During July 2001, a salvage excavation was conducted in the center of I‘billin-Evlayim (Permit No. A-3456; map ref. NIG 21830–1/74750–1, OIG 16830–1/24750–1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Abu Raya, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and D. Syon (numismatics).
The excavation (6×15 m) took place along the top of the southern slope in the ancient settlement, c. 50 m south of the Greek-Orthodox Church. Remains of a building that dated to the Byzantine period and a farming terrace wall, dating to the Ottoman period, were exposed (Fig. 1).
The southern part of a building (width 12.7 m), constructed from roughly hewn soft limestone, was exposed. Three rooms with tamped-earth floors (thickness 5–10 cm) were arranged along the building’s southern wall (W2). An opening was installed in the southern wall of the eastern room (width 5.1 m), which was the largest of the three. The southern, eastern and western walls of the middle room (width 2.2 m) were uncovered. A circular tabun (diam. 1 m, depth 0.2 m) was on the floor of the western room (width 3.2 m). Collapse of large ashlar stones (max. dimensions 0.5×0.6×0.7 m) and soil fill, as well as ash that indicates destruction, were piled above the remains of the building. The soil fill contained fragments of pottery vessels, including mainly bowls, jars, cooking pots and numerous imported vessels. This ceramic assemblage, dating to the Byzantine period (sixth century and beginning of the seventh century CE), is characteristic of sites in the western Galilee. Three coins were discovered within the floor of the middle room and in the fill above the building remains, two of which dated to the fourth century CE (IAA 106151, 106152). Another coin that dated to the same period was discovered on surface (346–361 CE; IAA 106153).
A long farming terrace wall (W1; length 9 m, width 0.3 m, height 1.5 m), well-built of one row of roughly hewn medium-sized stones (0.25×0.30×0.35 m), was exposed above the building remains. On the southern side of the wall, in the direction of the slope, tamped fill and habitation layers that extended down to the foundation of the wall were discovered. These layers of fill yielded fragments of pottery vessels and pipes that dated to the end of the Ottoman period (eighteenth century CE). The eastern part of the wall was next to a square building, which was not excavated and dated to the latter part of the nineteenth century CE; sections of its western (W4) and southern (W6) walls were visible. The walls of the building were built of roughly hewn stones in secondary use that originated from the Byzantine-period building.
Numerous previous excavations were conducted at Evlayim, revealing installations, a burial cave and hiding refuge complexes. The current excavation exposed, for the first time, part of a residential building from the Byzantine period. The building shows that rural construction was impressive and utilized particularly large stones.