During October–November 2003, a development survey was conducted along a section of the proposed ‘Fifth Line’ water pipe to Jerusalem (Permit No. A-3980*; map ref. NIG 192058–202417/631403–635677; OIG 142058–152417/131403–135677). The survey, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the TAHAL Engineering Group, was directed by H. Stark, assisted by A. Nagorsky, D. Weiss, H. Moyal, L. Barda (GPS/GIS) and Z. Matskevich (lithic material).
The survey area (12.5 km long, 50 m wide) extended eastward along Nahal Har’el, from the confluence with Nahal Shaham, up the western slopes of the Judean Hills to a pumping station located at c. 300 m asl. The topography of the proposed route changes abruptly from the wide, flat stream bed with thick loamy agricultural earth of Nahal Har’el in the west, to narrow valleys bordered by hills that are overlaid with agricultural terraces and modern thick pine forests, and have outcrops of limestone bedrock barely covered with soil.
The proposed pipe line runs through a number of archaeological sites, including (from west to east) Kh. ‘Asfura (Umm el ‘Asuaj), Kh. Hasan, H. Shovav (Kh. Deir Shubeib) and Kh. Hammada. Antiquities were recorded at 63 sites, both in and around the main ones, including agricultural terraces, rock-cut installations, rock cuttings, quarries, field walls, flint and ceramic scatters, cisterns and possible caves (Figs. 1, 2).
Sites 1, 2. A surface scattering of flint debitage in a ploughed field (80 × 100 m; map ref. NIG 192225/635775; OIG 142225/135775). Many of the flakes were water worn and covered with patina. Some of the worked flakes bore traces of the Levallois technique. Although unclear if these sites were in-situ, they may be dated to the Middle Paleolithic period. Scattered lithic material dating to Early Bronze Age I was also recovered from both sites.
Site 21. A small agricultural complex (map ref. NIG 193857/635315; OIG 143857/ 135315) that consisted of a rock-hewn oil press with a stone crushing basin, in-situ (yam; diam. 1.8 m; Fig. 3). Nearby were remains of a structure with a foundation built of large fieldstone blocks (5 × 10 m; Fig. 4). A rock-cut winepress with a treading floor (3 × 3 m; Fig. 5) and a rock-hewn collecting vat (0.8 × 1.2 m) along its north side was recorded. Quarrying marks and cup marks were discerned in the general area. Scattered ceramics, dating to the Byzantine period and a single flint blade from the Early Bronze Age were found.
Site 25. A number of rock-cut agricultural installations or rock quarries at two separate locations (map ref. NIG 194031/635320 and 194185/635230; OIG 144031/ 135320 and 144185/135230) were hidden below thick ground cover, which prevented proper recording of these features.
Site 59. On Kh. Hammada (map ref. NIG 201608/631516; OIG 151608/131516), remains of agricultural terraces built of well-carved and dressed fieldstone blocks in secondary use (average size 0.8 × 1.0 m) were documented, as well as the partial remains of structures that used similar blocks (Figs. 6, 7). Nearby were the remains of a rock-cut burial cave with a stairway leading down a shaft to the arched entrance (0.5 × 0.8 m; Fig. 8). Off the proposed alignment but close-by were additional caves and rock-cut features. Higher up the slope (map ref. NIG 202350/631480; OIG 152350/131480) rock-cut agricultural installations and the badly damaged remains of possible stone structures were discovered. Scattered pottery from the Byzantine period was found.
The rock-cut installations along the southern bank of Nahal Har’el indicate intensive agricultural land use in the Byzantine period. Although badly water worn, scattered flint material suggests a prehistoric and proto-historic activity in the larger region, while the preservation of building remains at Kh. Hammada bodes well for any future excavation.