During November 2005, a trial excavation was conducted along the eastern slope of Tel Sha‘alvim, within the precincts of Qibbuz Sha‘alvim (Permit No. A-4628*; map ref. NIG 19903/64179; OIG 14903/14179), after the discovery of ancient remains during work, inspected by A. Gruber, prior to the construction of a youth club. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by G. Parnos, with the assistance of E. Bahar (administration), A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting) and C. Hersch (pottery drawing).
The tell overlooks the Ayyalon Valley and the excavation area was c. 10 m below its peak. Three excavation squares (Fig. 1) were opened, revealing two hewn shaft tombs, remains of a wall and a rock-hewn installation that dated to Middle Bronze II, as well as a massive wall, dating to Iron II or possibly even earlier. Prior to the excavation, the area was exposed with the aid of mechanical equipment, revealing to the north of the squares three very large boulders (W119; length 2 m, width 2.6 m, height 1 m) in a row whose upper surface was smoothed. It seems that these boulders were the southern end of a massive wall and their smoothed upper surface served as a base for mud-brick courses.
Previous excavations at the tell had exposed Middle Bronze Age burial caves (HA 77:29 [Hebrew]; ESI 7-8:201; ‘Atiqot 22:9*–14*) and the remains of a Samaritan synagogue that dated to the Byzantine period (Bulletin of the Department of Antiquities 2:31–32 [Hebrew]; The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 4: 1338).
Middle Bronze II. A shaft tomb (Tomb 1) that consisted of a vertical shaft (diam. 0.8 m, depth 1.5 m; Figs. 2, 3), which led to a burial chamber, was discovered in Square D. The southern side of the shaft’s upper part was completed with construction that utilized large stones, some of which were roughly dressed. The stones were positioned on a stone step that was hewn in the southern side of the shaft. The shaft was blocked with fieldstones and bonding material of soil and lime (L109). Below this blockage were boulders that sealed the lower part of the shaft and the burial chamber, which was not excavated in its entirety. The western wall of the chamber and the ceiling above it were damaged, probably during the quarrying of a cave in a later phase. The western part of the chamber was filled with stone collapse and the eastern part was blocked to the height of the ceiling with hard reddish soil. The tomb is similar to shaft tombs of MB II that are known at numerous sites, including in the vicinity of Tel Sha‘alvim. Only the eastern part of the shaft in another shaft tomb (Tomb 2; presumed diam. 1.5 m; Fig. 4) was excavated in Square C. The upper part of the shaft was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones to a depth of c. 0.8 m below surface; its lower part was bedrock hewn for an additional 0.5 m. A fill of light brown soil mixed with small stones (L105; thickness 0.3 m) was discovered in the upper part of the shaft. Below Fill 105 was a fill of reddish brown soil (L107; thickness 0.2 m), overlaying a fill of gray brown soil (L113) in the lower part of the shaft that contained a scant amount of potsherds. At the bottom of this fill, on the western side, a human skull and bones were discovered, causing the suspension of the excavation. The ceramic finds in the two tombs dated to MB II and included bowls (Fig. 5:1, 3), kraters (Fig. 5:4, 5) and jars (Fig. 5:9, 10).
Remains of a wall (W100, W118; width 0.4–0.6 m) that was aligned north–south were discovered in Square B. The northern part of the wall (W100; Fig. 6) was a row of medium-sized stones, preserved a single course high; the eastern face of the stones was coarsely dressed. At its northern end, the wall was abutted by W119, which extended beyond the limits of the excavation. The southern part of the wall (W118) consisted of two rows of small fieldstones, preserved two courses high. A gray-brown soil fill (L106; thickness 0.3 m), deposited on bedrock and extending as far up as surface, was discovered west of W100. This fill contained a mixed ceramic assemblage that dated to MB II, including bowls (Fig. 5:2), kraters (Fig. 5:6–8) and jars (Fig. 5:11) and the Byzantine period.
A rock-hewn installation (L102; depth 2.5 m; Fig. 7) was discovered east of W100. The upper part of the installation was a hewn square surface (width c. 2 m), damaged by the mechanical equipment that exposed the site. An elliptical vat (0.47 × 0.80 m, depth 0.65 m) was hewn in the middle of the surface. The installation was filled with modern alluvium. A fill of small and medium-sized stones (L116) between the installation and W100 was probably meant to level the area.
Iron II. A massive wall (W120; preserved length 7 m, width 2 m), built of one row of boulders and oriented east–west, was discovered in Square C. The wall abutted a bedrock outcrop at the western end. The boulders were usually placed on soil fill; however, in several places they were set on top of large stones. The western part of the wall was placed on the large stones that belonged to the side of Tomb 2. An elongated depression filled with terra rosa soil (L103) was uncovered to the north of W120 when bedrock, which sloped southward, was exposed. South of W120, a gray-brown tamped soil fill from the tell was excavated (L104). The fill contained pottery fragments from Iron II, including a krater (Fig. 5:14), a jar (Fig. 5:15) and a jug (Fig. 5:16), the Late Bronze Age and Middle Bronze II. As no floor in relation to the wall was discovered, its dating is uncertain, but it can be said with certainty that the wall stood exposed in Iron II and may even have been built in an earlier period. The building manner of the wall resembles the construction of the Middle Bronze Age.
A few, out of a stratigraphic context, Late Bronze potsherds were collected from the excavation area, including a jar handle fragment, slipped white and decorated with red paint (Fig. 5:12) and a jar base (Fig. 5:13).