In July 2008, an excavation was conducted on the northeastern outskirts of the village of Nein (Permit No. A-5466; map ref. 233175–202/726281–320; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Yannai (field photography and surveying).
A room (L1008), probably a cellar, was revealed in the western part of the excavation. It was constructed in a pit that was dug from the surface level down to the bedrock, work that undoubtedly involved the removal of ancient remains. The room was almost fully exposed. It was delimited by three walls (W13 in the south, W15 in the west and W10 in the east; thickness c. 1.2 m) built of fieldstones in secondary use that were preserved up to the ground level; no wall was revealed in the north. An installation built of small fieldstones bonded with gray mortar (W14) was constructed along the full length of W13. The upper part of the installation was level and was carried by four arches (width 0.7 m, height 0.6 m; Fig. 3). Beneath each of the arches was a shallow depression in the floor (c. 10–15 cm below the Room’s floor level). The floor of the room and of the depressions in the installation was made of pink plaster that covered the bedrock. It seems that the plaster may have been meant to prevent the seepage of liquids, indicating that the room and the installation were used for either an industrial or an agricultural purpose. The floor in the room and in the arched depressions was covered with thick layers of light yellow and grayish brown clay (0.5 m) that was deposited in water. It is difficult to determine with certainty whether the layers of clay resulted from the operation of the installation or from a natural deposition process due to seepage of water after the plastered installation went out of use but prior to the collapse of the structure in which it was situated. However, since level layers of clay are not characteristic of natural deposition processes, it is reasonable to assume that they resulted from the operation of the installation. The function of the installation and the reason for building it in a cellar are unclear. Currently, there is no discussion in the research literature regarding this type of installation. However, a similar plastered installation, also dating to the Mamluk period, was found c. 100 m to the northwest (Atrash 2016; Figs. 9, 10; Fig. 1: A-5500); its excavator identified it as a bench or shelf that may have served also for storage.
The layers of clay were covered with collapsed building stones that filled the room up to the surface level. Between the toppled stones were animal bones, glass fragments, pieces of iron and pottery sherds from a variety of periods; the majority date to the end of the Mamluk period. Fragments of tobacco pipes and an intact open type of oil lamp were found on the deposited clay at the bottom of the collapse. Open lamps of this type first appeared in the Mamluk period, and they continued to be produced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE. One of the pipes bears a Turkish inscription written in Arabic script, a phenomenon that began in the eighteenth century CE and which reached a peak in the nineteenth century CE. This unique find is sufficient to date the destruction of the building in which the room/cellar was installed to the Ottoman period.
The remains in the eastern part of the excavation were poorly preserved (Fig. 4). Two deposits of settlement debris were excavated: a lower deposit (L1006; thickness 0.3–0.5 m), situated on the bedrock, and an overlying deposit of debris and limestone collapse (L1003). The lower deposit covered a rock-hewn pit that was only partially exposed; it was filled with fragments of pottery vessels from the Late Bronze Age IIB. The upper deposit of debris yielded pottery ascribed to the Iron Age II (twelfth–eight centuries BCE only) and a fragment of an ossuary from the Chalcolithic period. It seems that a wall (W11), of which only two roughly hewn stones were exposed in the southern balk of the excavation, was constructed above this debris. The western continuation of this wall was severed when a later wall (W16) was constructed with a foundation set on the bedrock; only the eastern face of W16 was exposed. It was apparent in the southern section of the excavation that an accumulation (fill in a foundation trench?) abutted W16. The accumulation contained potsherds from the Early Islamic period, including numerous ones bearing flaking glaze in pale, light blue and in light gray. No light yellow or pale white buff ware vessels were found. It is therefore impossible to ascertain if the wall dates to the Umayyad period or the Abbasid period. Wall 10, which delineated Room/Cellar 1008 on the east, was constructed along the course of W16.
The remains discovered in the excavation are evidence of five settlement phases: Deposition 1006 from the Late Bronze Age IIB and Deposition 1003 from the Iron Age (twelfth–eight centuries BCE), the origin of which—judging by the pottery types—were not tombs but an adjacent settlement, probably in the western part of Nein; W11, the date of which is unclear; W16 from the Early Islamic period; and the room/cellar (L1008) from the Mamluk–Ottoman period. The ossuary fragment and few potsherds from the Chalcolithic period constitute the first evidence of presence at Nein during this period. The habitation debris indicate that up until the Early Islamic period, the excavated area was located outside the settlement and served for discarding refuse.