During February–March 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted along the planned route of Highway 9, within the Cross-Israel Highway Project (Permit No. A-3823*; map ref. NIG 2014–20/7020–50; OIG 1514–20/2020–50). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Cross-Israel Highway, was directed by A. Gorzalczany and D. Inbar, with the assistance of J. Abbas (area supervision), S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), A. Hajian and T. Kornfeld (surveying), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (drawing), H. Khalaily (flint implements), E. Barzilay (geomorphology), I. Berin (drafting), E. Oren (archaeological inspection and general assistance) and laborers from Umm el-Fahm. Additional assistance was provided by E. Yannai, Z. Horovich and E. ‘Awawdy.
The site, located east of Moshav Ma’or and Highway 581, is situated on a low hill of Eocene qirton
of the ‘Adulam formation and rock of the Mt. Scopus group, belonging to the Senonian epoch. The excavation area (Fig. 1) was c. 500 m south of H
orbat Kosit, identified by A. Zertal as ‘En-Kushi (Qadmoniot
38–39:84–86 [Hebrew]). Limited excavations at the site and nearby had been conducted in the past by E. ‘Awawdy (Permit Nos. A-3499; A-3716) and A. Gorzalczany (HA-ESI 118
Numerous cavities on surface that contained much fill were examined in four opened areas (Fig. 2). Most cavities were circular or elliptical and had a funnel-shaped cross-section. The geomorphologic report that investigated the origin of the cavities stated that they resulted from karstic activity and were apparently enlarged, sometimes using building additions and utilized by the people of the region. Ribbed potsherds dating to the Byzantine period and several Iron Age fragments were collected.
Area A. Several rock-cuttings, which contained fragments of pottery vessels from Middle Bronze Age I, were explored in the north of the area (Loci 131–133; Fig. 3). The potsherds included bowls (Fig. 4:2–4, 6), cooking pots (Fig. 4:1, 5, 7–10), jars (Fig. 4:11–18), a teapot (Fig. 4:19), fragments with rope ornamentation (Fig. 4:20–22) and a juglet (Fig. 4:23). Other finds were fragments of animal bones, as well as several retouched and sickle blades in L131 (Fig. 5). The implements, made of high-quality dark brown Eocene flint, included four high-quality sickle blades missing a proximal end, which were knapped from a core with two percussion surfaces and shaped by a thin fine retouch (average width 3 cm). The distal end was truncated by a semi-abrupt retouch. One of the tools was made on a backed-blade, with a minimum of retouch. The minimal amount of sickle sheen on the cutting working edge indicates that the tool was in use for a short time. In general, the sickle blades are wider than the average Canaanean blades common to the Early Bronze Age lithics and can therefore, be dated to Middle Bronze Age I.
Area B. Several rock-hewn installations were exposed (Fig. 6); one of them (1.0 × 1.5 m) was shallow and probably used for quarrying a masonry stone whose shape could be discerned.
A somewhat circular rock-hewn installation was discerned in the southern part of the area (L213; max. diam. 5 m). Its southern wall was hewn smooth and straight and its northern wall was irregular. The installation consisted of two round rooms, a western (3 × 5 m) and an eastern one (1 × 3 m), which faced north and contained potsherds from Middle Bronze Age I. The installation was probably a collapsed burial cave. A refuse pit in the northern part of the area contained potsherds from the Byzantine period (L225) and to its south was another hewn space, probably natural, that was expanded (L223).
Area C. Numerous karstic cavities were discovered (Fig. 7), containing cooking pots (Fig. 8: 1, 2) from the Iron Age, a krater (Fig. 8:3) from the Persian period, as well as fragments of kraters (Fig. 8:4), cooking pots (Fig. 8:5, 6), jars (Fig. 8:7–10) and flasks (Fig. 8:11, 12) from the Byzantine period. The remains of two fieldstone-built structures, preserved a single course high, were uncovered. The eastern building (L319) was survived by its southwestern corner that comprised W327 (2 m long, 0.4–0.5 m wide), W328 (1.5 m long, 0.4 m wide) and a floor of various sized pebbles, abutting them. Another wall (W329; 1.2 m long, 0.4 m wide) was exposed 1.3 m south of the building’s corner and along the same alignment as W327.
