The current excavation was carried out east of Road 65, on a slope that descends from south to north, comprising soft and hard limestone overlying eroded basalt. Two clusters of excavation areas were opened (Fig. 2): one close to the ruin, on the fringes of the built area (G), and the other to the south and west of the ruin (H). In addition, several trial trenches (1–6) were opened and a number of bedrock section were cleared, but they did not yield any antiquities.
Eight areas (G1–G8) were opened.
Areas G1 and G2 (4.2×13.0 m; Figs. 3–5) were opened between the asphalt road and a cattle fence, very close to where a previous excavation was conducted (Braun 2001). A small section of a weathered plaster floor and a wall stump built of small stones were exposed. Eroded basalt bedrock was exposed throughout the area (0.5–1.2 m below the surface).
Areas G3–G8. Six squares of (4×4 m; 4.6×6.2 m; 1.8×9.9 m; 3×5 m; 3.5×6.0 m; 4×4 m)were excavated on both sides of a local road. Basalt bedrock was exposed in all of them, without any architectural remains.
A large amount of pottery was recovered from Cluster G. It represents a range of periods: bowls from the Roman period (Fig. 6:1, 2); imported LRRW bowls from the Byzantine period (Fig. 6:3–8); a bowl from the Abbasid period (Fig. 6:9); frit ware, possibly from the Fatimid period (Fig. 6:10); bowls from the Mamluk period (Fig. 6:11–20); cooking pots (Fig. 6:21, 22) from the Roman period, as well as jars (Figs. 23–27) and a pithos (Fig. 6:28). Cluster G was opened adjacent to the built-up area at the center of the site, which was previously excavated and its remains are still apparent on the surface today. The ground in this part of the site was probably tilled down to bedrock; hence, practically no architectural remains were found.
Fifteen areas (H1–H15; Figs. 7, 8) were opened. They are described herein from south to north.
H1: A burial cave hewn in limestone (Figs. 9, 10). The cave is reached by descending a rectangular rock-cutting with stones that possibly served as steps. The cave opening includes a hewn track for accommodating and moving a rolling stone; the rolling stone was found inside the cave. The cave comprised a single chamber with arcosolia set into its walls. Presumably, each arcosolium included three burial troughs. Remains of a rectangular loculus were preserved on the left wall. Two arcosolia might have been hewn at some point to the right of the cave’s opening. These arcosolia seem to have accommodated a single burial trough each. The cave was not excavated.
H2: A large winepress (Figs. 11–15). It consists of a main treading floor (1) that drained into a filtration pit (2) and from there to a large collecting vat equipped with steps (3). A settling pit was located at the bottom of the collecting vat. South of the main treading floor and on a higher level were two smaller treading floors (4). Each of these floors had a small collecting vat with a sump (5). If the two floors were connected in any way, the connection did not survive. A floor built of stones and white plaster leveled the main treading floor (8). A built channel that led to the main collecting vat (6) was incorporated into the floor; it might have bypassed the filtration pit. The possible remains of a press screw (7) were located in the middle of the floor.
Three phases of use may be identified in the winepress. The main treading floor and collecting vat were used in the first phase. The smaller floors might have been used during this phase for placing bunches of grapes in the sun for fermentation. This process produced must without human contact and without sediment. The must passed from the main treading floor via the filtration pit to the collecting vat. In the second phase, the place was used as a stone quarry. In the third phase it was reused as a winepress, after the surface of the treading floor was leveled and a channel was built that conveyed the must directly to the collecting vat.
The ceramic finds included imported LRRW bowls (Fig. 16:1, 2), bowls (Fig. 16:3, 4), jars (Fig. 16:5–11) and juglets (Fig. 16:12–14) dating to the Byzantine period, and a Pithos base (Fig. 16:15), apparently of a Byzantine date as well as.
H3: A cluster of rock-cuttings that conveyed water to a bell-shaped cistern (Figs. 17–19). It consists of two square rock-cuttings and several channels. One of the rock-cuttings might have been used as a settling pit to ensure the cleanliness of the water entering the cistern. Hewn grooves at the top of the cistern indicate that the installation could be covered.
