The site extends across a hill and was probably damaged when the Be’er Sheva‘–Ashqelon road that crosses the hill was paved. The site had been surveyed by Conder and Kitchener (1883. The Survey of Western Palestine, III. London) who documented scattered stones and cisterns lined with fieldstones. During the years 1926–1946, J. Ory documented antiquities at the site, including scattered stones, foundations, cisterns lined with fieldstones, a tomb, two tumuli, remains of a well, slag, marble fragments, four columns, tesserae and pottery dating to the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods and the Middle Ages (IAA Archive, File 126). The site was also surveyed within the Map of Sederot (96) and settlement remains (c. 70 dunams) were documented, including architectural and mosaic floor remains, five cisterns and a large amount of pottery from the Byzantine and Early Islamic period (Lamdan M., Ziffer D., Huster Y. and Ronen A. 1977. Prehistorical Archaeological Survey of Nahal Shiqma, The Sha‘ar Ha-Negev Regional Council. P. 172, Site 11-10/11/1 [Hebrew]). The site is referred to in that survey as Horbat Dardas; Khirbat Beit Dardas is mentioned in Guérin as a destroyed village, and he claimed that most of the building stones in the village structures were removed and sent to Gaza (V. Guérin. Description géographique, historique et archéologique de la Palestine [Hebrew translation of the French edition from 1868 by Haim Ben Amram]. Jerusalem 1982, 2:204).
Area A. Remains of a building were exposed in the northern part of the site (Fig. 2); its northern and eastern sections were damaged by earthmoving work. Two walls (W10, W12) that formed a corner of a structure, built of coarsely dressed stones and preserved two courses high, were exposed. A tabun (diam. c. 0.85 m; Fig. 3) was discovered in the corner of the walls. An ash layer revealed at the base of the tabun continued beneath the foundations of W12 and it therefore seems that the installation predated the structure. The ceramic finds from the excavation were fairly homogenous and included fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period, such as glazed bowls and spouted jugs (Fig. 4:20). Based on these finds it seems that the building and the tabun date to the Mamluk period and the gap between them is brief. On the outside of the building, near W12, fragments of pottery from the Early Roman period were discovered, including a bowl (Fig. 4:1) and a Herodian lamp (Fig. 4:2), possibly indicating that the building was first used in this period or that a building dating to this period stood nearby.
Remains of a large building were discovered in the southern part of the area; although the eastern part was ruined, three construction phases (I–III; Figs. 5) were discerned. The wall foundations were mostly preserved. Layers consisting of large amounts of slag and potsherds from the Byzantine period were discovered in and around the building. Three rooms in the western part of the building and a large room or courtyard to the east (L106, L108) are ascribed to the late phase (I). Remains of a pottery kiln discovered beneath the northeastern part of the building are ascribed to the middle phase (II). It seems that this kiln is the reason for the large amount of pottery that was discovered there. Two walls (W11A, W19) are ascribed to the early phase (III). Wall 19 was built in a different direction than that of the building in Phase I. Wall 11A was partly exposed beneath Wall 11 of Phase I, next to it. The quality of the stone dressing in the stones of the earlier wall (W11A) was much better than that of the stones of the later wall (W11). Clay bricks that were apparently the upper courses of the earlier wall (Fig. 6) were discovered below the foundations of W11 and above the stones of the earlier W11A. The top of another early wall was discerned in the northeastern part of the building. The early walls of Phase III were abutted by the bottommost destruction layer in the area. Based on the ceramic artifacts and numismatic finds, it seems that the first activity in the area was the construction of the walls of Phase III in the fourth century CE. The pottery workshop of Phase II apparently operated in the fifth–seventh centuries CE. In this phase, the upper halves of baggy-shaped jars and Gaza jars were discovered placed upside down on their rims (Fig. 7). Placing jars in this manner was also documented in other pottery workshops (ESI 13:106–107). The ceramics in Phase II mostly included material from the sixth–seventh centuries CE, including a small Late Roman C bowl (Fig. 4:3), African Red Slip bowls (Fig. 4:5), an LRC bowl with a stamped impression of a cross (Fig. 4:7), non-slipped bowls with a folded rim (Fig. 4:4, 6), a krater with a thickened rim (Fig. 4:8), a jug of cooking pot material (Fig. 4:19), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 4:11–16) and Gaza jars (Fig. 4:17, 18). It seems that the walls of Phase III were still visible on the surface when the pottery kiln was in use in Phase II. The pottery kiln ceased to be used toward the end of the Byzantine period. The building from Phase I was founded on top of large amounts of pottery. The structure was used until the Late Byzantine or the beginning of the Early Islamic periods. The pottery finds from Phase I included bowls (Fig. 4:9, 10) that were discovered above the floor of the building, and a jar, dating to the end of the Byzantine–beginning of the Early Islamic periods, yet it does not include material that is genuinely characteristic of the Early Islamic period and therefore, it seems that the building ceased to be used at the beginning of the seventh century CE.
