During August 2010, a salvage excavation was conducted along the northern fringes of Horbat Bet Arza in south Jerusalem (Permit No. 5994; map ref. 217843–6/626759–62), in the wake of damage to antiquities when preparing the area for construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Pinhas Cohen and Rose Companies, was directed by A. Rochman-Halperin (field and studio photography), with the assistance of E. Bachar and Y. Ohayon (administration), M. Kunin (surveying), R. Bar-Natan, G. Mazor, Y. Porath and F. Vitto (assistance in find identification). Thanks also to A. Eirikh-Rose, D. Levy, A. Nagar, A. Ganon, as well as to Ashraf, the building contractor’s representative at the site.
The site was surveyed within the Survey of Jerusalem (Survey of Jerusalem, The Southern Sector , Site 124); it is mentioned in several studies (Kloner A. 1980, The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, Jerusalem, pp. 82–83; 1987, The Contribution of the Research of Hiding Complexes to the Study of the Geographical Scope of Bar-Kochba’s War. In Kloner A. and Tepper Y., eds. The Hiding Complexes in the Judean Shephelah. Tel Aviv. Pp. 371–372, n. 28) and in the British Mandate Record Files of the Israel Antiquities Archive (File No. 28, Khirbat Beit Irza). An excavation was conducted at the site in 1998 (HA-ESI 111:67*). According to the Survey of Jerusalem, a Jewish village from the Second Temple period was probably located at the site. Kloner has suggested that the site could be Tel Arazin, which is mentioned in one of the papyri discovered in Nahal Hever.
An irregular-shaped hewn pit (2.75 × 3.30 m, height 1.5 m; Figs. 1, 2), probably dating to the Byzantine period, was discovered. Close to three quarters of the pit was filled with stone collapse and soil and its front part was probably severed when the area was prepared for construction. The eastern side of the pit was convex and covered with gray plaster, containing potsherds. This kind of plaster has been in use from the Herodian period until the modern era (Fig. 3). The other sides, the ceiling and the floor were not coated with plaster. The exposed bedrock on the floor and sides was friable and crumbling (Fig. 4).
The collapse in the pit contained fragments of pottery vessels, including a neck fragment of a jug or juglet and a base fragment of a jug or juglet, both dating to the Roman period; a body fragment and a base of a pot-like vessel and two body sherds from the Byzantine period. In addition, porcelain fragments were found, including eight blue-glazed, a light brown glazed and a dark brown glazed body fragment. Two of the blue porcelain fragments have a stamped impression on their back side with a drawing of a swan and the letters BARBOU[…] above it and CER[…] below it. This is probably the seal of Barbour Ceramics, a company that still exists today under the name of ‘Barbour Na’aman Ltd’ and the swan remains as its logo. The collapse also contained pieces of modern metal.
The pit was a cistern or a small cesspit with a capacity of c. 17.25 cu m; it should probably be dated to the Roman or Byzantine periods.