Probe trenching the area by mechanical equipment prior to the excavation revealed dozens of spots that were suspected of containing archaeological remains in two main parts of the field. Four excavation areas, subdivided into smaller segments, were opened (B, C, D, E; Fig. 1).
A second industrial winepress was discovered in Area B2, at the southwestern end of the site, dating to the same period as the winepress mentioned above. Architectural complexes, contemporary with the winepresses and used for dwelling, industry and storage, were found in the areas between the winepresses (Areas D1, D2, E1, E2). Poorly preserved architectural remains from the Mamluk period (fourteenth century CE) were exposed in the eastern part of the site (Area E3). Two water cisterns of a probable Early Roman date were discovered among the Byzantine structures. Burials dating to different phases of the Roman and Byzantine periods were found at the southern part of the site (Areas B1, C1, C2). They included two vaulted underground structures and several stone-lined cist graves. Another burial ground, probably of a post-Byzantine date and containing poorly preserved pit graves, was uncovered at the northern part of the site (Areas E4 and east part of E2). The graves could not be excavated.
Area D1. Densely distributed and poorly preserved remains of several structures and associated yards were exposed. Two sub-phases were detected; the earlier phase shows markedly higher quality of construction than the later phase, which consisted of poor additions to the earlier walls. A possible architectectural division includes a rectangular room (Fig. 2) and two large open courtyards, adjoined by smaller yards or structures. Four clay ovens, one of which has a funnel (Fig. 3), and two draining channels were exposed in the smaller yards. Three storage vessels, turned upside down, were incorporated in the northern frame of one of the channels. Two upper-part halves of a Pompeian mill were laid across the second channel (Fig. 4). Crude platforms of tightly laid stones were exposed in various parts of the area. They may represent work surfaces, or paths, which allowed smooth passage through the open-air spaces during the mud accumulations of winter. Ceramic, glass and numismatic finds dated the complex from the late forth to the early seventh centuries CE.
Area D2. This area was located 30 m north of Area D1 and lacked the cluttered distribution of Area D1 architecture. The fewer walls were relatively well built. No ovens, channels or installations were discerned. Scatterings of raw glass were embedded in a broad plaster floor at the northeastern part of the area. Raw glass chunks were seldom discovered elsewhere at the site. Parts of a floor, which was paved with dressed soft limestone slabs and has no clear architectural context, were also exposed.
Two plastered water cisterns, probably dating to the first–second centuries CE, were discovered each in Areas D1 and D2 (Fig. 5).Both cisterns were filled with soil and debris, including segments of a limestone column (Area D1) and a large square stone with a circular perforation (Area D2). The cisterns had no clear association with the nearby walls. The accumulations on the floors of both cisterns (depth 1 m) contained potsherds of Eastern Terra Sigillata vessels, typical first century CE jars and cooking pots, as well as a few chalkstone measuring cups and discus lamps; no later pottery types were present.
Area E1. Parts of two straight-angled complexes (depth below surface 0.3–1.0 m) were exposed. The northern complex was better preserved, and large segments of its southern and eastern parts were revealed. Five rooms in a horizontal row were exposed along the southern perimeter wall. Remains of stone paved floors were found in all five rooms. Two stone-paved rooms were also uncovered at the northern side of the complex.
The function of the building remains is unclear and options range from industry to storage, and a combination of both. Storage is the more likely option, as no installations were discovered in the rooms, except for two large stone basins, one of which is plastered (Fig. 6), and a ceramic vessel embedded into one of the pavements. A large number of Gaza Ware storage jar fragments were found in all layers, including two small clusters of upside down jars (Fig. 7).
Preservation of the southern complex was significantly poorer. The foundations of a building with three interconnecting straight-angled walls were exposed on the western part. East of this building were scant remains of a white mosaic floor, adorned with red geometrical patterns. A well-built drain system that included two segments of a plastered channel, leading west, was discovered to the east and north of the building remains. A possible reconstruction sees the three walls as the perimeter of an open yard, surrounded by rooms; at east one of the rooms had a mosaic floor. The remains possibly represent a spacious residential building.
Area E2. Several walls of a single complex were discovered, as well as a clay oven and a rectangular box-like installation. Both the architecture and the installations in this area resembled the remains in Area D1, and it seems that the two areas served similar functions.
Area E3. The fragmentary remains of two structures and several floors were discovered at the eastern part of the site. Abundant potsherds, including glazed fragments and such with geometric decoration, which ascertain a Mamluk dating, as do glass fragments of his period. These Mamluk remains lay on wind-blown gray soil, probably of the Negev provenance, which accumulated over the Byzantine strata during centuries of abandonment.
