During August 2004 an excavation was conducted in a farm building at Kh. Abu-Mahfudh (Permit No. A-4214*; map ref. NIG 18440–50/57280–90; OIG 13440–50/07280–90), in the wake of damage caused by mechanical equipment. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Gili and Yoel Azriah Company, Ltd., was directed by Y. Israel, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), N. Zak (drafting), Y. Bukengolts (pottery restoration), I. Pikovski (pottery drawing), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and Y. Dana (epigraphy).
The ruin is located north of Tel Sheva‘ and Nahal Hevron, near the confluence with Nahal Be’er Sheva‘. Six farm complexes were surveyed, all characterized by a series of rooms, surrounding a courtyard, as well as bell-shaped cisterns. The walls of the buildings were constructed from soft limestone quarried from bedrock outcrops of nearby Nahal Be’er Sheva‘ and stream cobbles used as a foundation of the walls.
The excavation took place in the southern complex where two areas were opened (Fig. 1). Remains of a building whose walls (W2, W3, W4; Fig. 2) consisted of cobbles bonded with loess were exposed in a square opened in the eastern area. These walls probably served as a base for a mud-brick superstructure. Next to W2 and W3, several ashlar stones that probably belonged to a bench or were part of an interior wall were found. The floor of the building, which was partly paved with cobbles (L13) and partly consisted of beaten earth in the east (L17), abutted the ashlar stones. A beaten-earth floor (L12) to the west of W2 was delimited on the north by W1, built of a single course of stone; this was probably part of an open-air courtyard. A square was opened east of this area, revealing wall remains (W6, W7) that were abutted by a beaten-earth floor (L16). Remains of plaster were traced on the interior of W7, extending also to W6. Remains of another wall (W8) that were documented along the surface to the south of the excavated complex probably also belonged to the same farmstead.
Potsherds were exposed on the floor of the courtyard (L12), on the cobble floor (L13) and its continuation to the east (L17), and in the collapse that overlaid the floors. These included fragments of various sized locally produced and imported bowls (Fig. 3:1–3, 5, 6), kraters (Fig. 3:4, 7–9), casserole lids (Fig. 3:10, 11), a casserole (Fig. 3:12) and a jug (Fig. 3:13). Other artifacts included a ceramic pipe fragment (Fig. 3:14), two bag-shaped storage jars (Figs. 3:15, 16), one of which bore an inscription (Figs. 3:15; 4) and a Gaza storage jar (Fig. 3:17). The inscription, composed of three Greek letters ομι (ΟΜΙ) and characteristic of the Byzantine period, is probably the name of a pottery workshop or storehouse. The fragments of glass vessels included a piece of a lamp rim, a bowl with a strap handle, characteristic of the Byzantine period, and the rim of a shallow bowl with traces of fluting, dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Metal artifacts included pieces of three iron nails and a fragment of a copper object, probably part of a camel bell without a clapper. Fragments of animal bones and a mother-of-pearl piece were also discovered.
The exposed farmhouse is similar to those located nearby and probably indicates a familial relationship between their residents.