Area A (at least 500 sq m; Figs. 3, 4) extended across the western slope of the hill, south of a rock-hewn cave yet to be excavated that was apparently used for an oil press in the Hellenistic period and as a hiding refuge during the Jewish uprisings against the Romans. Thirty-four squares (4 × 4 m each) were excavated, and remains from the Hellenistic period and the al-Dawayima village were discovered, as well as several sherds from the Early Bronze Age, Early Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
The Late Persian and Hellenistic Periods. An occupation level, without architectural remains, and fills with pottery fragments dating to the end of the Persian period and the Hellenistic period were discovered, as well as building stones characteristic of the Hellenistic period. These finds are probably related to the cave located north of the excavation area that may have been used as an olive press during the Hellenistic period. Among the ceramic finds collected in the area are numerous Hellenistic-period oil lamps, which significantly corroborate this supposition.
The Late Ottoman and Mandatory Periods. A large dwelling unit belonging to the al-Dawayima village was exposed. The unit comprised at least five rooms (L75, L77, L95, L102, L111) and two courtyards (L50, L66) to the north and west of the rooms; additional rooms were probably built near the courtyards (Fig. 4). The rooms and the courtyards were constructed on different levels. The entrance to Rooms 75 and 95 led to Courtyard 50. The rooms had light gray-white plaster floors, while the courtyard was paved with crushed chalk. The rooms’ ceilings were arched. Several of the rooms’ walls were treated with blue, yellow, red and black plaster (W10004, W10007, W10008). Different phases were identified in several of the rooms, including floors that were raised, installations that were cancelled, and red-brown plaster that was applied to walls and floors. At least three openings of built or rock-cut installations were discovered in Courtyard 50.
Area B (The Early Bronze Age)
Forty-eight and one-half squares were excavated in this area (Figs. 5, 6). Three strata of a rural settlement were exposed. Following a preliminary identification of the pottery, flint items and stone objects, the settlement was dated to the Early Bronze Age I and IV. This settlement was located in a different part of the hill than the settlement of the later periods. A meager amount of sherds dating to the Early Bronze Age II and III was also discovered in the excavation area.
The earliest stratum comprises rock-hewn cupmarks (L237, L240, L247). This stratum was sealed by a hamra deposit that covered most of the site and was intended to fill depressions between the rocks and level the area. Few sherds were discovered in this stratum. The architectural remains of the middle stratum bear two characteristics: the walls were constructed either on the hamra layer or on the bedrock, and some were built as a continuation of the bedrock; the floors were dug into the hamra soil to a depth of about 0.15 m below the base of the walls, so that the floors of the buildings were lower than the surface level outside the buildings. The walls of the latest stratum were built on gray soil fill; some of the walls were constructed on earlier walls.
Pottery fragments belonging to a wide variety of types were discovered in the area. Egyptian vessels and their locally produced imitations, dating to EB IA were discovered throughout the area; in one place (L1323), these vessels were discovered in a layer of fill covering the bedrock. Numerous flint items were also discovered in the entire area, including long sickle blades, many of which were found on the floor levels (L305, L320), indicating that the building was used in a later phase of the Early Bronze Age. Sickle sheen was discerned on some of the sickle blades. The flint items also include pounders, small sickle blades and cores.
Area C extended across the northeastern hillside and overlooked the western slope of the Hebron Highlands. Eighteen squares were opened (Figs. 7, 8). Pottery sherds dating to the Early Bronze Age and the Iron Age, settlement remains from the Persian and Early Roman periods and remains of the al-Dawayima village were uncovered. A modern military outpost built of ashlars in secondary use was found on the surface. A bunker with cinderblock walls and a concrete ceiling was exposed 2.5 m southeast of the outpost; a trench led to the bunker from the south. The outpost and bunker penetrated ancient layers at the site. Several bullet casings of light weapons were also discovered.
