Dur to its size, the excavation area was divided into four areas (Fig. 2): Areas A and B in the south of the neighborhood; Area C, to the south of the neighborhood, where a pumping station was planned; and Area D in the north part of the neighborhood. Areas A–C lie within the catchment basin of Nahal Ashlon, which flows southeast toward Nahal Mamshit.
Area A
A dam, at the foot of which was a modern tomb (not excavated), a short segment of a wall and three agricultural terraces were excavated.
Dam (Fig. 2:1). An east–west dam (W1; length c. 17 m; Figs. 3, 4) was built of medium and large fieldstones arranged in a stepped manner and preserved over 2 m high (6–10 courses). A cell (L101; 0.7 × 1.8 m) built of a single row of stones (W2) at the foot of the dam, approximately mid-way along it, was identified as a modern Bedouin tomb (not excavated; Fig. 5).
Wall (Fig. 2:2). A wall of unclear function (W3; length 3.5 m; Fig. 6) was located c. 15 m southwest of the dam, on the northern slope of a hill. The wall, oriented north–south, ran down the slope; it was built of a single row of medium and large fieldstones that were placed on the bedrock. A single stone found near the northern end of the wall (not on plan) may attest to an additional, perpendicular wall, which was not preserved.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:3). An agricultural terrace unearthed c. 20 m north of the dam was preserved in two sections (W4, W6; preserved height 0.3–0.4 m; Fig. 7); its central section had been washed away by a small creek. The terrace, oriented northeast–southwest, was built of medium-sized fieldstones (excavated length 11.4 m, total length 20.5 m).
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:4). An east–west terrace (W5; length 12.7 m, preserved height 0.3 m; Fig. 8), built of small and medium-sized fieldstones, was unearthed c. 80 m north of the terrace in Fig. 2:3.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:5). Another terrace (W7; length 3.8 m, preserved height 0.2–0.3 m; Fig. 9), running northeast–southwest and built of small and medium-sized fieldstones, was exposed c. 35 m northwest of the terrace in Fig. 2:3.
The type of construction in Area A, along with the ribbed potsherds found nearby and known parallels throughout the Negev, all point to a date in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
Area B
A circular structure and a cairn were excavated on top of a hill, c. 150 m west of Area A. Both are characteristic of structures and cairns dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age in the region. A single cistern with its water-collecting system and three agricultural terraces from the Byzantine period were also excavated. Two modern tombs were cleared and documented.
Structure (Fig. 2:6). A circular structure was unearthed on the summit of a flat hill under a surface of flint pebbles. The structure’s wall (W21; diam. 2.3 m, preserved height 0.2 m; Figs. 10, 11) was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones and only partially preserved. The structure’ had a tamped-earth floor (L205), which was reached 0.15 m below the surface.
Cairn (Fig. 7:2). At the highest point of the hill, c. 10 m northeast of the structure, was a poorly preserved cairn (L201; diam. 4.0–4.5 m, preserved height 0.6 m; Fig. 12). Since no clear outline was detected, its original diameter remains unknown. A small, empty cell (L208; 0.4 × 0.6 m) was exposed in the center of the cairn. The cell’s bedrock floor was uncovered at a depth of 0.3 m.
Water Cistern, Dam and Feeder System (Fig. 2:8–11). A rock-hewn cistern (L215; Fig. 13), discovered c. 60 m northwest of the cairn, was full of water at the time of the excavation; it was therefore left unexcavated. Its opening was round (diam. c. 1 m, depth c. 1.2 m to where it widens out). The cistern belongs to a water-collecting system that included a dam; two feeder channels, a northern one and a southern one; and a settling pit. The cistern is located on the east bank of Nahal Ashlon, near the point where the banks of the streambed become steep, at the foot of a cliff approximately 2 m high. The dam (W25; length 9.5 m, max. preserved height 0.9 m; Fig. 14), which served to divert water to the cistern, was located where the streambed is flanked by cliffs on both sides. It is built of medium and large fieldstones along an east–west axis, directly on the bedrock. The dam was breached in its eastern section, where it joined the cistern’s northern feeder channel (L216; Fig. 15). The channel was built along a cliff and was delimited on its west by a wall (W28; preserved length 6.2 m, preserved height 0.4–0.5 m) built of a single row of medium-sized fieldstones set on their narrow edge; The wall was constructed 0.7–1.2 m away from the cliff. Although the northern end of the wall and the eastern part of the dam were not preserved, there is no doubt that they were related and served to channel water into the cistern. Roughly mid-way down the channel, a wall (W29) was built to obstruct the flow, probably to prevent silt from entering the cistern; the remainder of the channel (L216b), north of W29, served as a settling pit.
A rock-cut channel (width 0.2 m, length c. 1 m, depth 0.1 m; Fig. 15) ran from the southern end of W28 to the opening of the cistern. It is possible that it was hewn in an initial phase, and that W28 was built only later.
