Area A
Winepress (Figs. 5, 6). A winepress hewn in a bedrock outcrop sloping northward was exposed; it was partially covered with alluvium and modern refuse. The installation consisted of a treading floor (L104; 2.6 × 2.7 m, depth 0.15 m) and a rectangular collecting vat with rounded corners (L105; 1.10 × 1.75 m, depth 1 m); the two were connected by a channel. The treading floor sloped northward. The northeastern part of the floor was eroded, and its bedrock walls were not preserved. A small, shallow sump was hewn in the floor’s southwestern corner; coarse chisel marks on the smooth treading floor indicate the sump postdated the rock-cutting of the winepress. An elliptical settling pit (depth 0.4 m) was hewn in the floor of the collecting vat, beside its eastern wall. A medium-sized cupmark (L107; diam. 0.2 m, depth 0.15 m) was hewn west of the collecting vat, and north of the vat was a shallow conical cupmark (L108; diam. 0.15 m, depth 5 cm), possibly for placing a jar for collecting the must. A rectangular basin (L106; 0.55 × 0.75 m, depth 0.2 m), where grapes may have been stored prior to treading, was hewn south of the collecting vat.
Quarry (Figs. 7, 8). Part of a stepped quarry cut in soft limestone bedrock was exposed (L103). Quarrying channels and severance channels were evident, indicating that large stones (average dimensions 0.3 × 0.4 × 0.7 m) were produced there. The quarry was not excavated to its full depth. The antiquities inspection conducted following the excavation exposed the boundaries of the quarry and revealed that it covered an area of c. 150 sq m. The small size of the quarry indicates that either the bedrock outcrop was found unsuitable for the production of building stones or the rock-cutting done there was intended for a limited project.
Wall (Figs. 9, 10). Several trial squares (c. 500 sq m) were excavated on the hilltop, but only a short section of a wall (W10; length 1.2 m, width 0.9 m) was discovered. The wall was built in a north–south direction of small- and medium-sized fieldstones and was preserved to a height of one course (0.3 m). Its northern part was founded directly on the bedrock, whereas its southern part was set on a thin layer of small fieldstones that filled a pit in the bedrock and formed a leveled bedding. The wall section was the only architectural remain in this area.
Cupmarks and Rock-cuttings (see Fig. 9). Twenty-seven cupmarks and rock-cuttings (L150–L161) were discovered in bedrock outcrops that sloped gently toward the west; over the years, most were covered with a thin layer of soil. The cupmarks were hewn in a variety of shapes and sizes; several were isolated (L151—diam. 0.7 m, depth 0.35 m; L152–L156—diam. 0.2–0.4 m, depth 0.1–0.3 m) and others were hewn in clusters (L158–L161). Cluster 158 consisted of two cupmarks (diam. 0.1–0.3 m, depth 5 cm) connected by a channel. Cluster 159 numbered eight cupmarks, seven of which were round (diam. 0.1–0.3 m, depth 5 cm) and one that was rectangular (0.2 × 0.3 m, depth 5 cm). Six cupmarks (diam. 0.1–0.2 m, max. depth 5 cm) made up Cluster 160, and five cupmarks (diam. 0.10–0.15 m, depth 5 cm; Fig. 11) were hewn in Cluster 161. Slightly north of Cupmark 151 was an uneven and shallow rock-cut surface that sloped toward the cupmark (L150; 1.40 × 1.55 m, depth 0.25 m; Fig. 12); in the southern part of the cupmark was a carelessly hewn channel (width 0.4 m) that drained into a natural pocket in the bedrock. Just east of Cupmark 156 was a round hewn surface (L157; 0.35 × 0.40 m, depth 5 cm) that sloped toward it. Several pottery sherds, including one that dates to the Iron Age IIB and a few from the first century BCE, were found in the soil covering the cupmarks and rock-cuttings.
Area B
Ritual Bath (Fig. 13). A well-preserved ritual bath (miqveh; L200; c. 3.5 × 8.0 m, depth c. 4 m) was hewn in a limestone outcrop that sloped toward the northeast. The bath included a feeder channel, a stepped entrance and a rectangular immersion chamber. The feeder channel (L201; exposed length c. 6 m; width 0.2–0.3 m, depth 0.25 m) extended to the south, leading to the entrance to the bath (Fig. 14). Six steps (max. run 0.25–0.45 m) hewn in the entrance descended into the immersion chamber. Only the southeastern part of the chamber was excavated. Five steps (run 0.35–0.80 m) were hewn in the chamber, descending from its opening to its floor (Fig. 15). The steps extended the entire width of the room, except for the top step, which was situated on only the southeastern side of the room where it formed a raised surface. The entire immersion chamber, including the steps, was treated with gray hydraulic plaster applied directly to the bedrock. The plaster in the room was well-preserved, particularly on the southern wall, where two layers were discerned. A rectangular pit (depth 0.7 m; Fig. 16) was hewn into the top step in the chamber, near its eastern corner, where it broke through the plaster that coated the step, indicating that it postdates the use of the bath. Soil mixed with large ashlars and numerous fragments of pottery vessels accumulated in the bath. It seems that the ashlars originally belonged to a building that stood at the top of the slope. The pottery sherds date to the Early Roman period (first century CE) and include a bowl (Fig. 17:1), a krater (Fig. 17:2), cooking pots (Fig. 17:3–5), jars (Fig. 17:6–8) and a jug (Fig 17:9).
