During August 2004, a development survey was conducted along a section of the proposed separation fence (H. ‘Orva; Permit No. A-4245*; map ref. NIG 20115–220/61790–920; OIG 15115–220/11790–920). The survey, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by H. Stark, assisted by A. Nagorsky, A. Nagar, L. Barda (GPS/GIS) and Z. Matskevich (Lithic finds).
The survey area (2.5 km long and 80 m wide) extended along one of the tributaries of Nahal Ha-Ela, starting in the valley floor at elevation c. 320 m asl, and rising to an elevation of c. 460 m asl (Fig. 1). Major sites along the proposed alignment were Horbat Buz (Kh. Beiyus), Kh. el-Maq‘ura, and H. ‘Illit (Kh. ‘Illin). Furthermore, the proposed fence also passed near the village of Kh. ed-Deir. A total of 21 sites were recorded, mostly connected with agriculture––terrace walls, rock-cut installations, cisterns and stone clearance heaps. Additionally, a proto-historic site, rock-cut caves, building remains and wells were documented.
Sites 2, 3, 13 (Map ref. NIG 201299–740/618022–097; OIG 151299–740/118022–097). The remains of a ruined settlement, covering an area of c. 2.5 dunams, are situated today in a grove of olive trees. This site combines the summit of a hill (Site 2), the terraced slopes (Site 3) and a location to the east of an olive orchard (Site 13). Many of the terrace walls were built of masonry stones in secondary use. A heavy concentration of scattered ceramics, mainly from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, was on surface. Two wells were located to the south and east of Site 2 and cisterns were scattered within the olive grove. Building remains were visible, covered by agricultural terraces (Fig. 2). This composite site was originally identified by S. Batz, who proposed to associate it with H. Zur (S. Batz, pers. comm.). The nearby village of Kh. ed-Deir (the Monastery) may imply the identification of the ruin.
Site 14 (map ref. NIG 202781/618552; OIG 152781/118552). A surface scatter of flint tools and debris mixed with early ceramics covered an area of c. 1 dunam along the northern bank of the valley. The flint and ceramics were dated to the Chalcolithic period.
Site 20 (Map ref. NIG 202999/618725; OIG 152999/118725). A rock-cut cave (Fig. 3) on the southern terraces of H. ‘Illit. Its entrance (width 1.2 m) was carved in a recess and a step descended into a narrow room (length 2.8 m). A pile of earth in front of the entrance was the outcome of looting the cave.
The sites recorded on this survey suggest two periods of intensive occupation, the Chaclolithic and Byzantine periods. These sites are located on well-watered, rich agricultural land in an area situated between the hill country and the coastal plain. Archaeological excavations in advance of regional development projects will certainly reveal the true cultural complexity of this area.