During August–September 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted at Gush Halav, in a building from the Ottoman period that was damaged by construction work, next to the old Maronite church (Permit No. A-3985*; map ref. NIG 24190/77011; OIG 19190/27011). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Gush Halav local council, was directed by M. Hartal, assisted by A. Dadosh (administration) and V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying).
Remains of three strata (1–3), including modern finds, remains of a building from the Ottoman period and a cave that was not excavated, were exposed in a single square (4 × 4 m).
Stratum 1. A modern building that was partially built of ancient stones in secondary use was removed by a bulldozer. The foundation trench of one of the walls (W1; Fig. 1) yielded potsherds and fragments of glass vessels, dating to several periods.
Stratum 2. A wall, preserved eight courses high (W2; height 1.6 m, width 0.85 m; Fig. 2) was exposed below the floor of the building from Stratum 1. Wall 2, which belonged to a building from the Ottoman period, was well-built of dry construction, consisting of roughly hewn medium-sized stones. Large stones were utilized in the southern end of the wall, which was probably the southwestern corner of the unexcavated building. An ashlar-built pillar that bore an arch abutted the western face of W2, whose foundations and those of the pillar were set on bedrock and above the entrance to a cave (Stratum 3), which was blocked by a large ashlar stone. Clayey soil that had accumulated on bedrock contained a few potsherds mostly dating to the Ottoman period. The soil next to W2 was softer and probably belonged to the foundation trench of the wall, which contained fieldstones and potsherds from the Ottoman period. The building had two floors. The bottom floor consisted of clay-like material and a few finds lay above it. The upper floor, composed of small stones and beaten earth, was overlaid with potsherds that dated to the Ottoman period and later finds from the building in Stratum 1.
Stratum 3. The qirton bedrock below the Stratum 2 building descends in an eastward terrace. Below the corner of W2 and the arch pillar was a bedrock-hewn cave entrance, blocked by a large ashlar stone and several smaller stones, upon which the pillar was built. The circular cave is filled with an accumulated pile of soil and can not be entered today. As no finds were discerned, its use and date are unknown.
The ancient settlement on the tell of Gush Halav began in the Early Bronze Age and gradually spread out along its lower slopes. The center of the village in the Mamluk period was situated on the slope, around the mosque, whereas during the Ottoman period, the town spread further up the tell and its remains had previously been excavated (Permit No. A-3738). The current excavation indicates that this area lay outside the limits of the settlement until the Ottoman period. Other excavations (Qdmoniot 7, 1974:49–55 [Hebrew]; ESI 5, 1986:44–45; 10, 1991:70–72; HA-ESI 109, 1999:7*–8*) above and east of the excavation have raised the possibility that the Roman settlement was probably swept away in a landslide.