During June 2005, an excavation was conducted at the Yattir Forest site (Permit No. A-4500*; map ref. NIG 19990/58505; OIG 14990/08505), following the discovery of archaeological remains during a preliminary survey performed by F. Sonntag along the route of the separation fence. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by P. Nahshoni, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian and T. Kornfeld (surveying), O. Ackerman (geomorphology), M. Haiman (GPS) and C. Hersch (pottery drawing).
The area of the site, located on a slope descending south to Nahal Eshtamo‘a (Fig. 1), was covered with a nari crust. Remains of terraces and walls that delineated agricultural plots, particularly where the slope was gentle, were discerned. An ancient road at the top of the hill runs in a general east–west direction and a fertile valley, extending north of Nahal Eshtamo‘a, is cultivated by local farmers.
A massive rectangular building, a terrace wall and a wall that delimited plots of an ancient orchard were discovered (Fig. 2).
Building (3.9 × 5.3 m; Fig. 3). The walls were founded directly on bedrock (W1–W4; thickness 0.75–0.80 m). Their outer face was built of large stones (0.4 × 0.6 × 0.7 m), which were partly dressed and partly roughly hewn. The inner face consisted of small and medium stones, with mud as a bonding material.
The southern wall of the building (W1) was preserved to a maximum of 1.2 m high and the northern wall (W4) was survived only by its foundation course (0.5 m). The lintel stone, preserved in situ, seems to indicate that the entrance to the building was in the east. Stones with chiseled grooves that possibly belonged to the entrance threshold were found in the collapse outside the building. The tamped-earth floor (L105; Fig. 4) was overlaid with potsherds that dated to the Late Roman period or the beginning of the Byzantine period, including a bowl (Fig. 5:1), a cooking pot (Fig. 5:2) and a jar (Fig. 5:3).
Terrace and Delimiting Wall. The terrace (W5; Fig. 6) began at the southwestern end of the building and extended west, delineating a farming terrace to its south. Two probe trenches were excavated (Fig. 7) along the southern side of the terrace, which was oriented east–west on top of natural bedrock. It was meant to prevent soil erosion and catch surface run-off. The terrace was built of large stones (average dimensions 0.5 × 0.6 × 0.6 m) with smaller stones inserted among them. A layer of clay (thickness 0.5–0.8 m) that accumulated south of the terrace, overlaid, above bedrock, potsherds from the Hellenistic and Roman periods (not illustrated).
A wall that delimited cultivation plots (W6; see Fig. 2) and was not excavated, ran the length of the slope in an east–west direction.
The scant finds in and around the building indicate it was not used for dwelling. The massive nature of the structure and its location in an agricultural area suggest it functioned as a guard tower. The terrace and the delimiting wall were apparently contemporary with the building.