In May 2013, a trial excavation as conducted at Horbat Usha (Permit No. A-6752; map ref. 213697–813/744530–753), prior to paving Highway 6. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Cross-Israel Highway Company, Ltd., was directed by A. Massarwa (photography), with the assistance of M. Hater (area supervision), Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Gorzalczany (scientific guidance), P. Gendelman (ceramics), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and L. Talmi and C. Sa‘id.
The excavation was conducted at the northwestern margins of Horbat Usha, c. 1 km south of Somakh Junction (Fig. 1). The antiquities that were exposed include a wine press, a rock-cutting, agricultural terrace retaining walls and walls that apparently separated cultivation plots (Fig. 2). It seems the excavation area was part of the agricultural hinterland of the settlement situated at Horbat Usha during the Roman period (first–third centuries CE).
Surveys and excavations previously conducted at the site have shown it was continuously inhabited from the Roman period until the Ottoman period (Olami and Gal 2004: Site 74; Oshri 2012
). According to historical sources, the Sanhedrin moved to the Jewish settlement at Usha following the Bar Kokhba revolt.
Wine press (Figs. 3, 4). In the northern part of the excavation area a simple rock-hewn wine press was exposed, consisting of a rectangular treading floor (L200; 2.08 × 2.30 m) and a rectangular collecting vat (L211; 0.88 × 1.23 m, depth 0.44 m), connected by a channel (length 0.15 m). The lower portion of the collecting vat, including its hewn floor, was lined with a layer of small stones bonded with gray mortar. This layer was overlaid with a floor of gray mortar containing grog inclusions. Bowls (Fig. 5:1) and jars (Fig. 5:2, 3), dating to the Roman period (first–third centuries CE), were discovered below the floor laid in the collecting vat.
Rock-cutting (Fig. 6). In the southern part of the excavation a shallow rock-cutting (L214) was exposed, the purpose of which was unclear.
Walls. Five sections of agricultural terrace retaining walls (W2, W4, W5, W7, W15; Fig. 7) were discovered. The walls were founded on bedrock and were built of large, roughly hewn stones with soil fill in between. Remains of walls that probably separated cultivation plots (W6, W8–W12; width 1.5 m) were also discovered. They were founded on bedrock and built of two rows of roughly hewn fieldstones and a fill of soil and small stones. These walls follow one another and form together a single curved wall, c. 230 m long.