During June 2001, a limekiln was excavated at Kh. Murt es-Seil in the Shahariya Forest, c. 5 km east of Qiryat Gat (Permit No. A-3461*; map ref. NIG 18424–37/61142–55; OIG 13424–37/11142–55). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Jewish National Fund, was directed by N.S. Paran, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration) and A. Hajian (surveying).
At the end of a spur that descends to the north, a circular kiln pit whose bottom part was bedrock hewn and upper part was built of fieldstones (upper diam. 5 m, depth 0.4–3.3 m; Fig. 1), was discovered.
The floor of the kiln was leveled (diam. 2.7 m) and around it was a rock-cut ledge (width c. 0.5 m, height 0.2–0.3 m). A curved wall (W1) was set on bedrock and built of a single course of medium and large fieldstones (max. height 4.5 m). Wall 1 probably terminated in a dome (see Y. Spanier and A. Sasson, Lime Kilns in Eretz Israel: Seminar in Memory of Shmuel Avitsur [Jerusalem] Ariel Publishing, 2001 [Hebrew]). The piled up earth around W1 was supported on the outside by another wall (W2) that consisted of a single course of medium-sized fieldstones.
An opening (width 0.7 m, height 0.95 m) in the northern side of the kiln was exposed at the height of the ledge. At its top were two stones, resting against each other and forming a triangle, atop which was another rectangular opening (width 0.55 m, height 0.3 m). The two openings led to a ventilation tunnel that was discovered c. 3.7 m down the slope of the spur. The tunnel whose outlet was also triangular was built at an angle that slanted outward.
The opening for stoking the kiln was discovered, c. 1 m above the ventilation openings and c. 2.7 m above the floor of the kiln, in the base of its walls (max. height 0.2 m). The continuation of the corridor to the north was not preserved. However, based on the levels of ash and lime, its gradient (c. 15%) and direction and can be reconstructed.
The type and thickness of the ash layers seem to indicate that the lime, produced at the final operation of the kiln, was neither partially nor entirely collected. A dark grayish black layer of ash that rose from the floor to a height of 0.35 m was discovered. Above it was a thin layer (thickness c. 0.1 m) of light brown earth and small stones, extending to a height of 0.4 m and overlaid with a layer of white lime, composed of powder and stones (thickness 0.9 m). This layer was entirely covered with alluvium and stones (thickness 0.55–1.70 m), which may indicate that the southwestern quarter of the kiln’s side had collapsed. The date of the installation is unknown since the fill of the kiln and its immediate environs were devoid of any finds.