In 2006, a survey of the original route of the fence, to the southeast of the Deir Cremisan Monastery, documented 13 sites (Dagan and Barda 2011); these included a burial cave, agricultural terraces, quarries, a limekiln, a cistern and potsherd scatterings. A survey conducted in 2015 along the modified route of the fence (License No. S-597/2015) yielded terrace walls, quarries, a field tower, a cave and a water cistern. An archaeological inspection prior to the current excavation detected an agricultural installation, two water cisterns and a burial cave
During the excavation, several installations identified in the 2015 survey and in the archaeological inspection were cleaned and recorded (Fig. 2).
Field tower (L104; Figs. 3, 4). A field tower built on bedrock, with an outer wall of fieldstones and a core of small stones and soil, was identified at the foot of the slope.
Winepress (L102; Fig. 5). A simple winepress was hewn into the rock up the slope and to the south of the field tower. It comprised a treading floor (0.9 × 1.2 m), a collecting pit (0.6 × 0.6 m, depth 0.4 m) and the remains of a channel for draining the liquid off into storage jars following the initial fermentation process.
Bodeda (L107; Fig. 6). To the south of the winepress and farther uphill was a rock-hewn bodeda, which was probably used for oil extraction. Its upper part (0.4 × 0.6 m, depth 0.2 m) served as a pressing surface, and its lower part (0.3 × 0.4 m, depth 0.15 m) was used to produce oil.
Winepress and Burial Cave (L110; map ref. 217450/625378; Fig. 7). A rock-hewn winepress was uncovered up the slope and to the south of the bodeda. It comprised a large treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat (Fig. 8). The liquid flowed from the treading floor (L115; length 5.2 m, width 3 m; Fig. 9) via a channel (L132; 0.15 × 0.25 m, depth 0.16 m) to the settling pit (L120; diam. 0.75 m, depth 0.53 m), and from there to the collecting vat (L135; depth 1.5 m). The grapes may have been pressed with a beam anchored in a niche hewn into the rock wall (L130; width 0.35 m, height 0.35 m, depth 0.16 m; Fig. 7: Section 3–3).
An arched entrance (L128; length 0.55 m, height 0.72 m; Fig. 9) hewn in the western rock wall of the winepress’s treading floor led into a cave, rendering the winepress obsolete and turning the treading floor (L115) into a courtyard in front of the cave. From the opening, a wide step (L129; Fig. 10) led into the main chamber (L123). Three arcosolia (L124–L126; length 2 m, width 0.8 m, height 0.8 m) were cut into its walls. Beside the western arcosolium (L125) was a narrow, natural tunnel (L117; over 4 m long), and a chimney-like shaft (L131; Fig. 7: Section 1–1)—probably natural—cut through the cave’s roof. Another cavity (L127; Fig. 11), possibly a bone repository, was hewn beneath the northern arcosolium (L124). A circular rock-hewn pit (L122; 0.35 m deep) may have served to hold vessels.
The pottery from the winepress and the cave was very meager. A fragment of a Hellenistic jar (Fig. 12:2) was found on the surface in front of the cave entrance, and fragments of a Hellenistic bowl (Fig. 12:1) and a Late Roman jar (Fig. 12:4) were recovered on the floor inside the cave. A Hellenistic jar fragment (Fig. 12:3) was found inside the settling pit (L120). A coin of Agrippa I (41/42 CE; IAA 158013) was discovered approximately 10 m north of the cave. The deposits inside the cave yielded a small quantity of animal bone fragments that had been washed inside after it ceased to be used.
The excavation unearthed evidence of agricultural activity and funerary practices in southern Jerusalem. Winepresses, a bodeda and a field tower used by local inhabitants for producing olive oil and wine for domestic use were identified. The excavation focused on the burial cave containing arcosolia.
Burial caves of this type are characteristic of Jerusalem and its environs from the second to the eighth centuries CE (Avni, Dahari and Kloner 2008:203). The winepress with the beam press conforms to the second Jerusalem winepress type as classified by Gibson and Edelstein. Wine- and oil-manufacturing installations of this type date in Israel from the eighth century BCE onward, their last documented use being in the Byzantine period (Gibson and Edelstein 1985:147–149).