Duiring February 2012, a trial excavation was conducted within the Khirbat el Maghara and Khirbat Nina antiquities sites (Permit No. A-6423; map ref. 184898–5008/634940–5012), prior to the installation of a water pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Mekorot Company, was directed by D. Golan, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), M. Kunin (surveying and drafting), O. Ackerman (geology), H. Torge (pottery reading), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), A. Rochman-Halperin and S. Krapiwiko (IAA archive), A. Glick, S. Yechielov, Y. Marmelstein, T. Greenwald and D. Golan (preliminary inspections) and M. Ajami. Additional assistance was provided by surveyors of the Mekorot Company.
Three ruins close to the Latrun–Masmiya road are marked in the region on maps from the Mandatory period: Khirbat Nina and Khirbat el Maghara/Khirbat el Ma‘lawiya. In 1935, J Ory reported on foundations and stone heaps in the vicinity and about the robbery of stones by residents of the village of Muhaysin, 1.8 km west of Khirbat el Maghara (IAA archives).
Scant remains ascribed to Iron Age II were discovered in the current excavation.
The excavation area is characterized by dark brown, hard clay soil (grumusol). Four squares and two half-squares were excavated. A layer (L111; length c. 7 m, max. width 3.2 m, max. thickness 0.15 m; Fig. 2) composed of different size wadi pebbles, small stones and pottery, without any apparent architectural remains, was exposed in Squares 7 and 9; it was formed by erosion that is typical of the area. A probe (depth c. 2 m) excavated in Sq 11 revealed wadi pebbles and potsherds. Thin deposits (laminae) documented in the sections are indicative of alluvial and flooding events. A foundation composed of wadi pebbles without mortar (L107; 1.30×6.15 m, thickness 0.12 m; Figs. 3, 4) was exposed in Squares 15–17; it was aligned north–south, parallel to the adjacent wadi. It is apparent from the placement of the foundation that the wadi pebbles were selected on the basis of their size (average 0.11×0.15 m). Another foundation (L114) of similar size wadi pebbles, which sloped down in the direction of the wadi, was exposed just to the east of L107. Several Iron Age II potsherds were found, including bowls (Fig. 5:1–4), a cooking pot (Fig. 5:5) and hole-mouth jars (Fig. 5:6–8).
A geological examination conducted in Sq 11 and in deep trenches dug by mechanical equipment, c. 30 m south of the excavation, revealed that the ground at the site is composed of grumusol soil. On the basis of the alluvial foundation and close proximity to Nahal Soreq, it seems that the stream was active at the time of the site’s existence. The site was later covered with eolian material that developed into grumusol.
The finds are indicative of activity in the vicinity of a wadi channel that flowed in the past and was connected to Nahal Soreq or it was the ancient channel of Nahal Soreq, which is today covered with agricultural soil. It seems that the finds in Squares 7, 9 and 11 were washed by the stream or swept to the site from elsewhere. Anthropogenic stone levels that had survived the erosion of the stream were found in Squares 15–17. The ceramic finds, especially the hole-mouth jars and the bowls, date the site to Iron Age II.