In March 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted at three small sites (3–5) on Har Harif, along the route of the border fence between Israel and Egypt (Permit No. A-6448; map ref. 157150–230/489768–929; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by D. Yegorov and J. Vardi, with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration), E. Aladjem and A. Filin (area supervision), M. Kunin (surveying), N. Zak (plans) and S. Gal (GIS).
An area (96 sq m; Figs 2, 3) was opened, in which the remains of three adjacent circular buildings (L301, L302, L304) were exposed. The structures were oriented along a northwest–southeast axis and their walls were built of fieldstone slabs preserved to a height of one course (W1–W3). The entrances in them faced east. Two separate sections of walls (W4, W5) built in a similar manner as those of the circular buildings were found to the north. They were only partially preserved and were detached from most of the construction. All of the architectural remains were constructed on a bedrock terrace that looks out toward the west, and were founded directly on the bedrock.
About 15 m north of the two wall segments was an elliptical burial cairn (4 × 5 m; Fig. 4) built on an incline descending northward. The cairn had a round enclosure wall of vertically arranged semi-flat stones. The spaces between them were filled unevenly with fieldstones (L303). In the center of the cairn was a burial cell built of four upright stone slabs (L305; 1.0 × 1.8 m; Fig. 5). The cell was covered with large stone slabs and partly paved with flat stones placed on the natural ground. No artifacts were discovered inside the cell. The northern part of the cairn collapsed down the slope.
The building remains discovered at the site were apparently part of a larger settlement that extended westward, beyond the international border. In the absence of any diagnostic finds, it was impossible to date the site. Nevertheless, the cairn is typical of the Negev Highlands region during the Middle Bronze Age I (Cohen 1986
:264). The burial cells of most of the cairns found in the region, including this one, were devoid of any archaeological finds due to climatic conditions and perhaps because of robbery as well.
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