During May 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted at Horbat Petora (North), located in the Lachish region (Permit No. A-3905; map ref. NIG 1821–3/6116–9; OIG 1321–3/1116–9; Fig. 1), prior to installing communication lines along the route of the Cross-Israel Highway. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by Bezeq, was directed by O. Feder, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography) and I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
Two phases were discerned. The first phase consisted of two rooms and a staircase, leading to an underground void that was not excavated, which belonged to a farmhouse that was built on a bedrock terrace (Fig. 2). A limekiln south of the building was ascribed to the second phase.
The farmhouse comprised two long rooms (1, 2; Fig. 3) whose walls (width 0.8 m) were partly founded on a sloping perforated bedrock terrace and partly on top of leveled soil fill that also served as their floors. A refuse pit was discovered north of the building.
Room 1 (4.4 × 6.0 m) had survived by their northern (W2) and eastern (W1) walls. At the northern end of W1 was an opening (width 0.9 m) with a threshold that led to Room 2. Two stones that apparently served as the base of a pilaster for an arch were discovered in the middle of W1, on its western side. The other room’s walls did not survive, but their outline could be discerned at the end of the bedrock terrace on the southern (W3) and western sides.
Room 2 (2.6 × 6.0 m) was survived by three of its walls (W1, W2, W4); the fourth was most likely located at the end of the bedrock terrace. A rectangular base built of large stones, which probably served as the foundation for a staircase, was discovered at the northern end of the room, abutting W2. The meager remains of a flagstone pavement on top of tamped soil fill, which was incorporated in the bedrock floor, were discovered near W1 in the center of the room.
The pottery vessels on the floor of Room 1 (L108) included jar fragments (Fig. 6:14, 18); on the floor of Room 2 (Loci 107, 125, 126) were fragments of bowls (Fig. 6:3, 6), kraters (Fig. 6:7), a cooking pot (Fig. 6:10, 12) and jars (Fig 6:16, 17, 19), all dating to the sixth–seventh centuries CE.
The staircase,to the south of Room 1, consisted of six steps, some bedrock-hewn and others built. It rested against a wall (W6; Fig. 4) along its southern side and led from the bedrock surface to the opening of a shaft (0.9 × 3.0 m, depth 2.07 m), which was blocked by a rectangular stone; a recess in its southern side was most likely meant for a rolling stone. The staircase apparently led to a burial cave that was not excavated. A fragment of a krater (Fig. 6:8) from the sixth–seventh centuries CE was recovered from the fill in the staircase.
The installation (not marked on plan), having two rectangular hewn recesses, was discovered south of the building and the staircase. A narrow channel connected the higher and deeper eastern recess (0.56 × 0.70 m) to the western one (1.0 × 1.1 m). It seems this was some sort of agricultural installation.
A refuse pit (L118; diam. c. 2 m, depth c. 1.1 m), which was a natural depression in bedrock, was discovered alongside the northern W2 of the building. The fill that covered the pit (L105) contained fragments of pottery vessels, including cooking pots (Fig. 6:11, 13), a jar (Fig. 6:15) and a jug (Fig. 6:20). Fragments of bowls (Fig. 6: 1, 2, 4, 5) and a cooking pot (Fig. 6:9) were recovered from the excavation of the pit itself. All the ceramic finds were dated to the latter part of the Byzantine–the beginning of the Early Islamic periods (sixth–seventh centuries CE).
(diam. 2.9 m, depth 2.3 m; Fig. 5) was hewn in bedrock south of Room 2 and had its opening (0.7 × 0.9 m) in the east. The dome did not survive and a thick layer of lime (0.97 m) was discovered on its floor. The kiln’s proximity to the farmhouse can be explained by the availability of masonry stones that were removed from the structure for the purpose of manufacturing lime during the Umayyad period. Another limekiln was discovered in the vicinity (HA-ESI 120
The farmhouse at Petora, which is dated to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods, apparently constituted part of the agricultural periphery in the Lachish region.