The farmhouse (W105, W106, W110, W134; 13 × 14 m; Fig. 3) was of the of the ‘four-room house’ type; most of the structure was preserved, with the exception of its northeast corner. It was built directly on bedrock with large, roughly hewn stones, using a dry-construction technique that is characteristic of the Iron Age. Wall 106 was better preserved (1.5 m preserved height) than the rest of the walls.
The building’s entrance (width 1.1 m), in the center of W134, led into an elongated anteroom (1). Stone pillars (L119–L121, L127, L158, L159; 0.4 × 0.6 m, preserved height 0.8–1.4 m), set on either side of the anteroom, separated it from two longitudinal spaces (3, 6) that flanked it. To level the bedrock in the middle of Space 1, two retaining walls (W129, W130) were built across the space, and the a fill of earth was laid between them.
To the northwest of the entrance lay Space 6 (internal dimensions 2.5 × 8.1 m; Fig. 4), whose walls (W110, W111, W134–W136) were well preserved. Walls 135 and 136 (wide 0.6 m) were built of two rows of stones between the stone pillars that delimited the space on the southeast. A niche (diam. 0.13 m) in Pillar 119, opposite Pillar 120, probably served to anchor a beam that extended between the two pillars. The room’s floor (L145) was paved with roughly dressed stone slabs (average size: 0.3 × 0.4 m). An installation (L148; 1.0 × 1.7 m; Fig. 5)—a base of medium-sized stones (0.15 × 0.15 m) coated with a thick plaster layer—was uncovered in the corner formed between Walls 110 and 134; it may have been a water trough or a manger. This space was clearly partitioned off from the other parts of the building, suggesting that it served to house animals. The effort invested in paving the space was necessary to prevent dirt and disease, and it allowed a thorough cleaning of the space from time to time.
Space 3, to the southeast of Space 1, was enclosed by three walls (W106, W107, W151). With the exception of two stone pillars (L127, L158), the interior of the room had been completely destroyed by antiquities’ robbers. The meager finds made it difficult to ascertain its function.
A stairwell (2) to the east of the building’s entrance led to an upper story. Two steps were unearthed in situ; they were aligned with the bedrock and with a W151, which was built of large stones (average size: 0.4 × 0.5 m; Fig. 6). This wall, along with the pillars in Spaces 3 and 6, could apparently bear the weight of the upper story.
The building’s broad space, in the southwest part of the building, was divided into two rooms (4, 5). These were carefully built with a partition wall (W104) with a pillar at its end (W115) and two additional walls (W17, W111), in which entrances (1 m wide) with thresholds were led into the rooms. Three retaining walls (W124, W133, W142) with an earthen fill between them served to level the bedrock in Room 4. A conical stone (‘massebah’? L118; 0.8 × 0.9 m; Fig. 7) stood in the center of this room. In the corner of Room 5 was an installation (L126) comprising a semicircular wall (W125; Fig. 8) built of large stones (average size: 0.4 × 0.5), which was incorporated into the outer walls. The installation had obviously been planned from the outset of the building’s construction, apparently as a storage area, possibly a granary.
One can discern an ‘architectural hierarchy’ in the building: the outer walls and the walls of the rooms facing the entrance were built of particularly large stones (average size: 0.6 × 1.0 m); smaller stones (averaging 0.3 × 0.5 m) were used for the rooms’ partition walls; and the retaining walls were built of rows of medium-sized and small stones.
Pottery Assemblage. The pottery was recovered from the collapses in the rooms and from heaps left behind by the antiquities’ robbers. The tops of the building’s walls protruded above the surface, and, based on the robbers’ trenches, each room in the building was apparently plundered separately, prompting the cautious assumption that the finds belonged to the rooms from which they were retrieved. The state of preservation of the material, including large, freshly broken shards, indicates that this is an in situ, uniform assemblage. Only one location—in the north of Room 6—contained an undisturbed collapse, which yielded potsherds on the stone flooring (Fig. 9). The assemblage comprises 5,027 fragments, which include 283 rims, 128 handles and 109 bases. The vessels are simple, local types, and some bear wheel burnishing; no imported ware was found. This is a typical domestic assemblage, which includes open vessels as well as cooking and storage vessels. Since few lamps were recovered, they were probably robbed, as they are often preserved intact and easy to plunder due to their small size.
