During June–July 2005, an excavation was conducted at the Yattir Forest site (Permit No. A-4501*; map ref. NIG 20003/58495; OIG 15003/08495), following the discovery of archaeological remains during a preliminary survey performed by F. Sonntag along the route of the separation fence. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by P. Nahshoni, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian and T. Kornfeld (surveying), O. Ackerman (geomorphology) and M. Haiman (GPS).
The area of the site, located on a slope south of Nah
al Eshtamo‘a (HA-ESI 119
: Fig. 1 in Nah
al Yattir A), was covered with a layer of nari
. Ancient stone quarries, remains of terraces and delineation walls of agricultural plots, particularly where the slope is gentle, were discerned. Natural caves hewn in the soft limestone bedrock below the crust of hard nari
were noted, especially along the bottom part of the slope.
Two caves and a terrace wall were exposed.
Cave 1. This natural cave (length c. 4 m, width c. 8 m, max. height 1.7 m; Fig. 1) had its entrance in the east. The cave’s chamber (Fig. 2) was filled with alluvium and collapse (Loci 107, 108) and its floor (L110) was overlaid with concentrations of ash and fragments of a cooking pot from the Roman period (not illustrated). A wall in the front of the cave, oriented north–south, was built of small fieldstones bonded with mud (W2; length 1.1 m, width 0.5 m, height 0.45 m). The wall indicates that the cave was used for storage and perhaps even, as a dwelling. A structure whose nature is unclear was built in the area east of the cave’s entrance, at a later phase. Two of its walls (W1, W3; Fig. 3) and a stone collapse (L103, L106; Fig. 4) that blocked the cave’s entrance had survived. The walls were built on top of a tamped level that comprised mud and small stones (L111). Potsherds dating to the Byzantine period were found in the stone collapse.
Cave 2. This small natural cave (1.5 × 2.0 m; Fig. 5), c. 15 m west of Cave 1, was filled with alluvium (L104) and its entrance faced north.
Terrace Wall. The wall (W4; Fig. 6), oriented east–west and set on the slope east of Cave 1, was meant to prevent soil erosion. It was built of large stones (average dimensions 0.5 × 0.6 × 0.6 m) and preserved three–four courses high. Small stones were placed among the large stones of the wall’s foundation to prevent soil erosion. The slope was extremely steep at this spot and the built wall was inclined southward (Fig. 7).
The site appears to have been used for agricultural purposes during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The construction date of W4 was not ascertained, but the evidence from Cave 1 and the adjacent site (HA-ESI 119
: Fig. 1) indicate that it was apparently built in the Late Roman period, when Cave 1 was used as a temporary dwelling and possibly as a storage facility. The collapse of the cave’s bedrock ceiling brought the use of the cave to a halt and resulted in the construction of the building at the entrance to the cave during the Byzantine period.