During August 2007, a trial excavation was conducted east of Horbat Nekhes (Permit No. A-5219*; map ref. NIG 195873–973/644728–87; OIG 145873–973/144728–87), prior to the construction of Road 431, 4 km west of Modi‘in. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Nativ Company, Ltd., was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), T. Melzen and R. Mishayev (surveying) and T. Sagiv (field photography).
Archaeological inspection of development works in the area by T. Kanias revealed two potential archaeological sites. The excavation was intended to identify the nature and extent of these two sites.
Irrigation Dam 1 (Figs. 1–3). A slightly curved dam wall (W100; length 12 m, max. height 1 m) was exposed. The dry-built wall consisted of four courses of inclining limestone ashlars that extended between the east and west embankments of a narrow wadibed. The soft limestone embankments were cut with precision to accommodate the ends of W100, enhancing its resistance against pressure from the water flowing in the wadi. The crevices between the ashlars were filled with smaller lime stones. The number of ashlars in each course ranged from 28 to 38. Chiseled masonry marks and cut-out holes visible in at least two of the ashlars indicate that the stones had originally belonged to an earlier building, which had been dismantled and its stones reused in building the dam.
A carefully-laid, semicircular stone pavement (L102; max. 2 × 8 m) in front of Dam W100 was also composed of reused ashlars. The purpose of this pavement in the wadibed was to diminish the impact of water overflow, so as to prevent the erosion of the W100 foundations.
Irrigation Dam 2 (Fig. 4, 5). To the west of Dam 1 and 75 m upstream, another significantly smaller irrigation dam (2) was located. The dam consisted of a dry-built, nearly straight wall (W101; length 5.5 m) that comprised a single course of thirteen limestone ashlars (max. height 0.8 m). In comparison with the reused ashlars of Dam 1, the limestone blocks of Dam 2 lack any patina or signs of wear, possibly indicating that these stones were cut specifically for the construction of this dam. Unlike the case of Dam 1, no particular chiseled masonry marks were visible on any of the stone blocks.
A carefully-laid, semicircular stone pavement (L103; max. 1.75 × 3.75 m) in front of Dam W101 also consisted of ashlars and served the same purpose as the stone pavement associated with Dam 1.
Worn potsherds from the Late Byzantine period were found in the stream sediments that covered the stone pavement of Dam 1. An additional trench (L104; 1 × 2 m) in the middle of the streambed, adjoining and west of Pavement 102 and dug c. 0.5 m below it, equally yielded worn potsherds dating to the Late Byzantine period. The worn character of the potsherds indicates they were in secondary deposition by the water stream and therefore, ex situ and irrelevant for dating the construction of Dams 1 and 2. The few ashlars that bore masonry marks and were reused in the construction of Dam 1 are insufficiently diagnostic to provide a post quem date for its construction. Irrespective of date, it is obvious from the similarity of the mechanical conception and the building style and technique that both dams, which undoubtedly had the same function, were part of one and the same building scheme.
A very similar dam was excavated in Horbat Bizqa, slightly southeast of the present site (Permit No. A-4028). It was suggested (P. Gendelman, pers. comm.) that the dams could well have been built as recently as 1953 by the Jewish National Fund, as part of a regional unemployment-environmental project. Two additional irrigation dams at Horbat Bizqa that are excavated at present (Permit No. A-5290; HA-ESI 120) apparently belong to the same master plan of built dams in this region.