During May 2005, a trial excavation was conducted in western Nazareth (Block 16531, Lot 1), along the western bank of Wadi el-Juani (Permit No. A-4444; map ref. NIG 22740–50/73405–7; OIG 17740–50/23405–7), prior to the construction of a school. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Nazareth municipality, was directed by W. Atrash, with the assistance of L. Porat (area supervision), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Essman (surveying), H. Smithline (photography) and H. Abu ‘Uqsa (pottery reading).
The site extends along a precipitous slope in the western part of Nazareth, toward the foot of a hill west of Wadi el-Juani. Outcrops of limestone bedrock, farming terraces and a farmhouse were discerned in the area prior to the excavation (Figs. 1, 2). Seven excavation areas (I–III, C–F) were opened. Remains of three masonry quarries that dated to the Roman period were discovered in Areas I, III and F; three farming terrace walls were excavated in Areas C–F, as well as the remains of two field towers. Fragments of pottery vessels that mostly dated to the Roman, Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods were found scattered on surface in each of the excavation areas. It seems that the remains belonged to a farmstead (farmhouse was not excavated), which was established in the Roman period, continued to exist in the Byzantine period and used again during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Quarries. Three step quarries were exposed on the limestone surfaces. The rock-cutting was undertaken to extract building stones for the construction of the farmhouse and to level the area prior to the building of farming terraces over the quarries.
A leveled bedrock surface (c. 5 × 5 m) was in Area I. At its southern end were the rock-cutting remains of one large stone (1.08 × 1.20 m, height 0.3 m; Fig. 3). A large quarry (7 × 10 m, depth 1.2 m) was in Area III. The negatives of detached stones (0.4–0.8 × 0.4–0.8 m, height 0.3–0.5 m) were clearly visible, as were the grooves that served as severance channels (Fig. 4). Four layers of rock-cuttings that left steps along the northern and western fringes of the quarry were discerned in the middle of this area, which was quarried to depletion. Two parallel severance channels (length 1 m, width 8 cm, height of each 0.2 m) that extended in a north–south direction were discovered east of the rock-cuttings. After the quarry was no longer in use, it was filled with stone-dressing debris and soil for agricultural use. A quarry (6 × 6 m, depth 1.6 m) for hewing ashlar stones (0.8–1.6 × 0.5–1.1 m, height 0.3–0.6 m; Fig. 5) was partly exposed in Area F. Its central part was quarried to depletion and remains of six quarrying layers that left steps along the northern, western and southern edges of the quarry were visible. The hewn severance channels (width 5–10 cm, depth 0.25–0.50 m) around each stone, to enable its extraction from bedrock, were also apparent. After the quarry was no longer in use, it was filled with stone-dressing debris and was covered with farming soil that contained potsherds from the Roman period. The retaining walls (W118, W129) of the bottom farming terrace were built over the eastern and northern parts of the quarry.
A natural, rectangular depression (0.7 × 1.0 m; depth 0.9 m) was located at the eastern end of the quarry in Area III, in the western part of a bedrock surface. The depression was filled with brown earth mixed with small fieldstones, stone-dressing debris and a few potsherds that dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods. A row of four cupmarks (diam. of each 0.15 × 0.15 m), situated c. 0.7–1.2 m apart, was discovered between and to the east of the two severance channels in the eastern part of the quarry. A similar elliptical depression (1.4–1.8 × 4.7 m, depth c. 1 m; Fig. 6) was discovered in the center of a bedrock surface (c. 8 × 8 m) in Area II. This depression was also filled with brown soil, as well as fieldstones and a few potsherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Farming Terraces and Towers. The site is crossed by three farming terraces that were enclosed within retaining walls (terrace walls). These formed soil surfaces for agricultural crops in places where bedrock was exposed. Retaining walls and the remains of two semicircular towers were uncovered on the bottom and middle farming terraces; the upper farming terrace extended beyond the limits of the excavation. The farming terraces were delimited from the east and northeast by a long wall, aligned southeast-northwest, which continued farther up the slope (Wall 118; length of exposure c. 100 m, width 1.2 m, preserved height 0.8–1.8 m). The wall delimited an ancient road that extended to the northeast alongside it. Wall 118, built of soft limestone fieldstones that were quarried locally, was founded on bedrock and its southern part was built over the remains of two quarries (Areas C, F).
The lower terrace had an irregular shape (c. 700 sq m). It was enclosed on the east and northeast by the road that was built along the wadi and by the southern end of W118. On the west it was delimited by Wall 102 (length 15 m, width 0.7–0.8 m, preserved height 0.6–1.4 m; Fig. 7). This wall was oriented north–south and separated between the lower and middle farming terraces. It was built of soft limestone and founded on bedrock. A limestone collapse at the southern end of the wall originated from a semicircular farming tower (W114; diam. 10 m; see Fig. 4). The tower, built of dry construction utilizing indigenous limestone, was founded on a bedrock surface that sloped eastward. The eastern part of the tower was preserved 1.8 m high, whereas its western part only survived to the height of ground level. A terrace wall (W129; length 3.4 m, width 0.6 m, preserved height in east 0.9 m, in west 0.3 m) built of indigenous limestone was erected above the northern part of the quarry in Area F and on a bedrock surface to its north. The eastern part of the wall was incorporated in W118 and its western part was built up against bedrock.
The middle farming terrace had also an irregular shape (c. 500 sq m). It was delimited on the northeast by W118, on the east by W102 and on the northwest by W116 (exposed length c. 20 m, width 1.1 m, preserved height 1.9 m; Fig. 8). Wall 116 was built of soft limestone fieldstones along a northeast-southwest direction. Its northern end abutted W118 and its southern part was abutted by a semicircular field tower (Area E; diam. 10 m, preserved height c. 2.5 m). Only the eastern side of the tower was uncovered; its western part remained buried beneath a layer of modern fill. The tower, founded on bedrock, was built of dry construction that utilized soft limestone quarried locally (Fig. 9).