To the west of Building 319 was the southeastern corner of another building (L317) that consisted of a wall (W326; 1.3 m long, 0.4 m wide) and another wall segment that extended westward (W350).
The building remains were preserved in the karstic hollows of the area’s lower part. It is assumed that other building parts, topographically higher, were destroyed when the area was cultivated.
An installation, oriented east–west, was exposed in the north of the area. Three rock-hewn steps (0.5 × 1.5 m; height of first step 0.3 m, second step 0.35 m, third step 0.1 m) descended to the west of the installation, leading to a hewn room, opening to the north, which probably was not completed and contained unidentifiable worn potsherds. Only the northern part of the installation was partially excavated. A round, bell-shaped pit (diam. 0.5 m, depth 1.8 m), probably used as a water cistern, was exposed within the installation. The pit contained potsherds dating to Middle Bronze Age I, including a goblet base of the Megiddo family (Fig. 4:23), primarily known from burial assemblages at Megiddo and Ma‘ayan Baruch (‘Atiqot 3: Ill. 6:7 [Hebrew]) and rarely found in occupation layers.
Area D. A rock-hewn water cistern with a circular aperture (L500; diam. 0.5 m; Figs. 9, 10) was exposed in the soft chalk bedrock at the foot of the hill, descending westward to the alluvial soil. Signs of other cisterns (Loci 501, 502) were discerned nearby, one of which was partly excavated. A shallow rock-hewn installation (L511) to the north of Cistern 500 was probably used as a channel conveying runoff to the cistern. To the north, segments of a shallow bedrock-hewn channel (Loci 503, 504; total length 15 m, 0.4 m wide) were exposed; its eastern side was taller, straighter and smoother than its western side and it turned east at a right angle at the northern end (L505). Farther along the channel to the north was a wall section (W508; 5.5 m long, 1.5 m wide), oriented north–south, which served as a farming terrace that followed the contour line. The wall was built of different sized fieldstones, some were roughly hewn. It seems the channel drained the surface runoff to the water cisterns in the south of the area. However, since the relationship between the water cisterns is not sufficiently clear, the possibility that the channel was part of W508’s foundation trench, should not be negated. Some 30 m east of the channel, an opening to a square shaft (L509; 1.5 × 2.3 m; Figs. 11, 12) that had five very steep rock-hewn steps, descending to the east, was exposed. The steps had different height and width and were well-preserved, except for the partly missing fourth step. At the bottom of the steps were rock-hewn ledges (0.2 m wide) parallel to the northern and southern sides of the shaft. An opening (0.7 m wide) in the shaft’s eastern wall probably led to another space. The excavation of the installation, which appeared to be a rock-hewn tomb, was not completed. The fill that covered the steps contained numerous ribbed potsherds, probably dating to the Byzantine period.
The remains of two main periods were found at Horbat Kosit (South), Middle Bronze Age I and the Roman-Byzantine period. Several potsherds from the Iron Age and the Persian period were found on surface. The numerous caverns in the area were formed by karstic dissolution and used for water storage, burial and extraction of masonry stones. Evidence for the cultivation and the construction of farming terraces was noted at the site.
Remains of several buildings survived in the lower section of the area, yet none were found in the higher terraces, probably due to agricultural activities at the site.
The remains from Middle Bronze Age I relate to contemporary sites in the region, e.g., the cemetery and settlement at Migdal (‘Atiqot 22:1–8*), a robbed tomb at Horbat Kosit whose contents were found in a private house in Baqa al-Gharbiya, another tomb (HA-ESI 110:92*) and two sites excavated in Baqa al-Gharbiya (HA-ESI 114:41*) and in Horbat Borin (Permit No. A-3542). Settlements from the Roman and Byzantine periods in the vicinity were excavated at Jatt (‘Atiqot 37:36–45) and at Baqa al-Gharbiya (ESI 10:113).