The upper end of the cistern’s southern feeder channel was exposed c. 30 m west of Cairn 201. It was built of two sections. The upper section (L203; length 26 m; Fig. 16), which runs from east to west, and is delimited on the south by a single row of medium-sized fieldstones (W22a). At its west end it becomes a rock-hewn channel (L206; width 0.5–0.8 m, depth 0.4–0.6 m; Fig. 17) that turns in a right angle to the north and ends after 5 m at the beginning of the lower section (L204; total length 54 m), which runs from south to north. A similar row of medium-sized fieldstones (W22b), which was preserved in several places, delimited the lower section of the channel on the west. The 12-meter stretch linking the feeder channel to the cistern was not preserved.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:12). About 25 m north of the dam (W25), a southeast–northwest terrace (W24, W26; total length 38 m, preserved height 0.4 m; Fig. 18) curves toward the southwest in its west third. The terrace was built of one to two rows of medium-sized fieldstones; it was explored in three probes, exposing a total of 20.7 m of the terrace.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:13). Roughly 35 m north of the terrace in Fig. 2:12 is an east–west terrace (W23; total length c. 25 m, max. preserved height 0.4 m; Fig. 19). It was built of one to two rows of medium and large fieldstones. Two sections were excavated, exposing a total of 11.8 m of the terrace.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:14). Some 35 m north of the terrace in Fig. 2:13 was an east–west terrace (W27; preserved length 7 m, preserved height 0.2–0.3 m) built of a single row of small and medium-sized fieldstones.
Tombs (Fig. 2:15). Approximately 50 m east of the terraces in Fig. 2:12, 13, two elliptical concentrations of stones were discerned on the surface (L213A, L213B; length c. 2 m; Fig. 20) c. 5 m apart. Each concentration was marked on its eastern and western sides by two upright stones standing on their narrow edges (tombstones?). These were identified as modern Bedouin tombs, and hence were cleared and documented, but not excavated.
Area C
At a distance of 130–300 m south of Areas A and B, two agricultural terraces were excavated, along with meager remains of a diversion dam and a large reservoir (harabe) with a complex water inlet system. All the remains are dated to the Byzantine period, but the reservoir apparently continued to be used until the Ottoman period, and possibly even until recent years.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:16). An east–west agricultural terrace (W34; length 15.6 m, preserved height 0.6–1.0 m) was discovered c. 120 m southeast of Dam 1 (Area A). The terrace was built in a stepped manner of medium and large fieldstones. A wall (W35; length 5.2 m) of unclear function, led away from the western part of the terrace.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:17). About 180 m north of the terrace in Fig. 2:16, another east–west terrace was found (W32; total length c. 29 m, preserved height 0.2–0.5 m). It was built of a single row of medium and large fieldstones. Two sections of the terrace were excavated, one at either end, exposing a total of 10.9 m of the terrace.
Reservoir Complex (Fig. 2:18, 19). Some 50 m west of the terrace in Fig. 2:17, a complex water-storage reservoir system was exposed (L325; c. 18 × 22 m; Figs. 21, 22). About 15 m north of the reservoir complex, on the south bank of the Nahal Ashlon streambed, an elongated concentration of stones (W31; length c. 4 m, width 0.8 m) is probably the remains of a dam that served to divert water from the streambed to the reservoir. An elongated hollow between the dam and the reservoir probably marks the route of the channel that connected the two. The south end of the elongated hollow is beside a square cell (L320; 1.4 × 1.7 m, depth 1.0–1.3 m) built of ashlars and enclosed by four walls (W36–W39), which was probably the reservoir’s settling pit. Approximately half a meter above the floor of the settling pit, almost in the center of its southeast wall (W38), was a square opening (L326; 0.5 × 0.5 m) with a smoothed stone slab as a threshold; it led through a passageway (length 1.2 m) to a vaulted cavity (L324; inner dimensions 1.6 × 2.4 m, min. height 1.9 m; Fig. 23) enclosed within four walls (W33, W37, W38, W40), which was entirely preserved; its floor was not exposed. The lower parts of the vault walls are hewn in the bedrock, and its upper parts are built of large, partially dressed stones. The vault was constructed of partially hewn, elongated stones bonded with mortar. An opening (width c. 1 m, height 1.7 m; Fig. 23) in the center of W33 led to a square reservoir (L325; c. 17 × 19 m) quarried into the bedrock with four rock-hewn piers (average dimensions 1.4 × 1.4 m). Approximately 2 m east of Vault 324 were two troughs (L307, L308). Trough 307 (0.6 × 2.4 m) was built of a single row of ashlars and mortar and has a plastered floor, whereas Trough 308 (0.5 × 2.0 m) rock-cut. An opening (diam. 0.5 m; Fig. 24) in the ceiling of the reservoir for drawing water was located c. 1 m south of Trough 307 and c. 1 m west of Trough 308. Opposite the opening in Vault 324, the bedrock ceiling of the reservoir was intentionally breached to form a semicircular opening (L312; 1.5 × 2.2 m; Fig. 25). Wall 33 curves southward and around the opening, conforming to its shape; the vault’s wall and opening are incorporated into it. This opening was probably covered over when the reservoir was in use. The bottom part of the reservoir was found filled with debris, some of it modern, to a height of 1–2 m below the ceiling. A probe (L327; 1.5 × 2.0 m) was excavated to a depth of 2 m near the reservoir’s east pier without reaching the floor, indicating that the depth of the reservoir us at least 3.5–4.0 m.
