During May 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted east of Ramat Hovav (Permit No. A-5102; map ref. 192594–728/560529–484), prior to the installation of a gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Natural Gas-Lines Company, Ltd.,was directed by V. Nikolsky-Carmel, with the assistance of Y. Lender (administration), D. Porotzki (surveying), I. Lidski-Reznikov (drawing of finds), N. Katsnelson (glass) and laborers from Rahat.
The site is located c. 13 km southeast of Be‘er Sheva‘ and c. 8 km east of Ramat Hovav. Architectural remains and pottery from the Byzantine period were discovered in probe trenches dug prior to the archaeological excavation.
Three excavation areas (Fig. 1) were opened. A building, a fence and a farming terrace that were dated to the Byzantine period were exposed in Area A (c. 147 sq m); a fragmented wall was uncovered in Area B (16 sq m) and remains of two walls were exposed in Area C (16 sq m).
A rectangular watchman’s hut (4.0 × 4.5 m; Fig. 2) was excavated. The walls (W1–W4; width 0.6 m, preserved height c. 0.73 m) were built of partially dressed qirton stones, set on top of the natural limestone bedrock (Fig. 3). The interior of the structure was filled with collapse, which consisted of roughly dressed qirton stones that had fallen from its walls. Walls extending from both ends of the W1, served as a fence (W5, W7; Fig. 4). The tamped-loess floor of the building (L105) was overlain with potsherds, as was the habitation level outside the watchman’s hut. The pottery finds included mostly bowls (Fig. 5:1–4), cooking pots (Fig. 5:7–13), a Gaza jar (Fig. 5:14), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 5:15–17) and jugs (Fig. 5:19, 20), dating to the Byzantine period. A few fragments of glass vessels that dated to the Byzantine period were also found.
A pair of limestone basins (Fig. 6) was uncovered east of the building; a round depression (diam. 0.2 m) was hewn at the bottom of one (L131; 0.8 × 1.0 m) and the other (L130; 0.53 × 0.56 m) had a broken corner. The basins were probably used in an extracting installation.
A terrace wall (W8) was documented on the surface south of the building.
Two squares (L202, L205; Fig. 7) were excavated and a fragmented wall (W21) was exposed. It was built of fieldstones and probably retained a farming terrace. A few potsherds were found, among them a bowl (Fig. 5:6) and a baggy-shaped jar (Fig. 5:18) that dated to the Byzantine period.
An excavation square (L302, L303; Fig. 8) was opened; remains of two walls (W30, W31) built of roughly hewn limestone were exposed; they probably belonged to a farming terrace. The recovered potsherds included a bowl rim (Fig. 5:5).
The exposed building was used as a watchman’s hut, the likes of which have been excavated and surveyed in the south of the country. It is possible that the walls which adjoined the building delimited a cultivation plot and were used to stop erosion and divert rainwater. The building is dated to the Byzantine period, based on the ceramic finds.