In November–December 2002, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Barne‘a neighborhood of Ashqelon (Area A—Permit No. A-3850: map ref. NIG 15993–6017/62175–90; OIG 10993–11017/12175–190; Area B—Permit No. A-3962: map ref. NIG 1599–601/6218–22; OIG 1099–101/1218–220), as part of infrastructure work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Antiquities Authority with the financial support of the Azorim Company, was directed by Y. Haimi, with the participation of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), I. Lidski-Reznikov (artifact drawing), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and G. Finkielsztejn (professional guidance).
The excavation was conducted in two areas (Fig. 1): Area A, c. 7 dunams and Area B, c. 8 dunams. Streets, alleys and mud-brick-built houses were exposed, belonging to a planned Hellenistic settlement that was founded in the middle of the second century BCE and was abandoned shortly thereafter, without any traces of destruction.
Area A (Figs. 2, 3)
Hippodamian planning was evident in the settlement where a 3 m-wide street (L21) was discerned that was oriented in an east-west direction; it was connected to a 1.1 m wide alley (L11) that ran in a north–south direction. South of the street a building was exposed that constituted part of an insula (L28) with a large central courtyard surrounded by rooms (Fig. 4). A kitchen (L68) with two tabuns was uncovered off the courtyard. In its mud-brick walls were built niches where lamps were placed and wall closets equipped with shelves. The walls of the building’s rooms (Loci 17, 25) were preserved to a height of 3 m. The perimeter walls were 0.45 m thick and the partition walls were 0.3 m thick. The walls were all constructed from mud bricks (0.35×0.45 m, thickness 0.12 m). Although the artifacts were very sparse, a Megarian bowl (Fig. 5) and a coin of Alexander I Balus (150–145 BCE; IAA No. 97984; Fig. 6) were found on the floor of the building’s western room (L25).
In the room located north of the street (L27) a plastered floor was exposed and an opening there led to the courtyard (L41) with four tabuns (Fig. 7). Another coin of Alexander I Balus (150–145 BCE; IAA No. 97986) was discovered on the floor of the courtyard. On the western side of Area A a cistern (L16; diam. 4.5 m, depth 4.8 m) was found below the walls of the building. It was partially excavated, yielding numerous potsherds from the Persian period.
Area B (Figs. 8, 9)
The continuation of the settlement was uncovered in this area which was located c. 60 m northwest of Area A. It included a street (L14) that was oriented along a north–south axis and a building which was part of a larger building. The building had a large courtyard (L90) flanked by rooms in which pottery from the middle of the second century BCE was found. An installation that drained water to the street (L69) was exposed on the western side of the courtyard. A stamped amphora handle (Fig. 10) that originated in Ephesus and dates to the year 152 BCE was found inside the installation. No pottery vessels were recovered from the rooms of the building; however, another coin of Alexander I Balus (150–145 BCE; IAA No. 97987) was found in one of them (L57).