Area B. A large complex winepress (8×10 m; Figs. 8, 9) was exposed; it included a treading floor (L205), collecting vats (L220, L222) and a storage area (L200). The treading floor (c. 6.7×7.0 m) was evidently paved with stone slabs, all of which had been extracted (c. 0.5×0.8 m) and whose negatives were preserved in the mortar used in paving the surface. A square stone (1×1 m) with a square hole in its center (0.4×0.4 m) that served as a base of a press installation was located in the center of the floor. A channel beneath the surface led from the stone to the eastern side of the treading floor and then to a distribution basin that was set between the two collecting vats (L220, L222). A stone column drum was exposed in the eastern part of the treading floor, which might have had a roof of perishable materials.
The collecting vats were located in a compound, probably a walled courtyard, which was built and well-fenced in (8.0×11.5 m). The southern and eastern walls of this compound were built of large stones arranged as headers and stretchers; they were preserved 1 m high. This compound was divided into two parts, each with a large plastered collecting vat (diam. of each vat 2.7 m; the northern vat (L222) was not excavated; Fig. 10). Vat 222 was connected to the distribution basin by means of a pipe that was probably made of lead. A stone-built installation was exposed next to the enclosure’s eastern wall (W26). Remains of a stone pavement were discovered east of Vat 222. South of this vat were remains of a pavement that was c. 0.2 m lower than the level of the pavement east of the vat. There apparently was a step between these two floors. Many pieces of mosaic were discovered in this area of the excavation. These might have originated in the winepress located in Area C because no evidence of mosaic floors was discovered in the winepress in Area B. A settling pit (diam. c. 0.3 m) was hewn in the bottom of Collecting Vat 220 (depth c. 1.5 m). No remains of stone pavement were discovered east of the vat and if had there been one, it must have been completely robbed. A marble column and capital, not connected to the winepress, were discovered near the edge of Vat 220; these probably belonged to an opulent building that stood at the top of the hill. A wall (W28) with probably two doorways was built between the two collecting vats. A square stone, similar to the one that was discovered in the center of the treading floor, was discovered in the western doorway. A square enclosure (L207; 3.3×3.6 m), which was severely damaged when a communications ditch was dug for a telephone line, was exposed south of the treading floor. Three jars embedded in plaster were exposed in the southern side of this enclosure. It seems that the mouths of these vessels were at a higher level than the level of the treading floor, but lower than the level of the storage area to the east.
A narrow elongated storage area (L200; Fig. 11) was exposed east of the treading floor. The storage area was paved with stones that had mostly been extracted; the mortar used to bond the paving stones to the bedding was all that survived. Two circular stone basins (diam. c. 0.3 m, depth c. 0.3 m; L203, L204) were embedded in the western side of the area, which was apparently enclosed by a low wall that had survived by only a few stones in the southeastern corner (W27). A small plastered pool (L216; 1.8×1.8 m) whose bottom was slightly lower than that of the storage area was built just north of the storage area. The floor of the pool sloped to the west and a channel that passed through its western wall (W23) led to a jar embedded in the wall below the bottom level of the pool.
