In September–October 2003 a trial excavation was conducted at Khirbat Burnat, east of Shoham and Tel Bareket (Permit No. A-3991; map ref. NIG 196105–605/657305–735, OIG 146105–605/157305–735), in preparation for an extensive salvage excavation (A-4188) as part of the expansion of the Modi‘in Industrial Zone. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and sponsored by the Industrial Buildings Corporation, was directed by H. Torge and P. Gendelman, with the participation of T. Kanias and Y. Arbel (area supervision, probe trenches and antiquities inspection), E. Bachar and S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), L. Yihye (GPS), T. Sagiv (field photography), O. Marder (flint implements), M. Shuiskaya (drawings) and N. Zak (drafting).
The site is located on a rocky hill east of Tel Bareqet and extends across an area of c. 180 dunams, of which some 80 dunams were slated for the trial excavations. The region was surveyed in the past (C.R. Conder and H.H. Kitchener. The Survey of Western Palestine II, 1881–1883, pp. 329–330; R. Gophna and I. Beit-Arieh. Map of Lod , Site 67) and more recently (A-4068). Recent excavations conducted there (A-3233, A-3360; HA-ESI 114:46*–47*) yielded remains ranging in date from Iron II until the Byzantine period.
Forty-four squares were excavated (Fig. 1). In the west and south finds were discovered that date to the Early Bronze II. In the center, east and north a few finds were discovered from the Iron II and the Persian period; however, most of the finds in this area date to the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. On the northern slopes of the hill farming terraces were exposed that date to the Early Islamic period. The remains included residential buildings along with a city wall, cisterns, limekilns, burial caves, miqwa’ot (ritual baths) and agricultural installations. Most of the remains that were discovered in the trial excavation were further exposed and connected in the subsequent salvage excavation and will be described in detail within the framework of the final publication.
The Northwestern Area
Seven squares (F11a–e, F15a–b) were excavated in this area. In addition, a winepress was cleaned at the top of the hill (F17).
The finds in five squares (F11a–e) were dated to the EB II; in three of them (F11a [Fig. 2], F11b, F11d [Fig. 3]) walls and the remains of floors were discovered upon which pottery vessels, animal bones and flint tools were sitting. The walls were built of medium-sized fieldstones and the floors were made of tamped earth and flagstones (Fig. 4).
In Square F11b remains of the northern city wall (W120/1, not on plan) were discovered which enclosed the settlement during the EB II. The southern face of the wall was built of boulders; the northern side of the wall was not discovered. The southern side of the wall was abutted by other walls which indicate that the settlement’s structures were built up against the city wall. The tops of the walls were visible on the surface but were not excavated. Other walls that protruded above the surface were discerned to the north of the city wall. Two squares (Squares F15a–b) were opened along side two of them, exposing the remains of farming terraces from the Early Islamic period. North of these squares (F15) the tops of walls were identified along the surface. Based on their distribution and the nature of the stone it seems that most of them are farming terraces; however, since the slope which ascends to the Early Bronze Age site is very moderate, some of these presumably delimit an ancient road.
The Southwestern Area
Nine squares (F1–3, F6, F10b–f) were excavated in this area. No building remains or habitation levels were discovered in Squares F1–3. In Square F6 installations were exposed that included a cistern and a bodeda (an oil-press installation characteristic of the Iron Age). In the five other squares (F10b–g; Figs. 5, 6) situated along the high area in the south building remains were uncovered that included the city wall (width 3–4 m) built of boulders with a core of medium-sized fieldstones. South of the city wall no building remains were discovered, rather stone collapse. In Square F10c a thickening of the northern side of the city wall (width 7 m) was observed. An earthen floor which abutted the northern side of the city wall dates to the EB II.
A high rocky area located some 20 m north of the city wall yielded numerous hewn installations consisting mostly of cupmarks and basins. Mechanical equipment was used to excavate probe trenches between this area and the city wall where habitation levels and walls were discovered that date to the Early Bronze Age.
The Southeastern Area
Thirteen squares (F4, F5a–d, F10a, F19) were opened; those located on the upper part of the hill date to the EB II while those on the lower eastern slope (F7a–c) dated to the Second Temple period.
In Square F7d a large, impressive wall was exposed that was built of two rows of dressed stones. It was abutted from the west by walls and floors on which pottery vessels, flint implements and animal bones were found. The continuation of the wall to the east of the square was also identified on the surface of the hill’s upper terrace. It should probably be considered part of the settlement fortifications that encircled the hill in the EB II.
In four out of six squares in F5 (Fig. 7) and in Square F4, remains of walls and floors were discovered that date to the EB II. The remains in these squares were identified as residential buildings; installations, pottery vessels, animal bones and flint implements were discovered on their floors.
East of Squares F5, remains of the eastern city wall were visible on the surface at the edge of the slope; next to it was a cave that was not excavated due to safety considerations.
In Square F19, at the top of the southeastern slope, a slightly curved wall was exposed (oriented southwest-northeast) which belonged to an EB II construction. Since it was built against the outside of the city wall it should probably be identified as a tower.
In Square F10a a sounding was excavated next to the southern side of the city wall where the line of the wall descended precipitously. The southern face of the city wall was exposed, as was some of its stone core. It seems that the decline in the elevation of the city wall was a result of later damage (possibly caused by mechanical equipment).
In Squares F7a–c finds were discovered that date to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. In Square F7c (Fig. 8), beneath the floor from the Hellenistic period, walls from the end of the Persian period and the beginning of the Hellenistic period were discovered. A miqwe was identified on the surface of a terrace between Squares F7b and F7c. The remains of white plaster were apparent on its walls and on the southern side of its entrance.
