During June–July 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted along the eastern fringes of Tel Malot (Permit No. A-3641; map ref. NIG 18742–50/64034–46; OIG 13742–50/14034–46), prior to working on the railroad track from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by G. Parnos, with the assistance of D. Sklar and O. Segal (area supervision), R. Abu Khalaf and H. Lavi (administration), V. Essman, A. Hajian, V. Pirsky, T. Kornfeld and I. Berin (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), I. Bukengolts (pottery restoration), N. Ze’evi (pottery drawing), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and R. Kehati (archaeozology).
Two excavation areas (A, B; Fig. 1), c. 20 m apart, were opened along the railroad track (ESI 12:49–50; HA-ESI 112:70*–71*; they were adjacent to Area B2 of S. Wexler-Bdolah’s excavation). Building remains, installations, pits and tombs from the Neolithic, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were exposed.
Squares D3-D5. A deposit of brown soil (L10), overlaying clean sand and dating to the Pottery Neolithic period, contained small stones, potsherds, flint items and bones. Part of a Pottery Neolithic period clay-built tomb (L13), whose western part was severed by the railroad track, was exposed in the northern part of this deposit. The brown soil deposit was overlaid with layers of soil fill in different colors (L11; thickness c. 2 m), bearing fragments of pottery vessels from the Byzantine period. The fill was retained on the east by a carelessly built wall.
Squares G6, G7. The discovered building remains had two phases (L1). Ascribed to the early phase was the northeastern corner of a room, abutted on the east by a crushed chalk floor and on the north by a stone pavement, dating to the sixth century CE on account of the ceramic finds above the floors that included a complete jar embedded in the floor. A wall, ascribed to the later phase and dated to the seventh century CE, was abutted on the north by a level of small stones.
Squares C13-C16. Fragmentary remains of walls and floors that had two building phases were exposed (L3). A corner of a building, abutted on the north by an earthen floor, was attributed to the early phase, which was dated to the fifth century CE based on the ceramic artifacts above the floor. An east–west oriented wall, which was abutted on the north by a level of small stones, was attributed to the later phase, dating to the sixth century CE.
Squares C18, C19. Remains of a winepress were discovered in clean sandy soil (L2; Fig. 2). The wall that enclosed the winepress was built of one or two rows of pebbles with a core of two rows of medium fieldstones. The winepress comprised a treading floor (1.91 × 2.15 m), with a deep settling pit in its center and two collecting vats (1.91 × 2.15 m, 2.19 × 2.38; depth c. 1 m), to the north and south of the floor. The walls of the collecting vats were coated with light red hydraulic plaster and their floors were paved with coarse white mosaics that had evidently been repaired in the past. Two steps descended from the treading floor to each of the collecting vats, in whose centers deep settling pits were cut. The base of a jar was incorporated within the bottom of the settling pit in the northern collecting vat. The collecting vats contained ceramic finds from the Byzantine until the Abbasid periods.
The area was c. 20 m from the Nahal ‘Ekron channel. A strip of six squares (B23–B29) was opened and ancient remains were excavated only in the three southern squares. Chalk bedrock in this area was overlain with a layer of clean husmas soil (thickness c. 2 m) and ground water occurred at the interface between them. The husmas layer was a few centimeters below surface in the northern part of the area and c. 1.2 m below surface in the southern part.
Squares B27-B29. Two pits (Loci 7, 8) dug in the husmas layer contained a fill of small stones, flint tools and coarse fragments of pottery, dating to the Neolithic period. Remains of a building or large installation (L12), which included a curved wall built of fieldstones and a soil level that abutted it, also dated to the Neolithic period. The bottom part of a Middle Bronze Age pottery kiln (L5) was exposed north of Pit 7. The kiln had an elongated stoking chamber and a circular combustion chamber (diam. 2 m) with three supports of clay bricks that were built against its walls.
South of the kiln was a circular well (L4; diam. 2.15 m, depth 2.1 m; Fig. 3) dug into the husmas layer down to chalk bedrock. Ground water was discerned at the bottom of the well. The fill removed from the well included mixed pottery vessels that dated to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. It therefore seems that the well was no longer used in the Late Bronze Age. A rectangular structure (L6), to the south of the installation (L12), was on top of a wall from the Neolithic period. The structure’s walls were built of rubble and coated with plaster. Near them were fragments of a human skull that indicated the structure was apparently a tomb that had been plundered in antiquity. The ceramic finds in the fill around and within the structure were dated to the Byzantine and Abbasid periods. A tomb covered with roughly hewn stones (L9; not excavated) was discerned east of L6, very close to surface. The tomb was oriented east–west, as customary of a Muslim burial.