Architectural remains that were apparently used in conjunction with the wine-making process were discovered west and northeast of the winepress. The foundations of a room (W21, W22; presumed dimensions 3.2×5.0 m) were discovered west of the storage area. The room had a tamped-earth floor and around it (L202, L208) was a layer of mortar, not leveled and of uneven thickness; this seems to be the surplus material that accumulated on the ground at the time the winepress was built or renovated. Several roof-tile fragments were discovered inside the room (L210). Wall remains destroyed down to the level of their foundation were exposed northeast of the winepress; these were probably store rooms and toilets. Some of the rooms were extremely small. An open paved courtyard was probably located east of the winepress. Four well-dressed flagstones were discovered in the middle of the courtyard. Two shallow depressions were hewn in one of them (Fig. 12). The depressions might have been intended for standing jars in and the grooves for collecting the liquid that spilled from the jars. Several crudely dressed flagstones and a nearly complete baggy-shaped jar embedded in the ground were discovered in the south of the courtyard.
The ceramic finds in this area date to the end of the Byzantine period and probably belong to the last phase of the winepress use. The finds included red-slipped bowls (Fig. 13:2), kraters with a thickened rim (Fig. 13:3), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 13:5), Gaza type store jars (Fig. 13:7) and a Coptic jug with a filter (Fig. 13:12).
Based on the size of the winepress and its fine construction it seems to have been a public winepress (E. Ayalon. 1984. Wine Presses from the Time of the Mishnah at the Land of Israel Museum. Israel – People and Land 1 :17–30 [Hebrew]). This winepress apparently served several vineyards; it may have produced must from several different types of vine or belonged to a large estate or monastery that produced wine in large quantities. First the grapes were placed in the storage area. The stone basins in this area might have been used to collect the excellent quality first must (Y. Hirschfeld. 1981. Ancient Wine Presses in the Ayalon Park Region. Eretz-Israel 15:383–390, [Hebrew]), or for measuring the amount of grapes inserted in the press (S. Dar. 1981. The Settlement Pattern of Western Samaria in the Periods of the Second Temple, Mishna, the Talmud and the Byzantine Period. Tel Aviv, [Hebrew]), or for storing material that was used in the must production (Chidiosan N., Ayalon E. and Yosef A. 1987-1989. Two Winepresses from the Period of the Talmud near Tel Qasile. Israel – People and Land. Vol. 5-6 [23-24]:23–36 [Hebrew]). Various ingredients were added to the must, including resins, herbal fragrances and flavors, lime, gypsum, marl and salt (Dar 1981), water and persimmon, honey and peppers, scent and wormwood (R. Frankel and E. Ayalon. 1989. Vine, Wine Presses and Wine in Antiquity. Tel Aviv [Hebrew]), depending on the desired type of wine. It seems that Pool 216 was meant for the high quality first must that was expressed as a result of the weight of the grapes themselves. Later, the grapes were transferred to the treading floor. The must flowed to the distribution basin and from there to one of the collecting vats. The grape skins that remained after the treading of grapes were pressed in a screw-like press installation in the middle of the treading floor. This installation, which first appears in the first century BCE, is characteristic of winepresses of the Byzantine period in Israel (Hirschfeld 1981; I. Roll and E. Ayalon. 1980 Two Large Wine Presses in the Region of the Hamra Hills in the Land of Israel. Nofim 13-14:7–26 [Hebrew]).
Area C. A mostly ruinous plastered collecting vat (diam. 1.95 m, depth c. 1.3 m) of a winepress was exposed. A prominent stone slab (7–8×30 cm), which probably served as a step for going in and out of the vat, was set in the southern part of the vat. The ceramic finds dated to the end of the Byzantine period and included a Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Fig. 13:1) dating from the late sixth to the late seventh centuries CE, baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 13:6), Gaza jars (Fig. 13:8) and a sandal lamp (Fig. 13:13) dating to the Byzantine period.
Area D. Five cisterns were previously documented on the hill (G. Nir of Qibbuz Gevim, per. comm.). During the current examination, one cistern was documented on the top of the hill (map ref. 16128/60118) and remains of a building were noted nearby. A fragment of a marble chancel screen adorned with a cross was discovered in the ruin (it is currently in Qibbuz Gevim). A fragment of a marble capital decorated with a cross in relief was discovered on the hillside, north of the building remains (Fig. 14). The base of a large column had previously been discovered in the building remains (it is currently in Qibbuz Gevim). These items indicate that a church once existed in the settlement. The location of the building on the hilltop and discovery of architectural elements inside it or nearby suggest that the structure might be a church. Remains of walls and a plastered installation that seems to be a pool (map ref. 16124/60112) were discerned on the western slope of the hill, in a section that was excavated while paving the road. Pottery dating to the Byzantine and Mamluk periods was gathered on the hill. It seems that the wall remains and the installation dated to the Mamluk period.