The Early Bronze and Iron Ages. In the eastern part of the area, a fill of soil (L492, L507) containing pottery sherds dating to EB I was discovered above the bedrock. It seems that this fill was deposited prior to the construction of a building in the Persian period. Several Iron Age sherds devoid of any stratigraphic context were also discovered in the area.
The Persian Period. Parts of walls (W40026, W40027) and remains of a tamped-earth floor (L511) of a building were exposed. The wall foundations were built of large stones, suggesting that this was an extensive structure. Several ovens were built on Floor 511. The finds in the area include a unique Attic vessel, other fragments of pottery vessels, particularly hole-mouths, beads, glass fragments, spindle whorls and numerous loom weights that were discovered on Floor 511, indicating that a loom was located there.
The Early Roman Period. Part of a large building (10 × 13 m) was unearthed. Two openings fixed in the eastern wall (W40014) led into the building. The southern of the two openings accessed a room in which a round rock-cut installation (L457), probably a mortar, was discovered. A plaster floor (L487) abutted the opening in this room. A pair of rock-hewn, bell-shaped cisterns (L474, L476) was exposed northwest of this room; between them was a pair of rock-cut round granaries (L481, L483). The cisterns and granaries were evidently hewn inside a courtyard. A tamped-earth floor (L486) was exposed east of the cisterns and granaries. On it were discovered charred wooden beams that had probably collapsed from the ceiling. Many artifacts were discovered in this stratum, including fragments of measuring vessels, such as cups and bowls; a rich assemblage of pottery, including Herodian lamps, cooking pots and jars; grinding stones; coins from the first–second centuries CE; and seeds. This structure might have been an ancillary building of the villa discovered in Area D (below).
The Late Ottoman and Mandatory Periods. Remains of buildings and several cisterns belonging to the al-Dawayima village were exposed. In the western part of the area was a residential building (5.8 × 8.8 m) constructed of fieldstones and aligned in a north–south direction; the bedrock served as foundation for the walls in parts of the building. The building, entered from the east, comprised two rooms (L409, L411). A step was built between the two rooms due to the difference in elevation between them; the bedrock was higher in the western part of the area. Three arch bases were exposed in the building, indicating the structure’s ceiling was arched. A white plaster floor was uncovered east of the opening, which was probably part of a courtyard. The courtyard included a cistern (L475) that utilized an ancient rock-cutting. Its opening was built of stones to a height of three courses, and a zir type water jar of the Ottoman period was discovered alongside it. Another complex of rooms, probably belonging to the same residential structure, was exposed in the southern part of the area; it was enclosed on the south by a wide wall (W40004). The finds in this layer included metal scythes, Gaza-ware pottery, shoe soles, bottle fragments, mortar shells that were utilized in secondary use as pounding implements, and Palestinian coins from the early twentieth century.
The area was located at the highest part of the site and 45 squares were excavated (Figs. 9, 10). A large structure that was probably a villa from the Early Roman period was exposed, as well as remains of the al-Dawayima settlement.
The Early Roman Period. In the eastern part of the area a large square building was exposed that was probably a villa aligned in a north–south direction. The southern part of the structure was overlain with the collapse of buildings belonging to al-Dawayima that had been demolished by mechanical equipment, whereas the northern part of the structure was destroyed as a result of the construction in the village.
The building was divided into three wings. A large room, possibly a parlor (L1102, L1103, L1108, L1141) was discovered in the western wing. The central wing comprised a mosaic-paved atrium (L1148) with a rectangular pool at its center (L1157; 23.9 sq m). A bathhouse was exposed in the building’s eastern wing. It seems that of outer walls of the building, only the western wall (W5700; preserved length c. 24.5 m, preserved height 1.40–1.64 m) and parts of the southern wall (W5703; preserved length c. 20 m, preserved height 0.40–0.72 m) were preserved. The two walls were bonded and formed the southwestern corner of the building. Parts of these walls were hewn in bedrock; their inner face was treated with light gray plaster. The building is dated to the Early Roman period on the basis of several pottery fragments and the style of the mosaic.
