During July 2004, an excavation was conducted west of the church in the heart of Nein (Permit No. A-4207; map ref. 2321–33/7261–3), prior to enlarging the structure. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by D. Avshalom-Gorni, with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), A. Ben-Zioni (field photography) and H. Tahan-Rosen (drawing).
The antiquities exposed in the excavation area (25 sq m) included ceramic finds from the Ottoman period (Stratum I), remains of a building from the Mamluk period (Stratum II) and a habitation level, dating to the Late Byzantine period (Stratum III).
Stratum I. A layer of soil (thickness c. 1 m) that contained fragments of pottery vessels and clay pipes dating to the Ottoman period was excavated (Fig. 1:9, 10).
Stratum II (Figs. 2, 3). A well-preserved square building was exposed. Its walls (W102, W103, W104, W106; width 0.8 m) were built of an outer row of large stones, an inner row of medium-sized stones and a core of small stones; only the inner stone face of the northern wall (W103) was preserved. The building’s opening, set in the western wall, was not well preserved. The floor of the building was composed of tamped earth (L105). A tabun containing burnt remains and animal bones was exposed next to the southern wall. A circular installation built of small stones was exposed in the corner formed by Walls 104 and 106. A large amount of stone collapse was uncovered in a small area north of the building; the excavation there was suspended. The ceramic finds recovered from the building dated to the Mamluk period and included glazed bowls (Fig. 1:4–6), vessels made of coarse clay including a krater (Fig. 1:7) and a cooking pot (Fig. 1:8).
Stratum III. A probe (c. 1 sq m) was excavated in the floor of the building from Stratum II (Fig. 4). It contained collapse of different size building stones (L107; thickness c. 0.5 m) and fragments of pottery and glass vessels dating to the Byzantine period. A threshold stone, not in situ and standing on its side, was exposed next to W106 of Stratum II. As the excavation went deeper (L108), the encountered stone collapse was reduced; however, the amount of potsherds increased, including mostly cooking pots, and also glass vessels. Small colored tesserae were also discovered in this excavation. It seems that these remains were part of a habitation level from this period. The ceramic finds dated to the sixth and seventh centuries CE and included a frying pan (Fig. 1:1), cooking pot (Fig. 1:2) and a jar (Fig. 1:3).
Settlement remains from the Early Roman, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods were discovered in the excavations that have been conducted, so far, in Nein. A settlement layer from the Byzantine period, which was rich in pottery and glass vessels, was exposed for the first time in the current excavation. Based on the colored tesserae discovered in Stratum III, the remains in the layer probably belong to a church or large dwelling, and if so, then the church standing today preserves the character and sanctity of the place.