Area D
About one kilometer north of Areas A and B, three find spots, located 200–400 m apart, were excavated: a structure, a bedrock surface with two installations and an agricultural terrace.
Structure (Fig. 2:20). The meager remains of a largely eroded circular structure (L411; diam. 3.2 m; Fig. 26), founded on a bedrock surface, were excavated a hilltop in the northwest of the area; most of the structure has washed away. The structure was constructed of a single row of small and medium-sized fieldstones (W43; preserved height 0.2–0.4 m). Its floor was not preserved, although it appears to have been laid a few centimeters over the rock surface.
Installations (Fig. 2:21). Two installations (L408, L409; Fig. 27), whose function was not ascertained, were excavated on a bedrock surface c. 350 m to the east of the structure. Installation 408 is elliptical (1.1 × 2.1 m) and built of a single row of medium and large fieldstones. About 5 m to its south was Installation 409; although circular (diam. 1.5 m), it is also built of single row of medium and large fieldstones. To the west and east of the installations were two wall segments (W41 in the east, and W42 in the west) that enclosed a compound (c. 6 × 7 m), possibly an animal pen.
Agricultural Terrace (Fig. 2:22). A northeast–southwest agricultural terrace (W44; length 11.2 m, preserved height 0.3–0.7 m; Fig. 28), built of small and medium-sized fieldstones in a stepped manner, was excavated in the south of Area D.
Only a few pottery sherds were recovered from the excavation, and they exhibited no diagnostic features. Nevertheless, most of the potsherds were ribbed body fragments that date the remains to the Byzantine–Early Islamic periods (fifth–ninth centuries CE). A few fragments of black Gaza ware, dated to the late Ottoman period (nineteenth–twentieth centuries CE), were also recovered, indicating activity in the region during that time period.
Flint Finds
Emil Aladjem
The two Intermediate Bronze Age sites that were excavated (Fig. 2:6, 7) yielded 34 knapped flint items. Since all the sites were found on the surface, all the items collected were worn and covered with patina. Due to the small number of items, it is impossible to describe the industry accurately, but it can be assumed that it was an improvised flake industry. The items were made of local raw material, consisting of flint pebbles found in the vicinity.
Seventeen flakes (length 3–8 cm) and four blades (length 5–10 cm) were recovered. The longest blade (10 cm; Fig. 29:1) is made of gray Eocene flint, a raw material that is not found nearby. It was skillfully knapped in a way that is not characteristic of the industry at the site and was probably imported and not locally made. Two primary items struck on pebbles were also recovered near the site. The cores do not exhibit any signs of working on their striking platforms, and based on the scars on their dorsal side, it is evident that these were multidirectional flake cores.
Eleven retouched tools were found, including nine unevenly retouched flakes (Fig. 29:2), a blade on a retouched primary item (Fig. 29:3) and a chopping tool on a pebble (length 10 cm; Fig. 29:4), whose working end was formed of three scars on the pebble’s narrow side.
The Intermediate Bronze Age structure and cairn exposed in the excavation are entirely compatible with previously excavated sites of this period. They can be attributed to the seasonal activity of shepherds, who migrated to this area in winter and early spring.
The sites ascribed to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods yielded no diagnostic finds, except for several ribbed potsherds, and so their dating is based largely on the type of structures and their method of construction, along with nearby sites that were similarly dated. These sites probably belong to the agricultural hinterland of Mamshit—the main city in the region during this period—or they may have been farmed by the occupants of an Early Islamic village located c. 1 km east of the excavation (Ma‘ale Gedud; central map ref.: 205250/552300). Several of these sites continued to be in use up to the Ottoman period (the sixteenth–twentieth centuries CE), and even later, to the present day.
The modern tombs, as well as the continued use of the water cisterns, indicate that from the Early Islamic period to the present day, nomads frequenting the region maintained the use of installations left by their predecessors. Today, only Reservoir 325 remains fully preserved—including the entrance structure, the settling pit, the troughs, etc.; it is thus slated for further excavations and conservation. The other sites have been completely destroyed in the process of establishing the new neighborhood.