During April–May 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Khirbat el-Bira antiquities site in the northern industrial region of Shoham (Permit No. A-6493; map ref. 196603–710/658222–384; Fig. 1), prior to development work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Shoham Economic Company, was directed by A. ‘Azab, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying and drafting) and A. Dagot (GPS).
Stone Clearance Heap (F1; diam. c. 5.5 m height 0.7 m; Fig. 3). The elliptical heap was located on a bedrock surface and enclosed within a wall of fieldstones (average dimensions 0.8×0.8 m) that prevented the stones in the pile from tumbling into adjacent plots. The stones were gathered from nearby plots to clean and prepare them for planting and cultivation.
Farming Terraces (F2, F3; length c. 55 m and c. 26 m respectively; Figs. 4, 5). The terrace walls were built of partially dressed fieldstones (average size 0.6×0.6 m) arranged in a relatively straight line with small gaps between them, on brown soil fill. Wall F2 was preserved a single course high and Wall F3—two courses.
Cisterns (F5, F9, F10; diam. c. 1.05 m; Figs. 6, 7). Rock-hewn, bell-shaped cisterns with round openings. The sides of the cisterns were coated with white plaster (thickness c. 0.02 m). Dark brown alluvium and medium and large stones accumulated inside the cisterns. No architectural remains were located in the vicinity of the cisterns and it therefore seems that they were hewn in open farmland.
Stone Quarries (F4, F6, F7; Figs. 8–11). These are located on bedrock and signs of quarrying and separated stones (presumed size 0.2×0.3 m) are visible. In addition, evidence of very large stones (length 1.3–1.7 m) was noted. A rock-cut pit with a circular opening (L152; diam. 1.5 m, depth 1.3 m; Figs. 12, 13) was found west of Quarry F6; it was probably the beginning of an incomplete rock-hewn cistern.
Rock-cutting (F8) on a slope of soft chalk bedrock. Signs indicative of quarrying and detaching two stones were noted. The rock-cutting was probably abandoned after the two stones had been removed.
Several potsherds were recovered from the excavation and around the installations, including ribbed body sherds that probably dated to the Byzantine period. The excavation finds join others of past excavations and surveys in the region, which are indicative of agricultural activity that included the cultivation of grapevines for the production of wine. The quarries were evidently part of the construction at Khirbet el-Bira.