During February 2009, a salvage excavation was conducted at Horbat Qayit (Permit No. A-5613; map ref. 195727–40/614733–47), after a tractor damaged a cistern. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Zalman Barashi & Bros. Co. Ltd., was directed by E. Kogan-Zehavi (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Ohayon (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), E. Belashov (drafting) and laborers from the ‘Brik’ manpower company.
A rock-hewn cistern was examined in the excavation. The cistern is located in the middle of the site, northwest of two large stone buildings that were apparently erected in the later part of the Ottoman period (eighteenth–twentieth centuries CE; Figs. 1, 2). The larger of the two buildings, c. 60 m from the cistern, was identified as a khan. The second building, to its south, may have been the residence of the Husseini family; in 1933, a British antiquities inspector noted that the family had dismantled stones from an ancient structure, in preparation of its own house’s construction (IAA Archives, British Mandate Files, Vol. 189, Umm el-Qutn, Kh. Qutn).
The bell-shaped cistern (max. diam. c. 7 m, min. depth c. 10 m; Fig. 3) was not excavated due to safety considerations. Two phases were discerned in the cistern’s opening. The hewn outline of the original opening (L103; 0.70×0.75 m) was irregular. Two channels for draining run-off conveyed water to the cistern from the east. The northern channel (L102) encircled the cistern’s opening from the north and the southern one (L104) encircled it from the south and west. Channel 102 became narrower at its southern end, close to the opening; the northern side of its eastern part was severed when a pool was installed in the second phase (L100; below). Channel 104 utilized a natural groove in the bedrock. Meager finds were discovered in the channels, including eight non-diagnostic ribbed body fragments, which are characteristic of pottery vessels from the Roman to the Early Islamic periods, but are insufficient for dating the cistern. However, like other cisterns that had been discovered at the site over the years, it should probably be attributed to the ancient settlement at the site, which lasted from the Hellenistic period until the Middle Ages.
The renovation of the opening in the second phase consisted of raising it by walls built of dressed stones, which were apparently removed from the khan. The walls were set on a foundation of cement and iron that was laid around the cistern’s original opening. The walls, built two courses high, were coated with a thick layer of gray plaster that was applied in a circular manner and formed a kind of dome in whose center was a square opening (0.45×0.45 m; Fig. 4). The repairs noted in the sides of the cistern should probably be attributed to this phase; they included the blocking of holes in the eastern and western sides of the cistern with stone fill and applying a new layer of gray plaster to the cistern. A hewn semicircular pool (L100) to the northeast of the cistern was coated with gray plaster that was especially thick around its rim. An iron pipe installed at the bottom of the pool’s southern side connected it to the water cistern. Shallow channels were placed at the top of its eastern and western sides, but their poor state of preservation precludes determining their destination. The use of iron in this phase indicates that the cistern was renovated in the modern era, probably by the occupants of the building that survived southeast of the cistern.