During May–June 2000 a salvage excavation was conducted 1 km east of the Kabri junction (A-3217; map ref. NIG 214–5/768–9; OIG 164–5/268–9), prior to completing its expansion. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Public Works Department, was directed and photographed by H. Smithline, with the assistance of L. Porat, E.J. Stern and D. Syon (area supervision and numismatics), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Essman, T. Kornfeld, A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying), L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan (pottery drawing), A. Sasson (limekiln technology) and M. Aviam, who provided technical assistance.
The site had previously been surveyed by R. Frankel and was tentatively identified with Talmudic Kabrita. The excavation area was a long and narrow strip (5 × 120 m), along the southern margin of the road and on the periphery of the higher site to the north.
The Hellenistic Period. Remains from this period appeared in a number of loci upon bedrock, as well as in a large amount of fill material that was used during the Byzantine-period construction. The lower courses of two walls (width 0.6 m, height 1.0 m) that were erected on bedrock could be assigned to this period.
The Roman Period. A small amount of pottery fragments in the fill material represented the Early Roman period. A single wall segment and a few floor layers were dated to the Late Roman period. A large quantity of ceramic finds, mostly fragments of amphorae that probably originated along the Phoenician coast, were dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, and likewise derived from the fill material. At least 10 Late Roman pottery fragments with cursive Greek writing in red ink were detected in the fill.
The Byzantine Period. The site appears to have flourished during the Byzantine period, with remains discovered throughout the excavated area. A large building from the 5th–6th centuries CE was revealed in the eastern end of the excavation area; its southern wall was exposed over a length of 14.5 m. An oil press occupied its westernmost part. The press went out of use in the 7th century, when the press bed was integrated into a floor and a
tabun was placed adjacent to it (Fig. 1). A staircase built nearby, which would have interfered with the operation of the press, was further evidence for its cancellation. The press’s large screw weight was incorporated into the base of a wall, while the weight pit was sealed below a thick plaster floor; the core building was divided into at least 5 parallel rooms. Another large, well-built Byzantine structure was uncovered c. 5 m west of the oil press and was separated from it by an open, plastered area.A large structure with a courtyard was uncovered c. 65 m to the west, dating to the 6th–7th centuries CE. The courtyard was paved with well-cut ashlar blocks, which were laid on the purposely-cleared bedrock. An accumulation of plaster floors (thickness 0.8–1.0 m) was associated with this building, which superseded an earlier ashlar building that dated to the 5th–6th centuries CE.
The westernmost square revealed portions of two treading floors that belonged to Byzantine winepresses; each was at least 3.5 m long and consisted of a coarse white mosaic pavement.
Fragments of architectural elements, including a chancel screen, a Corinthian capital and numerous pieces of worked marble that could be indicative of a church, were found in the collapse debris in the center of the excavation area.
The Early Islamic Period. The Byzantine-period structure that was located west of the oil press was partially rebuilt and reorganized in a more haphazard manner during the Abbasid and Fatimid periods. Work installations, as well as glass and iron slag in this area indicate that it served as a craft-producing center. A stone and brick-built oven functioned as a cooking stove, yet more significantly, was probably an installation for sugar production in the 11th century CE, attested to by the unique sugar pots found in close proximity. This is probably the earliest evidence for sugar production in Israel yet uncovered. Other prominent finds were fragments of incised black-burnished vessels, buff ware, and glazed ware of the 10th–11th centuries CE.
The Crusader Period. The northern wall of a Crusader-period sugar refinery from the 12th century CE was revealed. It was constructed on bedrock and preserved to over 2 m high. A 25 m long ditch, with a boulder retaining/support wall, was located parallel to the refinery and destroyed the continuity of the site’s Byzantine plan. The western half of the ditch was filled with fine ash that contained a large amount of sugar pots. A passageway through the boulder wall into the ditch led to two staircases that were built against the refinery wall and which descended down to bedrock.
The Mamluk and Ottoman Periods. The Mamluk remains were rather poor, mainly represented by a fragmentary building directly above the Byzantine structure in the east and a thin plaster floor that was not associated with any structure and was 100 m to the west. Ottoman-period remains were scattered throughout the excavated area, being very prominent in the east, where a paved street and adjoining structures were revealed. Immediately to the west were the remains of a large structure paved with large slabs. The area directly outside the entrance to the building and extending the width of the threshold was paved with large slabs as well. Similarly paved areas were excavated c. 70 m further west.
A large kiln, probably a limekiln (diam. 3.5–4.0 m; height 1.5–2.0 m) destroyed the Byzantine ashlar courtyard, referred to previously. An eastern entrance led into and out of the kiln at its base. Ottoman-period construction superimposed part of the kiln’s western wall. A substantial portion of the area was utilized for the production of charcoal, probably beginning in the Ottoman period.
The excavated area was first occupied in the Hellenistic period, extending through to the 20th century. Its location on the edge of the settlement that is situated slightly to the north defined its function as an industrial zone. It produced oil and wine in the Byzantine period, sugar and crafts in the Early Islamic period; it served for sugar refining in the Crusader period and for lime and charcoal production in the Ottoman period. The very near proximity to water sources was instrumental in determining the location of the industrial facilities to the south of the settlement.