During October 2009, a salvage excavation was conducted at Bet-Lehem Ha-Gelilit (Permit No. A-5756; map ref. 217710–30/737740–7), after antiquities were damaged during the installation of an electric pole. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Amos (field photography, pottery drawing), with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), Y. Nemichnitzer (surveying and drafting), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
An excavation square (3.0 × 4.5 m) was opened; floor and wall remains dating to the beginning of the Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE; Figs. 1, 2) were exposed. The excavation was suspended before the work could be completed due to safety precautions. Two excavations had previously been conducted c. 100 m northeast of the current excavation area, exposing remains of a church and a building (HA 14:7–8 [Hebrew]; ESI 18:29–30). A section of a massive wall from the Byzantine period was exposed in an excavation in 2003, c. 400 m east of the current excavation area (Permit No. A-4038). It seems that this region is the center of a settlement that dated to the Byzantine period.
A floor (L4) was exposed at a depth of 1.6 m below the surface; the floor consisted of large dressed stones of various sizes, which were arranged in rows oriented southwest-northeast. The floor was delimited on the south by a wall (W6), built of a single course of partly dressed elongated stones of a similar size (0.30 × 0.45 × 0.75 m). Wall 6 was founded on a bedding of small stones (L12), placed on the bedrock. It was abutted from the south by Wall 7 (exposed length 1 m; Fig. 3), which had survived by a square stone (0.40 × 0.47 × 0.53 m) and two elongated stones (0.28 × 0.40 × 0.52 m). Wall 7, set on the bedrock, was preserved a single course high (Fig. 4). A thick plaster floor (L8) abutted the stone pavement and W7 from the southeast.
Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the fourth–fifth centuries CE were discovered on the stone pavement, including Cypriot Red Slip bowls (Fig. 5:1–3), cooking pots (Fig. 5:4–6), a cooking pot lid (Fig. 5:7) and a jar (Fig. 5:8). Several body fragments of non-diagnostic vessels were found beneath the stone pavement. An illegible coin was discovered between the paving stones; however, it probably dated to the second half of the fifth or the sixth centuries CE. In addition, fragments of glass vessels that dated to the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE) were recovered from the excavation. The finds in the excavation dated the last period of the floor’s usage, but its construction date remains unclear.