) and very narrow ones (e.g., 1, 2, 7). Their style of construction resembles that of the terrace walls, with courses of large and medium-sized fieldstones that were designed to slow the water flow. One of the dams (58; Fig. 13) had been breached by the force of the water.
Tomb 50 (Fig. 14). The tomb, uncovered on a hilltop, comprised three parallel cells aligned along an east–west axis and an antechamber on its east side. The northern cell contained the skeleton of a 20–35-year-old woman facing southward, following the Muslim burial custom. A single Mamluk potsherd was found in the tomb.
Stone Heaps 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 55 and 61. The stone heaps are composed of small and medium-sized stones; most are on a hilltop or high up on a slope. No archaeological finds were recovered.
Pottery (Fig. 15).A meager amount of pottery was retrieved, and only few specimens were diagnostic: a cup (Fig. 15:1), an LRC bowl (Fig. 15:2), two bowls with characteristic Mamluk decoration (Fig. 15:3, 4), a jug (Fig. 15:15) and gray jars dating from the Ottoman period (Fig. 15:6–9).
The excavation results indicate intensive agricultural activity in the region, mainly during the Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. This activity transformed the landscape through the construction of terrace walls and dams across streambeds, semi-circular walls on the slopes, as well as rock-hewn installations and cisterns.