Site 1. Prior to the excavation, a large concentration of pottery sherds was discovered in a large natural depression, and rock-hewn cupmarks and basins were observed nearby. An excavation square was opened at this site and two additional half-squares (2 × 4 m) were excavated in the area of the depression (Figs. 3, 4), revealing a tamped level of brown soil and small stones (L133, L135). An extremely large quantity of pottery vessels dating to EB IB1 (ʽErani C phase), flint tools and mollusks (below) were discovered on and in this level. Prominent among the ceramic finds are storage vessels, including jars and holemouths. Eleven rock-hewn cupmarks, mostly conical and some cylindrical (L111–L116, L118, L124–L126, L139), were found on bedrock surfaces near the depression. On a bedrock surface south of the depression was a flat, shallow rock-hewn basin (L117; diam. 0.3 m, depth 0.12 m) with a small hollow in its center; this basin may have been used as a bodeda (domestic oil press) for producing olive oil. Some 35–50 m south of the depression, hewn in bedrock surfaces, were additional cupmarks (L119–L122; Fig. 5) and an elliptical basin (L106; 0.6 × 0.8 m).

Agricultural activity was apparently carried out in the area of Site 1: the cupmarks and basins were used for crushing solid materials and extracting liquids that were gathered in jars and holemouths. The tamped level discovered in the depression in the center of the site was probably a surface during the Early Bronze Age. It seems that pottery vessels remained on this surface and fragments of other vessels were swept onto it from adjacent rock surfaces. Despite the proximity to Tel Yarmut, the sherd concentration in the depression was apparently not the result of erosion from the adjacent mound, because no erosion was discerned of so great a number of sherds in nearby areas. Moreover, the sherds date mainly to EB IB and do not reflect the stratigraphic range discovered on the tell (de Miroschedji 2013:729, Fig. 21), as would be expected if this was indeed a prolonged process of erosion from the tell. Nor does it seem that the soil discovered by the excavation was deliberately brought there from the tell for the purpose of improving and fertilizing the ground, as was the case in the adjacent excavation (Paz, Mizrahi and Grosman 2015:95–96, Fig. 5), since the brown color and the composition of the soil in the excavation seemed to be natural, whereas the soil in the nearby excavation was gray soil from the mound.
 
Site 2. A trial square was opened next to a field wall and an adjacent pottery-sherd concentration was discerned prior to the excavation. The wall (W103; exposed length 6.5 m; Figs. 6, 7) was of simple dry construction, consisting of one row of medium and large fieldstones. In the soil abutting the wall (L108) were pottery sherds dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods that were eroded to the location and do not date the wall.
 
Site 3 (Fig. 6) was a natural hollow containing pottery sherds, discerned prior to the excavation. Excavation of the depression revealed an accumulation of natural brown soil mixed with pottery sherds from the Early Bronze Age. Two cupmarks hewn in a bedrock surface (L107, L140) were discovered nearby.
 
Site 4 was a small square structure (2.6 × 2.7 m; Figs. 5, 8), its walls (W128–W131) built of large fieldstones and preserved to a height of one course. A stone was missing in W128, but the building’s poor state of preservation made it impossible to determine if the doorway was situated there. Neither a floor nor any datable artifacts were discovered inside the building. This structure was apparently connected to agricultural activity and may have been a storeroom or a guard post.
 
Pottery. The ceramic artifacts found by the excavation date to EB IB1 (ʽErani C phase; 3350–3150 BCE). They include a carinated bowl with a pointed rim (Fig. 9:1), jars (Fig. 9:2, 3)—one of them (2) with a grooved decoration at the base of the neck, holemouths with folded-in rims (Fig. 9:4, 5), wavy ledge handles (Fig. 9:6) and grooved loop handles of jars (Fig. 9:7, 8). Similar vessels were found at Tel ʽErani (Yekutieli 2006:229–233, Figs. 4, 5), at Hartuv (Mazar and de Miroschedji 1996:14–23, Figs. 17–20) and at a site south of Nahal Yarmut, c. 1.5 km southeast of the excavation (Shalev 2015a: Figs. 6, 7). In addition, body fragments decorated with plastic (Fig. 9:9–12) and grooved ornamentations (Fig. 9:13) and a unique body fragment adorned with a V-shaped rope design (Fig. 9:14) were discovered. Similarly-decorated vessels were found in strata dating to EB IB1 in Ashqelon (Afridar; Baumgarten 2004:171, Fig. 10:11) and Tel Halif (Dessel 2009: 155, Pl. 1:17).
 
Flint Items. The flint assemblage exposed in the excavation consists of 26 items (Table 1). All of the items save one, a sickle blade, were produced from local material of the Mishash Formation, employing simple ad-hoc technology characteristic of Early Bronze Age sites in the Judean Shephelah. The cores, core-trimming elements and chips found in the assemblage indicate that the knapping was done on site. Most of the tools, including a denticulate (Fig. 10:1), notched tools (Fig. 10:2), a truncation, an awl and a retouched flake, are typical of household-related activities, while the sickle blade (Fig. 10:3) is connected to agricultural activity.
 
Table 1. Composition of the flint assemblage

Basket
Locus
Flakes
Core Trimming
Elements
Tools
Cores
Chunks
Chips
Total
1014
108
 2
1
2
 
 
 
 5
1023
122
 4
 
 
1
 
1
 6
1002
102
 
 
1
1
 
 
 2
1029
135
 1
 
1
 
 
 
 2
1015
109
 
 
 
 
1
 
 1
1031
133
 3
 
 
 
2
2
 7
1013
101
 
 
1
 
 
 
 1
1030
133
 
 
1
 
 
 
 1
1024
135
 
 
1
 
 
 
 1
Total
10
1
7
2
3
3
26

 
 
Mollusks. Two valves of Glycymeris nummaria from the Mediterranean Sea were discovered in the excavation of the tamped level in Site 1. Both items are abraded and unworked. Mollusks of this kind are very common in excavations both in the Mediterranean region and in the interior of the country.
 
The Early Bronze Age artifacts that were discovered in the excavation, particularly in Site 1, reflect agricultural activity conducted at the site during this period, which probably included the production and processing of agricultural produce, as well as the manufacture of flint tools. It should be emphasized that while the settlement at Tel Yarmut dates mainly to EB II–III, the finds from this excavation date to EB IB1 (ʽErani C phase). Evidence of Early Bronze Age agricultural activity has been found in other excavations conducted in the vicinity in recent years (Paz, Mizrahi and Grosman 2015). The current excavation enhances our knowledge regarding the connection between increased agricultural activity and the urbanization process, which began during this period. The surplus agricultural production is what allowed elite classes, consisting of specialists and officials, to come into being, and was the catalyst behind the public building projects (Shalev 2015b:52–81). Apparently, the structure at Site 4 and the field wall at Site 2 were part of later agricultural activity, perhaps during the Ottoman period, when a road that led to Beit Natif, the main town in the region, passed close by. This area may have been part of the farmland belonging to that settlement.