Two sections of walls (W25, W27) situated c. 8 m apart were exposed from this early stratum. They were built of two rows of well-dressed chalk and a small-stone fill bonded with mud and were preserved to a height of one course. Wall 27 was constructed in a north–south direction and W25 was oriented east–west. The western side of W27 was abutted by a floor foundation (L137) built of flat pieces of chalk placed on tamped earth. The southern end of the foundation was destroyed by the construction of a building in the later stratum. A floor foundation (L139) also built of flat chalk stones, similarly to Foundation 137, abutted the northern side of Wall 25. On both the foundations, and south of Foundation 137, in an area where the foundation was not preserved, were numerous fragments of pottery vessels from the late Byzantine period, including shallow bowls (Fig. 3:1), deep bowls (Fig. 3:2–4), cooking ware (Fig. 3:5, 6), a lid (Fig. 3:7), a frypan handle (Fig. 3:8) and jars (Fig. 3:9–14).
Sections of northern, central and southern buildings, constructed along a northwest–southeast axis, were exposed from the later stratum (I). Their walls were built of two rows of well-dressed chalk and a small-stone fill bonded with mud and they were preserved to an average height of 0.3 m. Internal partitions forming rooms were exposed in some of the buildings. The central and southern buildings were separated from each other by an alley.
Northern Building. Only a section of a short wall (W24) was exposed, and it appears that most of the building was located outside the excavation boundaries. In the northern part of W24, no dressed stones were discovered, and it is possible that that part was a later addition to the original wall.
Sections of four rooms (1–4; Fig. 4) were discovered. Room 1 was large and had a tamped earth floor (L131) with the doorway in its western wall (W21). Room 2 had a tamped earth floor (L134) identical to that found in Room 1. Rooms 3 and 4 were constructed along a north–south axis and were separated from each other by a partition wall (W10). In Room 3 were remains of a floor built of flat chalk stones (L122; 0.1 × 0.4 × 0.4 m) placed on compacted soil. On the floors of Rooms 1 and 2 were several fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Islamic period, including a cup (Fig. 5:7) and a ceramic plug (Fig. 5:12), as well as a fragment of a steatite vessel (Fig. 5:15) and a bronze funnel used for filling lamps with oil (Fig. 6). Similar funnels were discovered in an excavation at Ramla (Jakoel 2011), at Holot Yavne (Gorzalczany and Barkan 2006) and at Ramat Gan (Volynsky 2009)
, and are dated to the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
Southern Building. Sections of five rooms (5–9) and an inner courtyard were discovered. The inner courtyard was enclosed within three walls (W12, W13, W18), and in it was compacted soil (L120), used to level the habitation level. Two round pits (L136, L138; Fig. 7) in the courtyard were separated by a partition built of three courses of fired mud bricks covered with hard soil. Inside the pits was a large quantity of ash, which seems to suggest that they were used as incineration pits. Rooms 5–7 and especially Rooms 6 and 7, were almost completely destroyed, including their floors, by modern development work. Rooms 8 and 9 were also damaged by the development work and no distinct habitation levels were discovered in them. Ceramic artifacts dating to the Early Islamic period were discovered on the floor of the courtyard and in the soil accumulations in the rooms; these included deep bowls (Fig. 5:4, 5), fragments of a Khirbat el-Mafjar cup (Fig. 5:6), kraters (Fig. 5:8, 9), a jar (Fig. 5:10), a fragment of a flask (Fig. 5:11), a fragment of a mold-made lamp (Fig. 5:13) and a bone implement adorned with incisions that was probably a knife handle (Fig. 5:16).
Alley. A narrow alley (L143) was discovered between the center and southern buildings. A floor of tamped clay mixed with small limestone pebbles (Fig. 8) was revealed in the alley. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Islamic period were exposed on the floor level, including a shallow bowl (Fig. 5:1), deep bowls (Fig. 5:2, 3) and a body sherd of a Khirbat el-Mafjar vessel from the ‘Abbasid period (Fig. 5:14).
The glass finds, recovered from various rooms of a rural settlement, comprised some 160 small fragments, of which 40 were diagnostic. Most of these vessels are typical of the seventh–eighth centuries CE. Only a single fragment from the site belonged to an earlier period: a solid base (L118; not illustrated) of a beaker of a type that was widespread in the fourth–early fifth centuries CE.
Among the open vessels are bowls/beakers (L101—Fig. 9:1; L102—Fig. 9:2; L108—not illustrated) and bottoms thickened at their perimeter (L101, L102, L129—not illustrated). Some of these bowls/beakers, and possibly other bowls, were adorned with tonged decoration (L108—Fig. 9:3; L101—not illustrated). Complete specimens of bowls/beakers were recorded, for example, at Ashdod (Barag 1967
:37, 72, Fig. 16:14) and Ramla (Gorin-Rosen 2010
:215–220, Pl. 10.1:1). Tong-decorated vessels were widespread in the Near East, particularly during the ninth–tenth centuries CE; however, some of these vessels may probably be dated as early as the first half of the eighth century CE (Gorin-Rosen 2010
:242–245). Vessels adorned with tonged decoration from the Negev were unearthed, for example, at Nizz
ana (Harden 1962
: Pl. XX:22–23, 27–30).
Closed vessels included a bottle with an infolded flattened rim (L121—Fig. 9:4), complete examples of which have been found, for example, at Tel ‘Ira, where they were dated from the eighth–ninth centuries CE (Lehrer-Jacobson 1999
: Fig. 13.1:1–3). A fragment of a thick wavy trail (L127—not illustrated) represents one of the most characteristic decorations of the seventh century CE. Two fragments, comprising an infolded rim and funnel-shaped mouth, were documented: a yellowish-brown piece (L135—Fig. 9:5) that probably belonged to a bottle or jug, its fabric typical of the ‘Umayyad period (e.g., Hadad 2005
: Pl. 8:147), and a smaller green jug fragment with a piece of its handle intact (L119—Fig. 9:6).
Bowl-shaped lamps are represented by a handle (L101—not illustrated) and a fragment of a wick tube (L120—not illustrated), and stemmed lamps—by a hollow conical stem (L119—not illustrated). Lamps of both types have been found in the Negev, for example, in the cemetery church at H
orbat Karkur ‘Illit (Katsnelson 2004
:268–271, Figs. 59, 60).
The site also yielded a small chunk of raw glass, broken into four pieces (L129—Fig. 9:7), discovered together with other glass finds dated from the Early Islamic period. The clear greenish-blue fabric of this chunk is typical of the Umayyad period. The chunk is the only indication of glass production at the site, and is therefore insufficient evidence for establishing the existence of a glass workshop; however it may suggest that a small vessel-making facility functioned at the site or its vicinity. Additionally, a piece of glazed debris (L105—not illustrated) may possibly be associated with pottery production.
The building remains in both strata are evidently part of rural construction that utilized indigenous building materials. The ceramic and glass artifacts date the wall remains of Stratum II to the Late Byzantine period and the building remains of Stratum I to the Early Islamic period. Close scrutiny of the surface level suggests that the site continues in all directions and that its center is located southwest of the excavation area.