During July–August 2003 a trial excavation was conducted along the scheduled route of the Ashdod–Ashqelon railway track, c. 120 m from the northern fringes of Tel Ashdod (Permit No. A-3966; map ref. NIG 1675/6302; OIG 1175/1302). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Israel Railway Authority, was directed by D. Varga, with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Krokhmelnik (area supervision), A. Hajian (surveying) and T. Sagiv (photography).
The site was discovered when work was being carried out prior to laying the railroad track. Eight excavation squares were opened, revealing building remains from the Iron Age, potsherds from the Persian period, pottery kilns from the Hellenistic period and tombs from the Late Roman period.
The Iron Age and Persian Period. Mud-brick walls (0.4 × 0.4 m, height of bricks 0.1 m; Figs. 1, 2) and mud-brick pavement layers, which probably belonged to a fortification or a building associated with Tel Ashdod (HA-ESI 118), were exposed throughout the excavation area. Most of the ceramic finds dated to the Iron Age, a few potsherds were from the Persian period.
The Hellenistic Period. Three pottery kilns were uncovered and one (L4; diam. 2.4 m, wall thickness 0.15 m, height 0.3 m; Fig. 3) was excavated. Between two pillars in the kiln was a collapse of the mud-brick arch that supported the kiln’s roof. The kiln was built into the mud-brick construction that dated to the Iron Age. South of the kiln was a concentration of debris that included a large amount of dross and many fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period. The ceramic finds included an outstanding group of 15 crude and deformed spindle bottles. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period were discovered inside the kiln and throughout most of the excavation area.
The Late Roman Period. Three tombs dug into a layer that consisted of ancient mud-brick walls were exposed, but not excavated. One (L16; Fig. 1) was a built tomb (5.8 × 8.1 m), oriented north–south, which was composed of a central rectangular chamber (height 2.4 m) and six arched loculi, three on each of the long sides of the room. The entrance in the south of the structure was probably accessed by a staircase. The walls were built of dressed kurkar blocks and coated with white plaster. The ceiling was vaulted and built of debesh that was plastered on both sides. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Late Roman period were recovered from the foundation pit that was specifically dug for the purpose of building the tomb.
West of Tomb 16 was another small rectangular tomb (L17; 1.7 × 2.7 m, height 1.7 m) oriented east–west. Its entrance was on the east, and the walls were built of dressed kurkar blocks and the ceiling was vaulted. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Late Roman period were retrieved from the tomb’s foundation pit. The third tomb was in the southern balk of the square, c. 1.5 m south of Tomb 17.