Seven areas (A–G; Fig. 1) were excavated. Area C was located on a low kurkar hilltop and its southern slope; the rest of the areas were opened on the eastern and northern slopes of the hill. Buildings, industrial installations, refuse pits, irrigation systems and tombs that were in use from the Persian period until the mid-twentieth century CE (Strata VIII–I) were uncovered.
Persian and Hellenistic Periods (Stratum VIII). The foundations of two walls were discovered in Area D. They were probably the remains of a building (larger than 5.5 × 9.0 m) with massive walls. Judging by the artifacts in the vicinity, it was used in the Persian and Hellenistic periods (fifth–third centuries BCE). A pottery kiln dating from the Hellenistic period (Fig. 2) was revealed on the hillside south of the building (Area C).
Roman Period (Stratum VII). A building with four or five rooms was unearthed in Area E; it was paved with small stones bonded with mortar. In two of its rooms, whole jars were found placed in pits dug into the natural soil. A large, complex winepress from the Roman period was discovered south of the building (Fig. 3). Must flowed from the square treading floor through a gutter to an intermediate shallow and rectangular vat to its west. From the intermediate vat, the must was conveyed south, into a deep circular collecting vat located to the west of the treading floor. The treading floor, its inner face and the walls of the vats were all coated with gray mortar, which contained ribbed potsherds, and an upper application of white hydraulic plaster. Five to six layers of plaster were applied to the surface and walls of the treading floor, indicating that the installation underwent numerous repairs.
Three pottery kilns were built over the building from the Persian–Hellenistic periods. The firing box in two of the kilns had a central pillar from which arches extended to the outer wall. The floor of the firing chamber, where the pottery was set, rested on the arches. The third kiln, in the east, was earlier than the two aforementioned installations. The floor of its firing chamber rested on four–five arches, which were constructed widthwise across the kiln and supported by engaged pillars that were attached to the kiln’s walls. The western arch survived in its entirety (Fig. 4) in an usually well-preserved state that is rarely found in sites of this period in Israel. South and west of the kilns were six refuse pits of the kilns. Three of these pits were connected to the excavated kilns. Based on the pottery sherds discovered in the kilns and the refuse pits, the kilns were used in the second–third centuries CE.
A large refuse pit (diam. 15–20 m) was discovered in Area B, just east of the eastern slope of the hill. It contained numerous artifacts, including many pottery vessels, some of which were intact, lamps, glass vessels, metal artifacts and numerous coins from the third–fourth centuries CE. Beneath the refuse pit, were more than 35 bag-shaped jars from the second–third centuries CE placed upside down in the natural hamra soil after the upper part of some of the jars was removed (Fig. 5). It is unclear why they were placed this way or for what purpose. Two other concentrations of jars also arranged in this manner were found on the southern fringes of Area C and in Area A.
A magnificent underground tomb built of ashlar stones and containing two burial benches (Fig. 6) was discovered on the southern slope (Area C). Another tomb built of fieldstones and plastered was uncovered in Area A; it contained six burial benches. Two hard limestone sarcophagi with gable-shaped lids were discovered east of the tomb. Seven undated pits or cist graves were exposed in the southern areas of the excavation (Areas E and G).
Byzantine Period (Stratum VI). Three structures, two pottery kilns and an olive-press stone weight were found. At the southern foot of the hill, one building, consisting of three rooms, was constructed; its remains comprise only small patches of crushed-chalk floors and sections of its foundations. The other two buildings that were discovered in Area E had one room, and only small sections of their tamped-earth and chalk floors were preserved.
A complex of two pottery kilns was exposed at the foot of the hill in the northeast Fig. 7). The southern kiln was preserved to the height of the floor of the firing chamber, which rested on arches supported by a central pillar and the installation’s walls. The kiln’s stokehole was built of large ashlars taken from the Roman-period underground tomb (above). The northern kiln was the smaller of the two; it was more oblate in shape, and its walls were preserved only up to the bottom course of the firing chamber’s dome. A praefurnium that fed the two installation’s fireboxes was dug between the two.