H4: A circular wall built of fieldstones set on the bedrock (see Figs. 17–19). A shift in the direction of the wall might indicate that it was built in two phases. Pottery vessels, including a Gaza flask, were incorporated in the construction of the wall. The structure is near the cistern exposed in Area H3 and overlooks the nearby farmland; it thus might be a modern watchman’s hut. The ceramic finds include bowls from the Mamluk period (Fig. 16:16–18), as well as a Gaza flask (Fig. 16:19) and jugs (Fig. 16:20, 21) from the Ottoman period.
H5: Four cist graves cut into a bedrock surface (Figs. 20, 21). A groove meant for covering slabs survived on some of the graves. On a lower topographic terrace was a rock-cutting that was not excavated. Several rock-cut steps were found near the graves.
H6: A burial cave hewn in the limestone rock (Figs. 11, 12, 22, 23). A stepped rectangular rock-cutting descended toward the cave. The cave consisted of a single chamber with arcosolia along its walls. Presumably there were three burial troughs in each arcosolium. The cave was not excavated. Kraters (Fig. 16:22, 23), jars (Fig. 16:24, 25) and a jug (Fig. 16:26) from the Byzantine period were found.
H7: Several rock-cuttings for quarrying stone blocks by means of detachment (Figs. 24, 25). A wall running perpendicular to the rock-cut section might have been an entrance to a cave. Most of this area was not excavated due to a telephone pole.
H8: A section in the bedrock (height c. 0.8 m) with rock-cuttings for quarrying stone blocks (see Fig. 24). One stone is still in situ where it was quarried.
H9: A quarry for building stones and a cave entrance (Figs. 26, 27). The cave was blocked, and hence not excavated. There might be a collapsed subterranean cavity to the right of the entrance.
H10: An entrance to a small rock-cut cave and two walls (Figs. 28, 29). One wall runs parallel to the entrance side, and the other is perpendicular to it. The cave was not excavated, and its function is unclear. It is apparent that the cave was located within a large, open rock-hewn area, which was not excavated either. Near the cave was a small bedrock surface with remains of a stone quarry. Another bedrock section was identified north of the cave and at a lower level; it was not excavated. Another cave and additional rock-cuttings might be in this area.
H11: A cave opening was exposed in the drainage channel along the road. A wall, partly hewn and partly built, seen to the right of the opening continued westward under the road. The cave was not excavated; hence its function is unclear.
H12: A large and deep building-stone quarry (Figs. 30, 31). Grooves used to detach the stones were visible along the edges of the rock-cuttings. The quarry was only partially exposed.
H13: A large building-stone quarry on a large bedrock outcrop (Figs. 32, 33). Walls of unclear function were built in some of the places where the stones were quarried. On the bedrock outcrop in the eastern part of the excavated area was a rectangular rock-cutting, possibly a tomb or a rock-cutting for quarrying building block. To the west – an additional area with rock-cuttings, which was not excavated.
H14: A cave hewn in the limestone bedrock with a rock-cut courtyard (Figs. 34, 35). The cave was not excavated hence its function is unclear. Near the cave was a bedrock outcrop from which building stones were quarried. To the east of the cave was a section cut in the bedrock, possibly another cave; this area was not excavated.
H15: A large area with rock-cuttings (Fig. 36). Although they were only partially excavated, it is apparent they were intended for producing building stones. The area extended to the east, but the rest of it was left unexcavated.
The large area in which the excavation areas of Cluster H were opened served as the agricultural and industrial hinterland of Horbat ‘Ammudim. This region is larger than the areas that were excavated up to now at the site. It extents both eastward and westward, to the west of Road 65, where an excavation was recently conducted (Permit No. A-6326). The excavation revealed extensive quarries for the production of building stones; caves, some of which were used for burial; and rock-hewn graves. A large winepress was also found. The setting of the installations along the fringes of a site is similar to the finds from other Jewish settlemetns in the region, where the bedrock was also optimally exploited for the community’s needs. There are many other finds in this area, some of which were identified and marked, but were not excavated. It is presumed that additional finds will be discovered once the whole area is exposed.
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