In December 2013 and January 2014, an excavation was conducted south of Ibtin and northeast of Rekhasim (Permit No. A-6978; map ref. 210879–1134/740094–297; Fig. 1), prior to digging a tunnel in Section 3 of Highway 6. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Cross-Israel Highway Company, Ltd., was directed by L. Talmi, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), A. Peretz (field photograph), C. Ben-Ari (GPS), M. Hater and A. Masarwa (preliminary inspections), A. Gorzalczany (scientific guidance), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), C. Sa‘id (consultation), P. Gendelman (pottery reading), N. Zak (plans), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and laborers from Bir el-Maksur.
The excavation was carried out on the slope of a hilly spur, c. 0.5 km south of Ibtin and c. 0.5 km northeast of Rekhasim and two winepresses, a cave, quarries, an agricultural terrace, wall and cupmark were exposed (Fig. 2). A rock-hewn winepress dating to the Byzantine period was documented at the site in the past (Horovitz and Reuyah 1999). Early surveys conducted in the vicinity of the site identified rock-cut burial caves, a well with a trough beside it, as well as hewn winepresses and cupmarks (Olami and Gal 2003: Sites 121, 122). Subsequent surveys located remains of stone quarries, rock-hewn installations and agricultural terraces (License Nos. G-9/2007; G-24/2008; S-78/2009; S-165/2010; S-375-2012; S-469/2014).
Winepresses. Two rock-hewn winepresses were exposed. One (L102; Figs. 3, 4) has a rectangular treading floor (3.15 × 4.55 m) and a rectangular collecting vat (0.73 × 1.40 m) with a sump in its center. Three cupmarks hewn on the edges of the treading floor possibly served to secure wooden posts that supported the installation’s roof. Pottery sherds discovered in the accumulated soil excavated inside the winepress included the base of a Late Roman bowl (Fig. 5:2) dating to the fifth–sixth century CE and the rim of a Gaza Ware jug (Fig. 5:3) dating to the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE.
The other winepress (L116; Figs. 6, 7) has a trapezoidal treading floor (2.43 × 1.30–2.60 m) and an oval collecting vat. Two round sumps (diam. 0.37 m), each surrounded by a rock-cut work surface, were hewn on the eastern and western sides of the treading floor.
Cave. A rock-cut, arched opening (1.8 × 3.4 m; Fig. 8) was exposed. It led into a cave (L106; 5.6 × 6.5 m) with a hewn, level floor. The cave was probably used for storage.
Rock-cuttings. A cluster of rock-cuttings indicated the quarrying of building stones (L103), possibly with the intent of hewing out a treading floor. In an additional rock-cutting (L112) a fragment of a krater (Fig. 5:1) dating to the Late Roman period (second–fourth century CE) was found.
Agricultural Terraces. Two terraces (L110, L119; length c. 20 m, c. 5 m, respectively) were exposed. Their retaining walls were founded on bedrock and built of medium-sized and large fieldstones. The fill covering Terrace 110 yielded a fragment of a clay tobacco pipe (Fig. 5:4) dating to the nineteenth century CE.
Wall. A wall (L118; length c. 6.5 m) that survived to a height of one course was exposed. It was founded on natural bedrock and built of medium-sized fieldstones.
Cupmark. A rock-hewn cupmark (L103; diam. 0.37 m, depth c. 0.5 m) was found.
The finds attest to agricultural activity that was conducted at the site in the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods; it may have served as the agricultural hinterland of the ancient settlement at Ibtin.
Horovitz Z. and Reuyah L. 1999. Ibtin. HA-ESI
Olami J. and Gal Z. 2003. Map of Shefar‘am (24) (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.