Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. Below the Early Bronze Age surface in some of the excavation squares (B1, C2, D2, E1, F1), was a level of accumulated pottery and several flint items, dating to the protohistoric periods. The finds washed down the hill and were re-deposited. This layer was characterized by loose dark-brown soil. The accumulation (L4a, L19a; thickness 0.2–0.6 m; Fig. 2: Sections 2–2, 3–3) reached down to bedrock, or to the natural layer of rendzina with clusters of fieldstones.
Early Bronze Age. Four fieldstone walls (W1–W3, W12) were identified very close to the surface. Only one course was preserved, and surface activity caused severe damage. Numerous pottery sherds were discovered near the walls, mainly from the Early Bronze Age, but also from the Byzantine period, as well as modern remains of agricultural activity. An accumulation of loose, light-gray soil was identified below the level of the walls. It contained Early Bronze Age pottery mixed with Byzantine pottery. The pottery decreased farther down, until another stratum with finds from another period was reached, or the natural rendzina soil, or bedrock. Bedrock was exposed at varying depth (0.2–1.5 m below the current ground level) or not at all. In many spots close to the bedrock, a layer of small fieldstones was revealed, which represented natural accumulation and was not related to ancient activities at the site. The quantity of finds from the Early Bronze Age gradually diminished as the excavation went deeper, so that most of the human presence that dates to this period was at the level of the damaged walls. Changes in the nature of the fill at that level, just below the surface, were evident. Devoid of any pottery, it was identified as fill of pits (see for example L7; Fig. 2: Section 3–3).
Iron Age. Beneath the Early Bronze Age and the protohistoric levels, in the ancient accumulated strata, were remains of underground activities which were ascribed to the Iron Age. Two circular granaries were dug in the eastern part of the excavation area, and lined with stone walls. One of the granaries (L5; diam. c. 2.5 m, depth c. 1.9 m, wall width c. 0.6 m; Fig. 3) was constructed of large fieldstones, not dressed. Eight–nine irregular courses survived. The floor of the granary was the bedrock, which was slightly hewn to make it level (Fig. 4). The wall of the granary is built of one–three rows of stones. In the north and east it was founded directly on the bedrock, and in the south and west it cut into the natural soil. The granary was filled with loose soil, large collapsed stones and ancient remains, particularly Iron Age pottery, as well as flint and a piece of shell. About 0.7 m to the southwest, a second granary (L16; diam. c. 3.5 m, depth c. 1.4 m; Fig. 5) was exposed. Its wall was built of a single row of medium-size fieldstones, not dressed, and set on top of each other. Seventeen courses survived. The floor of the granary is made of fieldstones similar to those of the wall, which were arranged to form a level surface. The wall of the granary was not perpendicular to the floor, but tilted slightly outward. The granary was filled with loose soil and collapsed stones that were larger than those used to construct its wall. Iron Age pottery and flint were found in it.
Three concentrations of funerary offerings and human bones were discovered slightly west of the granaries. The first was discovered in a pit grave (L8; length 1.7 m) with rounded edges, which was hewn in the bedrock. The pit was dug next to the Early Bronze Age Wall 12, dismantling its southern part and cutting through the Neolithic levels. The head of the deceased was in the southwest, and the feet were in the northeast. Semicircular rock-cuttings were made in the bedrock at either end of the grave. In the center of the pit, erosion washed away most of the skeleton, and destroyed all evidence regarding the structure of the tomb. A large jar with a juglet inside it was found near the head of the deceased, and next to it a bronze bowl and a flint blade (Fig. 6). The second offering (L20) was uncovered 4 m to the south, beneath collapsed stones, and it included a jar, similar to the previous one, with a juglet and a bronze bowl inside it (Fig. 7); no grave was identified. The third offering (L17) was exposed 2 m to the southeast, next to the outer wall of Granary 16 and as part of the items that were washed down the hillside. It included a jar, similar to the previous ones, and next to it the base of a juglet (Fig. 14:3), a pinched lamp (Fig. 14:9) and a goblet (Fig. 13:17).
Pottery. The earliest pottery is from the Pottery Neolithic period, and belongs to the Lodian culture (Jericho IX). It includes bowls (Fig. 8:1–4), a basin with a handle (Fig. 8:5), jars (Fig. 8:6, 7), knobbed lug handles (Fig. 8:8–10) and a typical decoration of the Lodian culture (Fig. 8:11). These finds are characterized by a red slip and a red zigzag decoration, and their raw material has no parallel (Gopher and Blockman 2004).
Pottery from the Pottery Neolithic period, typical of the Wadi Rabah culture, was also identified, and include bowls (Fig. 9:1–15), jars (Fig. 9:16), loop handles (Fig. 9:17–20) and a spindle-whorl (Fig. 9:21), which may not be from this period. The finds are typologically and technologically similar to finds from sites that were identified with the Wadi Rabah culture (Kaplan 1958, 1969; Gopher and Orrele 1991).
