During October–November 2000 a salvage excavation was conducted at Khirbat el-Saharij in Pardes Hanna (Permit No. A-3322*; map ref. NIG 19668–77/71031–67; OIG 14668–77/21031–67), to determine the route for the installation of a sewage pipe. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by M. Avissar, with the assistance of Y. Dangor (administration), V. Pirsky and A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), Y. Bukengolts (pottery restoration) and N. Ze’evi (find drawing).
Fourteen areas (A–N; Fig. 1) were opened along a dirt path that ran next to the western fence of Malben (Institute for the Care of Handicapped Immigrants). Archaeological remains were only discovered in Areas A, E and J–N, which are described from north to south.
Area A. The remains of a mosaic floor that belonged to an industrial installation were revealed close to surface in this northernmost area (Fig. 2). The floor, whose northern part did not survive, was mostly destroyed, precluding the determination of its original size. Sections of the fieldstone foundations that enclosed it were preserved to the west and south. The floor continued eastward, beyond the limits of the excavation. Repairs to the mosaic floor were evident, although not entirely clear because of its bad preservation; the two mosaic layers in several places may be indicative of these repairs. The meager ceramic finds above the floor dated to the Byzantine period.
Areas B, C and D. Several dressed, soft limestone masonry blocks, outside of an architectural context, as well as a large quantity of stone-dressing debris that indicates a quarry in the nearby environs, were found.
Area E. A section of a dressed-limestone pavement was discovered (Figs. 3, 4). Its western end abutted a bedrock terrace. No distinct walls associated with it were found. The ceramic finds on the pavement included mainly jar fragments (Fig. 5:1, 2) and a few cooking pot sherds (Fig. 5:3–6), as well as a coin of Elagabalus (218–222 CE; IAA 92524). Similar vessels at Khirbet Ibreiktas were dated to the third century and the beginning of the fourth century CE (‘Atiqot 35: 43–59). Hence, it seems that this small assemblage should be dated to the third century CE.
Area F. Remains of quarrying in soft chalk bedrock were noted and a few potsherds, mainly of storage jars, identical to the types found in Area E, were collected.
Areas J, K and L. Remains of a large architectural complex that probably included a central building, surrounded with a row of rooms on each side, were discovered. About half of the complex was exposed, as its continuation extended beyond the excavation area (Figs. 6, 7). A complete row of seven rooms was excavated on the west; one room was uncovered on each of the north and south sides and only a small portion of the main building was unearthed. All the walls were built of gray plaster mixed with fieldstones, which created concrete that was poured into molds in the natural sand. Floors abutting these walls were not discerned and it therefore seems that only their foundations had survived. The method of building foundations by pouring concrete mixed with debesh is not characteristic of residential buildings; therefore, it is assumed that this was an industrial complex whose function is unclear. Above the foundation of the western rooms’ front wall (W20) passed a built channel, suggesting that the rooms were used as pools, although it is unclear if the channel was contemporary with the foundation or postdated it. A few fragments of pottery vessels were found in the fill below the tops of the foundations, including Late Roman C bowls (Hayes, Form 3; Fig. 8:1), dating to the sixth century CE and jars (Fig. 8:6) from the sixth–seventh centuries CE.
Sections of floors (L114, L120) above the walls were discovered in the southern end of the complex. Segments of a stone floor (L114) were exposed above W10 and W17 and probably served as the bedding of a mosaic floor, which survived in a small section (L135). The bedding of a floor (L112) overlain with sections of a stone pavement (L120), which probably connected to Walls 15 and 16, was unearthed north of L114. Therefore, it seems the area was used for dwelling after the industrial building was no longer used.
The pottery assemblage above the floor bedding (L114) included Late Roman C bowls, (Hayes, Form 10; Fig. 8:2, 3), dating to the first half of the seventh century CE; a Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Hayes, Form 9C; Fig. 8:4), dating from the end of the sixth century CE until the end of the seventh century CE; a cooking pot (Fig. 8:5) with a comparison from the pit in Ramat Ha-Nadiv that was dated to the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century CE; baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 8:7, 8); Gaza jars (Fig. 8:9–12), characteristic of the sixth–seventh centuries CE, which were abundant throughout the excavation area and numerous fragments of dolia (Fig. 8:13–18), dating to the end of the Byzantine period. Judging by the finds, it is assumed that the large industrial building went out of use in the second half of the sixth century CE and a residential quarter was established at least in part of its area, which continued to exist until about the middle of the seventh century CE. Two Gaza vessels of gray clay (Fig. 8:19, 20) attested to activity at the site also during the Ottoman period, although no architectural remains of the period were discerned.
Area M (Fig. 9). Two walls that formed a right angle were discovered in the northern part of the area. The walls were built of soft limestone ashlars on top of a fieldstone foundation that also included soft limestone (W29, W30). Two phases of construction were attested by floors to the south of the walls. Two floors were identified in the upper phase, one atop the other (Fig. 10). The upper was a bedding, probably for a mosaic floor that did not survive (L116) and below it was another floor bedding of small uniform-sized fieldstones (L121) that was possibly overlaid with flagstones, several of which survived at the southwestern end. This floor was installed into a layer of burnt material that sealed a pavement of thick limestone slabs (L138, L139), which was laid on top of the natural sand. The burnt layer also included a collapse of large fieldstones––probably the remains of walls that disintegrated. Ceramic finds that could date the remains were not found on the pavement; however, a few potsherds within the burnt layer included fragments of Roman disc lamps, dating from the last quarter of the first century CE until the third century CE. This date and the elevation of the stone pavement, half a meter below the base of the walls to its north, indicate that the pavement belonged to a building that predated the walls. The connection between the floors and Walls 29 and 30 was not ascertained.
Area N. Foundations of a wall, oriented east–west and built of fieldstones, similar to the foundations in Area M, were discovered in this southernmost area. It is possible they were part of a single large compound, which was mostly located beyond the excavation area.