Area F. A column capital was documented (map ref. 16120/60102; Fig. 15).
A stone fragment of a potter’s wheel and a scatter of marble fragments, tesserae, slag and bits of stone and mortar were documented nearby (map ref. 16107/60114).
Seven other locations with finds were documented in and around Horbat Lasan:
1 (Map ref. 16142/60165; Fig. 1: 1). A large cistern (depth c. 6 m; ‘The Barn-Owl Cistern’), coated with plaster mixed with potsherds. Two terracotta pipes lead to the cistern from a settling basin.
2 (Map ref. 16112/60127; Fig. 1: 2). A scatter of slag and pottery. Numerous roof tiles had previously been discovered in the same location (D. Kedar of Qibbuz Nir‘am, per. comm.).
3 (Map ref. 16153/60120; Fig. 1: 3). A scatter of pottery and slag.
4 (Map ref. 16155/60118; Fig. 1: 4). A scatter of building stones, pottery and slag.
5 (Map ref. 16048/60090; Fig. 1: 5). A cistern was documented and a scatter of marble fragments and tesserae were noted nearby. This find location is situated outside the limits of the site, but based on the artifacts and the location on the bank of the wadi channel it is probably where a bathhouse belonging to the settlement was located. Bathhouses were discovered at many sites in the region (M. Cohen. 1993. Between Ha-Besor and Shiqma. Jerusalem. Pp. 167–170 [Hebrew]).
6 (Map ref. 16115/60090; Fig. 1: 6). Remains of a building and pottery and slag scatters nearby.
7. (Map ref. 16145/60099; Fig. 1: 7). A large cistern and a white mosaic nearby. There are numerous rock-hewn bell-shaped cisterns in the region that are near winepresses (Dar 1981:236), and there might also be a winepress here.
A cemetery (c. 60 dunams) attributed to the settlement is located c. 0.5 km northwest of Horbat Lasan; the Be’er Sheva‘–Ashqelon road passes through its eastern part. A strip of ground (c. 15×100 m) was excavated east of the road and fifty-one graves were discovered; some were cist tombs and others pit graves. The graves were oriented northwest-southeast or north-northwest–south-southeast. The bones were poorly preserved making an anthropological examination impossible. The excavation finds included pottery from the Byzantine period, slag and a small amount of glass. Fragments of sarcophagus lids that were apparently discovered when the Mekorot Company was digging a trench for a water line are in Qibbuz Nir‘am. These lids are gabled and have acroteria (Fig. 16). Based on these lids it seems that the burials had already begun in the Roman period, in the second–third centuries CE or even in the early fourth century CE (Y. Magen. 1987. The Western Mausoleum at Neapolis [Nablus], Eretz-Israel 19:72–91 [Hebrew]).
Gevim Junction Site
Area I. An excavation area (I; 40 sq m) was opened where remains of installations, pottery and slag were discovered during an antiquities inspection. Remains of two pottery kilns, located c. 8 m apart (diams. 3 m and c. 4.5 m), were discovered. The ceramic finds mostly included Ashqelon jars (the early type of Gaza jars) dating to the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 13:9–11) and it therefore seems that the kilns at the site mainly produced this type of jar (A. Zemer. 1977. Storage Jars in Ancient Sea Trade. Haifa. Pl. 19:53; Peacock D.P.S. and Williams D.F. 1986. Amphorae and the Roman Economy. London and New York, Class 48). Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE were also discovered, including a bowl with a thickened rim (Fig. 13:4).
Within the framework of the prehistoric survey of Nahal Shiqma (map ref. 1608/6022) settlement remains were documented nearby in an area of c. 60 dunams, including architectural remains, tesserae, three cisterns and pottery from the Byzantine period (Lamdan, Ziffer, Huster and Ronen 1977:170, Site 11-10/02/1). It seems that the kilns discovered in the excavation belonged to this settlement.
Area H. A cistern (map ref. 16056/60205) was documented, as well as remains of a nearby cistern, a fragment of a marble chancel screen, slag and a basalt fragment (map ref. 16063/60207).
Helena Sokolov and Donald T. Ariel
A large number of 51 coins was recovered from the excavation (Table 1).