During March 2004 a survey prior to development was conducted in Nahal Kefira (Permit No. A-4146*; map ref. NIG 2090–600/6380–90; OIG 1590–600/1380–90), along the security route of the separation fence. The survey, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by A. Nagorsky, H. Stark and D. Weiss, with the assistance of L. Barda (GPS).
The surveyed region extends within the sites of Kh. Abu Lahm, Kh. Rafidiya, Ma‘ale Ha-Hamisha and Nahal Kefira, as well as in undeclared sites. Burial caves and cave dwellings, rock-hewn and built agricultural installations, cisterns, watchtowers, terrace walls and ancient roads were identified among the 37 different sites that were located in the survey (Fig. 1).
The caves (Sites 7, 24, 25) have broad openings and inner chambers in which no signs of quarrying were noted. No finds were discovered in the caves and they are used today for various purposes. Site 32 includes two adjacent caves. The western one has a hewn façade and a rectangular opening (1.0 × 1.1 m), which is set in a frame, and a small chamber (2.0 × 2.5 m) that was devoid of artifacts. The eastern wall of the cave was breached, which made it possible to access the eastern cave (2.5 × 3.4 m) that has a wide, irregular opening. Signs of rock-cutting were noted on the doorjambs of the opening. It seems that the western cave was used at first as a burial cave, and later, by joining the adjacent cavet, it was probably adapted for other purposes.
The burial cave (Site 18) has a hewn façade and a rectangular opening (width 0.65 m) that is blocked by a heap of soil and stones. A concentration of potsherds that date to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods was discovered near the opening. Site 31 includes two adjacent caves at the bottom of the southern slope of Nahal Kefira; they have a common façade and probably also share an open courtyard situated to the north. The caves’ openings are covered with earth and vegetation. Another burial cave (Site 33) has an elliptical opening (0.58 × 0.85 m) that is hewn in friable bedrock. Signs of quarrying on the front of the cave to the east of the opening indicate the probable existence of an entrance or courtyard. The burial chamber is filled with friable limestone chunks that collapsed from the ceiling. Two hewn niches could be discerned in the western wall. Potsherds that date to the Second Temple and the Byzantine periods were discovered around the opening. Another cave (Site 34; Fig. 2) has a small staircase (1.00 × 1.65 m) that leads to a hewn opening set into an arched frame (width 0.73 m). The interior of the cave was filled with soil and stones. Another cave (Site 35; Fig. 3) has a rectangular opening (0.90 × 1.0 m) set in a broad frame; it is the easternmost in a series of caves that was surveyed along the length of the bedrock cliff on the northern slope of Nahal Kefira. Eight other burial caves west of Cave 35 are located outside the boundary of the current survey but they clearly belong to the necropolis of Tel Kefira. All of the surveyed burial caves were breached and plundered in the past.
The ancient road (Site 22), which is oriented southwest-northeast, was discovered on the southern slope. The northern side of the road is built of medium-sized fieldstones while the southern side consists of natural bedrock. The remains of the road (width 2.0 m) are preserved in sections along the slope. Another section of a road (Site 36) was discovered at the bottom of the northern slope of Nahal Kefira. Here also, the northern side of the road is built of a row of medium to large-sized fieldstones, while the southern side is cut into bedrock. One can assume that the two sections are parts of the same ancient road that was paved along the length of Nahal Kefira.
An agricultural installation (Site 8) consisting of a rectangular surface (3.00 × 3.90 m) and a cistern. The sides of the surface are built of medium-sized fieldstones preserved 0.5 m high, and its floor is paved with gray plaster. Next to its southwestern corner is a channel built of small fieldstones that led outside the installation. In its southeastern corner is the square opening (0.7 × 0.7 m) of a cistern that is currently filled with water. The opening is built of small fieldstones and is closed with an iron cover. Another cistern (Fig. 13) with a square opening (1.10 × 1.10 m) and rounded corners was found filled with alluvium.
The remains of three quarries (Sites 6, 9, 27) were discovered. They extend across small areas where usually 2–3 hewn corners are visible. Site 9 is probably a cave. The winepress (Site 37) has a rectangular treading floor (2.2 × 2.4 m). Bedrock, cut high and straight with two niches, serves as the southern wall of the treading floor. The collecting vat was not preserved.
A cupmark (Site 26) is hewn in a bedrock outcrop (1.0 × 2.0 m; diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.24 m). Next to it is a terrace wall oriented east-west. The wall is built of small fieldstones and preserved 1 m high.
Other terrace walls (Sites 1-3, 5, 10–12, 14, 19–21, 23, 28–30) were observed on the southern slope above Nahal Kefira and include a system of farming terraces that are retained by walls; these are probably cultivation plots of similar area (10–15 × 40–45 m) for growing olive trees. The terrace walls are of uniform construction, made of two rows of roughly-hewn fieldstones, a fill of small stones, and corners that are conspicuous due to their especially large stones. An excavation in a cistern (Site 13) in the middle of the terrace complex indicated that they were used in earlier periods.
Sites 15–17 were identified as cave openings that are in all likelihood natural. Site 4 consists of a sherd concentration from the Late Roman period and a cluster of ancient building stones.