In September 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Nahal Pehar antiquities site (Permit No. A-7250; map ref. 176821–61/585782–840; Fig. 1), prior to expanding the southern neighborhoods of Rahat. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Authority for the Regularization of Bedouin Villages in the Negev, was directed by G. Seriy (field photography and artifacts), with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing) and N. Zak (plans ).
The site of Nahal Pehar is located on a hilltop, between two tributaries of Nahal Pehar. The site was discovered by N. Negev and N.S. Paran in 1999. Remains of a rectangular building dating to the Late Ottoman period and the British Mandate were exposed in the excavation (13.0 × 13.5 m; Figs. 2, 3).
The structure (outer dimensions: 6 × 11 m) was built along a north–south axis and consisted of two rectangular rooms (L1, L2; 2.8 × 4.0 m) and a courtyard (L3; 5 × 6 m). The building’s walls (W50, W51, W53, W55; width c. 0.5 m) were constructed of mud-bricks set on stone foundations. The northern part of the structure was preserved to a height of about four courses (c. 0.5 m), while the southern part was badly damaged by cultivation and was preserved only one course high (0.15 m). A wall (W54) aligned in an east–west direction, which extended from the building’s eastern wall, was severely damaged by deep plowing; only its eastern end was preserved. Wall 54 apparently separated the two rooms from the courtyard. The two rooms were divided by a partition wall (W52; length c. 2 m, width c. 0.5 m) that adjoined the northern wall of the building. No openings were discovered in the northern, eastern and western walls of the building; it therefore seems that the entrance to the structure was fixed in the southern wall (W53), which was not as well preserved. Tamped-earth floors were found in both rooms. A burnt layer (thickness c. 0.2 m) found on the floors included a large amount of ash and mud-brick fragments (Fig. 4), and was covered by collapsed mud-bricks. The burnt layer (L225) on the floor of Room 1 contained several fragments of pottery vessels, mostly of Black Gaza briks (Fig. 5:6–8), a type of drinking jug characteristic of the Late Ottoman period and the early years of the British Mandate in Israel. It also contained a variety of metal items, including a spiral stake (Fig. 6:1), a chisel (Fig. 6:2) and a copper pin and an aluminum canteen (Fig. 6:3), as well as several fragments of glass jars and bottles and an intact glass vial (Fig. 7). Fragments of green glass bottles and pottery sherds, including a bowl (Fig. 5:1), a jar (Fig. 5:4) and briks (Fig. 5:9, 10), were found on the floor of Room 2 (L214, L217).
A tamped-earth floor (L234) was discovered in the courtyard. It was overlain with a thin layer (c. 0.1 m) of dissolved mud-brick material mixed with some ash, which formed from the disintegration of the mud-brick walls. On the floor in the northern part of the courtyard was a round work surface (L232; diam. c. 2 m) built of small fieldstones placed closely together. In the western part of the courtyard, a pit (L233; c. 1 × 2 m, depth c. 0.5 m) dug in the loess beside the building’s western wall was found full of ash, containing several Black Gaza body sherds, a shovel (Fig. 6:4) and a pick axe (Fig. 6:5). Numerous pottery sherds, including bowls (Fig. 5:2), a cooking pot (Fig. 5:3), jars (Fig. 5:5) and briks (Fig. 5:11), were found on the courtyard’s tamped-earth floor.
The remains of a round installation (L212; 0.5 × 1.2 m) built of stones, probably a trough, were uncovered right outside of the northeastern corner of the building. Apart from accumulated loess, no finds were discovered within the installation.
The collapsed mud-bricks found inside the building suggest that the walls of the two rooms rose to a height of c. 2 m, while those of the courtyard were lower. The building was apparently destroyed in a fierce fire that consumed the wooden beams in the building’s ceiling, causing some of the walls to collapse. The location of the building in the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley, its plan, the building materials and finds—all indicate that the structure was permanently used as a permanent dwelling during the Late Ottoman period and the British Mandate years. This building, together with other structures that were documented and excavated in the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994; Nikolsky 2010; Nikolsky 2011a; Nikolsky 2011b), are part of the first permanent settlement in the region, either by local Bedouins or by Egyptian peasants.
Ustinova Y. and Nahshoni P. 1994. Salvage Excavations in Ramot Nof, Be’er Sheva‘. ‘Atiqot 25:157–177.