The pottery of the Chalcolithic Ghassulian culture includes bowls (Fig. 10:2–8), a basin (Fig. 10:9), holemouth jars (Fig. 10:10–12), jars (Fig. 10:13, 14), flat bases (Fig. 10:15, 16) and a lug handle with two grooves (Fig. 10:17). Such vessels are known from contemporary sites in the Negev (Lovell 2001; Commenge-Pellerin 2006).
The pottery from the Early Bronze Age included bowls (Fig 11:1–5), holemouth jars (Fig. 11:6, 7), jars (Fig. 11:8–12) and thickened flat bases (Fig. 11:13, 14), similar to the vessels that were discovered at the Amazya site, on an adjacent hill beyond Nahal Lachish (Varga and Israel 2014 and pers. comm.).
Only one Late Bronze Age artifact was found—an elliptical seal-bead decorated on both sides (Fig. 12; dated by B. Brandl). The phenomenon of special items such as seal beads, which remained in usefor a long period of time, is known from similar Iron-Age finds, such as the 150 years old scarabs that were discovered in an Iron Age stratum at Khirbat Qeiyafa (Garfinkel, Ganor and Hasel 2012:121).
The Iron Age pottery dates to Iron Age IIA, and includes bowls (Fig. 13:1–9), deep bowls and basins (Fig. 13:10–14), chalices (Fig. 13:15–17), juglets (Fig. 14:1–3), jugs (Fig. 14:4), cooking jugs (Fig. 14:5, 6), a pot (Fig. 14:7), bases of unidentified vessels (Fig. 14:8), a lamp (Fig. 14:9) and jars (Fig. 15:1–5). In their typology and the clay which was used to manufacture them, the jars are similar to those found at Khirbat Qeiyafa, where they were dated to the beginning of the tenth century BCE (Garfinkel, Ganor and Hasel 2012:114). All the vessel types are known from Iron Age IIA assemblages, such as Strata IV and V at nearby Tel Lachish (Zimhoni 2004).
The pottery finds from the Byzantine period were sparse and included mainly body fragments (not drawn).
Metal Items. Two bronze bowls were part of the funerary offerings in the Iron Age IIA pit graves. Each was found together with a ceramic jar and jug (above). The bowls are made of bronze alloy, using the hammering technique. Their diameter is similar, but they differ in their height, their outline and the thickness of their wall (Fig. 16:1, 2). Their weight is also different (251.60 and 422.47 g respectively), reflecting the different wall thickness: more bronze was used to produce the shallow bowl than the hemispheric one. These bowls, which are not inscribed or otherwise decorated, are a rare find. A bronze bowl in an Iron Age funerary context was discovered in a tomb at Tel Dover (Rapuano 2001); decorated bronze bowl was discovered in a, Iron Age tomb at Kefar Veradim (Alexandre 2006). Both of these vessels were found in northern Israel, a considerable distance from Rasm el-‘Arus.
Flint. Flint tools were discovered in all strata, and include Canaanean blades (Fig. 17:1–4), a burin on a Canaanean blade (Fig. 17:5), sickle blades (Fig. 17:6, 7), scrapers (Fig. 17:8), fan scrapers (Fig 17:9, 10), an ad hoc tool (Fig. 17:11) and pounders (Fig. 18:2). In addition, nine cores and about eighty pieces of flint debitage were found.
Stone Objects. Pounding and grinding tools made of limestone (Fig. 18:1) and kurkar (not drawn), and a limestone bowl (Fig. 18:3) were discovered.
The excavation on the slope provides little information about the settlement remains because these were damaged in the course of earlier work in the area. The settlement may continue farther up the slope in an area that was not damaged. Nonetheless, the underground constructions—granaries and graves—were preserved. The settlements which were destroyed or which are located on the hilltop, are reflected in the finds from a variety of periods which were washed down the slope and discovered in the excavation, such as pottery, flint tools, stone items, a seal bead and animal bones. These date to the Pottery Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, the Early and Late Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Byzantine period. Identifying the repertoires from these six periods greatly enhances our knowledge of the history of the hill. The identification of the Lodian, Wadi Rabah and Ghassulian cultures are of special importance, because sites where remains of all three cultures coincide are rare, and if protohistoric habitation levels will be discovered at Rasm el-‘Arus, they will constitute a significant contribution in solving chronological problems and understanding the relationships between these three cultures.
The granaries from the Iron Age IIA represent the agricultural world of the inhabitants on the hill at the time—the seasonal harvesting, and the storage of grain for local consumption or trade. Farther excavations may identify the dwellings of the farmers, and will clarity the chronological relationship between the granaries and the graves, which were too close to each other to have functioned at one and the same time. The three assemblages of funerary offerings represent modest and egalitarian burial customs. The combination of a jar, a juglet and a bowl, and at the same time the inclusion of the rare bronze bowls, indicate that the paucity of the offerings is not a sign of poverty, but rather a deliberate choice. The finds from the Iron Age IIA are an important addition to our scant knowledge regarding the villages and farmhouses scattered in the south of the Judean Shephelah at this period.