During September 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted at Horbat Nekhes(Permit No. A-5250; map ref. NIG 19592–643/64423–522; OIG 14592–643/14423–522), prior to paving Highway 431. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Netivē Ayyalon Company, was directed by R. Toueg, with the assistance of R. Mishayev and T. Melzen (surveying and drafting) and T. Sagiv (field photography).
An area of 200 sq m was excavated along the eastern slope of a hill that descends toward a wadi, c. 300 m north of Horbat Nekhes. Small quarries for building stones and three rock-hewn installations were discerned in bedrock surfaces on the slope; some of the rock-cuttings are known from previous surveys. The rock-cuttings extended from the top of the slope (148.40 m above sea level), where a cistern was found, to its base (144.78 m above sea level). It seems that the quarrying surfaces and installations were used by the residents of the adjacent settlement, Horbat Nekhes. However, no potsherds or other diagnostic artifacts, except for modern finds alongside the cistern, were discovered in the excavation.
Bodeda (L1000; 0.4 × 0.5 m, depth 0.5 m; Fig. 2). A hewn, horseshoe-shaped bodeda was cleaned on the upper part of a bedrock surface that protruded c. 1 m above surface. To the southwestern and southeastern corners of the bodeda, two shallow rock-cuttings were probably used to press fruit or crush olives and the liquid drained into the bodeda.
Cistern (L1001; Figs. 3, 4). The round and deep opening of the cistern (diam. 1 m, depth c. 2 m) was hewn through a layer of hard dolomite. When the layer of soft limestone beneath the dolomite was reached, the quarrymen widened the cistern, which was not excavated due to technical constraints. Hence, it was impossible to determine its dimensions, although it is known to be at least 6 m deep, or propose a date for its initial hewing. Still, it is clear that the cistern was used over a long period and even served the residents of the Arab village of El-Kunnisa. The rock-hewn opening of the cistern was made higher in the twentieth century, using stones in secondary use that were bonded with cement; among the stones was an especially large one (0.8 × 0.8 × 1.3 m). A concrete surface was laid above the raised construction, in which a square opening probably closed with an iron door was fixed. Jars that dated to the first half of the twentieth century were found around the opening. Next to the northwestern corner of the cistern’s opening was an irregular shaped, rock-hewn trough (depth 0.5 m). Another small trough in a stone, in secondary use (Fig. 4), was found near the cistern’s southwestern corner.
Quarries. On bedrock surfaces were seven quarries for building stones. The small bedrock surfaces were unsuitable for a large quarry and only one or two stones were hewn from each surface. Two stones (dimensions of larger stone 0.80 × 1.05 m) were extracted from the upper part of a bedrock surface (L1002; Fig. 5); signs of rock-cutting and stone detachment were discerned. A hewn step (L1003; c. 0.4 × 3.3 m, depth c. 0.4 m; Fig. 6) seems to have remained on a bedrock surface after the cutting of one or more large stone blocks, although detachment marks were absent. Two small rock-cuttings (L1004; 0.4 × 0.4 m and 0.4 × 0.5 m; Fig. 6) were discovered c. 2 m east of the step. Indistinct quarrying marks (L1005; Fig. 7)—probably the result of hewing small building stones—were apparent in the upper part of a bedrock surface that protruded above surface. A small quarry (L1007; Fig. 7) where medium-sized stones were hewn was exposed at the bottom of the slope; two stones, whose quarrying was not completed, remained in the corners of the quarry. Some 2 m north of the cistern (L1001), the quarrying remains of one building stone were exposed.
Treading Floor (L1006; Fig. 8). A partially quarried treading floor was found; only its long, western side (length 2.6 m) was completely hewn. The northern and southern parts of the floor were unfinished and remained as natural bedrock outcrops. Building stones were hewn in the high parts of bedrock in preparation for the treading floor; detachment marks were still visible in the southern side of the surface and a building stone whose quarrying was incomplete, remained in situ. It seems that the quarrymen intended to cut other building stones to attain a straight surface that would extend across the entire bedrock surface.