Area A (Fig. 3)
The excavation in Area A focused on the western part of a cave and its two openings. The cave was apparently part of an Umayyad farmstead whose eastern part, together with the farmhouse itself, was uncovered in previous excavations (ESI 20:84*). The cave was hewn in qirton bedrock and its ceiling was the overlying layer of nari. The cave had two openings: a main entrance in the south, which was hewn in the form of a corridor (1.0×4.2 m), aligned southwest-northeast (Fig. 4), and a round secondary opening (diam. 1.5 m; Fig. 5) in the north, which was accessed by way of a sloping entry from the south.
A concentration of stones and soil fill was identified in the cave before the excavationandtwo squares were opened in its center. Work was suspended in one of them at a depth of 0.4 m due to the paucity of finds; Square C2 was excavated to a depth of 0.8 m, and only its northern corner was excavated down to bedrock.
Stone fill (thickness 0.3 m) for leveling the floor was discovered on the bottom of the cave and above it was well-packed mud plaster that reflected the first use-phase of the cave. Overlying the plaster floor was a layer of stone collapse (average thickness 1 m) devoid of finds, which probably indicated collapses inside the cave that forced its abandonment for a time. On top of the stone collapse was a layer of ash, overlain with brown and black soil mixed with a large amount of organic material, mostly animal droppings (Fig. 3: Section 1-1). This layer reflected the second use-phase of the cave.
Fill composed of limestone and black soil, devoid of ceramic finds, was exposed in the cave’s entrance corridor. On the threshold of the entrance corridor, next to the western side of the bedrock, was a small rock-hewn depression (see Fig. 4), possibly a socket for a hinge of the cave’s doorway. The corridor was parallel to the walls of the Umayyad farmhouse that had been discovered east of the cave, and therefore, it is reasonable to assume that its quarrying was connected to the farmhouse, and the cave was part of the built complex.
Very few finds were recovered from all the examined areas and layers. The paucity of finds on the one hand, and the large amount of organic material on the other, indicate that the cave was an animal pen or barn in both of its use-phases.
Remains of an ancient road, delimited by curb stones and oriented south–north (width c. 3 m; Fig. 6), were identified on the surface outside the cave. In addition, several stone concentrations were discovered and a few potsherds were gathered (see below).
Area B (Fig. 7)
Area B was located c. 100 m north of Area A. Ancient remains (Sites 94, 94A) were identified in it prior to the excavation. A limekiln was exposed at Site 94 and stone fences, a stone clearance heap and a farming terrace were examined at Site 94A. In light of the finds, it is difficult to date these structures.
Site 94. A limekiln (upper diam. 5 m, lower diam. 3.5 m, depth 4.5 m; Fig. 8), hewn in the qirton bedrock, was exposed. A burnt layer was found at the base of the installation and atop it were the remains of lime. A channel was exposed in its northeastern part, through which the kiln was probably stoked with fuel and limestone, in addition to being filled from the top of the pit. In the northwestern part of the pit was a natural bedrock cavity filled with brown soil, without finds. A hard limestone lining that covered the bedrock from the base of the kiln to a height of 2 m was preserved along the installation’s eastern side. The purpose of the lining was probably to protect the qirton so that it would not crumble. Limeremains were found on top of the stone lining (Fig. 9).
An opening (diam. 0.5 m) for a chimney, built like a pipe (lower diam. c. 0.4 m, upper diam. c. 0.5 m, length c. 1 m), was exposed on the western side of the kiln, 1.2 m above its base. The northern side of the chimney pipe was hewn in the bedrock while its southern side was built and lined with stone clearance. Presumably, location of the chimney at the point where the bedrock meets the ground was selected for convenience sake. A layer of ash, which probably accumulated around a lid that was placed there to regulate the fire and heat, was discovered at the top of the chimney. A probe trench, aligned north–south (0.6×2.0 m; see Fig. 8), was excavated just south of the kiln. It consisted of limestone and gray material, placed on the bedrock, probably the debris that had been cleaned from the kiln.
It seems that the limekiln was operated in the following manner: the installation was filled with fuel; limestone was placed on top of it to a point above the chimney’s opening, so as to create an upward draft of air; the fuel was lit, probably through the channel; the lime was removed upon completion of burning and the debris was discarded around the edges of the kiln.
