During November–December 2000 a trial excavation was conducted south of Khirbat Sha‘ira (A-3336*; map ref. NIG 19103–5/66381–5; OIG 14103–5/16381–5), prior to widening Highway 40. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Avner, assisted by A. Hajian (surveying) and N. Zak (drafting).
Five squares in a row were excavated and two layers of building remains were exposed (Fig. 1). The upper layer dated to the Ottoman period, based on the ceramic finds beneath its floors; the lower layer dated to the Byzantine period, judging by body fragments of jars that came from unsealed loci and above the floors. No ceramic finds were found below the floors of the lower layer. A well, whose date is unknown, was examined as well. Two trenches for telephone and water lines that were cut through the squares in a north–south direction damaged the remains.
The Byzantine Period. Three walls (W3–5) were discovered in the northern part of the excavation. The walls (width 0.85 m) were built of two rows of ashlar stones, with earth and small stones between the ashlars, and were preserved eight courses high. A stone floor (L122) abutted the southern side of W4 and a stone-slab floor (L123) abutted W5 on the west. An architectural area enclosed on the north and south with walls (W1, W2) was uncovered in the southern part of the excavation. Walls 1 and 2 were built in the same manner as W3–5, of two rows of medium-sized stones and several large stones, with soil and small fieldstones in between the stones; they were preserved a single course high. The northern face of W1 was coated with a layer of mud and fragments of pottery vessels (thickness 5 cm), over which a layer of gray plaster was applied (thickness 1.5 cm). The area was paved with a white mosaic, survived by two segments, one in the northern part of the area (0.6 × 0.6 m), next to W2, and the other in the southern side of the area (L119; 0.4 × 1.0 m). The mosaic floor overlaid a layer of gray plaster (L108) that was mostly preserved in the northern part of the area and abutted the southern side of W2. A pebble bedding (L106) was below the gray plaster layer and preserved in several sections. The section in the northern part of the area abutted W2. A plastered vat (L117; 1.1 × 3.1 m, depth 1.27 m) was detected in the center of the area, which may have been part of a winepress, wherein the mosaic floor was the treading surface and the plastered vat was the collecting vat.
The Ottoman Period. Walls 3–5 were reused. Stone courses (width 0.4 m), narrower than the lower courses, were added to them; only a single course of the later ones was preserved. A curved wall (W8) built of fieldstones and preserved one course high was revealed west of W5. A plaster floor (L121) abutted the top courses of W4, W5 and W8. To the south of these building remains were two fieldstone-built walls (W6, W7) that may have served as fences or as terrace walls. A plaster floor (L118) that overlaid a fill of fieldstones and was deposited on the mosaic floor (L119) from the Byzantine period abutted W1, which continued to be used in this layer.
The Well (L113; diam. in excess of 5 m) was in the northern part of the area, below W3–5. It seems that these walls were part of the square well. The western part of the well was excavated to a depth of 6 m, when work had to be suspended due to safety concerns. The finds in the well included pottery fragments from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, as well as the modern era.