In June 2015, a trial excavation was conducted east of Kibbutz Barqai (Permit No. A-7436; map ref. 203776-829/709128-337; Fig. 1), prior to the installation of a gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, was directed by M. Hater, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), A. Hajian and M. Kunin (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography) and K. Saʽid and M. Marwan of the IAA Haifa District.
The site is located on the southern slopes of a moderate spur on Ramat Menashe, south of Nahal ʽIron. Chalk of the Menuhe Formation covered by a thin layer of nari and brown forest soil is common in this region. Two excavation areas (A, B) were opened, 180 m apart, in the declared antiquities site of Barqai East, exposing ancient stone quarries.
In a previously conducted survey, rock-cuttings, tombs, agricultural terraces, a large burial cave and pottery sherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods were documented (Zertal and Mirkam 2000:143–144). Excavations carried out at the site (Haddad 2015
; Permit No. A-6654) uncovered farm houses, architectural remains, walls, numerous rock-hewn installations, field towers, burials caves, agricultural terraces, sherd concentrations and scatterings of flint tools
Southern Area A (Fig. 2) revealed two quarrying points, 6 m apart, exposed in the nari. The southern point consisted of four quarrying steps, severance channels and chisel marks of different-sized building stones (average dimensions 0.3 × 0.4 × 0.7 m). An incompletely hewn winepress—a treading floor (L204) and a collecting vat (L205)— were discovered in the northern part of this rock-cut area (Fig. 3). The northern group of rock-cuttings was small and consisted of a single quarrying step; chisel marks of building stones (average dimensions 0.3 × 0.4 × 0.7 m) and severance channels were noted. The finds in Area A included several abraded ribbed sherds.
Northern Area B (Fig. 4) yielded a small quarry in which chisel marks for stones (average dimensions 0.4 × 0.7 × 1.0 m) and severance channels were noted.
Situated near the site are ancient settlements from the Roman and Byzantine periods, for example Khirbat el-Zabedane, Horbat Gilan and Horbat Nazur, and it is possible that the quarries were used during these periods for the construction of the settlements. Similar quarries have been discovered throughout the Roman and Byzantine empires.
Zertal A. and Mirkam N. 2000. The Manasseh Hill Country Survey III: From Nahal ‘Iron to Nahal Shechem. Tel Aviv (Hebrew).