During January 2005, a trial excavation was conducted at Horbat Horesh, near Nahal Yitla, in the northwestern Judean hills (Permit No. A-4358*; map ref. NIG 2045–7/6373–6; OIG 1545–7/1373–6; ESI 18:100). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Mizrahi, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), H. Stark and L. Barda (GPS system) and C. Hersch (pottery drawing).
Two excavation squares (A, B), c. 10 m apart, were opened in the southern part of the ruin, along the western slope of Har Horesh. A probe trench was excavated southeast of Square A and a rock-hewn water reservoir, to the southeast of the excavation squares, was investigated.
Square A (Figs. 1, 2). A farming terrace wall (W1; width 1.7 m), built of fieldstones and preserved six courses high (1.4 m), was exposed. A group of roughly hewn stones was discovered in the bottom courses of the western face of the wall, which was founded on soil. Another wall (W3), to the east of W1, was built of fieldstones and preserved a maximum of two courses high. A layer of light brown soil (L106; length 0.3 m), devoid of ceramic finds, abutted W3 on the east. This soil was different than the brown soil in the region and it probably constituted part of an occupation level. The finds discovered on both sides of W1 included potsherds from the Byzantine period (Fig. 3:1–7), fragments of roof tiles (Fig. 3:8–10) and tesserae, some of which were ceramic.
The probe trench (1 × 4 m) to the southeast of the square exposed the continuation of Layer 106, to whose southeast brown soil fill and small stones were visible (L105).
Square B (Figs. 4, 5). A farming terrace wall (W2; width 0.45 m), built of fieldstones and founded on bedrock, was exposed. It was oriented north–south and preserved two courses high (0.4 m). East of the wall and below brown soil was a layer of light brown soil (L101), similar to Layer 106 in Square A.
Water Reservoir (12 × 20 m, min. depth c. 10 m; Figs. 6, 7). The rectangular reservoir had rounded corners, except for the northern side, which was irregular and had hewn niches. Four hewn openings were in its ceiling and a fifth one––in the northern corner. Three hewn steps led to one of the ceiling’s openings, which had a rectangular shape and was lined with hydraulic plaster; it resembled the openings of burial caves that were common to the Byzantine period. This northwestern opening was partially blocked by a wall of ashlar stones (length c. 1 m, height 2.5 m), which was built between the rectangular part of the reservoir and the irregular northern part wherein niches were hewn. The interior face of the reservoir was lined with fieldstones that were coated with a layer of hydraulic plaster. In places where the plaster and fieldstone lining was not preserved signs of stone-cutting were discerned on the bedrock walls.
The opening to which the steps lead, as well as the northern part of the reservoir with the hewn niches point to a rock-hewn burial cave that had existed here originally and was negated when the reservoir was quarried. The wall that partly blocked the northwestern ceiling opening was probably a retaining wall, which had been constructed when the reservoir was enlarged and the burial cave was exposed, in fear of the ceiling’s collapse.