During January–February 2010, a salvage excavation was conducted in Ramat Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A-5831; map ref. 198384–99/623734–51), prior to the construction of a new neighborhood. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by D. Storchan, with the assistance of Y. Ohayon (administration), M. Kunin and Y. Shmidov (surveying), Y. Billig and R. Greenwald (preliminary inspection).
The excavation was located on the crest of a small hill, just south of Ramat Bet Shemesh, to the east of Tel Yarmut, and northwest of Horbat Bet Natif (Fig 1). A circular limekiln (inner diam. 4.5 m) whose western half was destroyed due to the construction was uncovered. Three excavation squares were opened inside and around the limekiln (Fig. 2). The lower section of the limekiln was hewn in the bedrock, whereas its upper section was built of stones.
The lower section was a circular pit, hewn in an enlarged natural step in the limestone bedrock (depth 3.7 m). This pit served as the kiln's combustion chamber, which was lined by a circular wall (W3), built of small stones bonded with crushed lime mortar and set upon a large stone base.
The upper section of the limekiln was built of two concentric circular walls (W1, W2), both built of medium-sized fieldstones with soil fill between them (width 0.7–1.0 m; Fig 3). Both walls were preserved to a maximum of two courses high. The inner wall (W1) was set directly upon the rim of the hewn pit, while the surrounding outer wall (W2) was set upon earth fill above the bedrock. These walls would have provided the outline and base for the limekiln's domed superstructure. A ring of raised stones and earth, outlining the periphery of the limekiln, can be assumed to be the remains of collapse or perhaps intentional deconstruction of the limekiln's superstructure.
Debris from the interior of the limekiln’s combustion chamber (L104) consisted of mainly burnt stones with crushed lime, ash, and charcoal inclusions (Fig 2: Section 2-2). After removal of the kiln debris and partial removal of W3, another semicircular wall (W4) was uncovered; it sealed off the entrance to a small natural cave (Fig. 4). The wall, built of small stones, was set upon a layer of burnt debris above the cave's floor. Excavation inside of the cave revealed multiple layers of roof collapse that rested on a natural earthen fill above the cave's floor (Figs. 2: Section 1-1, 5).
A small round cupmark (width 0.45 m, depth 0.3 m) was hewn in the bedrock in the immediate area south of the limekiln. No clear association can be made between the cupmark and the limekiln. After the excavation, another similar and better preserved limekiln (Permit No. A-6041) was noticed during archeological inspection of the ongoing construction activities in the area.
No remains of the conduit or entranceway that would have provided access and ventilation for the limekiln were exposed; these were probably destroyed during the construction activities before the excavation. Most of the potsherds collected from the limekiln and around it can be attributed to the Ottoman Period. A handful of badly worn potsherds from the Byzantine period were found on the surface around the limekiln. Based on the ceramic assemblage and the close distance to Horbat Bet Natif, it seems likely to date the construction of the limekiln to the Ottoman Period