The Late Ottoman and Mandatory Period. Remains of a building (10 × 15 m) oriented along a general north–south axis were exposed in the western part of the area. The walls that delimited the building on the east, north and south (W5000, W5701, W5702) were exposed. Wall 5000 (length c. 14.8 m, width 0.72 m, preserved height 0.7–1.1 m), which enclosed the structure from the east, was the most massive wall in the building; an alley was apparently located to its east. The foundations of this wall were built directly on the bedrock. The bottom courses of the wall were constructed of large stones, whereas the upper courses were of small and medium stones. The foundations of W5701 and W5702 (length c. 8.5 m, width 0.55–0.70 m) were also built directly on the bedrock. The walls were constructed utilizing brown mortar comprised of earth and small stones. The building’s ceiling was supported by three arches, each resting on two pillars; five of the pillars survived. The pillars were built of large dressed stones, some in secondary use, possibly taken from the Early Roman structure. Two toppled arches that were built of large stones and treated with white plaster were exposed inside the building. The building’s inner walls were constructed of a single row of soft limestone and were preserved up to three courses high; their foundations were built on a floor of brown rubble.
Two squares were excavated southeast of the building remains in order to discover the alley’s pavement and the foundation of W5000. Collapsed stones, both small and medium, were found in most of this area. Several roc-hewn cupmarks (diam. 0.15 m) and a section of a hewn channel with a semi-circular cross-section (exposed length c. 5.2 m, width c. 0.15 m, depth c. 0.2 m) were uncovered. The channel was hewn in a north–south direction, and following a turn it passed beneath W5000; it was not fully exposed. Most of the finds in the building’s remains were fragments of Ottoman-period Gaza ware. Also found were several pieces of china, metal tools dating to the Ottoman and Mandatory periods, rifle bullets and several coins from the time of the British Mandate. Several pottery sherds dating to the Iron Age were found in the rock cuttings, perhaps indicating that a site of this period was destroyed when the village of al-Dawayima was established on the same spot.
Four other squares were excavated c. 25 m northwest of the building. Only meager architectural remains of the al-Dawayima village and a cave that contained the remains of a modern olive press were discovered. Coarse tesserae, perhaps part of a destroyed mosaic floor, were found above the cave.
Area E (The Late Ottoman and Mandatory Period)
Twelve squares extending across the southeastern part of the site were excavated (Figs. 11, 12). Part of a building with a room constructed on two levels was exposed in the center of the area. On the lower level of the room (L627) was a charred area filled with ash, indicating that a furnace was situated here. The higher level (L625) had a plaster floor that was damaged as a result of the demolition of the building. A wall (W40207) separated the building from a street (L641) paved with tamped mortar; it ran at a level c. 0.5 m lower than that of the building. In the street were many collapsed building stones. Another building (L631) was exposed east of the street; its floor, made of tamped hamra, was situated at a higher level than the street.
A cave opening (L604) was exposed in the western part of the area. Inside its opening were fragments of Gaza-ware vessels, indicating that the cave was used by residents of the village. A wall (W40201) and an adjacent leveled floor (L611) were discovered above the cave’s roof. The finds in the area include a wide variety of Gaza-ware vessels, numerous metal tools, among them scythes, an axe, a hammer and hand tools reflecting the agricultural nature of the settlement, as well as many shoe soles, marbles, glass vials, copper jewelry and coins, among them several Palestinian mils from the 1930s, some of which were discovered within the makeup of the building’s floors.
The excavation revealed remains of settlements that existed intermittently on the hill from the fourth millennium BCE until the time of the British Mandate. Settlement remains that date to the Early Bronze Age were uncovered on the northern part of the hill. Settlement remains dating from the end of the Persian period–beginning of the Hellenistic period until the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135 CE) were found in most of the excavation areas. It seems that these settlements did not stretch across the entire hill; rather they extended over different portions of the hill in different periods. These settlements were situated on the hill for long periods of time due to the hill’s strategic location on the southern bank of Nahal Lakhish and at an ancient crossroads.