In March 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Shoham industrial zone (Permit No. A-7357; map ref. 19668–939/657872–8318) prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Schoenfeld Group–Aviv Danieli was directed by Y. Elisha, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), M. Kahan, R. Mishayev and R. Liran (surveying and drafting), A. Fadida (field photography), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), A. Nagorsky (backhoe probes) and N. Zak (plans).
Previous archaeological excavations and surveys conducted at Khirbat el-Bira revealed remains of agricultural installations from the Iron Age, the Persian and the Byzantine periods (Dar and Safrai 1984; Safrai and Dar 1997; Scheftelowitz and Oren 1999; Oren and Scheftelowitz 2000; Elisha 2018, and see references therein [Fig. 1: A-7935]). Stone quarries and agricultural terraces were uncovered near the current excavation (‘Azab 2013; Fig. 1: A-6493), and the area seems to have served as an agricultural hinterland and an industrial zone for the settlement at el-Bira.
Agricultural installations were uncovered, including cupmarks (F9, F11; Figs. 2–5), a winepress (F46), field walls (W107; F13), a rock-cutting (F7), cisterns (F16, F40, F44), a limekiln (F10), a quarry (F42) and a concentration of pottery sherds (F45).
(F46; Figs. 6, 7). The treading floor of the winepress (L112; depth 0.3–0.6 m) had a rectangular rock-cutting (depth 0.45 m) for the screw press at its center. North of the treading floor was a collecting vat (L115; depth 1.2 × 1.5 m), at the bottom of which was a small sump. In the northwestern corner of the treading floor was a shallow rock-cutting (L117; 1.2 × 1.4 m). Sherds from the Ottoman period (not drawn) were found in the collecting vat, along with a bone comb (Fig. 8) made of two pieces of bone connected by rivets, resembling plastic combs common in the 1960s and 1970s. A similar bone comb was found at Sarafand el-Kharab (Gorzalczany 2004
:44), where it was dated to the Early Islamic period.
Field walls. A field wall (W107; preserved height 0.65 m; Fig. 6) ran to the west of the winepress—probably a retaining wall for an agricultural terrace. In the eastern part of the area (F13) was another field wall (W108; Fig. 9), built of fieldstones (0.4 × 0.5 m, 0.23 m; Fig. 10) and preserved to a height of one course. The wall extends along the wadi, suggesting that it served as a fence separating farming plots.
Rock-cuttings. A hewn frame (F7; depth 0.55 m; Fig. 6) was found to the east of the winepress; this may represent the early stages of a hewn cistern, whose quarrying was not completed. Another rock-cutting (F15; 0.4 × 0.7 m, depth 0.23 m; Fig. 10) was found c. 50 m to the east.
Cisterns.Three cisterns were identified (F16, F40, F44). Cistern 16 had a hewn opening (depth of cistern rim 0.7 m; Fig 10). It was found filled with an accumulation (depth 1.6 m from the cistern rim; Fig. 11), but it was not excavated due to safety concerns. Cistern 40 which was situated on a cliff was also not excavated for safety reasons. Cistern 44 was originally a cist or an arcosolium tomb, and was later repurposed as a cistern (3.5 × 3.5 m, excavated depth c. 2 m; Fig. 12). The cistern had a rectangular opening and was coated with two layers of pink hydraulic plaster.
Limekiln.The kiln (F10; depth 2.2 m; Figs 3, 13) was largely hewn, with a built part on its northern side—probably the location of the opening.
Quarry (F42; Fig. 14). The quarry, comprising two quarried surfaces (1.5 × 4.0 m, 3.4 × 4.7 m), exhibited detachment channels, which attest to the size of the quarried stones (0.5 × 1.0 m).
Concentration of pottery sherds (F45; L111). A layer of sherds dated to the Byzantine period was unearthed. It included bowls (Fig. 15:2, 3), a casserole (Fig. 15:4), a cooking pot (Fig. 15:5), jars (Fig. 15:6–11) and oil lamps (Fig. 15:12, 13); Lamp No. 12 was decorated with a cross. A fragment of a bowl from the Chalcolithic period was also discovered.
‘Azab A. 2013. Khirbat el-Bira. HA-ESI 125.
Dar S. and Z. Safrai 1984. Khirbet el-Bireh. ESI 1:11–13.
Elisha Y. 2008. Khirbat el-Bira. HA-ESI 130.
Gorzalczany A. 2004. A Site from the End of the Byzantine and the Early Islamic Periods at Sarafand el-Kharab, Nes Ziyyona. ‘Atiqot 46: 37–47 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 130*–131*).
Oren R. and Scheftelowitz N. 2000. Khirbet el-Bira. ESI 20:50*–51*.
Safrai Z. and Dar S. 1997. The Estate at Khirbet el-Bireh in the Shephelah of Lod Region. In Z. Safrai, Y. Friedman and J. Schwartz eds. Hikrei Eretz: Studies in the History of the Land of Israel. Ramat Gan. Pp. 57–107 (Hebrew).
Scheftelowitz N. and Oren R. 1999. Khirbet el-Bira. ESI 19:42*–43*.