During October 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted near ‘En Yo’el, on the western slope of Har Refa’im in the Jerusalem Hills (Permit No. A-3741*; map ref. NIG 2095/6268; OIG 1595/1268), as part of upgrading the Jerusalem–Bet Shemesh railway. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Israel Railway Authority, was directed by Y. Baruch (surveying and photography), assisted by R. Abu Di‘ab (administration) and A. Pikovski (pottery drawing).
A farming terrace on the northern slope of the Nahal Yo’el site was excavated (Fig. 1). The terrace was located on a bedrock ledge, alongside the road leading to the site and below a row of burial caves, which dated to the Second Temple period and possibly even earlier; some had been excavated in the past by D. Weiss (ESI 14:145).
Between the terrace wall and the bedrock outcrop an accumulation of soil fills was excavated. It overlaid an intentional fill of gravel and stones that was deposited during the construction of the terrace and retained by it. At the top of the gravel fill, which continued southward beyond the limits of the excavation, were patches of crushed chalk, whose nature is unclear.
The soil and gravel fills yielded a large amount of potsherds from Iron Age II–III, including a krater (Fig. 2:1), a jar (Fig. 2:2), a pithos (Fig. 2:3) and a holemouth jar (Fig. 2:4). The potsherds from the Second Temple period included cooking pots (Fig. 2:5, 6), jars (Fig. 2:7, 8), a juglet (Fig. 2:9) and an unguentaria (Fig. 2:10, 11). In addition, fragments of three stone vessels, namely a chiseled-carved bowl with a ledge handle (Fig. 3:1) and lathe-turned hemispheric bowls (Fig. 3:2, 3), as well as a small metal pickax in an excellent state of preservation, were found. The gravel fill contained a handle with a stamped lmlk impression (Fig. 4) and remains of letters that probably join the initials למ[לך] [חברו]ן (to the king of Hebron).
The large quantity of potsherds found in the gravel fill raises the possibility that it was brought from a place with a large concentration of ceramic debris. Since the dating of the potsherds is limited to the Iron Age, it is presumed to be the date of the terrace wall as well.
Some 20 m above the bedrock ledge where the terrace wall was excavated, a rock-hewn winepress was documented. Its architectural components, especially a pair of hewn mortises in the upright wall of the working surface, are characteristic of Iron Age winepresses in the region of Judah (Fig. 5). Other bedrock outcrops and vats that were associated with the winepress’ activity were discerned nearby.