During August 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted west of Khirbat Ka‘kul (Permit No. A-4580*; map ref. NIG 22350–3/63571–6; OIG 17350–3/13571–6), along the route of the separation fence. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by O. Sion, with the assistance of T. Kornfeld (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), E. Belashov (drafting) and Y. Rapuano (pottery reading). A preliminary survey was conducted by G. Solimany and L. Barda prior to the excavation.
The excavation area extends over 60 m along the route of the separation fence, c. 400 m west of Khirbat Ka‘kul (J. Seligman, 2006, ‘Atiqot 54:1–73). Two winepresses, a water cistern, a quarry, two caves and a farming terrace were excavated. The ceramic finds dated to Iron II and the Hellenistic, Roman, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The findings are described below from north to south.
(map ref. NIG 22350/63576; OIG 17350/13576; Figs. 1, 2) was hewn in the middle of a bedrock slope. It consisted of a treading floor (L100; 2.4 × 2.8 m) and a collecting vat (L107; diam. 0.9 m, depth 1.15–1.40 m), which were joined by way of a channel. Two recesses (0.3 × 0.5 m, depth 0.50–0.65 m) were hewn in the western side of the treading floor for the purpose of anchoring a beam. Hewn recesses in a treading floor are a known phenomenon in winepresses of Iron II (S. Riklin, 1997, ‘Atiqot
32:17). Potsherds that dated to the latter part of the Hellenistic period and the beginning of the Roman period (the Hasmonean–Herodian periods), including a bowl (Fig. 3:1) and jars (Fig. 3:2–4), were discovered on the treading floor. Three ceramic fragments, among them a jar handle from Iron II (Fig. 3:5), a jar from the Early Roman period (Fig. 3:6) and a jar from the Ottoman period (Fig. 3:7), were recovered from the collecting vat. A retaining wall (length 1.8 m) of a small farming terrace (L106; width 1.5 m) was exposed next to the southern side of the winepress.
Winepress 2 (map ref. NIG 22352/63575; OIG 17352/13575; Figs. 4, 5) was bedrock hewn and included a treading floor (L101; 1.55 × 1.75 m) and a collecting vat (L102; 0.95 × 1.60 m, depth 0.85 m) that were joined by a short conduit (length 0.3 m). Eight cupmarks (diam. 0.15–0.30 m, depth 0.05–0.25 m) were cut around the winepress. A hewn bodeda (L116) was discerned c. 1.5 m east of the collecting vat. It consisted of a shallow round depression (diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.1 m) and a small, adjacent collecting vat (diam. 0.4 m). Similar installations are common in the hill country (O. Sion and Z. Amar, 1997, ‘Atiqot 32:205). A farming terrace wall (length 3.7 m) that was built of fieldstones and preserved a single course high was exposed 5 m southwest of the winepress.
Rock-hewn Water Cistern (map ref. NIG 22353/63571; OIG 17353/13571; L104; Figs. 6, 7). The opening of the cistern was rectangular (1.1 × 1.4–1.8 m). The cistern (depth to the top of the debris 2.1 m) was coated on the inside with a single layer of white plaster. Based on the color and composition of the plaster it seems that the cistern should be dated to the Hasmonean period (Y. Porath, 1989, Hydraulic Plaster of Aqueducts as a Chronological Indicator, in D. Amit, Y. Hirschfeld and J. Patrich (eds.), The Aqueducts of Ancient Palestine, pp 69–76 [Hebrew]). Next to the eastern corner of the cistern’s opening was a small settling pit (L110) through which water flowed into the cistern. East of the cistern, a stone wall (W1) that was apparently built for the purpose of draining rainwater into the cistern, was discovered. While cleaning bedrock east of W1 (L108) potsherds were discovered, including a bowl (Fig. 3:8), a cooking pot (Fig. 3:9) and a holemouth (Fig. 3:10), from Iron II, a jug (Fig. 3:11) from the first–second centuries BCE and jugs (Fig. 3:12, 13) from the Mamluk period.
(Figs. 6, 7). Remains of a quarry were exposed north, west and south of the water cistern. Severance channels (e.g., L103) that were used to detach the stones were discerned in the quarry. South of the water cistern was a hewn installation (L111; a trough?) to which water was conveyed via a rock-hewn channel, located to the east.
Cave A (map ref. NIG 22353/63571, OIG 17353/13571; Figs. 8, 9). A natural cave (L105; 2.5 × 4.0 m, height 1.1–1.7 m) located on the middle of a slope, whose opening faced east and was set in a rock-cutting. The stepped floor of the cave was highest in the center. Only a single diagnostic potsherd—a fragment of an Iron II holemouth jar (Fig. 3:14) —was recovered from the cave.
Cave B (map ref. NIG 22352/63574, OIG 17352/13574; Fig. 10). The cave was only documented due to the constraints of the excavation. It was hewn in the middle of a slope (2.4 × 3.6 m, height 1.4–1.7 m), at the same level as Cave A, and its opening (width 1.2 m) faced east.
Farming Terrace (map ref. NIG 22358/63574, OIG 17358/13574; L113; Figs. 11, 12). The terrace, covered with soil debris, was discovered on the slope, east of the water cistern. The terrace’s retaining wall (length 3.1 m), preserved to a maximum of four courses high (1.3 m), was built of various sized fieldstones on the exposed bedrock. The middle part of the wall consisted of two rows of stones. The terrace’s excavation yielded a single diagnostic potsherd, namely a fragment of an Iron II bowl (Fig. 3:15).
The excavation area was part of Khirbat Ka‘kul’s agricultural complex. The ceramic finds were discovered in debris and fills; hence they can not assist in dating the different features at the site. Judging by the typology of the winepresses, it can be assumed that those at the site were hewn in Iron II. It is possible that the caves were connected to the winepresses as a storage site for wine jars. The water cistern is dated to the Hasmonean period, based on its plaster. The ceramic finds from Iron II and the first–second centuries BCE show that activity had apparently taken place at the site during these periods.
The potsherds from the Roman period (mostly the Herodian period), which were collected in Winepress 1 and the vicinity of the cistern, show that the installations were probably used in this period. A few fragments of jugs from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods point to temporary activity at the site during these periods.