Cave (see Fig. 13). A steep, rectangular corridor led to a karst cave (L216; 1–2 × 3 m, min. height 0.7 m) discovered adjacent to the bath, to its northwestern. Low steps were hewn in the corridor. Although the cave’s interior was not excavated, it seemed quite small and might have been used for storage. A hewn rectangular pit (L223; 0.65 × 1.00 m, depth 0.5 m) and a narrow rock-cut channel (depth 7 cm) that led to it from the south were discovered slightly north of the cave. Cupmarks and several small rock-cut installations were found near the cave and the bath. These installations and cupmarks were filled with alluvium that contained sherds dating to the Iron Age IIB and the Early Roman period.
Cistern (see Fig. 13). A rock-hewn cistern (L215; min. depth 3 m) was documented in the same bedrock outcrop east of the ritual bath. A large, elliptical stone (1.35 × 1.50 m; Fig. 18) with a hole in its center was placed on the cistern’s opening, allowing for the drawing of water. Around the hole was a shallow square rock-cutting (0.56 × 0.58 m, depth 2 cm) and next to it was a metal hook; this might indicate that the opening was covered by a lid that could be locked with a metal clasp. The stone was affixed to the bedrock with fieldstones and concrete. It seems that the cistern’s capstone was a crushing stone of an oil press in secondary use. A small, hewn channel (L224; length 0.5 m, width 0.1 m, depth 0.2 m) extended from a natural hollow in the bedrock to the opening of the cistern. The cistern was filled with soil and modern refuse and was not excavated. Two stone troughs, one of which was broken in two, were found on the surface next to the cistern. The cistern was probably hewn when there was a settlement on the hill during the Early Roman period, and it continued to be used by the local residents into the modern era.
Architectural Remains (Fig. 19). A section of a retaining wall (W20; length 1 m, width 0.5 m; Fig. 20) was exposed in an excavation square in the southern part of the area. It was built inside a crevice in the bedrock, constructed of small- and medium-sized fieldstones and preserved one to two courses high (0.35 m). Remains of layer of small fieldstones bonded with hard mortar (L220) were exposed on a high bedrock surface, c. 1 m west of the wall. The layer of stones was preserved only where it was founded directly on the bedrock; it sealed an installation (L221; see below) and a cupmark (L222; diam. 0.3 m, depth 0.1 m) hewn in the bedrock. It seems that this layer served as a bedding for a floor that was not preserved. Soil fill (L212) found between W20 and Stone Layer 220 filled the crevice in the bedrock where the wall was built and leveled the bedrock that sloped to the southeast prior to the construction of Stone Layer 220. Soil (L208) accumulated over Fill 212.
Fill 212 contained an abundance fragments of pottery vessels. Several date to the Hasmonean period, including cooking pots (Fig. 21:1, 2) and a jar (Fig. 21:3), and others date to the Early Roman period (second half of the first century BCE), including bowls (Fig. 21:4, 5), a krater (Fig. 21:6), cooking pots (Fig. 21:7–9) and jars (Fig. 21:10, 11). Also discovered in this fill were many fragments of rough, hand-dressed stone vessels of the Jewish stone vessel type. However, these have a curved profile and coarser finish, unlike the stone vessels characteristic of the Second Temple period. The assemblage of stone vessels includes bowls (Fig. 22:1, 2), cups (Fig. 22:3, 4) and a basin (Fig. 22:5). The large amount of stone vessel fragments discovered in the fill might indicate that a workshop for these types of vessels was located nearby. It seems that the stone vessels discovered at the site are earlier than those of the stone vessel assemblages known from the Second Temple period in Jerusalem and Judah. Given the importance of these finds, they will be presented at length in a separate article.
Hewn Installations (see Fig. 19). Three rock-hewn installations (L217/L218, L219, L221; Fig. 23) were documented near the building remains. Each installation included a round, conical sump (diam. 0.35–0.70 m, depth 0.25–0.30 m) and a narrow channel. In Installations 217/218 and 221, the channel led to the sump, whereas in Installation 219 it did not. Channel 218 (overall length 4 m) was long, and its eastern part, near the sump, was narrow and shallow (width 0.1 m, depth 0.1 m), whereas its western part was wide and deep (width 0.3 m, depth 0.4 m); at its western end, the channel turned at a right angle to the south. It seems that the western part of this channel was ancient and perhaps part of a quarry; it was later enlarged and connected to the round sump.
Columbarium. The upper part of a columbarium (L214) was documented at the northeastern end of the area. It had two openings: an elliptical upper opening at the top of the columbarium (0.6 × 0.8 m; Fig. 24) and a side opening that was probably natural, except for its northern wall which was hewn as a vertical bedrock wall. The columbarium’s interior was filled almost to its top with soil. It was not excavated, apart from its openings which were partially cleared of the alluvium that filled them. The upper part of the columbarium was visible through the top opening (Fig. 25). Two rows of hewn arched niches could be discerned in the bedrock wall. The columbarium probably contains additional, lower rows of hewn niches, but these could not be seen.
