In April–May 2014, a trial excavation was conducted at Horbat Usha (Permit No. A-7093; map ref. 213701–20/744914–51; Fig. 1), prior to construction of a road. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Cross-Israel Highway Company, Ltd., was directed by D. Kirzner (photography), with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), R. Mishayev and R. Liran (surveying and drafting), A. Dagot (GPS), E. Shukron (preliminary inspections), P. Gendelman (ceramics), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and C. Sa‘id and L. Talmi.
Two excavation squares were opened in a pine forest planted along the northwestern fringes of Horbat Usha, slightly west of Highway 70. Two winepresses, hewn into limestone bedrock and situated c. 10 m apart, were exposed (1, 2; Figs. 2, 3). After Winepress 1 went out of use, a staircase was hewn into its collecting vat which led to a burial cave.
Settlement remains, cisterns, caves, winepresses, rock-cuttings and pottery sherds from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods were documented in a survey performed at the site in 2006 (Tabar 2010
). Excavations conducted in 2008 and 2009 exposed building remains, an oil press, a double winepress, a ritual bath (miqveh
), rock-hewn pits and hiding refuges (Oshri 2012
). Remains of walls, a winepress and a rock-cutting were revealed in an excavation conducted nearby in 2013 (Massarwa 2014
Winepress 1 comprised a treading floor (L101; 3.3 × 3.5 m; Fig. 4) that sloped to the east and a collecting vat (L102; 1.2 × 1.7 m, depth 1.75 m). After the winepress was no longer in use the collecting vat was widened and deepened and converted to a staircase that led to the opening of a burial cave (L103; Fig. 5; the cave was not excavated). The opening of the cave was an arched rectangular (0.7 × 1.0 m). A recess for a roll-stone was hewn next to the northern side of the opening; the stone was not discovered. Soil had accumulated in the collecting vat that was converted to a staircase. It contained fragments of ceramic ossuaries and pottery sherds dating to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods (third–fifth centuries CE). A leveled bedrock surface (L112) was exposed east of the winepress.
Winepress 2 comprised a square treading floor (L104; 2.9 × 2.9 m) and a rectangular collecting vat (L106; 0.95 × 1.35 m, depth 0.9 m), linked together by a channel (L105; length 1.35 m, width 0.15 m, depth 0.15 m). A square pit (L108; 0.35 × 0.35 m, depth 0.35 m) was hewn in the center of the treading floor, where the base of a screw press was positioned; a drainage hole hewn in Pit 108 led to Channel 105. A settling pit (L111; 0.4 × 0.4 m, depth 0.2 m) was hewn in the collecting vat’s southwestern corner. Remains of a foundation of river pebbles and small fieldstones for hydraulic plaster were exposed on the floor of the collecting vat; several bits of plaster were preserved above the foundation. An accumulation of soil discovered in the collecting vat yielded worn pottery sherds dating to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods (third–fifth centuries CE). A concentration of fieldstones (L107; 1.1 × 1.9 m) that might have been used as a work surface was uncovered south of the treading floor.
The ceramic finds from the excavation included fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE), among them a Galilean bowl rim (Fig. 7:1), a rim of a Galilean jug (Fig. 7:2), part of a handle of a Galilean jar (Fig. 7:3) and pottery sherds from the Early Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE), including a bowl rim (Fig. 7:4) and a jar rim (Fig. 7:5).