Approximately ten large refuse heaps were identified, of which four were examined (4, 6, 9, 10; Fig. 1). Five probes were opened (1 × 1 m; in Heap 4, two probes were opened [4A, 4B]), with the aim of sampling botanical material from the upper level of the refuse heaps for radiocarbon dating. All the probes yielded coins and grain seeds yet to be identified.
Heap 4 (Fig. 2).This large refuse heap, dozens of meters long, extends along the slope of a steep spur southwest of the southern church. Probe 4A was opened in the upper part of the heap, and Sq 4B—on its slope. In both probes, a loose, gray accumulation was revealed (max. thickness 0.2 m), and sherds dated to the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods were retrieved. In Sq 4B were a few sherds from the Abbasid period.
Heap 6. This small, loose heap (c. 15 × 20 m), dark gray in color, had accumulated over destroyed structures within the boundaries of the settlement. A probe (max. depth 0.2 m; Fig. 3) opened above a pile of small collapsed stones (not excavated), revealed layers of dark sediments mixed with Byzantine-period pottery and goat and cattle droppings.
Heap 9. This large, ovoid heap (> 40 × 60 m; height > 4 m) located outside the settlement had a steep southern slope. A probe (max. depth 0.2 m) opened at the top of the heap revealed alternating layers of light and dark gray sediment containing sherds from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
Heap 10. This heap (20 × 30 m), prominently located outside the settlement, was ovoid in shape, loose in texture and gray in color. A probe (max. depth 0.2 m) opened in its upper part revealed alternating dark gray and light gray accumulations containing sherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Modern military items and roof tiles were found on the surface.
The refuse heaps outside the settlement indicate that refuse was discarded in an organized way by public action at the height of the settlement’s expansion. In contrast, the heaps covering structure remains within the boundaries of the settlement indicate a decline in the size of the settlement. The finds discovered in the refuse heaps include a small quantity of pottery from the Roman period, but the discarding of the refuse was dated according to the latest pottery retrieved in the excavation—the Byzantine (fifth–seventh centuries CE) and the Early Islamic (seventh–eighth centuries CE) periods. Information to be gleaned in the future from the numismatic study, and especially from dating of the grain seeds, may shed light on the process of settlement collapse in Nizzana in particular and in the Negev in general.