Area B2 (the southern winepress). The poorly preserved winepress (Fig. 8) consisted of an expansive treading floor, a rectangular settling pit, a large circular collecting vat and six circular plastered pits, which were originally situated in raised platforms attached to the central floor, as common to complex winepresses of the Byzantine period. The foundation course of the frame walls and patches of white mosaic floor were preserved of the treading floor. The settling pit and the plastered collecting vat were preserved intact. The floor of the settling pit was paved with white mosaic. A deep sump was cut in the center of the floor of both the settling pit and the collecting vat. The small pits flanking the treading floor were arranged in two series of three pits each. Their function is unclear.
Area B1. Seven well-preserved cist graves (1.2 × 2.6 m; Fig. 9), lined with chalkstone blocks and roofed with chalkstone slabs, were found; a single grave had a gabled roof (Fig. 10). One grave was markedly smaller; undoubtedly, it was intended for a child and probably had never been used. The graves had no unified orientation. Circular features (diam. 1.4 m) of unclear function were found between the graves. They were dug in the hamra soil and had no traces of plastering, channeling or any other element that might point to their use; they were also devoid of bones. Lacking discernable floors, their depth (0.5–0.7 m) was determined by the appearance of a more compact sterile material; the higher fill contained a few potsherds, mostly of Roman or Byzantine store jars. Two of the features partly damaged the cover slabs of adjacent graves; hence the features postdated the burials. The graves could not be dug, yet their style is consistent with cemeteries from the Hellenistic to the Late Byzantine periods.
Area C1. A large tomb, whose general plan resembled bedrock-hewn burial caves of the late Hellenistic and Roman periods, was found at the southern end of the site. The tomb was dug into the natural clayey soil, and reinforced with large and neatly cut nari blocks (Fig. 11). It was accessed via a narrow, probably stepped passage, descending through a doorway in the western wall into a straight-angled burial chamber, which was originally vaulted. Two rounded pilasters flanked the chamber's entrance. Three loculi were cut in the northern and southern walls, and two in the eastern wall. The tomb was found filled with later potsherds, mostly Byzantine Gaza storage jars. The loculi were not excavated. Several irregular features to the south of the tomb may represent cist graves that were nearly completely destroyed. Their excavation yielded some potsherds, yet their original layout was entirely obliterated. The identification of the features as graves remains uncertain.
Area C2. Two tombs dug into the clayey soil and subdivided into several inner partitions were discovered at the eastern end of the site (Fig. 12). Both tombs were accessed from the east, via short stone-lined corridors. The thick outer walls of the western tomb were coated with plaster, probably to isolate it from humidity, permeating from the surface. Excavation was only allowed to the top of the partition walls, next to which the dead were laid to rest. Both tombs were covered with large quantities of potsherds of Byzentine Gaza storage vessels. Indication of the tomb’s date comes from comparative analysis with similar structures at other sites, particularly the fifth century CE structures at Kh. el-Ni‘ana (HA-ESI 109:71*–72*; ‘Atiqot 57:29*–49*, 21–164). An intact fifth-century CE oil lamp from the deeper fill layers supports this date. The remains of a substantial structure, discovered to the north of the tombs, may have once been a third burial structure, although it is too fragmentary to allow a definite identification.
The Late Cemetery (east part of Area E2 and Area E4). The cemetery, which may have postdated the main occupation phase, was discovered at the northern part of the site. Fifteen pit graveswere detected, most of them in fragmentary preservation. Most identifiable graves were oriented east–west, in accordance with Muslim tradition. A pillar base and large segments of coarse white mosaic floors were used to line the top of two of the graves. The burials could not be excavated, but the soil covering the cemetery contained potsherds, dating from the sixth to the seventh centuries CE. It may therefore be assumed that the cemetery was used by semi-nomadic Muslim groups during the latest phases of the Byzantine occupation, or more likely, shortly after the site's abandonment.
The Ganē Tal site, mostly active during the late Roman and Byzantine periods, combined agricultural and industrial activities, including the production of wine, glass and possibly pottery.
The architectural diffusion and typology make it unlikely that the site was a village; it may have been a farmstead that expanded and developed over the years. The site was apparently abandoned sometime during the early half of the seventh century CE. Limited resettlement took place only during the Mamluk period, when a small farm or road station was built at its eastern part.
Cist graves were also used through the Byzantine period, but the three large tomb structures are more characteristic of Roman times, suggesting earlier activity at the site. This can also be inferred from the first century CE waste accumulations at the bottom of the water cisterns.