During December 2006–January 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted c. 400 m southeast of Tel Nagila (Permit No. A-4974; map ref. NIG 17715–30/60068–85; OIG 12715–30/10068–85), after ancient artifacts were discovered in an antiquities inspection, prior to the installation of a gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel National Gas Line Company, was directed by H. Khalaily and O. Marder, with the assistance of H. Lavi and Y. Lender (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), I. Gil‘ad and P. Fabian (consultation) and G. Mazor, I. Milevski and D. Varga.
The excavation area (10 × 80 m) extended along a gentle slope that descends to the west, toward Nahal Shiqma. Eight squares were opened where ancient remains had been discerned; two squares in the south of the strip, three in the center and three in the north. Two spots where ancient finds had been noted were examined nearby. Nahal Shiqma flows through layers of loess and marl and exposes a conglomerate rock of the Pleshet Formation, which was a source for flint nodules. The site lies in farmland for field crops and the Elat-Ashdod oil pipeline passes nearby; hence, it had been continuously disturbed in the past. The inspection at the site prior to the excavation revealed numerous pottery vessels and flint implements, whose examination indicated the existence of a site that predated the Chalcolithic period.
The level that yielded the remains is an anthropogenic level, composed of brown friable loess sediment, mixed with light colored ash (thickness 0.2–0.6 m). The original thickness of the level is unclear since its upper part was removed during works at the site. This level was founded on top of a thick layer of loess, rich in chalk concretions. A series of shallow pits scattered throughout the area and a habitation level paved with wadi pebbles were exposed. The pits were wide at the top and tapered toward the bottom (average diam. 1 m, depth 0.5 m; Fig. 1). They contained knapped wadi pebbles, flint artifacts and numerous potsherds. Some of the pits contained burnt, loaf-shaped mud bricks. A habitation level (20 sq m; thickness 0.25 m) that consisted of small flat wadi pebbles and descended to the northwest was exposed in the middle of the excavation area. The pebble layer was founded on top of a wide shallow pit (diam. of opening 1.5, depth 0.5 m) that contained dark friable sediment, a few pebbles, many potsherds, worked limestone and a few flints. Two concentrations of large angular fieldstones, probably the remains of walls, were discovered on top of the habitation level. One concentration was in the southern part of the level and the second—in its western part. The southern concentration was elongated (c. 1 m) and consisted of two rows of parallel stones. The western concentration was circular and consisted of elongated stone slabs. It is possible that the stone concentrations and the pebble surface were the remains of a building.
The recovered finds from the excavation included many very poorly preserved potsherds, sickle blades and stone figurines (Figs. 2, 3) that dated to the early Pottery Neolithic period (the second half of the sixth millennium BCE; Jericho IX culture). Accordingly, it is possible to determine that the site located near Tel Nagila is so far, the southernmost site dating to this culture. The excavation had shown that a temporary site, which extended across a large area and dated to a short period of time, was situated there. The residents of the site were probably nomads who engaged in animal husbandry and a little farming and lived near a central settlement that was apparently located on Tel Nagila.