Six squares were excavated on the southwestern side of the hill (Figs. 4, 5). The bedrock in the western part of the area was high and apart from quarrying remains no architecture or habitation levels were preserved. The remains and findings from the area are described below from latest to earliest.
(1) A pressing installation (bodeda) that probably dates to the Byzantine period, based on contemporaneous potsherds discovered in the vicinity. The installation was exposed just below the surface and included a round flat stone (diam. 1.7 m; Fig. 6) with a shallow channel hewn around its circumference.
(2) Several potsherds from the Persian–Hellenistic period, discovered on the surface.
(3) Pottery sherds dating to the seventh century BCE, discovered in robber trenches of a massive building from the eleventh century BCE (see below).
(4) A few red-slipped and irregularly hand burnished pottery sherds ascribed to the tenth century BCE, found scattered in loci near the surface level.
(5) A massive building from the eleventh century BCE. The structure’s exterior walls were wide (1.6 m) and built of two rows of very large stones (Figs. 7, 8). The interior walls were narrow (width c. 0.6 m) and constructed of two rows of medium-sized stones. By the end of the second season of excavation, the building was still not completely exposed. A flagstone pavement was discovered in the western part of the structure and a foundation deposit, including a lamp placed between two bowls, was found below the floor (Figs. 9, 10). No signs of use were evident on either the lamp or bowls. On a floor outside the building, to the west, was a large concentration of pottery vessels (Fig. 11) and olive pits. The ceramic assemblage from this stratum dates to the eleventh century BCE and is similar to that of Lachish Stratum VI; however, it also includes types characteristic of the eleventh century BCE not found at Lachish, such as an undecorated Philistine bell-shaped bowl.
Three adjacent secondary areas (B1–B3; Fig. 12) were opened on the eastern side of the hill. The remains were destroyed during the preparation of a dirt road, which caused them significant damage.
Area B1. One square was excavated during the 2015 season. Remains and artifacts from five periods were discovered, described below from latest to earliest.
(1) A row of four large stones in secondary use that were probably the remains of an agricultural terrace retaining wall dating to the Ottoman period.
(2) A massive wall dated to the Byzantine period, based on ribbed pottery sherds found in its vicinity. It was exposed along the southern balk of the square. The wall’s foundation trench severed all of the strata that predate the wall.
(3) Pottery sherds from the seventh century BCE, discovered on the surface.
(4) A layer of particularly soft soil that yielded pottery sherds from the eighth century BCE, including slipped and wheel-burnished sherds, as well as a two-winged lemelekh seal impression, similar to the finds in Lachish Stratum III.
(5) Impressive architectural remains severely damaged by stone plundering (Fig. 13). The pottery vessels in the stratum date to the tenth century BCE, and include red-slipped and irregularly hand-burnished decorations, similar to vessels from Khirbat Qeiyafa Stratum IV.
(6) A habitation level that includes a tabun, ash and fragments of pottery vessels from the eleventh century BCE (Fig. 14). The ceramic finds include vessels decorated in the Philistine bi-chrome style (Fig. 15).
Area B2. Four squares were excavated, revealing remains and finds from seven periods, described below from latest to earliest.
(1) A fragment of a broken Ottoman-period clay tobacco pipe, discovered on the surface.
(2) A glazed pottery sherd from the Early Islamic period, discovered on the surface.
(3) Pottery sherds ascribed to the Byzantine period, found on the surface.
(4) Pottery sherds from the Persian–Hellenistic period, including a fragment of an imported Attic vessel, found on the surface.
(5) Pottery sherds from the seventh century BCE, collected on the surface.
(6) Remains of an impressive building ascribed to the Iron Age IIA, which was destroyed by fierce conflagration (Fig. 16). The building remains were discovered from right below the surface to a depth of c. 2 m and were dug deep into the strata that predate them. Two complete adjacent rooms preserved to a maximum height of 2 m were exposed. Some of the walls were built of large stones (Fig. 17). The wall separating the rooms was constructed of bricks (0.12 × 0.50 × 0.58 m; Fig. 18) and was set on a stone foundation; it was preserved to a height of eight courses (1.2 m). The bricks were burnt in the conflagration. The northern of the two rooms had a meticulously made floor of densely arranged pebbles and angular stones (Fig. 19) and inside it were pieces of limestone that had turned to lime, fired orange-colored bricks and a thick layer of ash. The pottery assemblage from the ruins of this building include an intact jug, a complete pithos, a chalice and fragments of bowls and kraters dating to the tenth century BCE (Figs. 20, 21), red-slipped and decorated with an irregular hand burnish, similar to vessels from Khirbat Qeiyafa Stratum IV. The southern room was long and narrow; inside were several store jars (Fig. 22), indicating the room’s use for storage. These rooms may have been part of the building’s basement.
