Area A. Remains of two buildings were exposed. The southern structure (9 × 13 m; Fig. 3) was well preserved and consisted of a square room (L126) and an open courtyard to its north (L125; Fig. 4), where there was a bell-shaped water cistern (L128, diam. c. 2.5 m) into which rainwater flowed. The cistern was like the cisterns in Areas B and C (below), built of chalk and pebbles; its walls were treated with light gray plaster. The floors of Room 126 and Courtyard 125 were made of tamped loess; on these floors were a scant amount of pottery sherds. The walls of the building were constructed of two rows of chalk, some of them roughly hewn, and wadi pebbles, with small stones and mud fill in between. The walls were preserved to a height of one to three courses. Another building had an underground hall that served as a storeroom (L161); it apparently collapsed after it was no longer in use, and almost no artifacts were discovered in it. All that survived of the second building (L150; 6.7 × 8.0 m), located c. 10 northwest of the first, were the partial remains of wall foundations constructed of chalk and wadi pebbles.
Area B. A wall (W204; length 11.2, width 0.61 m, height 0.56 m; Figs. 5, 6) oriented north–south was exposed, probably part of a building destroyed over the course of time. It was constructed of two rows of chalk, large wadi pebbles and flint. A well-preserved water cistern (L207; diam. c. 3.5 m; Fig. 7) was discovered 15 m east of the wall. The cistern was excavated to a depth of 0.85 m; its bottom was not exposed for safety reasons. A small pool (L210; 1.0 × 1.5 m, depth 0.55 m) was exposed on the southern side of the cistern, whence the water drained into the cistern through a pair of terracotta pipes. The cistern may have been connected to the building from which the single wall survived.
Area C. A rectangular structure (W403–W406; 4.3 × 5.3 m; Fig. 8) was exposed that delimited six graves (not excavated) in which the inhabitants of the farmstead were probably buried. Its walls were constructed of small stones, mainly wadi pebbles (thickness c. 0.65 m). The entrance, with an elevated threshold, was set in the eastern wall (W403). The graves—cist tombs—were built of limestone slabs (length c. 1.8 m, width 0.65 m, depth 0.65 m) and aligned east–west except for one tomb oriented along a southeast–northwest axis, and were covered with limestone slabs placed on the long sides of the grave. One tomb survived intact and was sealed with stone slabs; the other five had been disturbed in the past and were discovered in a ruinous state. Another water cistern (L403; diam. c. 2.3 m, depth unknown), almost destroyed, was exposed south of and adjacent to the building. The connection between the cistern and the tomb structure was unclear.
No other tombs were discovered in probes conducted with a backhoe around the building, and therefore, it seems unlikely that the tombs predated the building.
A small number of ceramic finds were recovered during the excavation, mainly dating to the Byzantine period; a few sherds—body fragments—found on the surface, are ascribed to the beginning of the Early Islamic (sixth–seventh centuries CE) and the Mamluk (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE) periods. Jars were the prevailing vessel type found, including body fragments, handles and worn rims (not drawn): bag-shaped jars constituted two-thirds of the assemblage and a Gaza Ware jar made up the remaining one-third. Other vessels included bowls (Fig. 9:1, 2), one of them (Fig. 9:2) an imported LRC bowl; a basin (Fig. 9:3); cooking vessels, primarily cooking pots (Fig. 9:4, 5); jugs (Fig. 9:6–8); a flask (Fig. 9:9); and a slipper-shaped lamp (Fig. 9:10). All dated to the Byzantine period. Fragments of unidentified glassware and a few modern metal objects were also found on the surface.
The excavation at the site supplements our information about the network of farmsteads built around the city of Be’er Sheva‘ in the Byzantine period, mainly from the second half of the sixth century CE until the Muslim conquest in 636 CE. The agricultural unit found at the site is characteristic of the northern Negev, especially the area near Be’er Sheva‘. These units sometimes consisted of merely a single room, although in most instances, these were farmsteads comprising several buildings (Haiman 1997
; Gilad and Fabian 2008
). The simple farmstead was comprised of a building and a courtyard and in most cases, it was impossible to determine the function of the buildings due to their poor state of preservation. Sometimes the structure was complex and composed of several rooms and a courtyard, such as the southern building in Area A. It seems that each building at the site had a bell-shaped water cistern in its courtyard or immediate vicinity. It is possible that the northern building in Area A, which was poorly preserved, also had a cistern that did not survive.
The buildings were apparently abandoned at the beginning of the Early Islamic period and were re-inhabited during the Mamluk period, possibly as a seasonal settlement that left no architectural remains.