In April 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted north of road 316, along Nahal Yatir, c. 4 km east of Hura (Permit No. A-7686; map ref. 199–200/580–1), prior to construction of the permanent settlement of Hiran. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by N.D. Michael (Field Photography), with the assistance of M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), S. Gal (GPS), D. Yegorov (flint tool), E. Delerzon and N. Zak (plans) and S. Talis and V. Lifshitz.
The landscape in the vicinity of the excavation is characterized by bedrock outcrops and agricultural terraces. The fields these terraces supported are either still cultivated or covered with low vegetation. The excavation was conducted along a wide section of the Nahal Yatir streanbed (2 sq km; Fig 1: Areas A–C), yielding field walls, piles of stones, a dam and cisterns. The finds include several potsherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods and a flint hand-axe that dates from the Lower Paleolithic period.
Previous surveys in the region documented dams, cisterns, agricultural terraces, watchtowers, a farmhouse, walls and several potsherds and flint artifacts (Aladjem 2013
; Govrin 2002
; S-481/2014). An excavation carried out in 2015 c. 0.5 km north of the current excavation (Permit No. A-7501) uncovered a large farmhouse and terraces from the Early Islamic period.
Area A. Twelve squares (1–12) were excavated; ancient remains were discovered only in some of them. A long field wall (W123; length c. 100 m) built of local fieldstones on the bedrock in a northeast–southwest direction was visible on the surface. Two sections of the wall were excavated, one in the east (W101; Fig. 2) and the other in the west (Sq 5; W119; Fig. 3). The two excavated sections of the wall were preserved to two–three courses high (0.5–0.6 m). This wall may have enclosed an agricultural terrace.
Two walls (length c. 3.5 m) were excavated west of W123 (Sqs 1, 2). Both walls were built of fieldstones (preserved height 0.3–0.5 m). Built on the hillslope, they were most likely used as catchment walls for collecting runoff for farming.
Small piles of stones (c. 0.7 × 1.8 m) were also excavated in Area A (Sqs 6–12). These stones were cleared from the adjacent fields to prepare them for cultivation or to facilitate runoff into the fields.
Several potsherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods were uncovered in area A.
Area B. Three squares were excavated, yielding a dam (preserved length 5.5 m, max. width 1.2 m, max. height 1.1 m; Figs. 4, 5). The top of the dam was partly visible on the sureface. The dam was constructed of field-stones of various sizes and found on the bedrock. The southeastern part of the dam was not preserved. Several pottery sherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods were discovered.
Area C. Two hewn water cisterns, still in use, were cleared, surveyed and drafted. The southern cistern (Sq 1; depth 2 m; Fig. 6) has a fieldstones-constructed capstone; it was recently repaired with modern concrete. An iron frame for a cover was installed in the middle of the capstone. The northern cistern (Sq 2; depth 2.7 m) has a capstone, which was hewn into the bedrock. It is unclear when the water cisterns were hewn.
A flint hand-axe (Fig. 7) dating from the Lower Paleolithic period was discovered on the surface near Area A. There are no known Lower Paleolithic sites in the close vicinity of the excavations.
The uncovered remains point to the existence of agriculture in this semi-arid region. Although several potsherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods were found, it can be assumed that farming in the area took place over a much longer period and up to the present day.