During September 2002 a trial excavation was conducted at the ‘Iraq Suweidan site (Permit No. A-3721*; map ref. NIG 171185–225/617250–80; OIG 121185–225/117250–80, in the wake of widening Highway 35 (Ashqelon–Plugot Junction). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Department of Public Works, was directed by G. Seriy, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (studio photography), A. Pikovski (pottery drawing), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
Three squares were opened; three occupation strata that had been disturbed by two trenches for communication lines were exposed (Fig. 1).
Stratum 1. This is the earliest stratum to which a large refuse pit (L110) is ascribed. The pit, situated in the eastern part of the excavation, contained numerous fragments of pottery vessels, including deformed ones and pieces of plaster and slag that indicate the presence of a nearby workshop. The variety of vessel types from the pit included red-slip bowls (Fig. 2:1), kraters (Fig. 2:2), different-sized cooking kraters (Fig. 2:3, 4), frying pans (Fig. 2:5), bag-shaped store jars (Fig. 2:6) and Gaza jars and juglets (Fig. 2:7), as well as a fragmentary clay figurine of a horse (Fig. 2:8), which is ascribed to the tradition of animal figurines found at sites from the Early Roman and the Byzantine periods in the south of the Land of Israel, reflecting the importance of horses and camels in the economy and daily life of these periods. Three folles were found; one from the time of Justinian I (527–537 CE; IAA 108195) and two, from the mint of Constantinople, the reign of Heraclius I (630–641 CE; with a counter mark, IAA 108194; 634/5 CE, IAA 108193).
Stratum 2. Remains of possibly two buildings were found. Two walls (W1, W2) that formed a corner were exposed in the western part of the area. A section of stone pavement (L106) abutted W2 on the south and another section of pavement was found north of W2. The walls (width c. 0.6 m) were built of dressed kurkar stones and partially preserved a single course high.
A surface paved with small kurkar stones (L113) and a hearth (L114) above it was exposed c. 7 m east of these walls. A section of a stone pavement (L112; 2.5 × 3.0 m), composed of medium-sized kurkar stones, was exposed farther east. In the north, the pavement abutted on a wall (W3) of dressed kurkar stones and in the south, it abutted on a pilaster built of medium and large kurkar stones (W4). The wall adjacent to the pilaster had been destroyed by the communications trench. The paving stones covered the pit from Stratum 1 and it therefore seems that the remains of the building postdated the pit. Despite the disturbance caused by the installation of the communication wires, it is presumed that the remains belonged to one or two buildings. Numerous fragments of pottery vessels were found on the floors, including various bowls (Fig. 3:1–6, 21), deep kraters (Fig. 3:7, 8), cooking kraters and lids (Fig. 4:9, 13), cooking pots (Fig. 3:10–12), frying pans (Fig. 3:14), juglets (Fig. 3:15, 16), jugs (Fig. 3:17), FIW-type jugs (Fig. 3:18) and jars (Fig. 3:19, 20). An Umayyad coin that was struck in Ramla was also found (c. 737 CE; IAA 108196). Based on these finds, one may assume that the two buildings whose remains were exposed in the excavation were built in the latter part of the Byzantine period and no longer functioned at the latest in the Umayyad period.
Stratum 3. The remains of a tamped-earth floor (L109) and a refuse pit (L111) that contained a large quantity of pottery vessels and metal objects (not illustrated) were exposed in the layer that sealed the Stratum 2 remains. The rich ceramic assemblage, including bowls (Fig. 4:1, 2), jars and amphoriskoi (Fig. 4:3, 4) and a pipe (Fig. 4:5), dated the layer to the end of the Ottoman period and the British Mandate era.