During May–June 2006, a trial excavation was conducted at Horbat Bizqa in the Modi‘in labor zone (Permit No. A-4816*; map ref. NIG 19671–7/64357–78, OIG 14671–7/14357–78), prior to paving Highway 12. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ehud Tayyar Management and Engineering Company, Ltd., was directed by O. Segal, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Belashov (drafting), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
The site is located northeast of H
orbat Kefar Tov, east of H
orbat Nekhes and southwest of H
ammim (Fig. 1). The excavation was conducted along the route of Highway 12, extending beside the western fringes of H
orbat Bizqa. Two rock-hewn winepresses (F14, F16), an ancient road (F13), bodedot
(F12, F16), two quarries (F11, F16) and three farming terraces (F10, F15, F17) were exposed (Fig. 2). The site had been surveyed in the past (HA-ESI 118
) and recently excavated (HA-ESI 120
Winepresses. Winepress 14 (Figs. 3, 4) included a shallow, square treading floor (L140; 0.8 × 0.8 m, depth 0.18 m) and an elliptical collecting vat (L141; depth 0.2 m). The accumulated fill in the winepress contained several body fragments of ceramic vessels that dated to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. Winepress 16 (Figs. 5, 6) included a large treading floor (L160; 4.5 × 5.0 m) and two vats that were joined by a short tunnel (L161––1.8 × 2.0 m, depth 1.8 m; L162––1.0 × 1.8 m, depth 0.6 m). The collecting vat (L161) was first a quarry (below); later, it was made deeper and adapted for use as a collecting vat in a winepress. An earlier rock-cutting that had been repaired and filled-in was noted in the southern wall of the collecting vat (Fig. 6). White plaster was discerned on its walls. The collecting vats were paved with coarse white mosaics. The plan of the winepress shows that it could function in several ways. When the tunnel between the two vats was sealed it was possible to use each of the vats separately and simultaneously to produce red wine, which does not necessitates the separation of skins; when the tunnel was open, the small vat may have been used as a settling pit for the grape skins in the production of white wine. Cupmarks were located in bedrock surfaces around the winepress and the bigger ones may have been used in the wine production process too, or for extracting spices. These were added to the wine during the fermentation phase. A bodeda (Fig. 7) was located near the northern side of the winepress (below). The winepress is dated to the Byzantine period based on its floor of crude white mosaics, ribbed potsherds that formed the bedding for the mortar in the winepress, as well as potsherds recovered from the fill that accumulated in the collecting vats.
Ancient Road. A section of an ancient road (F13; length 20 m, max. width 3 m; Figs. 8, 9), aligned north–south along the western edge of Horbat Bizqa, was excavated. The eastern part of the road was built of medium and large stones (W133). The western part, which probably suffered damages by development work, was not preserved. The roadbed was a leveled layer of small fieldstones (thickness 0.2 m) deposited on bedrock. The ceramic finds recovered from the ancient road dated to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. The road was possibly a local one, connecting different settlements in the region.
Bodedot. A bodeda (F12; diam. 0.5, depth 0.5 m; Figs. 8, 10) used for the production of oil was excavated alongside the road. To its south, a bedrock surface that had been quarried straight was used as a working surface. To the west of the bodeda was a straightened bedrock surface where small cupmarks had been hewn. Another bodeda was excavated next to Winepress 16 (see Fig. 7) and consisted of a narrow, shallow surface surrounded by a groove (0.3 × 0.4 m) that drained into a niche (diam. 0.3 m, depth 0.16 m). Based on the proximity of the bodeda to the Byzantine-period winepress, it can be assumed that after being used to extract olive oil, the bodeda was adapted for use as a crushing installation in the process of wine production.
Quarries. A severance channel (width 0.2 m, height 0.7 m) in the middle of a coarse rock-cutting (length 6 m) was noted in one quarry (F11; depth 0.60–0.75 m). The second quarry was located in the large collecting vat of Winepress 16 (L161). A step (depth 0.2–0.3 m) was cut in the northwestern corner of the vat. A deeper step, hewn in its southeastern corner, was blocked by a plastered wall when the quarry was adapted for use as a winepress in the Byzantine period (Fig. 11).
Farming Terraces. Soundings were excavated in three farming terraces (F10, F15, F17). The terrace walls, built of large fieldstones, were set on a layer of shallow soil that overlaid bedrock. It can be assumed that some of the terraces were used in the Ottoman period.
The ancient road and Winepress 14 were dated to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods based on ceramic finds. It is possible that the quarries and the bodeda adjacent to the road also dated to this time. The collecting vat in Winepress 14 was set in a former quarry, which evidently predated the winepress. A coin, found on surface, was minted at Side in Asia Minor and dates to the third–second centuries BCE (IAA 111436). The coin evinces activity in the region during this period; a columbarium and burial caves, which are characteristic of the period, were documented during the antiquities inspection east of Horbat Nekhes. Winepress 16 was dated to the end of the Byzantine period based on ceramic finds; however, it seems that initially, a small quarry, which could also be dating to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, was situated in the area. The farming terraces were apparently associated with the agricultural activity of the Ottoman period in the vicinity of Horbat Nekhes, which may have been a subsidiary settlement of et-Tira.