Wall. A segment of a wall (W21; min. length 6.5 m, width 0.65 m, height 1.4 m; Fig. 26) built in a general northwest–southeast direction that curved according to the terrain of the spur was documented c. 10 m south of the columbarium. The wall was built of two rows of medium-sized and large fieldstones, which were placed on a layer of soil that leveled the surface. It seems that this was a retaining wall of an agricultural terrace.
Area C (Figs. 27–29)
Rock-hewn Channel. A segment of a broad, hewn channel (L317; length c. 3.5 m, width 0.55–0.80, depth 0.3–0.6 m; Fig. 30) was excavated on the upper part of the area. Stone-dressing chisel marks were discerned on the channel’s walls. The channel sloped from the top of the hill southward and then turned at an angle toward the west southwest.
Winepress. The winepress is approached by six steps (L308; run c. 1 m, rise 0.15–0.20 m) hewn in a bedrock surface descending to the southeast. Hewn along the northeastern side of a winepress, they provided easy access to the various parts of the installation. The winepress consisted of a rectangular treading floor (L305; 1.50–1.65 × 2.60 m, depth 0.15–0.75 m; Fig. 31) and two elliptical collecting vats (L306 –diam. c. 0.8 m, depth 0.65 – 1.00 m; L307 – 0.8 × 1.3 m, depth 1.1 m). The treading floor sloped moderately to the east, toward the collecting vats. The eastern wall of the treading floor (W33; width 0.20–0.25 m, height 0.10–0.15 m) was partly hewn and partly constructed of small fieldstones bonded with white mortar; it separated the treading floor from Collecting Vat 306, and a channel connecting the two was hewn across it. An elliptical sump (0.2 × 0.5 m, depth 0.2 m) was hewn in the western part of Collecting Vat 306. The eastern part of Collecting Vat 307 was poorly preserved. The two collecting vats were separated by a wall (W32; width 0.25–0.40 m, height 0.7–1.2 m); its lower part was hewn and its upper part was built of fieldstones bonded with white mortar. In the center of the wall was a round, thick lump of plaster, probably a blockage of a channel that connected the two vats. Gray hydraulic plaster was applied to the treading floor, collecting vats and channel. In a later phase, a narrow channel (width 0.12 m) was breached in the southern wall of the treading floor (W31; width 0.3–0.4 m, height of the southern side 0.8 m) and another collecting vat (W311; width 1.35 m, depth 0.15–0.80 m) was hewn south of the treading floor. Vat 311 was hewn in a friable bedrock ledge, and its southern wall was detached from the ground. A winding rock-cut channel (L312; length c. 4 m, width 0.1–0.2 m, depth 0.10–0.25 m) led to Vat 311 from the west. A round cupmark (L315; diam. 0.4 m, depth 0.3 m) was hewn south of the winepress.
Oil Press. A partially preserved rock-cut oil press was discovered just west of the winepress’ treading floor. In the center of a hewn bedrock surface (L309; c. 1.5 × 2.3 m, depth c. 1 m) was hewn but undetached raised block that served as a press bed where the baskets containing the olive mash were placed. The watery lees created by the pressing drained into a channel hewn around the raised block and led into an elliptical sump (L316; 0.25 × 0.40 m, depth 0.15 m) south of the stone. A small niche used to secure a beam was hewn in the northern wall of Surface 309. A square pit (L314; 0.45 × 0.50 m, depth 0.2 m) connected by a narrow channel to Surface 309 was hewn beside the northern corner of the oil press. It seems that a container was placed in the pit, and that the channel was used to drain excess liquid.
Cave. A karstic cave (L310) whose opening was slightly enlarged by quarrying was discovered in the western part of the area. It was found filled with earth and stones, and only its entrance was excavated.
The installations and rock-cuttings in all of the areas were covered with alluvium containing several worn pottery sherds dating to the Iron Age IIB, first century BCE, first century CE and the Byzantine period. As they were found in alluvium, the sherds were presumably swept down the slope. The first century BCE finds included a cooking pot (Fig. 32:1) and a jar (Fig. 32:2). Those from the first century CE included a bowl (Fig. 32:3), cooking pots (Fig. 32:4–6), jars (Fig. 32: 7, 8) and a lamp (Fig. 32:9). The Byzantine-period finds included a bowl (Fig. 32:10) and two FBW jugs (Fig. 32:11, 12).
The excavation yielded mainly installations and rock-cuttings, all apparently related to the agricultural activity of a nearby settlement. Judging by the ceramic finds and stone vessels, the first activity at the site probably took place during the Iron Age IIB, and it culminated during the Hasmonean period and the Early Roman period. Following a hiatus, there was renewed activity during the Byzantine period. In the mid-twentieth century, after the site had been abandoned for a long time, the Arab Legion built an army outpost there; after it was deserted, local farmers returned to the site to cultivate the soil.