Area A (Fig. 2). In this area, on the west part of the northern slopes of the tell of Kh. el-‘Alya, seven excavation squares were opened in two adjacent sections (northern and southern), exposing a road (L150; Figs. 3, 4) that extended across the slope. It was flanked by two walls (W103, W107), each built of a row of large boulders placed on the white chalk bedrock. Numerous stone collapses, consisting mainly of medium-sized stones, were found on the road and beside it; these are possibly the remains of some construction that was either dismantled or destroyed. In the south of the area, beneath one of the stone collapses along the outer face of W107, a coin from the reign of Valens (364–375 CE; IAA 152760) and all the fragments of a shattered bowl from the Late Roman period (see Fig. 7:15) were retrieved from the chalk bedrock surface.
In the north part of the excavation area, beside the inner face of W103, a mass of small stones (L106; Figs. 5, 6), which fills a depression (depth c. 1.5 m) in the chalk bedrock was discovered. Upon removing part of the fill, it became apparent that it predated the road, but its nature was unclear.
Surface finds retrieved during the course of the excavation included an Iron Age II krater (Fig. 7:1) and jug (Fig. 7:2); a cooking pot (Fig. 7:3), a jar (Fig. 7:4) and jugs (Fig. 7:5, 6) from the late Hellenistic period; cooking pots (Fig. 7:7, 8) from the Early Roman period or possibly the late Hellenistic period; a fragment of a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 7:9) and a jug (table amphora? Fig. 7:10) from the Roman period; Late Roman–early Byzantine bowls (Fig. 7:11–15); a lid (Fig. 7:16) and a jar (Fig. 7:17) from the Late Roman period; and jars (Fig. 8:1, 2), jugs (Fig. 8:3, 4) and a decorated pottery sherd (Fig. 8:5) from the Byzantine period.
Area B lies on the western fringes of Kh. Fattir. Three field walls (W202, W206, W209; Figs. 9, 10), a collecting vat (L217; Fig. 11) and a road (L207) were documented. Wall 202 delimited a cultivation plot; it was roughly built in dry construction of a single row of stones preserved one course high; no diagnostic finds were discovered in a probe (L201) opened beside the wall. Wall 206 (c. 150 m long) belongs to an agricultural terrace; it extended northward across the slope and terminated where the slope veers to the northeast. Wall 209 (c. 200 m long) is a plot-delimiting wall which continued eastward, up the slope, and abutted W206. Probes (L208, L215) opened on either side of the meeting point between the two walls showed that they were founded on bedrock and dry-built of two rows of large fieldstones and a core of tightly packed small stones. Only a few worn potsherds, which contributed nothing toward dating the walls or their use, were retrieved.
Collecting vat 217 (Figs. 12, 13) was rock cut. It was wide and had a smoothed, leveled floor (L220) with a hewn depression for collecting liquids (L222), into which another depression (L221), probably a sump, was cut. A shallow, stepped channel was hewn in the center of the vat’s outer rim. Large and medium-sized stones (L219) unearthed to the south and southeast of the vat were probably the foundation of a built treading floor, which did not survive. No diagnostic finds were recovered from the collecting vat or its surroundings.
Road 207 (c. 500 m long; Figs. 14, 15), mentioned in Dagan’s survey (Dagan 2010
: Site 75), was well preserved. It led from the Kh. Fatt
ir khan (Fig. 16; Dagan 2010
: Site 83) westward to Nah
al Yimla and ascended to the Beit Jimal monastery (Fig. 17). Two probes (L212, L213) opened along the road revealed its composition: a shallow layer of soil overlying the natural bedrock. The road walls (W210, W211) were founded on bedrock and dry-built of two rows of large fieldstones with a core of tightly packed small stones (Fig. 18, 19).
Area C (Fig. 20) lies on the western fringes of Kh. Umm es-Samad, on a gradual slope dropping toward Nahal Yimla. Preliminary inspections of the area indicated that it contained a rock-hewn winepress (L300) that had been damaged over the years. It comprised a square treading floor (L301) and an oval collecting vat (L302), whose southeast wall broke and become detached. A shallow cupmark (L303) with a short, shallow channel leading to the rim of the vat was found above the vat at its northwest end.
The excavation unearthed agricultural installations and sections of roads, indicating that the area contained rural farming settlements at Kh. Fatt
ir, Kh. el-‘Alya and Kh. Umm es-Samad. The walls unearthed in Area A closely resemble those uncovered by Shalev and Dallasheh, who attributed them to agricultural activity from the most recent, but undated, stratigraphic phase (Stratum I) in their excavation (Shalev and Dallasheh 2017
). The similarity between the walls in both excavations suggests a close association between them, as our excavation area is probably the northward continuation of the same site. The mixed finds make it impossible to date the installations and roads with any certainty, but they were probably used in the Late Roman and/or Byzantine periods at the latest. An OSL study of samples extracted from Stone Mass 106 in Area A, and from the field walls and the road in Area B will help determine their date.