During March–April 2005 a trial excavation was conducted south and west of Sha‘alvim (Permit No. A-4414*; map ref. NIG 1952–91/6408–35; OIG 1452–91/1408–35), prior to development work on the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem railroad line. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by the late G. Parnos, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian and N. Zak (surveying and drafting) and C. Hersch (pottery drawing).
A preliminary survey along the planned route of the railway line, conducted by A. Re’em and L. Yihye, recorded different complexes that were excavated or documented. These included the wall of an animal pen, stone clearance heaps (Fig. 1:1) and three rock-hewn cisterns (Fig. 1:2–4).
The complex comprised the wall of an animal pen and two stone clearance heaps (Fig. 2) on the lower southern slope of rising ground, c. 700 m south of Horbat Nekhes. Two adjacent squares were opened at the northern end of the complex and a probe was cut by a bulldozer next to its southern end. The wall of the animal pen (W102; length c. 25 m), oriented north–south, was built of large fieldstones in a single row and preserved 1–2 courses high. Two clearances heaps, composed of large stones, were to the west of W102. The elongated northern heap (L108; length 11 m, width 5 m), oriented north–south, consisted of different-sized stones that were randomly piled. To the south was a round heap (L107; c. 7 m wide) also built of large and very large stones.
A few potsherds, dating to the Early Roman and Byzantine periods, were found. The complex is indicative of agricultural activity in the region; however, it cannot be dated due to meager ceramic finds and the absence of stratigraphy.
A bell-shaped water cistern (max. width c. 5 m, depth c. 5.25 m; Fig. 3) with a circular opening (diam. 1.05 m) was hewn in the southern end of the a moderate slope, c. 60 m east of Complex 1. A layer of white plaster (c. 2 cm thick) was applied to its walls and floor. A uniform layer (c. 2.5 m thick) of very dark brown alluvium and medium- and large-sized stones had accumulated inside the cistern. A sounding in the accumulation, reaching the floor of the cistern next to the eastern wall, was excavated. The ceramic finds were mixed and included potsherds from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. No architectural remains were discovered in the vicinity of the cistern, which seems to have been hewn in an open area and used for agricultural purposes.
A rock-hewn bell-shaped cistern (max. width c. 3.7 m, depth c. 2.3 m; Fig. 4) was discovered c. 12 m south of the water cistern in Complex 2. Its aperture in the ceiling was square (width 1 m) and its corners were rounded. The walls and floor of the cistern were not plastered. Two elongated recesses (width c. 0.4 m) in the ceiling were located near the aperture. A similar recess was discerned in the floor beneath one of the recesses in the ceiling. These recesses may have been intended for a wall that did not survive and partitioned the cistern, perhaps implying that the cistern had once been used as an underground storehouse. A loose grayish-brown accumulation that contained stones of different sizes was piled up toward the aperture. The eastern half of the cistern was excavated, yielding fragments of pottery vessels from the Roman period (second century CE), including cooking pots (Fig. 5:1, 2), jars (Fig. 5:3–5) and jugs (Fig. 5:6, 7).
A water cistern in the shape of a truncated cone (max. width 5 m, depth at least 4.2 m; Fig. 6) was discovered c. 1 km southwest of Tel Sha‘alvim and c. 3.5 km east of Complexes 2 and 3. Its rectilinear opening (width 1.2 m) was cut in a flat ceiling. The walls were coated with white plaster (c. 5 cm thick), applied over a layer of non-ribbed potsherds that were bonded with gray cement. A small heap of modern debris accumulated at the bottom of the cistern to a height of 3.6 m below the ceiling. The cistern was not excavated and could not be dated.