During December 2006–January 2007, a trial excavation was conducted over a distance of 2 km along both sides of Highway 465, from the Qula Junction in the west to the entrance of the military base in the east (Permit No. A-4993; map ref. 19628–824/66011–63; Fig. 1), prior to infrastructure work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Department of Public Works, was directed by Y. Elisha, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), O. Segal (pottery reading), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and M. Peilstöcker (guidance).
Three areas were opened within the boundaries of the declared sites of Qula, Birqat er-Rabba and Horbat Pundaq, where finds that dated to the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Crusader periods (Map of Rosh Ha-‘Ayin , Site 294; ESI 20:51*–53*) had previously been uncovered. The excavation was hampered by the winter weather.
Seven squares were excavated and a winepress, a cistern, a stone heap, a farming terrace and occupation levels were exposed, dating to the Iron Age and the Persian period. It seems that the remains belonged to a number of separate sites and represented the agricultural activity that occurred along their fringes.
Area A was located c. 800 m east of the Qula Junction, on a southern slope covered with a pine forest (Fig. 2). A cistern filled with rain water was found, but not excavated (1; Figs. 3, 4). A number of building stones, probably part of its mouth, were found scattered around its opening. Potsherds that dated to different periods, including Gaza ware from the Ottoman period, were recovered from the excavation around the cistern. A layer of small fieldstones (2; Fig. 5) was discerned c. 25 m south of the cistern; it was overlain with patches of black soil that may have been the remains of an earthen floor. Potsherds, including mortaria (Fig. 6:1–4), bowls, (Fig. 6:5–8), cooking pots (Fig. 7:1–3) and jars (Fig. 7:4–15), dating to the Persian period, were discovered. A concentration of potsherds that dated to the Persian period was found on a layer of small fieldstones (9; Figs. 8, 9), c. 10 m south of Site 2 and a cup mark (diam. 0.6 m, depth 0.5 m; Fig. 10) was noted on a bedrock surface nearby.
A concentration of potsherds, including bowls (Fig. 12:1–3), a cooking pot (Fig. 12:4) and jar (Fig. 12:5) that dated to Iron II (eighth century BCE), was found c. 10 m west of Site 9, on the side of the road above natural bedrock (8; Fig. 11). The remains probably extended beneath the road.
Area B was located c. 750 m west of the entrance to the military base. A rock-hewn winepress (5; Figs. 13, 14) that included a treading floor in the shape of a triangle and a circular collecting vat with a sump at its bottom was excavated. No datable finds were discovered.
Area C was c. 100 m west of the entrance to the military base. A pile of stones that may have been a stone clearance heap (3) was excavated and a worn fragment of a Hellenistic pottery vessel was discovered. A kind of square surface (c. 5 × 5 m) of large fieldstones was located nearby; it is unclear if this was a natural surface or the base of a building.
A number of farming terraces were noted and a probe trench was excavated in one of them. It was ascertained that the terrace was built of a single row of stones placed on top of the natural bedrock.