During May–June 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Yattir Forest (Permit No. A-4484; map ref. NIG 20060/58520; OIG 15060/08520), prior to the construction of the separation fence. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by M. Haiman (photography), with the assistance of A. Freiberg (area supervision) and A. Hajian (surveying).
An ancient cultivation plot (80 × 90 m) was examined; it extends over a steep, rocky slope, which faces east and descends to a wadi that is dammed by farming terraces its entire length. The plot was delimited by stone enclosure walls and terrace walls were located inside it. Probe trenches were excavated alongside the enclosure walls and several of the terrace walls.
Enclosure Walls. Three walls, built of a row of large stones (up to 1 m long), were identified. Wall 100 was in the northwest of the plot (length 48 m; Figs. 1–3), Wall 103—in the southwest (length 91 m; Fig. 4) and Wall 108 in the southeast of the plot (length 35 m; Figs. 5, 6). The probe trenches flanking W100 on each side exposed its stones, which were set on a layer of soil (thickness 0.2–0.5 m) that covered bedrock surface.
Terrace Walls. Two walls that delimited farming terraces inside the cultivation plot were examined. Wall 101 (Figs. 7, 8) was built of three–four stone courses and delimited a farming terrace (width c. 1 m) where the soil was c. 0.5 m deep; Wall 102 (height c. 1 m) was built of three–five stone courses (max. length of each stone 0.2 m) that delimited a farming terrace where the soil was c. 0.4 m deep (Fig. 9). The two walls were built of small stones (0.3 m long), piled up haphazardly. A terrace wall (W104; height c. 1 m, width 1 m), which belonged to one of the farming terraces that was built in the wadi channel, was inspected. The wall whose outer face was built of large stones (up to 0.8 m long) continued widthwise across the wadi in a general east–west direction. It retained fill that comprised different sized stones and enclosed a farming terrace where the soil had accumulated to a depth of 2.2 m (Figs. 10–12).
Potsherds that dated to the Byzantine period were discovered on surface and in the probe trenches alongside the enclosure and terrace walls. There was no evidence that the cultivation plot or the terrace in the wadi were used in modern times. The examined cultivation plot is characteristic of the Yattir region and the southern Hebron Highlands: massive enclosure walls that encompass an area of 5–15 dunams, divided into shallow farming terraces where soil is up to 0.5 m deep. A geomorphological examination has revealed that the terraces were not eroded and the shallow construction was intentional. The depth of the soil is unsuitable for growing orchards or grain; therefore, it is unclear for which agricultural crop it was used.