During October 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted at Be’er Ma‘on (Permit No. A-3747*; map ref. NIG 2019/6438; OIG 1519/1438), in the wake of damage to antiquities caused while preparing a path to a public park, on behalf of the Re‘ut Local Council. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Kletter, with the assistance of R. Abu-Khalaf (administration), V. Essman (surveying) and M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (drawing). The excavator wishes to thank the team of laborers from Ashqelon, as well as M. Avissar (pottery reading), O. Shmueli and Z. Kanias.
The site, located on a hill in Re‘ut, was damaged when a public swimming pool was constructed and roads were paved on the slopes of the hill. A former excavation near the pool exposed remains from the Early Islamic period (ESI 18:115). Prior to the expansion of the synagogue, a salvage excavation was conducted in 2000 on the western slope of the site (HA-ESI 117), revealing architectural remains and a winepress from the Late Byzantine period (Fig. 1: Site 1).
The current excavation area, c. 100 m southeast of the previous excavations (Fig. 1: Site 2), had been severely disrupted by earthmoving equipment and later pits that penetrated into the layers of building remains. Three squares were opened, as well as another area, c. 20 m to the south, which only contained mixed fills.
A rock-hewn winepress paved with a white industrial mosaic and a circular settling pit (L213; Figs. 2, 3) were exposed. Since only the edges of the winepress were excavated, it could not be precisely dated. Overlaying the mosaic was a deposit of black fill (c. 0.2 m thick) that was deposited after the winepress was no longer in use and contained homogenous potsherds dating to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE). The winepress was probably associated with the early phase of the wall (W5) that enclosed it on the northwest.
Wall 4, whose eastern face consisted of beautiful ashlar construction, was attributed to the first building phase; it formed a corner with an early phase of W5. Wall 4 was parallel to the rock-cutting (marked W13), which was connected to a wall (W11) and both seemed to be part of a large building (Fig. 4). An entrance in W11, installed on the smoothed natural bedrock, at an elevation of 285.5 m above sea level, represented the elevation of the building’s floor. The walls of this phase, well-constructed of dressed stones, were all founded on bedrock; no floors bearing vessels were uncovered. The fill opposite the lower eastern part of W4 (L209, unsealed) contained a scant number of potsherds that dated to the Early Islamic Period.
Wall 8 was built in a later phase at a slightly different angle from W4 and formed a corner with a later phase of W5 (Fig. 5), which was partly founded along the line of the early wall. The walls of this phase were also well-built. Attributed to the later phase of W5 was a fill of brown material, visible in the western section of L213 above the black fill overlying the winepress, which was devoid of datable potsherds.
South of W11 and W13 was a large complex of walls (W2, W3, W6, W7, W9 and W10) in the second building phase that belonged to rooms of a large structure. Wall 6 (Fig. 6) abutted W11, but the two walls were not bonded together. The walls of the second phase were also founded on bedrock and their orientation was similar to that of Walls 11 and 13. The rooms of the building (Loci 205, 211, 212, 214, 215) were paved with white plaster and stone (Fig. 7). The floors were laid directly on bedrock or on a fill that was intended to level bedrock and included stone chips and chalk. Evidence of two phases was found in the building. An opening was sealed in W10 during the second, later phase; however, neither phase had floors that yielded sealed deposits.
The fill overlying the floors of the later phase contained potsherds, dating mostly to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE), mixed with a few later sherds. On the floor in the corner of Room 205 was half of a large upside-down krater (Figs. 8, 11:3) that was probably from the Early Islamic period. On Floor 214 was a fragment of a schematic bone “doll” from the same period (Fig. 11:8). A probe below Floor 212 did not reveal a sealed assemblage that could date the building, except for several non-diagnostic body fragments that were found in the bedding of the floor. It seems that this phase should also be dated to the Early Islamic period.
Several crude, meager walls (W1, W12, W14 and part of W3) were constructed in the third building phase. Wall 12, built above Walls 5 and 8, was not connected to them. Wall 1 was a square pillar base (1 × 1 m; Fig. 9) whose alignment was similar to that of Wall 11, but at a higher level; only two of its courses had survived after the rest were removed by the bulldozer. The base was set within a foundation trench that contained a gray soil fill. Wall 14 was above W11 and partly resting on it. A tabun (L206; Fig. 10), whose top was at the approximate elevation of the floor (286.13 m), was found to the west of Wall 3. The walls of the third phase differed from those of the earlier phases in the gray cement that was used in their construction, along with ancient masonry stones in secondary use. Although no distinct floor could be attributed to this phase, it can be dated to the Mamluk period based on potsherds recovered from the tabun, as well as the latest sherds from the foundation trench of W1. At a later stage, when the walls were no longer used, pits, sometimes large ones, were dug inside the structure, visible in the balks of Squares B (L210) and C (L207). The pits contained mixed ceramics, mostly from the Mamluk period.
The early finds from the Early Islamic period came mostly from the floors of the rooms (Loci 205, 209), including bowls of common glazed buff ware (Fig. 11:1) and a green-glazed bowl (Fig. 11: 2). The dark red clay cooking pot is typical of the period (Fig. 11:4). The jugs are made of buff ware with thin walls (Fig. 11:5) and a fragment of a similar vessel was found in L209. The jars of the period include a small jar of orange clay (Fig. 11:6) and a large pithos with an upright rim of the type common to Ramla and en-Nebi Samwil (Fig. 11:7).
The few potsherds from the Crusader period were not found in a stratigraphic context and included an extremely worn rim fragment of a St. Simeon-type bowl, dating to the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE, with a sgraffito decoration and a yellow and light green glaze (Fig. 11:9; compare to Caesarea, in D. Pringle, Levant 17, 1985: Fig. 13:66; for a general discussion, see E.J. Stern. Qadmoniot 119, 2000:58 [Hebrew]).
A relatively large amount of Mamluk pottery was found, especially in the pits and fill. It included green-glazed bowls with a sgraffito decoration (Fig. 11:10); a glazed, mold-made bowl of a type that was produced in Jerusalem (Fig. 11:11), a handmade bowl of coarse clay that contained straw, with a geometric decoration on the interior (Fig. 11:12) and a wheel-made bowl with a thick carinated wall (Fig. 11:13).
Relatively few remains from the Ottoman period were found on surface and in several mixed loci, including a bowl of the Graffita Arcaica family, dating to the sixteenth century CE and imported from Italy (Fig. 12:1), a later glazed bowl (Fig. 12:2), a gray Gaza bowl (Fig. 12:3), a coffee cup fragment of white clay, probably from the eighteenth century CE (Fig. 12:4), the stem of a tobacco pipe from the seventeenth century CE (Fig. 12:5) and the bowl of a tobacco pipe from the eighteenth century CE (Fig. 12:6). Other artifacts from this period included metal fragments, roof tiles and glass bracelets, as well as a stone bead (Fig. 12:7) and a marble stopper (Fig. 12:8) that were found in an unstratified context. Rifle cartridges and barbed wire indicate the area was used by the Israel Defense Force for training during the twentieth century CE.
Remains from the Late Byzantine period were documented in the previous excavation (HA-ESI 117), whereas the current excavation adds information about the site from the Early Islamic period until the present time.