The assemblage includes a plate with a simple rim (Fig. 10:1), a plate with a cut rim (Fig. 10:2), a ‘Judahite’ bowl (Fig. 10:3), a delicate ‘Judahite’ bowls (Fig. 10:4, 5), a bowl with a ledge rim (Fig. 10:6), an Assyrian-style bowl (Fig. 10:7), a ‘Judahite’ krater (Fig. 10:8) and a mortarium (Fig. 10:9). Other pottery finds consisted of a cooking pot with a single-ridged neck (Fig. 10:10), a cooking pot with a carinated neck (Fig. 10:11), an ‘En Gedi-type cooking pot (Fig. 10:12), a holemouth jar with a ridged rim (Fig. 10:13), a high-necked jar (Fig. 10:14), a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 10:15), a neckless piriform storage jar with a pronounced stub base (Fig. 10:16), a ‘rosette’ jar (Fig. 10:17) and a jar exhibiting Assyrian influence (Fig. 10:18). Additional diagnostic potsherds belonged to a jug with a trefoil rim (Fig. 10:19), decanters (Fig. 10:20, 21), a dipper juglet (Fig. 10:22) and a lamp with a thick, stepped base (Fig. 10:23). A fragment of a foot bath (Fig. 11:1) and several sherds of a vessel bearing a plastic, button-like ornamentation (Fig. 11:2, 3) were identified as well. Also recovered was part of a horse-shaped clay figurine (Fig. 11:4) of a type familiar in assemblages from sites belonging to the Kingdom of Judah in the late Iron Age (Kletter 2004:2061, Fig. 28.36:13).
The assemblage is typical of Iron Age IIC (seventh and early sixth centuries BCE). It resembles assemblages from the Kingdom of Judah, including those from Stratum II at Tel Lakhish (Lachish; Zimhoni 2004:1799–1805), Stratum 10 in the City of David (De Groot and Bernick-Greenberg 2012:100–101) and Stratum V at ‘En Gedi (Yezerski 2007), as well as assemblages from Judahite sites in the northeastern Negev such as Stratum VI at Tel ‘Ira (Freud 1999:215–226), Stratum III at Tel Malhata (Freud 2015:231–236) and Stratum III at Horbat ‘Uza (Freud 2007).
Stone Artifacts. The excavation yielded a varied assemblage of stone artifacts, which reflect the daily activities that took place in the building. The assemblage is characteristic of rural farmhouses and of a domestic economy of processing agricultural produce. Two matching fragments of a square, concave lower grinding stone made of dolomite (0.3 × 0.3 m, 10 cm thick; Fig. 12:1) were found near each other in Space 1. Room 4 contained a limestone socket (30 cm diam.; Fig. 12:2) with a depression (8 cm diam., 2 cm deep); an elliptical, loaf-shaped upper grinding stone made of dolomite (5 × 10 cm; Fig. 12:3); and two flint hammerstones (Fig. 12:5, 6). In Space 6, near installation L148, was a dolomite rounded upper grinding stone with four working facets (diam.8 cm; Fig. 12:4). This space also yielded a flint hammerstone (7 cm diam.; Fig. 12:7).
The ‘four-room house’ farmhouse dates from the end of the Iron Age and is an example of Iron Age farmsteads that were established around large settlements. Its ‘four-room house’ plan is well known in the archaeological record and is found at nearby Tell Beit Mirsim. The stairwell in the northeast corner of the building attests to the existence of an upper story and suggests that the entire ground floor of the building was roofed. The massive retaining wall (W151) that supported the staircase, along with the building’s outer walls and central pillars, could have supported the entire upper story. The staircase provided easy access to the upper story, eliminating the need for ladders, as suggested in previous studies. Such a staircase would have allowed a direct passage between the upper story rooms via a central upper room, rather than via a series of adjacent rooms, making the plan of the building’s upper story highly functional (for a suggested reconstruction, see Fig. 13; Netzer 1987:167–168). The conical stone in Room 4 may have been a ‘massebah’, although this interpretation is somewhat questionable since apart from a zoomorphic figurine and a fragment of a foot bath, there was no evidence of ritual activity. However, as the building was completely plundered, most of its rooms were dug down to floor level, and the soil had been sifted, it is impossible to know what artifacts were taken from the site. The finds show that the rooms on the ground floor were used by the farmhouse owners for agricultural purposes, since this floor is convenient for housing livestock and storing farm produce. Hence, it seems reasonable that the upper story was used as sleeping quarters.