Seven areas (A–G; Fig. 2) were opened. Ancient remains were found in six of them; no finds were discovered in Area C. In Area A, on the southern slope of the ruin, seventeen squares divided into eight sections, from the northwest to the southeast (total length 110 m) were excavated. Three main strata were identified, dating from the late Byzantine period – beginning of the Early Islamic period (Stratum III), the Abbasid period (Stratum II) and the Mamluk period (Stratum I). The remains include floors, ovens of various sizes, several walls, a water cistern and numerous refuse pits that damaged the architectural remains. Area B (31.5 excavation squares) yielded the remains of a large building, possibly a monastery; a Byzantine-period winepress (Stratum III) was incorporated into its western wing. Pits from the Abbasid and Mamluk periods were also exposed (Stata II–I). Area D (3.5 excavation squares) yielded a built cistern that was in use from the late Byzantine period (Stratum III) until the Mamluk period (Stratum I), and possibly during the Ottoman period as well. In Area E (6 excavation squares), a building consisting of a pool that is ascribed to Stratum III was exposed. Area F (27 excavation squares) yielded a large industrial winepress and the remains of a building from the late Byzantine period (Stratum III). Area G (10.5 excavation squares), yielded a cistern and architectural remains which were severely damaged during modern earthworks, as well as pottery vessels that range in date from the Early Roman period (several ETS sherds) to the Mamluk period.
Late Byzantine – beginning of the Early Islamic period (Stratum III). The pottery and glassware found in the several buildings and installations come from in unclean loci, but point to several phases, although these cannot be clearly separated. Only meager architectural finds were revealed in Area A: wall stumps and floors, a cistern and fills below floor beddings, where large amounts of pottery sherds were found. These remains sustained damage due to activity conducted in later periods.
In Area B, a large structure (Building 1; c. 395 sq m; Figs. 2, 3) with an industrial winepress (Winepress 2) in its western wing was exposed; the structure may have been a monastery. Part of another structure (Building 2) was exposed 10 m south of Building 1. Both were poorly preserved. The buildings were constructed of mud bricks made of loess (most of which did not survive) set atop chalk and kurkar foundations. Fragments of a magnificent marble chancel screen (Fig. 4), of the type known from churches in the south of Israel, were discovered. These seem to indicate the existence of a nearby church or chapel. Very little of a work surface in the winepress survived; north of it were two round plastered collecting vats (Fig. 5), built of stones bonded with cement, with a settling vat situated between them. Building 1 and Winepress 2 were abandoned in the Late Byzantine period or at the time of the Arab conquest.
An industrial installation exposed in Area E (Fig. 6) may have been related to the manufacture of pottery in the kilns in nearby Nah
al Bohu ( Israel 1995:106). A wall build of poured mud was unearthed in the installation, and slightly west of it were a shallow pool and a row of Gaza jars placed upside down. A similar phenomenon of upside down jars was exposed at Khirbat Khaur el-Bak, north of Ashqelon (Talis 2011).
In Area F, a large industrial winepress (Winepress 1; 20.0 × 27.5 m; Fig. 7) was exposed. It consisted of three series of collecting vats that operated alternately. Three phases were identified in the winepress. During the first phase, dated in general to the Byzantine period, the winepress included a working surface with a recess for a screw; a channel extended beneath the treading floor pavement to a settling vat. The must flowed from the settling vat to a pair of round collecting vats that were paved with stone slabs, as in Winepress 2. A cross made of shells was affixed to the wall of the eastern collecting vat (Fig. 8). Plastered surfaces and possibly the remains of a compartment used for storage or fermentation are also attributed to this phase. In the second phase, also dated to the Byzantine period, all the working surfaces were canceled, and were apparently replaced with two winepress complexes aligned along an east–west axis (Fig. 9). Southwest of the winepress were scant remains of walls belonging to a structure (Building 3) that was evidently related to the winepress in its third phase. All that remained of most of the walls were their stone foundations; mudbricks were discerned in only two of the walls. One of the walls was reinforced with stones, including a column base in secondary use. In addition, meager remains of floors or habitation levels in Building 3 were revealed.
The construction of the cisterns in Areas A, D and G, as well as in Area G2, north of Area G is attributed to this period (Fig. 2), and in Area D they seem to have continued to be in use until the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Abbasid Period (Stratum II). The remains of buildings were exposed in Area A, including walls, some of which were constructed of mud bricks, floors, habitation levels, ovens and refuse pits. In Area B, changes were made to the Byzantine-period building the winepress was no longer in use, the building’s area was reduced, walls were built of poured loess mud and ovens were added near one of the walls of the building.
Mamluk Period (Stratum I). Finds from this period were discovered in almost all of the excavation areas. Area A yielded wall stumps, floors, installation, habitation levels and refuse pits that canceled the Abbasid-period buildings. Refuse pits were discovered in Area B. Pottery from this period was found in the settling pit of a cistern in Area D, in one of the collecting vats in Area F and in Area G.
The Finds unearthed in the excavation comprise mainly pottery sherds and glassware, several coins and metal items, marble items and stone objects. Those from the Byzantine period were mainly Gaza jars and kraters adorned with a combed decoration and a bread-seal handle. The finds ascribed to the Abbasid period were mainly jars and glazed bowls, whereas those of the Mamluk period were primarily jugs decorated with geometric patterns. In addition, several pottery sherds from the Roman period were found, possible evidence of some sort of activity that occurred at the site during this period. Several fragments of black Gaza Ware dating from the Ottoman period or the time of the British Mandate were found on the surface in all the excavation areas. These may be indicative of seasonal activity, perhaps of the Bedouin.
The poor preservation of the remains, the scattered distribution of the excavation areas across the entire ruin and the limited scope of some of the excavation areas hinder any unequivocal determination regarding the beginning of the settlement at the site and its precise nature throughout the periods. The site was probably first inhabited in the Early Roman period; however, no architectural remains from this time were revealed. The main remains that were exposed are from the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period. The finds reflect an economy that was predominantly agrarian, probably of a monastery that specialized in wine production in the area east of Nahal Bohu. The principal industry west of the stream (Givʽot Etun) was the production of pottery vessels, mainly of Gaza jars. These jars were used to transport wine that was distributed in Israel and exported abroad. In the Abbasid period, buildings were erected over some of the Byzantine structures, mainly near the top of the hill, and the winepresses were no longer used; the site was probably a small village at the time. In the Mamluk period, the settlement was further reduced to the hilltop, and many of the stones from building erected in previous periods were put to secondary use. Several pottery sherds date from the Ottoman period and the time of the British Mandate, perhaps when the site became an agricultural field or pastureland. After the establishment of Israel, the site was used as farmland.