During November 2007, trial excavations were conducted close to Horbat Bizqa, along Road 10 in the industrial zone of Modi‘in (Permit No. A-5282*; map ref. NIG 196460–481/643337–362; OIG 146469–481/143337–362). The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by A. Hadar, Construction Entrepreneurs Inc., was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), M. Qunin (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), A. Dagot (GPS), O. Sion (metal detector) and R. Kool (numismatics).
Antiquities inspection of the construction work along the planned Road 10 noted an alignment of fieldstones, which was partly exposed by the bulldozer while removing the topsoil (c. 0.5 m) that consisted of very compact, sterile Grumic brown soil (Fig. 1). It became apparent from the cut road sections, north and south of the present site that the compact Grumic brown soils directly overlaid the hill’s bedrock, reaching a maximum thickness of 1.0–1.5 m.
The excavation was meant to probe the nature and extent of this fieldstone configuration. Two probes (Squares A1, A2; Fig. 2), set 2.5 m apart from each other, were opened. The fieldstone alignment was situated on the lower reaches of a hill slope, opposite and east of the hill accommodating the Byzantine village of Horbat Bizqa.
A 4 m long segment of a southeast–northwest stone-built wall was exposed (W1; Fig. 3). This segment consisted of a single course of eight well-aligned fieldstones or small boulders (max. width 0.6 m.). Two additional boulders along the north face of W1 at its southeast end and a spread of smaller lime stones between them indicate that W1 had originally been two stones wide (max. width 1.3 m). The wall was set on the same type of compact, sterile Grumic soil that covered the stone alignment. The excavation was continued to a depth of c. 0.2 m below the foundation level of W1, yielding nothing but sterile brown soil. Part of the west balk of Sq A1 was cleared to establish the westernmost end of W1. An additional 2.5 m of W1 was exposed, before it ran dead in the wide trench cut previously by the bulldozer. Hence, the original length of W1, exposed over a stretch of 6.5 m, could not be established.
A 5.5 m long wall segment (W2) of the same southeast–northwest stone-built wall (W1) was exposed (Fig. 4). This somewhat better-preserved wall segment still consisted of two courses of well-aligned fieldstones or small boulders in some places. The upper course was partly found lying along the south face of W2, most likely because of an apparent southward shift of W2’s foundation course, which possibly occurred as a consequence of a tremor or earthquake. The arrangement of a double row of fieldstone boulders with a core of smaller lime stones, which was assumed for W1, emerges even better in W2.
The setting of W2 and the excavation in this square compared exactly to W1 and Sq A1. Part of the west and east balks of Sq A2 were cleared to establish the western and easternmost ends of W2. On the east side, an additional 3.2 m of W2 were exposed, before it disappeared in the bulldozer-cut trench and 1.2 m of W2 were revealed on the west side, in the balk separating between the two squares. Notably, the actual linkage between W1 and W2 is missing (Fig. 5). Whether this was an intentional passage or the stones were accidentally removed, is hard to say.
Wall 1/Wall 2, whose original length could not be established, was preserved in places two courses high (max. width 1.5 m, exposed length 19.5 m, including gap). The considerable preserved length of the wall, having no corners, as well as its embedding in sterile grumic soil, without any evidence of occupation/habitation, in the form of ashes, recognized floor levels and the presence of pottery and animal bones, clearly points to an agricultural function of the wall, which certainly was not part of a structure. The wall was apparently a field wall, separating between two agricultural plots, rather than a terrace wall since it is almost perpendicular to the surrounding terrace walls still visible on the slopes of the surrounding hillsides.
A date for W1/W2 is equally inconclusive. A meager number of potsherds and three miniscule glass fragments were retrieved from the otherwise sterile grumic soils. Although the pottery is dated to the early Byzantine period, all potsherds are much worn and could easily have originated from higher up the hill. A single bronze coin was found in the thin soil above W2. Scarcely visible on one side of its small beveled flan is part of an eight-rayed star. Such crudely struck prutot date to the last part of Alexander Jannaeus reign (80/79–76 BCE; IAA 112080). Given its minuscule size, its stratigraphic position above W2 notwithstanding, it is doubtful if was found in situ and could provide an ante quem date for the construction of the wall. The proximity of W1/W2 to the Byzantine settlement of Horbat Bizqa and the assumed association between the two, may imply a date within the Byzantine period.