During October–November 2005, a survey was conducted in the region of Har Hezron and Har Badar in the Judean Desert (Permit No. A-4609*; map ref. NIG 2130–2250/5850–5900; OIG 1630–1750/0850–0900), along the planned route of the separation fence. The survey, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was performed by O. Shmueli and F. Sonntag, with the assistance of Y. Haimi, N.S. Paran, E. Ayash, O. Marder and S. Gal (GIS applications).
An area (width c. 100 m, length c. 10 km; Figs. 1, 2) that begins in the desert frontier, c. 2 km southeast of Tel Qeriyyot was surveyed. The annual amount of precipitation (250–400 mm) in this region makes it possible to grow winter grain without irrigation. At Tel Qeriyyot, which is the largest site in the region, a Byzantine-period church with a mosaic floor had previously been exposed, as well as remains of a building and potsherds from MB II (ESI 13:112–113). The main part of the surveyed area extends across the Judean Desert Highlands where the annual amount of precipitation is less (100–250 mm). This region was used for seasonal grazing in the winter and spring by desert nomads and residents of the desert frontier, and the number of ancient sites in it is considerably fewer than in the area of Tel Qeriyyot.
Section 1 (Khirbat Jinba-Horbat Merkaz) (Fig. 1)
Two ruins and several sites, associated with agricultural activity, were surveyed. At Kh. Jinba, a number of farmsteads surrounded by stone walls, preserved c. 1 m high, and terrace walls (Fig. 3), were exposed. Each farm has at least one hewn cistern, and in most instances, the cistern’s opening was found covered with a capstone. Some of the cisterns are still used by local farmers and nomads (Fig. 4). Some of the farms have burial caves from the Late Roman period (second–third centuries CE), which were usually found plundered and are used today by shepherds. At Horbat Merkaz, the remains of a farmstead that date to the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Fig. 5) were surveyed. An olive press, a large winepress and hewn caves, some of which are burial caves or ancient cisterns that were converted to dwellings in a later period, were found in the middle of the settlement. A number of caves near the ruin are currently used as dwellings. In front of them is usually a courtyard that is enclosed by a stone wall. The opening of the caves bore an ashlar lintel. They usually have a central chamber and in some of them there are secondary partition walls of mud and straw that probably separated the dwelling area from the animal pen. Niches for placing oil lamps can be seen in some of the caves’ walls.
Terrace walls built of a number of fieldstones courses were constructed on the slopes of the hills. In the wadi valleys, small dams meant for stopping flood water, were noted.
A large cluster of elliptical structures (average 1.5 × 1.8 m) dug into the ground was surveyed. These are most likely granaries built of two rows of fieldstones whose foundations were embedded in the ground to a depth of c. 0.3 m and founded on bedrock (Fig. 6).
Dozens of clusters of stone heaps (diam. 1 m, height 0.5 m), probably to be identified as cairns, were found along the surveyed route. In addition, natural caves used as shelters by shepherds were found. In most instances the interior of the cave was sooty and next to the opening was debris and ash deposits that originated from inside the cave (Fig. 7). Approximately 0.5 km west of Giv‘at ‘Adasha a cluster of six round buildings was exposed, each with a centrally-placed stone that probably served as a column base. These buildings should be dated to the Early Bronze Age on the basis of pottery and flint tools (Fig. 8) recovered from within them.
There were also four prehistoric sites in the area, each extending over an area of c. 10 dunams, in which Epipaleolithic flint implements were found.
Sections 2–3: Ketef Hezron-Nahal Harduf (Figs. 2, 9).
The concentration of sites in this area is relatively sparse and consists mostly of campsites and cemeteries used by nomads. The campsites include round structures and an animal pen, together with pottery vessels from the Roman and Early Islamic periods. Isolated stone heaps, which are probably cairns, rising to a height of c. 1 m, were also surveyed. The cemeteries include a scatter of tombs in an area of c. 1 dunam. The tombs, built of medium-sized fieldstones (0.3 × 0.5 m), have an elliptical outline (1 × 2 m) and contain potsherds from the Early Islamic period.
More than one hundred sites were found along the route of the survey. Those situated adjacent to ruins are most likely related to the seasonal agricultural activity of the residents in the ruins, which are located in a region that affords sufficient amount of precipitation to grow crops. There was also similar activity in this region during the prehistoric period. The distribution of sites in the eastern part of the surveyed area, which is located in the desert highlands, in the heart of the Judean Desert, is sparser and characterized primarily by nomadic campsites, cairns and Muslim tombs.