During June–July 2004 a salvage excavation was conducted c. 150 m east of Khirbat Ibreika (Permit No. A-4201*; map ref. NIG 19658/67891; OIG 14658/17891), following the discovery of archaeological remains during an antiquities inspection of a channel for a sewage line. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Union of Cities of the Eastern Southern Sharon, was directed by U. ‘Ad, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), A. Hajian and E. Belashov (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery drawing), A. ‘Azav and E. Ayalon.
Four areas (A–D) were opened along the channel and 15 squares were excavated. Remains of walls from the end of the Byzantine period were exposed in Areas A and B, northeast of Kh. Ibreika. A refuse pit and a potter’s kiln (?) from the Early Roman period were exposed in Area C, east of the site and in Area D, southeast of the site, a plastered vat and a large industrial winepress from the Byzantine period were excavated. Three archaeological excavations had been conducted in Khirbat Ibreika, situated on a hill rising 15 m above the surrounding vicinity, in the past (Permit No. A-2178; License No. B-30/1996; License No. B-255/2002), revealing the remains of buildings and installations that dated from the Persian period to the Mamluk period.
Two squares were opened (Fig. 1). A wall (W1) in the northern square was built of large, partially dressed fieldstones and preserved two courses high. North of the wall was dark indigenous clayey soil and to its south was a light colored friable fill of hamra mixed with sand. A concentration of different-sized, disarrayed fieldstones was in the southern square (L15).
Remains of a wall (W2; Fig. 2) were discovered 10 m south of Area A. A concentration of stones (L24) that probably collapsed from the wall was to its north. To the south of the wall was dark indigenous clayey soil and a light colored friable fill of hamra mixed with sand and stones was to its north. The foundations of W2 (47.57 m above sea level) were at a similar elevation to that of the W1 foundations, c. 20 m to its north. It seems that both walls delimited a pit, which was dug in the clayey soil and filled with a sandy fill or light colored hamra. The purpose of the pit is unclear. The concentrations of stones (L15 in Area A and L24) were probably all that remained after an installation or building was dismantled and most of its stones were removed. Based on the potsherds (Fig. 7:1, 2) and glass fragments in the foundation trenches of the walls and in the fill of the pit, the construction and use of the walls should be dated to the end of the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE).
Some 35 m south of Area B, a refuse pit (L31; diam. 2 m, depth 1.6 m; Fig. 3) that contained building material, burnt material and large fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (first–second centuries CE; Fig. 7:3) was discovered. Two meters south of the refuse pit was the eastern, possibly the outer wall (width 1.7 m, height 1 m) of what was apparently a potter’s kiln (L32; Fig. 4). This kiln type, which was dug into the ground and had stone-built walls lined with fired mud bricks, was common in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
A large, elaborate industrial winepress of the complex type was exposed. Only part of it was excavated, consisting of three main elements: a treading floor/work surface, secondary surfaces, and filtration and collecting vats. The treading floor/work surface (Loci 51, 52; 6.0 × 6.6 m; c. 40 sq m; Fig. 5) was paved with white mosaic and the pit (L57) in its center was probably created when the stone of the screw base was removed. The shape of the pit shows the stone was circular. Two phases were discerned in the pit’s floor. The first consisted of small white tesserae (20 tesserae per decimeter) and in the second phase, the tesserae were larger and better preserved (9–10 tesserae per decimeter; Fig. 6). The floors were separated by a white mortar fill (thickness 10–12 cm) that contained lime and wadi pebbles. Secondary floors (Loci 56, 59) were set on three sides of the central work surface (the northern surface was not excavated) and survived by mostly the bedding and a few sections of white mosaic. The floors of the surfaces were higher than the treading floor. Evidence in two of the floors indicated they were probably divided in their midst, resulting in four rectangular surfaces (six, including the northern floor; average size 3.2 × 5.2 m). Along the edge of the surfaces two circular plastered vats with mosaic floors (L66, L67) were discovered.
A filtration/settling pit (L62; 0.8 × 0.9 m, depth 0.5 m) and a collecting vat (L63), to its east, were discovered east of the treading floor. The walls of the filtration pit were coated with light pink plaster and its floor was paved with mosaic and potsherds. A perforation (length 0.4 m) in the middle of its eastern wall allowed the must to flow into the collecting vat. The collecting vat was almost square (2.6 × 2.8 m, depth 1.6 m; c. 11 cu m) and its walls coated with light pink plaster. Five built steps descended into the vat along its western wall. A circular settling pit (L64; diam. 1 m, depth 0.5 m) in the center of its white mosaic floor had plastered walls and a mosaic-paved floor. Based on the finds recovered from inside and around the winepress (Fig. 7:4–6), it was built and operated during the sixth and seventh centuries CE.
A circular collecting vat (L41; diam. 2.2 m) was discovered c. 5 m northeast of the winepress. Its wall, preserved 1 m high, was built of white mortar that contained lime and medium-sized fieldstones and was coated on the interior with a thin layer of light pink hydraulic plaster. In the center of the vat’s white mosaic floor was a circular plastered settling pit. It is unclear whether this vat was connected to the winepress.
The eastern fringes of Kh. Ibreika, which included a large industrial area that extended up to 150 m from the center of the ruin and consisted of installations, a potter’s kiln, industrial glass (a large quantity of production debris was discovered in the fill) and a winepress, were exposed in the excavation. The location of the industrial area to the east was in keeping with the wind regime in the region, whereby a western wind blows throughout most of the day. The residents of the site, like other inhabitants of the country during these same periods, specialized in the production of wine and its by-products. The ceramic finds, the coins and the glass, as well as the results of previous excavations, indicate the site was continuously occupied from the Persian period (fourth century BCE) until the Middle Ages, reaching its peak during the Roman and Byzantine periods.