In November 2017, a trial excavation was conducted in western old Bet Shemesh, about 1 km south of Tel Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A-8121; map ref. 197768–934/636280–356; Fig. 1), prior to the installation of a sewage pipe. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Mei Shemesh Water Corporation, was directed by M. Balila (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), G. Shlimovich and O. Shalev (probe trenches), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), S. Gendler (metal detection), G. Bijovsky (numismatics) and Y. Zelinger (scientific consultation).
A field wall (W102; excavated length 12 m; Figs. 2–4) was discovered in the broad streambed of a tributary of Nahal Yishʽi. The wall, which crossed the streambed, was built of a single, irregular row of fieldstones (average size 0.5 × 0.6 m) along a north–south axis. Three trial trenches were mechanically excavated perpendicular to the wall (max. depth 4 m), two to its east and one to its west. They revealed that the wall was preserved to the height of a single course (0.4 m), and that it was set into a layer of homogeneous alluvium soil that extended to the bottom of the trench. No other architectural remains were detected.
The wall, which may have served as a dam, probably extended southward and northward beyond the boundaries of the current excavation. Several body fragments of Byzantine-period pottery vessels and four worn coins (IAA 162983–162986; not cleaned) dating from the fourth century CE were retrieved from along the east side of the wall. However, since they were extracted from the alluvial soil they cannot date the wall.
The current excavation adds to the long list of excavations conducted in the area and along the streambeds of Nahal Yarmut and Nahal Yishʽi. These excavations attest to a fertile agricultural area that was inhabited from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age, the Second Temple period, the Byzantine period and up to the final days of Ottoman rule.