(7) Architectural remains and habitation levels (Fig. 23), including pottery vessels dating to the eleventh century BCE, with finds similar to those from Area A. The remains from this stratum were discovered at an elevation of c. 1 m above the Iron IIA remains described in the previous phase, because the later were dug deep into the earlier layers. The structure from this stratum was damaged by the Iron IIA building. A small probe exposed a stone column (diam. 0.6 m) beneath the stone pavement of the Iron IIA building. At a lower elevation, east of the building, were pottery sherds decorated in Philistine bi-chrome style.
(8) A small fragment of a Cypriot milk bowl dating to the thirteenth century BCE. This sherd is indicative of some sort of activity that transpired at the site in the thirteenth century BCE and is parallel to Lachish Stratum VII.
Area B3. Solid stone walls were noted on the surface prior to the excavation. Eight squares were excavated and remains and artifacts from four periods were exposed, described below from latest to earliest.
(1) Pottery sherds from the Persian–Hellenistic period, discovered on the surface.
(2) Pottery sherds from the seventh century BCE, gathered on the surface.
(3) Pottery sherds from the eighth century BCE, collected on the surface, including wheel-burnished fragments decorated with a red slip and a handle characteristic of lemelekh jars, stamped with a design of concentric circles.
(4) Remains of a massive building from the tenth century BCE, constructed of boulders and small stones (Figs 24, 25). A floor level with a limestone mortar on it was discovered at the same elevation as the base of the walls. The pottery vessels in the building are red slipped with irregular hand burnish.
(5) The top of a carefully constructed stone wall was discovered in the east of the area, beneath the remains of the massive building from the tenth century BCE. Several pottery sherds from the eleventh century BCE were found, including a fragment of a bell-shaped Philistine bowl, white-slipped and painted red and black (Fig. 26).
Architectural remains and artifacts from many periods were discovered in the excavations, which reflect a sequence of human activity over the course of thousands of years:
(1) Ottoman period—stone fences, found in large parts of the site, and a fragment of a clay tobacco pipe.
(2) Early Islamic period—a single glazed pottery sherd.
(3) Byzantine period—the finds include remains of a massive wall and ribbed pottery sherds, found on the surface in Area B1. Apparently, the pressing installation (bodeda) in Area A also dates to the Byzantine period.
(4) Persian–Hellenistic period—pottery sherds only, including several fragments of imported Attic ware.
(5) Seventh century BCE—fragments of pottery vessels only, including lamp bases and ‘butterfly’ jars, some with an incised butterfly on the shoulder.
(6) Eighth century BCE—a settlement stratum in Area B1 that included red-slipped and wheel-burnished pottery sherds, handles with a lemelekh seal impression and a lemelekh jar handle stamped with a design of concentric circles.
(7) Tenth century BCE—finds were discovered throughout Area B and include massive construction that was severely destroyed. The eastern edge of the site was completely ruined, and therefore, it is still unclear if the site was fortified or not.
(8) Eleventh century BCE—finds include massive building remains, habitation levels and pottery sherds.
(9) Thirteenth century BCE—a small fragment of an imported Cypriot milk bowls.
(10) Middle Bronze Age—several pottery sherds, including fragments of cooking pot rims.
The main settlement layers discovered in the excavations date to the Iron Age, including three distinct phases of Iron II. The latest phase dates to the seventh century BCE and consists only of pottery; this phase is similar to Lachish Stratum II. The intermediate phase dates to the eighth century CE and includes a settlement layer that ended in fierce destruction, and fragments of pottery vessels decorated with a red slip and a wheel burnish and lemelekh jars; this phase is similar to Lachish Stratum III. The early phase dates to the tenth century BCE, and includes well-preserved massive construction that was ultimately destroyed, and fragments of pottery vessels decorated with a red slip and an irregular hand burnish; this phase is similar to Khirbat Qeiyafa Stratum IV. Late and intermediate Iron Age II phases were only discovered in some of the excavation areas whereas the early phase was revealed in all of them and its presence is strong. In addition, a layer attributed to Iron Age I (eleventh century BCE), including a massive building, habitation levels and Philistine-style bi-chrome ware, was discovered. This stratum was not exposed at nearby Tel Lakhish.