During June and August 2003, two seasons of a trial excavation were conducted at Khirbat el-‘Asfura, near Moshav Qidron (License No. B-273/2003; map ref. NIG 182402–547/635119–245; OIG 132402–547/135119–245), prior to the construction of a water reservoir. The excavation, on behalf of Tel Aviv University, was directed by D. Rosenberg, with the assistance of R. Shimelmitz and I. Groman-Yaroslavsky (area supervision), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and R. Pinhas (drawing of flint and stone vases).
The site is located c. 1 km southeast of Moshav Qidron (Fig. 1), next to the confluences of Nahal Timna, Nahal Soreq and Nahal Altaqa, c. 52.5 m above sea level. The soil is brownish black clay, characterized by concentrations of chalky stream pebbles and Pleistocene conglomerates.
Two areas were investigated in the trial excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority (HA-ESI 118).
During the first season of excavations, eight squares (A–H) were opened in several areas to ascertain the nature of the site and locate its boundaries. Simultaneously, the excavation was resumed in the two areas examined in the trial excavation. The finds from Squares A–H and from the southern area of the first season were rather poor and included a few artifacts of flint, pottery and stone that were associated with the Wadi Rabah culture. Contrary to the southern area, the excavation in the northern area yielded a large quantity of ceramic finds, along with numerous flint implements, limestone and basalt tools and animal bones, all belonging to the Wadi Rabah culture.
Most of the finds were recovered from a large oval pit (length c. 5 m, width c. 4.5 m, depth 1.5–2.0 m), oriented east–west, which was discovered at the end of the first season and was focused on during the second season. The pit was located c. 70 m from the current course of Nahal Altaqa. The excavation was suspended at a depth of 1.3 m below the top of the pit, before virgin soil was reached. The pit had apparently two or three phases of use.
The finds recovered from the pit included c. 6,800 fragments of pottery vessels, including jars, bowls of various sizes and spindle weights (Fig. 2); c. 3,000 flint items, among them 270 cores (Fig. 3:1–3), c. 50 sickle blades (Fig. 3:4–9), seven bifacial tools (Fig. 3:10, 11) and two transverse arrowheads (Fig. 3:12, 13) ; 86 stone objects, mostly made of limestone, such as grinding stones (Fig. 4:1–3), a miniature bowl (Fig. 4:4), a bowl (Fig. 4:5), a small mortar on a stream pebble (Fig. 4:6), a limestone axe (Fig. 4:7), a miniature axe (Fig. 4:8), a bracelet fragment (Fig. 4:9), a flaked limestone disk (Fig. 4:10), a chopper (Fig. 4:11), a flaked blade (Fig. 4:12), pestles, a grooved whetstone , pounders and fragments and flakes from the flaked limestone industry. An assorted faunal assemblage was also found. Based on the ceramic, flint and stone assemblages, the site is ascribed to the Wadi Rabah culture, probably to its last phases.
Khirbat el ‘Asfura is one of a few Wadi Rabah sites south of Nahal Soreq, which is located a few kilometers northwest of Teleilat Batashi. Although no obvious architectural remains were found at the time of the trial excavation, the amount of finds, the size of the pit and the artifacts it contained, as well as the occupation level discovered south of it during the first season, point to an apparently permanent settlement that was situated here during the middle of the seventh millennium BCE.