During November–December 2003, a trial excavation was conducted at the sites of Horbat Petora West and Southwest (Permit No. A-4047*; map ref. NIG 1818–20/6107–9; OIG 1318–20/1107–9), in preparation for the construction of Highway 6. The excavation, carfried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and sponsored by the Cross-Israel Highway Co., was directed by I. Peretz (Area A) and E. Aladjem (Area B), with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), P. Nahshoni and D. Varga (Southern District), N. Zak (drafting), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), C. Hersch (drawing) and D.T. Ariel and R. Kool (numismatics).
Eight squares that were only partially excavated were opened on the hilltop. A limekiln, a modern terrace and a small shallow pit were discovered (Fig. 1).
The limekiln (Squares E5–F6; Fig. 2), most of which was excavated, was hewn in the bedrock (diam. 4.05 m, depth 3–4 m) and built of two courses of limestone (0.12 × 0.25 × 0.32 m) along its northwestern side (W32; length 3.10 m, width 0.30 m). The opening to the flue (L30; Fig. 3) was breached in this wall. The flue was hewn in bedrock and sloped downward from west to east (length 4 m, width 0.30–0.50 m, height 2 m). Flat covering-slabs were found inside it. Small niches hewn 0.9 m above the level of the bedrock (the western niche: 0.18 × 0.26 m, the eastern niche: 0.17 × 0.23 m) flanked both sides of the eastern end of the flue.
The limekiln was covered with stones and soil (Loci 11, 20, 28, 31) that contained fragments of black Gaza Ware (Ottoman period) and animal bones. Below the fill were two layers of lime (L33, L35) and two layers of ash (L34, L36) that overlay a floor of small limestone pieces (L37). Partly burnt limestone and a small piece of metal were recovered from the upper layer of lime (L33); no datable finds were discovered under it (L38).
A shallow pit (L27; diam. 0.95 m, depth 0.22 m; Fig. 1; Square C4) was exposed to the south of the limekiln. To the east of the pit, three squares were opened; one, near a terrace wall (Square B1; W3; length c. 11.5 m, width c. 1.15 m, height 0.80 m) and two (B2, C2) to the west of it, in which no finds were discovered.
In Area B, located 433 m from Area A, a small winepress and several cupmarks were revealed.
A rock-hewn winepress, which included a treading floor (L101; 1.6 × 1.8 m, height 0.4–0.6 m; Figs. 4, 5), connected via a shallow channel to a round collecting vat (L103; diam. 1 m, depth 0.8 m), was excavated. A short run-off channel was hewn in the southern wall of the treading floor; near it was a cupmark that probably held a storage jar.
The finds in the vicinity of the winepress included a few Byzantine potsherds, a silver coin-shaped ornament from the eighteenth century CE (Mustafa III; 1754–1774 CE), an Ottoman pipe from the nineteenth century (Fig. 6) and fragments of black Gaza Ware, also from the Ottoman period.
Some 50 m north of the winepress, an installation that consisted of a large cupmark (L108; diam. 0.50 m, depth 0.22 m; Figs. 7, 8) connected to a smaller cupmark (diam. 0.18 m, depth 0.11 m), without any datable finds, was exposed.