During May 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted at Be’er Ora (Bir Hindis; Permit No. A-3637*; map ref. NIG 198400/402725; OIG 148400/902725), located 18 km north of Elat, to facilitate the removal and reconstruction of structures in an area of the site slated for destruction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by T. Erickson-Gini, assisted by V. Essman and Y. Israel (surveying).
The excavated area (Fig. 1) was on the northern edge of the development project and east of a series of large structures, including a small open mosque, excavated in 2001 by Y. Israel (HA–ESI 114:102*–104*). In the 1960s three smelting furnaces and related structures were surveyed and partially excavated by B. Rothenberg in an area further north, on the opposite side of a ridge, dividing the metal production area from our excavations. Additional excavations were carried out in 1992 by Sharon, Nahlieli and Avner (‘Atiqot 30:107–114). Radiocarbon analyses from the 1992 excavations indicated that the most intensive activity at the site took place from the seventh to the ninth centuries CE (the Umayyad and early Abbasid periods).
Several lines of fieldstones (Walls 400–404) that probably formed enclosures at the foot of the ridge lying northward were exposed. Six circular or semi-circular structures were found scattered on both sides of the largest enclosed area (L200–L203, L205, L207; Figs. 2–4). These structures varied in size (average diam. 2 m) and were constructed from one row of large and medium-sized undressed fieldstones. Several small installations dispersed throughout the area included possibly two mazzevot (L204) and other unidentified small concentrations of stones (L208–L212). No ceramic or other diagnostic finds were recovered from the excavation.
The architectural remains in the area seem to be an extension of the area further west that contained larger, better constructed buildings and the open mosque, dating to the Early Islamic period. The built elements throughout the area may have served as temporary sleeping quarters for workers employed in the Early Islamic smelting site located less than half a kilometer away on the opposite side of the ridge. The
‘workers’ camp’ was connected with the smelting site via a well-trodden footpath.