Site 94A. Several stone structures that stood in the open area on the hill were examined, among them two stone fences (W200, W201); a stone clearance heap (L1708) and a farming terrace (W202).
Fence 200 (length 6 m, width 1.5 m; Fig. 10) was located in the southeastern part of Area B. It was aligned north–south and its height varied according to the bedrock surface. A probe (width 3 m) was excavated on both sides of the fence down to bedrock. The excavation indicated that the fence had two technical building phases. Small and medium stone clearance was placed on top of the natural bedrock, along the line of the fence in the first phase. One course of large fieldstones was arranged on top of the stone clearance layer on the western side of the fence, and stone clearance was added to its eastern side in the second phase.
Fill consisting of hamra mixed with pieces of small stones, without any archaeological finds, was discovered on both sides of the fence.
Fence 201 (length 16 m, width 1 m; see Fig. 10) was parallel to Fence 200 and c. 7 m west of it. A probe (3×5 m) was excavated down to bedrock on both sides of the fence. The excavation revealed that the western side of the fence was built of large fieldstones placed directly on the bedrock, whereas a pile of small and medium stone clearance was placed on its eastern side. The fence was preserved a single course high. The fill on both its sides included brown hamra and small stones. A single fragment of a pottery vessel was found inside the fence; however, it could not be dated.
A rectangular stone clearance heap (L1708; 3.5×9.2 m, height 0.5–1.0 m; Fig. 11), aligned east–west, was located c. 6 m west of Fence 200. It was enclosed within two walls built of a single course of various size fieldstones. The fill between the walls consisted of small stones. Probe trenches excavated in the clearance heap (length 6 m, width 2.0–3.5 m) and north of it (depth 0.55 m) ascertained that the heap was placed directly on top of the bedrock. The heap comprised medium-sized stones and a thin layer of yellowish brown soil between them and at the bottom of the heap; the soil was probably dust that had washed from the stones and settled into the heap. The fill of the clearance heap yielded no finds.
Terrace 202 (length 18.5 m, width 8.4–11.3 m; Fig. 12) was located c. 15 m north of Fence 200. The terrace, oriented east–west, was in the shape of a broad arch. A trial square (5×5 m) was excavated in the center of the farming terrace and on both sides of the wall, to understand the structure’s method of construction and date. The soil depth on the north of the wall was greater than that on the south of the wall, which was built of fieldstones and meant to retain the soil fill to its north. Small stone clearance mixed with earth, deposited north of the wall, was designed to filter the water, stop the erosion and reduce the pressure on the wall. North of the small clearance stones was terra rossa soil, almost entirely devoid of stones. A few non-diagnostic potsherds were found inside the terrace.
A few datable potsherds were discovered in Area A, both inside the cave and outside on the surface. These included a few lid fragments (Fig. 13:1, 2), a bowl (Fig. 13:3), jars (Fig. 13:4, 5) and a jug (Fig. 13:6) that dated to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods. Other artifacts in Area A included a metal knife (Fig. 14:1), a base of a lamp (Fig. 14:2), a bone object that appears to be part of a kohl-stick handle (Fig. 14:4) and three glass fragments (Fig. 14:5, 6, 8). A stone loom weight (Fig. 14:3) and a base of a glass bowl (Fig. 14:7) were found in Area B. The finds are plain and domestic in nature; no luxury items were discovered.
The excavation in the Shimshoni compound reflects the agricultural landscape of the region and includes fences that separated cultivation plots, a road that ran between them, a farming terrace, and a cave that was part of a farmstead. An industrial installation—a limekiln—was also exposed in addition to the agricultural installations; its output was apparently used by the residents of the region. It should be noted that several years after the excavation another limekiln was discovered in a nearby excavation (HA-ESI 117
); however, it is difficult to establish a chronological connection between these two.
The only finds that are likely to aid in dating the exposed structures are several fragments of pottery vessels that dated to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods, which were discovered in the cave and its close vicinity. The farmhouse that had been discovered near the cave dated to the Umayyad period (ESI 20:85*) and it is very likely that the remains of the agricultural activity revealed in the excavation are also from this time. There is reason to believe that the agricultural areas and installations continued to be used in later periods, as evidenced, for example, by the two use-phases in the cave.