During June 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted at the entrance to the Bedouin settlement of Hura (Lot 602; Permit No. A-3440*; map ref. NIG 19284–96/57809–20; OIG 14284–96/07809–20). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Hura Local Council, was directed by N.S. Paran, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), S. Lavi (pottery restoration) and N. Ze’evi (artifact drawing).
A watchman’s booth, a section of a courtyard wall and a raised surface (Fig. 1), all dating to the Byzantine period or the beginning of the Early Islamic period (fifth–sixth centuries CE), were discovered on a hill, looking out to the west and south toward the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley and on the edge of the hills that continue to the north and east, south of the Judean Mountains.
The square watchman's booth (5.1 × 5.5 m) was enclosed on the northeast by Wall 6 (length 5.3 m, width 0.85 m, height 0.5 m), on the southeast by Wall 5 (length 5.1 m, width 0.7 m, height 0.45 m), on the southwest by Wall 2 (length 5.25 m, width 0.85 m, height 0.75 m) and on the northwest by Wall 4 (length 5.15 m, width 0.75 m, height 0.75 m). The walls, coated with white plaster on the interior and exterior, were built of roughly hewn flints for the two lower foundations courses and roughly hewn chalk stones for the upper courses. The entrance to the building, in the middle of W4, was survived by the southern doorjamb and the threshold, built of large stones that were leveled to the height of the top of the foundation course. A table or a stone-built shelf (W7; 0.35 × 0.90 m, height 0.35 m) was exposed next to the southern corner of the building. The table was built after the structure was completed as indicated by the plastered wall behind it and the stone pavement beneath it. Another section of the pavement was preserved in the western corner of the building (L112). After W2 was erected, a raised rectangular surface (W3; length 5.15 m, width 1.45 m, height 0.5–0.8 m) was attached to it. The surface was also built of a flint foundation to the height of one or two courses and surmounted with chalk stone courses. The exposed sides of the surface were coated with plaster; between it and the wall of the building, the exterior plaster of the wall, which was different than that of the surface, was preserved. The upper level of the surface sloped to the south and its original height is unclear, as is its function. A wall (W1; length 8.3 m, width 0.6 m, height 0.75 m) built of chalk stones without a foundation extended northwest from the northwestern corner of the building. Based on the manner of its construction, it seems that W1 delineated a courtyard, to the west of and adjacent to the watchman's booth. A section of a tamped earth floor was discovered in the corner formed by Walls 1 and 4 and apparently the plaster that coated W4 also covered the floor.
Below the southwestern corner of the raised surface (W3), a wall (W8; length 2.65 m, width 0.55 m, height 0.15 m) oriented east–west was discovered. The wall predated the building but its connection to it remains unclear. The ceramic finds from the floor levels of the building and next to its walls were dated to the end of the Byzantine period or the beginning of the Early Islamic period (sixth–seventh centuries CE) and included Fine Byzantine Ware bowls (Fig. 2:1, 2), a Cypriot Red-Slipped bowl of Form 9 (Fig. 2:3), kraters (Fig. 2:4–6), a cooking krater (Fig. 2:7), cooking pots (Fig. 2:8, 9), a jar (Fig. 2:10) and lids (Fig. 2:11–13), as well as a clay plug bearing a stamped impression (Fig. 2:14) and a fragment of a marble slab bearing an inscription (Fig. 2:15).
The structure was identified as a watchman's booth, the likes of which were abundantly discovered in the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley and its surroundings. The raised surface next to W2 renders it unique, since it is unknown in other contemporary watchman’s booths. One may assume that the surface was intended for an activity connected with the booth and was used as a work surface on which agricultural produce was processed or dried.