In January–February 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted east of the Barnea‘ neighborhood in Ashqelon (Permit No. A-7025; map ref. 160591–908/621304–661), prior to the replacement of a sewer pipe. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ashqelon Water Consortium, Ltd., was directed by D. Yegorov (photography), with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration), N. Shimshon-Paran (GPS), M. Kunin, A. Hajian, S. Gal and M. Oron (surveying and drafting), S. Ganor (scientific consultation), S. Itkis and N. Zak (plans), G. Seriy (ceramics) and I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
Two excavation areas (A—100 sq m, B—50 sq m; Fig. 1) were opened in the southern part of the ‘Third Mile Estate’ antiquities site. Architectural remains dating to the Byzantine period (Strata I, II) were exposed in Area A, and three cist tombs ascribed to the Byzantine period were revealed in Area B.
In an excavation conducted in 1991 c. 10 m west of the current excavation area, settlement remains dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age and from the Iron Age to the Byzantine period, as well as a Middle Bronze Age II cemetery were discovered (Israel 1995; Erickson-Gini and Israel 2013; Israel and Erickson-Gini 2013). The settlement at the site reached its peak of prosperity during the Byzantine period.
Stratum II. Excavations yielded a wall (W10; Figs. 2, 3) oriented along a northwest–southeast axis and built of two rows of large kurkar ashlar stones (0.2 × 0.3 × 0.6 m), with small stones bonded in mortar between the ashlars. Two courses of ashlars were preserved in the northern face of the wall, while an upper course of ashlars founded on small kurkar fieldstones bonded with mortar was preserved in the southern face. Wall 10 continued to the northwest, beyond the limits of the excavation. Another wall (W11), which had sustained damage to its southern part during the modern era, abutted W10 from the south. The northern part of W11 was built of ashlars similar to those of W10, whereas the wall’s southern part was constructed of small kurkar stones bonded in gray mortar. Only one course of this wall was preserved. A level of compacted hamra (L104) was discovered in the area between the walls; it probably served as a floor, similar to one that was previously exposed at the site (Israel and Erickson-Gini 2013:169). The excavation of the Level 104 yielded numerous pottery sherds dating to the Byzantine period, including bowls (Fig. 4:1, 2), kraters (Fig. 4:3), cooking pots (Fig. 4:4) and jars (Fig. 4:5–7). The architectural remains discovered in the area were evidently part of an installation belonging to the Byzantine-period agricultural farmstead at the ‘Third Mile Estate’.
Stratum I. Compacted hamra soil mixed with abraded pottery sherds, probably dating to the Byzantine period, was discovered in the surface layer (thickness c. 0.3 m).
Three built cist graves were exposed (Figs. 5, 6); the southernmost was a double burial (L202, L203) and the others were single burials (L201, L205). The double burial was oriented in an east–west direction and was divided into two cells by means of a partition wall. The tomb’s southern cell was covered with stone slabs. The tomb and its covering slabs utilized well-dressed kurkar stones(0.2 × 0.3 × 0.5 m). The covering stones were not preserved on the tomb’s northern cell, possibly an indication that it had been plundered. Tomb 201, built of finely-dressed kurkar stones, was also oriented along an east–west axis. No covering stones were discovered above this tomb, probably since it was plundered as well. The two tombs were not completely excavated. The northern tomb (T205), which was exposed during the course of an antiquities inspection, was built of rectangular kurkar slabs oriented in a general north–south direction. The tomb was mostly in disrepair, lacking covering stones or artifacts. On the basis of the tombs’ construction and proximity to the ‘Third Mile Estate’, they are dated to the Byzantine period. These tombs were located c. 200 m south of the Byzantine-period agricultural farmstead at the ‘Third Mile Estate’, and were evidently part of its cemetery.
Erickson-Gini T. and Israel Y. 2013. An Intermediate Bronze Age Settlement and a Middle Bronze Age II Cemetery at the ‘Third Mile Estate’, Ashqelon. ‘Atiqot
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Israel Y. and Erickson-Gini T. 2013. Remains from the Hellenistic through the Byzantine Periods at the ‘Third Mile Estate’, Ashqelon. ‘Atiqot 74:167–222.