During June and November 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted next to the Bedouin market in Be’er Sheva‘ (Permit No. A-3445*; map ref. NIG 18055–70/57015–20; OIG 13055–70/07015–20), prior to the construction of a conduit. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Be’er Sheva‘ Municipality, was directed by S. Talis and G. Seriy, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting) and I. Dudin (drawing).
The excavation area was located southeast of the old Bedouin market, on the southern side of Hebron Road. Previous excavations at the site had been conducted by R. Gophna (HA 3:19; 5:18), Y. Israel (HA 13:4; 17:3; 21:5; 22-23:29), R. Cohen (HA 27:14–16), Y. Guvrin (ESI 7-8:12; 9:167), F. Sonntag (HA-ESI 113:115*) and P. Fabian (Permit Nos. A-1862; A-4012; License Nos. G-58/2004; G-64/2005; G-66/2006). Four of the seven excavation squares revealed remains of a building from the Byzantine period (Stratum 1) and a pit from Iron II (Stratum 2).
Parts of four rooms (Loci 105–107, 112, 113; Figs. 1, 2) were exposed. The wall foundations (width 0.5–1.1 m; height 0.15–0.80 m), mostly preserved to one or two courses high, were built of various sized fieldstones. Walls 14 and 15 were preserved six to eight courses high. The floors of the rooms, apparently at a higher level, were destroyed by modern disturbances. The fill in the rooms consisted of soft loess with some traces of layered alluvium, implying that prior to the building’s construction a wadi crossed the area.
An unlined pit (L111; diam. 1.5 m, depth 1.2 m) was discovered below the foundations of the building from Stratum 1. It was dug into the loess and dated to Iron II.
A few fragments of pottery vessels, including bowls, cooking kraters, jugs, lids and jars (not drawn), were found in the rooms of Stratum 1, dating to the sixth century CE.
The ceramic finds from Stratum 2 were pottery fragments from Iron II (end of ninth and eighth centuries BCE), including bowls (Fig. 3:1–7), a krater (Fig. 3:8), a jug (Fig. 3:9), jars (Fig. 3:10, 11), one of which resembles a lmlk jar (11) and holemouth jars (Fig. 3:12, 13). Iron II potsherds were also found in three loci of Stratum 1 (108, 112, 113).
Due to the small amount of finds recovered from the excavation, it is difficult to evaluate the nature of the building in Stratum 1, although clearly it was part of the city of Be’er Sheva‘s center in the Byzantine period (fourth–sixth centuries CE). The city included dwellings, churches, a bathhouse, a winepress, a pottery workshop and cemeteries that were excavated in the region. The Iron II pit was probably located on the southern fringes of a large settlement from that period whose remains had previously been discovered in excavations north of the current one, in part of the Turkish city (I. Gil‘ad and P. Fabian, 7,000 Years of Settlement: The Archaeological Remains of Beer Sheva from the Sixth Millennium BCE until the end of the First Millennium CE, The Beer Sheva Book, in print).