Trial excavations were carried out in October–November 2001 at Horbat Bene Beraq, alongside and immediately south of the Lod road, southwest of the Mesubim interchange, and slightly north of the ancient tell (Permit No. A-3510; map ref. NIG 183836–994/660578–632; OIG 133836–994/160578–632), following mechanical probing supervised by A. Glick. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Meqorot Water Company, was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink, assisted by D. Golan, V. Essman and T. Kornfeld (surveying), Y. Rahamim (administration), T. Sagiv (photography), M. Ben-Gal (pottery restoration), M. Rappaport (pottery drawings), D.T. Ariel (numismatics), L.K. Horwitz (archeozoology) and N. Liphschitz (wood identification).
Ten probing trenches were enlarged by mechanical equipment, removing c. 0.8–1.0 m of recently disturbed topsoil. Five squares (A, D, E, J, K) and four smaller units (B, C, F, H; 2.25 × 2.25 m) were opened and manually excavated (Fig. 1). A discontinuous, stratigraphic built-up of various layers, dating from the Hellenistic, Byzantine, Early Arab periods and British mandate times, was established for this area. Layers of anthropogenic materials were frequently found resting on and covered by compact, sterile, alluvial sediments.
The earliest material in the excavation derived from a waste pit exposed c. 3 m below surface in Sq G. It was dated to the third century BCE and contained partly restorable Hellenistic pottery that consisted mainly of medium-sized storage jars and simple table wares, particularly very diagnostic small hemispherical bowls.
A second phase of human occupation was discerned in all squares and units, dating to the early Byzantine period. Remains of limestone-cobbled floors associated with grinding activities were found in situ in three squares. The most common type of vessel uncovered here was the Gazition or Gaza storage jar, common to the southern and coastal areas and dating to the fifth–sixth centuries CE. Some oil lamps and coins were recovered from this phase as well. The rather large animal bones found in these layers will hopefully provide additional information about animal husbandry during this period.
A layer that included substantial stone architecture from the tenth century CE was exposed only at the extreme eastern end of the site, i.e., Sqs J and K (not shown on Fig. 1). It could be correlated with pottery found in situ in Sq E and dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE.
The final occupation phase of this site was uncovered only a few cm below surface, consisting of sparse architectural remains and pottery that included mainly Marseille roof-tile fragments and black Gaza wares. It should be dated to the beginning of the twentieth century.