During February–March 2006, a trial excavation was conducted west of Moshav Menuha (Permit No. A-4743; map ref. NIG 178235–63/618590–635; OIG 128235–63/118590–631), prior to the installation of a national gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Natural Gas Line Company, Ltd., was directed by P. Nahshoni, with the assistance of E. Aladjem (area supervision), H. Lavi (administration) and V. Pirsky (surveying). Additional assistance was rendered by I. Peretz, K. Golan and D. Varga.
The site is located in an agricultural area, c. 150 m north of Nahal Guvrin. Remains of occupation levels and refuse pits, spread over a distance of c. 35 m, were identified in probe trenches that were dug in the area.
A row of seven excavation squares was opened along the course of the gas line where the remains of a single-period settlement that dated to the Early Chalcolithic period (the Besor Culture) were exposed. Three phases (1–3) were discerned. The first phase consisted of an accumulation of finds within depressions in the natural loess soil. The finds of the second phase included stone foundations, mud-brick collapse on occupation levels and a pit lined with segments of mud bricks. Sections of occupation levels belonged to the last phase.
The Early Phase (3).
Pottery and stone vessels, as well as flint and animal bones, which had accumulated in natural hollows in the loess soil, were found in each of the excavation squares; these remains pointed to activity that preceded construction at the site.
The Second Phase (2). Remains of buildings and occupation levels were found in each of the squares. These mostly comprised mud-brick collapse of buildings that did not survive. Unmistakable mud-brick collapse was primarily exposed in Squares 1 and 2; the lines of two walls of a mud-brick building could be reconstructed in Square 1. A sloping foundation that was built of pebbles and small stones and conformed to the ancient topography was exposed in Square 4. A pit lined with segments of mud brick (Fig. 1), which contained numerous animal bones, was discovered in Square 5. The foundation course of a long massive wall (exposed length 6.5 m, width 0.70–0.85 m), abutted by a floor from the west, was exposed in Squares 6 and 7; the wall was built of large wadi pebbles (Fig. 2) and its superstructure was probably composed of mud bricks. This wall was uneven and its construction corresponded to the ancient topography.
The Late Phase (1). Scant remains overlying those of Phase 2 were found: an occupation level of wadi pebbles in Square 4 and an installation, or wall, also built of wadi pebbles, in Square 5. The poor state of preservation was the result of intensive plowing.
Finds. Many pottery vessels were exposed, including jars with loop or strap handles, hole-mouths jars with up-right sides, bowls, kraters, churns and goblets. The flint tools included sickle blades and a rare flint adze. The stone objects included grinding and pounding vessels of various stones and basalt chalices. Clay figurines of animals (Fig. 3) and clay loom weights were also discovered.
Numerous animal bones were found, including those of pigs, goats, sheep and larger ruminants. No fundamental differences were discerned between the finds of the three phases at the site, which is dated to the Early Chalcolithic period, based on the pottery assemblage that is ascribed to the Besor culture.
The small settlement (c. 1.5 dunams) was situated close to Nahal Guvrin, whose many springs are copious during the summer months. The residents of the site were engaged in growing grain, as demonstrated by the sickle blades and the grinding and pounding vessels; raising animals that provided dairy products is based on the churns, and spinning wool is evidenced by the loom weights. The large number of pig bones indicates a wet environment, which is a prerequisite for raising these animals. A system of barter probably existed at the site, as can be concluded from the basalt vessels and the other stone objects that were brought from afar. All these features point to a permanent settlement.
The stratum that yielded artifacts was 0.7–1.4 m thick and the three phases of continuous activity at the site attest to prolonged occupation, although they belonged to the same cultural horizon.