In Square F7b (Fig. 9) fieldstone walls (W5, W6, W7) were exposed as well as a leveled bedrock floor into which a bathtub was hewn. The bathtub was negated in a later phase by a tamped earth floor. The walls continue in Square F7a, which was located on the lowest terrace. The walls of another room of the building, one with a threshold, could be seen on the surface to the north. Two tamped earth floors mixed with chalk (Fig. 10) were discovered in the room of the building that was exposed in Square F7a; the lower one (L1033) dated to the Hasmonean period and the upper (L1028) to the Early Roman period.
The Northeastern Area
In the steeper northeastern part of the area where one could discern numerous walls along the surface that were part of the overall residential complexes, fourteen squares (F7e, F8a–d, F9b, F9d, F12a–d, F14a–b, F16) were opened and the entrance to a miqwe (F13) was cleaned.
Square F7e, which was located on the hilltop next to the northern slope, was opened adjacent to a large wall built of roughly hewn fieldstones. It was preserved to a height of four courses and was abutted by a tamped earth floor. The potsherds recovered from the floor were mixed and it was therefore not possible to date it with certainty.
The remains were better preserved on the lower terraces of the hill where walls, floors and alleys were exposed. Most of the finds in this area were from the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. Squares F12, on the northeastern side of the hill, revealed building complexes (Fig. 11) with domestic installations such as tabuns, a silo, pressing installations and basins. The walls of the buildings, in which a number of phases were identified, were preserved to a height of two–three courses. A portion of an olive press was discovered in Square F12d (Fig. 12).
In Squares F8 a narrow alley situated between two structures was identified. In the southern building, which was dated to the Roman period (F8a–c), sections of four rooms with stone floors were exposed. The walls were built of fieldstones that were founded on bedrock (Fig. 13). In Square F8c a threshold was discovered in which there were two phases. In Square F8b a sounding was excavated below the floor, yielding finds from the Early Roman period. On the floors, pottery vessels were discovered that date from the beginning of the second century CE, thus providing an indication of the building’s continual existence. A fragment of a roof-roller was also discovered. South of the building an alley and another building were discovered.
In Square F9b a dwelling complex was discovered in which a number of phases were identified; its walls were preserved to a height of four courses (1.6 m). The building included a silo, floors made of chalk and leveled bedrock and a plastered installation that was most likely a miqwe.
Terraced construction was noted in the area and one could see the continuation of its walls to the south. In Square F16, the easternmost square in the area, the northern part of a residential building and an alley that ascended westward to the top of the hill were exposed.
Four squares (F8d, F9d, F14a–b) were opened in the network of alleys and paths that linked the residential complexes. In the latter two squares two phases of a road were identified which descended toward a large cistern that was in the middle of the northern slope of the hill. From here the road continued to the wadi and went around the hill to the east. The upper part of the road was hewn in the form of shallow steps.
In the northwestern part of the hill two rock-hewn installations (F13, F17) were surveyed; the former was initially used as a miqwe and was later converted into a cistern (not excavated).
In Square F17 the entrance to a burial cave was exposed (Fig. 14) that was not excavated. The entrance included a long narrow corridor that was flanked on either side by high benches. The cave opening was arched, a characteristic of the Second Temple period; it was blocked by a rolling stone that was discovered in situ. By the beginning of the second century CE the tomb was no longer in use and the entrance was turned into a refuse dump that contained mostly jar and cooking pot fragments.
The site can be divided into three settlement regions. In the west and south of the site remains were discovered that date to EB II; in the north and east the remains were from the Iron II until the Byzantine period, but mostly from the Hellenistic and Roman periods; whereas in the center part of the site an overlapping of the two settlements was noted.
The EB II settlement was fortified. Its center was located at the top of the tell and its bottom part was spread across the low spur which offered effective protection. From the little that was excavated we were able to identify residential buildings, installations and a city wall. The installations were mostly hewn in the bedrock whereas the residential buildings were constructed between the bedrock outcrops. The settlement ceased to exist at the end of EB II, as evidenced by the ceramic repertoire represented by a bowl (Fig. 15:1) and jars (Fig. 15:2–4). No signs of destruction were apparent in it and the portions of its fortification wall that collapsed can be ascribed to the ravages of time.
No architectural remains were discovered that date to the Iron II, Persian and early Hellenistic periods; the pottery evidence (not illustrated), however, attests to some presence in those periods. Finds from the Late Hellenistic period, including a stamped pentagram handle (Fig. 15:5) and a lamp (Fig. 15:6), and from the Roman period, represented by a bowl (Fig. 15:7), a cooking pot (Fig. 15:8), a juglet (Fig. 15:9), jars (Fig. 15:10, 11) and a lamp (Fig. 15:12) provide evidence that the settlement was built on the eastern and northern slopes in accordance with the area’s topography and thus the construction there is terraced. Since there are still walls of the Early Bronze Age buildings that are visible in the area it seems that the inhabitants of the Hellenistic settlement were familiar with them and in the center part of the hill they even reused them.
The settlement from the Hellenistic and Roman periods was rural in nature and included residential buildings and installations separated by alleys. The miqwa’ot and stone vessels (measuring cups) that were discovered bear witness to the Jewish origin of its inhabitants. The settlement did not cease to exist after the Bar Kokhba uprising and continued uninterrupted until the third century CE. The ceramic finds from the Byzantine period, represented by a casserole (Fig. 15:13) are indicative of a later occupation on part of the site that made secondary use of some of the buildings and installations.