Several walls were exposed beneath a basalt stone heap (11.0×11.5 m, height 2.39 m; Figs. 1, 2). A wall (W106; length 5 m, height 0.7 m, width 0.5 m) that delimited the stone heap on the east was a single row of large fieldstones, preserved two courses high. A wall (W107; length 4.8 m, presumed width 1 m, height 0.4 m) that enclosed the heap from the north was built of small and medium fieldstones in a single row; it might have had an inner row of stones that was not well-preserved. Several other walls, whose function was unclear, were exposed; they might have been a random arrangement of stones (Fig. 3). A circular space (L101) was discovered beneath the western part of the stone heap. It was enclosed from the south by a curved wall (W108; length 3 m, width 0.7 m, height 1.3 m) built of fieldstones set on the bedrock and preserved two–three courses high. Natural boulders delineated the area along its northern and eastern sides. The bedrock was exposed and on it was a layer of dark brown granular soil containing several potsherds, animal bones and charred wood. A ‘Shikhin’ jar rim that dates to the second–third centuries CE was discovered in this layer. The dark brown soil was overlain with a thin soil layer that included body fragments of a thin-walled vessel and several pieces of coarse pottery. A coin dating to the reign of Emperor Aurelian (270–275 CE; IAA 85662) was also discovered in this layer. Fieldstone collapse covered the vessel fragments and sealed the layer. The artifacts in the layer probably reflect the situation prior to the construction of the stone heap. Several LRRW type potsherds dating to the Byzantine period, two clay Ottoman tobacco pipes and a modern Rashaya el-Fukhar vessel were discovered in the upper layer of the stone heap. It seems that the pile of stones was a clearance heap, where stones removed from a nearby field could be placed. Walls 106 and 107 were probably meant to delimit the heap and prevent the discarded stones from sliding back into the field. Except for W108, the other ‘walls’ were probably natural arrangements of stones, or a result of the collapsed heap. The ceramic finds and coin date the assembling of the stone heap to the late fourth century CE.
The excavation in this area was conducted in a valley bounded on the north by a chain of low hard chalk hills that had undergone dissolution processes. Two adjacent rock-hewn winepresses were exposed on the southern slope of one of the hills. A partially open cave, almost entirely filled with soil, was exposed on the western fringes of this hill. Hewn vaults that might be arcosolia were discerned in the upper parts of the cave’s walls. The cave was not excavated.
A winepress with a sloping rock-cut treading floor was revealed (L200; 3×3 m; difference in elevation 0.3 m; Figs. 4, 5); its western side had only survived (depth 0.9 m). The treading floor was pocked with karstic pits (depth 0.25–0.30 m), which might have been formed after the winepress was abandoned and left exposed to the elements over the course of hundreds of years. A section of gray plaster was discovered on the northern side, indicating that the treading floor was plastered. A settling pit (L201; diam. 1.1 m, depth 0.85 m) was located in the southern corner of the winepress and a channel (length 0.2 m, width 0.1 m) was hewn between it and the treading floor. The western side of the settling pit was not vertical and it penetrated beneath the treading floor (depth c. 0.2 m), possibly for placing a storage vessel to collect the must. A round sump (0.3×0.5 m, depth 0.1 m) was discovered at the bottom of the settling pit and small fragments of plaster indicate that it too was plastered. The southern side of the settling pit was severed by a karstic channel (length 0.6 m, width 0.3 m, depth 0.5 m). It seems that the settling pit was an extension of the natural channel and the segment of the channel that remained was blocked and plastered. A conduit led from the southeastern side of the settling pit (preserved height 0.2 m, thickness 0.35 m) to a rectangular collecting vat (L204; 1.9×2.4 m, depth 1.1–1.4 m; Fig. 6). It also seems that the collecting vat was hewn along a karstic channel that survived in the northern corner and was blocked by a wall built of roughly hewn stones. The walls of the vat and its floor were coated with plaster that contained small stone fragments used to round the corners of the vat. Depressions in the floor were filled with small stones before the plaster was applied. A similar stone fill was discovered next to the southeastern side of the vat. The winepress’ treading floor was discovered exposed on the surface. The settling pit and collecting vat were filled with soil.
A rock-hewn winepress with a treading floor (L202; 2.6×2.9 m; Figs. 7, 8) was exposed c. 7 m west of Winepress 200. The rock-cut northern side of the treading floor (height 0.7 m) was preserved. The southern side was presumably built of stones and therefore did not survive. The treading floor, slanting from north to south, was fractured and had three karstic pits in it. Remains of a rock-cut channel linked the treading floor to a round settling pit or collecting vat (L203; diam. 1.1 m, depth 0.6 m; Fig. 9), in whose southern part was a circular depression (diam. 0.25 m, depth 0.15 m).
Winepress 202 was hewn in badly cracked bedrock that was unsuitable for use as an installation. Unlike Winepress 200, there were no signs that plaster was used in it, without which the winepress could not be operated. The winepress might have been abandoned before completion and Winepress 200 was hewn in its place, in bedrock that was not as severely fractured. Neither installation can be dated.
Areas C and D
The excavation in these areas was conducted in the western part of the valley where stone clearance heaps and farming terraces were exposed. Area C (4×11 m, depth c. 3.5 m) was severely damaged as a result of installing a sewer line. Part of a wall (preserved length 2 m, width 0.6 m, height 0.7 m), aligned east–west, was exposed in the section. It was built of basalt fieldstones and some limestone and survived three courses high; the wall’s foundation consisted of small limestone. The wall enclosed a rocky region and might have been a farming terrace retaining wall. The ceramic finds date to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE).
A wall, oriented north–south (length c. 9 m, width 0.7 m, height 1.5 m; Fig. 10) was exposed in Area D, c. 500 m west of Area C. It was built of large fieldstones placed on the karstic bedrock; the wall, which survived to three courses high, was discovered in poor condition and partially collapsed. Several potsherds that dated its construction to the third–fourth centuries CE were exposed. It was probably a retaining wall of a farming terrace.
Remains of agricultural activity related to the ‘Iyei Me‘arot site were exposed in the excavation. On the basis of the ceramic finds that dated to the Late Roman period, it is possible that the ground was prepared for agriculture at this time.