At the end of December 2003 and the beginning of January 2004 a salvage excavation was conducted at Rekhes Nafha ((Permit No. A-4068*; map ref. NIG 1790/5118; OIG 1290/0118; HA-ESI 115:66*–67*), following damage to antiquities caused while preparing a dirt road for the erection of an electric pole. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Electric Company, was directed by M. Haiman, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying and drafting) and K. Vardi of Ben-Gurion University (dating of the flint implements).
The site (50 × 200 m; Fig. 1) was located on a gentle slope that descends to the north, toward a wadi channel. Ten rounded buildings were documented and two of them (1, 2) were excavated. The site was dated to Early Bronze II, based on the meager quantity of flint implements that were collected on surface. This site had been surveyed in the past within the Negev Emergency Survey (Map of Har Nafha , Sites 443, 447).
The two structures (No. 1––diam. 4 m; No. 2––2 × 4 m) were built on leveled bedrock. The walls of Building 1 (width 0.6 m) consisted of two rows of fieldstones (max. length 0.4 m) and were preserved to a maximum of three courses high (0.5 m). An oval-shaped, stone-built installation (0.7 × 1.0 m, height c. 0.4 m) was found inside the building. Attached to its western side was another building, of which a round room was preserved (diam. c. 1.5 m). The walls of Building 2 consisted of a single row of fieldstones (max. length 0.5 m) that was preserved a single course height. No habitation level was discovered in either of the buildings.
The other buildings documented at the site included a single very spacious structure (c. 20 × 40 m) that had a large central courtyard surrounded by six circular rooms (diam. 2–3 m), a rounded animal pen (6 × 13 m) next to the cliff and six rounded single-room buildings (diam. 2–3 m).
During the excavation, scant remains of a flint industry were collected on surface, including several cores, unretouched blades and industrial debitage that dated to Early Bronze II. This site is part of a large group of EB II sites that was surveyed in the Negev Highlands. The finds from the site are similar to those from contemporary sites in the region, among them a site located c. 500 m to the south (B. Saidel 2002. The Excavations at Rekhes Nafha 396 in the Negev Highlands, Israel. BASOR 325:37–63). A fan scraper, characteristic of EB II in the Negev and Sinai, was found on surface in a survey that had been conducted at the site in the past (Map of Har Nafha , pp. 188–189, Site 447).
Judging by the animal pen at the site, it seems that shepherds had settled there, most probably on a temporary basis and for short periods of time, due to its distance from a source of water. The absence of an occupation level in the two excavated buildings together with the scant finds on surface indicate that the site may have been abandoned close to the time it was established. A similar phenomenon of buildings without an occupation level was discerned in the excavations of the Early Bronze Age sites on the Qadesh Barne‘a spur, c. 30 km west of the site, as well as in southern Sinai (ESI 1:104–105). These sites were dated to EB II based on the scant flint implements and potsherds gathered on surface.