Umayyad Period (Stratum V). A pottery kiln almost completely preserved (Fig. 8)—including a large part of the firing chamber—was discovered in the northwestern corner of Area D. A corridor with steps descending south led into the praefurnium.
Abbasid Period (Stratum IV) was the period of peak construction at the site. A large three-phase structure covered an area of 1.0–1.5 dunams on the southern slope of the hill. The wall foundations, preserved to a height of one or two courses, were built of fieldstones and large river pebbles, and the floors were mostly made of tamped earth and chalk and a few fieldstones (Fig. 9). Based on the size of the rooms of the building, it seems that the structure was used for storage and industrial work rather than residential purposes. At the top of the hill was a poorly preserved structure, which had a cesspit in its northeastern corner. Cesspits were also excavated in Areas D and E (Fig. 10); the buildings or installations that were probably connected to them did not survive. Numerous intact pottery vessels were discovered in the cesspits, including decorated bowls from Egypt. Irrigation channels extending dozens of meters were exposed in Areas A and B. Some of these channels served as bedding for irrigation channels constructed during the Ottoman period and used until the mid-twentieth century CE.
An installation was built on the western part of the Roman-period winepress. It consisted of eight or nine densely packed rows of small and medium fieldstones with soil fill packed between them, and a wide wall to the east that enclosed the installation (Fig. 11). The purpose of the installation is unclear.
In Area B, sixteen pit graves were dug into the large Roman-period refuse pit. Judging by the nearby finds, it can be assumed that the deceased were buried during the Abbasid period.
Mamluk Period (Stratum III). Remains dating from the Mamluk period were found only in Area F, at the top of a small hill: an eastern wall, sections of the northern and southern walls and a floor made of mortar and small stones. These belonged to a building severely damaged in the modern era (Fig. 12). Based on these remains, it was possible to reconstruct a rectangular building with an opening in the eastern wall. According to the pottery found above and below the floor, it seems that the building was constructed and used in the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE. A deep, round cesspit lined with medium and large fieldstones without mortar was dug into the hamra south of the building. A burnt level surrounded refuse pits and a tabun near the building. Other walls were revealed east of the structure, beyond the limits of the excavation, indicating the presence of one or more additional structures.
Ottoman Period (Stratum II). Three buildings and numerous irrigation channels were constructed in the second half of the nineteenth century CE (Fig. 13). A large building with nine rooms, of which only the foundations were preserved, was built on the hilltop in the center of Area C. According to residents of the area, this structure was used until the 1970s (Stratum I). A two-story building (Fig. 14), preserved almost in its entirety, stood on the northwestern fringes of the excavation (Area D); many of the colorful decorations on its walls have survived. A pool with stepped walls was constructed to the south of the building; a network of channels conveyed water to the pool from the hilltop, its slopes and from the east. In Area F, the foundations of a building with at least two phases (Fig. 15) was discerned at the top of a small rise in the surface. The building was probably utilized by the landowners, whose irrigation channels watered the orchard and their agricultural plots, which can be identified to the east at the foot of the hill, outside the excavation area. This structure was also in use until the 1970s.
The excavation finds indicate that a small settlement was established in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. During the Roman period, the settlement grew and became a center for producing wine and pottery—mainly for store jars and cooking utensils. During the Byzantine period, the site continued to serve as a center of pottery manufacturing, as evidenced by the large kiln. A settlement was situated on the hill and its slopes in the Early Islamic period, and judging by the pottery vessels, it was inhabited by an affluent population. The inhabitants of this settlement—part of the agricultural hinterland of Ramla—were engaged in agriculture, using water channels for irrigation. After the first half of the tenth century CE, the site was abandoned until the Mamluk period, at which time a single building was erected in the eastern part of the site. In the Ottoman period, probably during the second half of the nineteenth century, three buildings were constructed. These were located within the agricultural plots, and were usually used as dwellings for the peasants who worked the land, and during certain seasons even for the landowners.
The six kilns unearthed in the excavation are of great importance, for although they operated for approximately one thousand years, they were preserved exceptionally well.
Additionally, the pottery retrieved from the refuse pits contributes to our understanding of ancient technology of pottery manufacturing.