During February–March 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted at Be’er Ma‘on (Permit No. A-3383*; map ref. NIG 20184/64397; OIG 15184/14397), near the settlement of Re‘ut, prior to the construction of a synagogue. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Kletter, with the assistance of D. Barkan (area supervision), I. Elisha and A. Lavi (administration), H. Tsion-Cinamon (GPS), A. Hajian (surveying), E. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory), G. Bijovsky (numismatics) and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass).
Quarry (Sqs CD5; L110)
A small quarry used for hewing masonry stones. Vertical rock-cut and severance channels (average thickness 0.1 m) for detaching the stone blocks were discerned. A deep channel (c. 0.2 m) in a block that was not entirely quarried was noted. The dimensions of the quarried stone blocks (length 1.0–1.2 m, width 0.6–0.7 m) could be estimated on account of the severance channels. The eastern boundary of the quarry was located in L116. To the southwest, a layer of small white limestone pieces and a few non-diagnostic potsherds on surface (L109) was probably a refuse deposit associated with the quarry. Above this layer was red soil nearly devoid of finds. The bedrock dropped precipitously to the west of the quarry, which apparently was the oldest remain in the excavation area.
Farmhouse(?) and Winepress
The Building. Walls of a poorly preserved building (W4, W8, W13–15 and perhaps W12; c. 0.5 m wide), built of dry construction using indigenous limestone, were discovered. The walls, oriented north–south or east–west, were preserved one–two courses high and incorporated in the construction of the winepress; some, however, were probably animal pens. Two walls (W13, W14) delineated the building on the south and west. The massive W14 (width 0.8 m) was severely damaged by the planting of trees and the bedrock-hewing of a modern road to the west. It was built on top of a thin dark brown soil layer deposited on bedrock and it obviously postdated the quarry. The northern part of W14, built of very large stones that were possibly removed from the quarry, resembled a terrace. It formed a corner (in Square D6) with a short wall built in a similar manner, which extended as far as the western end of the quarry. Wall 14 continued north to a point where bedrock was hewn in a semicircle. North of it, the ancient remains were destroyed by the construction of the modern synagogue.
The only exposed floor was a stone pavement (designated W9) that did not abut any wall.
Winepress (Sqs E5–6). A collecting vat of a winepress (L118; 1.55 × 2.25 m, 1.5 m deep) enclosed by walls (W1 adjacent to bedrock, W6, W7, W10) was discovered. First built was Wall 16, which supported the winepress; later the rest of the walls were erected and plastered. The exterior face of the walls remained rough, whereas their inner face was straight and plastered, except for the upper part of the western exterior side of W6, which was partially plastered. This method of construction stemmed from the very rocky area in which the winepress was located. A high overhang in the southeastern corner of the collecting vat may have served as a step to descend into it (Fig. 3). All the walls of the vat and the step were coated with gray plaster (thickness 2 cm). A settling pit (diam. 0.8 m, depth 0.4 m), paved with a white industrial mosaic was in the center of the vat’s mosaic-paved floor. The tesserae at the bottom of the settling pit were larger (5 × 5 cm) than those in the floor. The collecting vat was filled with dark gray soil, containing a few potsherds, which was different from the red soil around the vat (L119, L124, L125). The collecting vat had no conduit or opening and no treading surface was discovered. However, based on the bedrock appearance it seems that the treading surface was located to the south or southeast of the vat. Wall 12 may delineate the eastern side of the treading surface. When the winepress was no longer used it was partially destroyed and its stones were plundered. A channel cut by mechanical equipment further damaged it in the modern era.
Rock-cuttings (Sqs C2, DE2–3)
Rock-cuttings were revealed in L111, L112 and L114. Those in L111 were U-shaped and may have been the treading surface of a winepress. Elsewhere, the rock-cuttings formed steps, or a straight hewn surface without other remains, which consequently could not be dated.
Scant building remains with no apparent plan, which dated to a later phase, were discovered on surface (W2, W3 in Squares C5, G4). Three layers were discerned in the sections of Squares FG2–5. The upper layer was gray soil mixed with potsherds. The middle layer was crushed material without any potsherds and the bottom layer above bedrock was dark brown soil and a few potsherds. The trenching of the area damaged the remains, precluding the separation of assemblages from each layer or relating the potsherds to the walls of the later phase. The potsherds from these layers were contemporary with those found in the building and the winepress.
Most of the ceramic finds from the excavation dated to the end of the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE): Byzantine Fine Ware bowls (Fig. 4:1–3; Nos. 1 and 3 may belong to the same bowl) and a jar lid (Fig. 4:4) made of similar clay. The rims of several imported bowls (Fig. 4:5–10) were relatively common. A fragment of a Late Roman C bowl base (Fig. 4:11) had a stamped cross decoration and the sharply everted rim of a dark clay bowl (Fig. 4:12) was probably local and decorated in two shades, red and dark brown. Large bowls and kraters without slip (Fig. 4:13–16) were also found. The basins (Fig. 4:17, 18), decorated with combing, were common in the Byzantine period and several types continued into the Early Islamic period. The cooking vessels included fry-pans (Fig. 4:19, 20), round and closed cooking pots (Fig. 4:21–24) and lids (Fig. 4:25, 26). Prominent among the jars were several large ones or round pithoi (Fig. 5:1–3) that had a ridge at the base of the neck, an upright rim, two very large loop handles, as well as wavy and straight combing on the shoulder. Jars of this type were common in Jerusalem and the surrounding area at the end of the Byzantine period, but also occurred in the Early Islamic period. Other jars had upright rims (Fig. 5:4), the later type of Gaza jars (Fig. 5:5) and the rim of a holemouth jar (Fig. 5:6). Among the few jugs (Fig. 5:8, 9) was a fragment of a pinched-mouth jug (Fig. 5:7) with a light buff slip, dating to the Iron Age, that was made of red clay mixed with numerous white inclusions. Other discoveries included the body fragment of a jar decorated with deep incising (Fig. 5:10), a stopper made of a pithos or a large ribbed jar body fragment (Fig. 5:11) and a fragment of a roof tile (Fig. 5:12). A few lamps consisted of fragments from the fifth–sixth centuries CE, bearing Greek script (Fig. 5:13, 14) and a fragment from the seventh century CE with a lug handle (Fig. 5:15). Fragments of several pottery vessels from the Mamluk period and a Gaza-ware vessel fragment from the Ottoman period were collected on surface.
The rest of the finds were not discovered in situ. They included a tiny piece of marble, a fragment of red-painted plaster and small fragments of a colorful mosaic decorated with a geometric pattern, as well as 64 fragments of glass, mostly from the Byzantine period and half of them unidentified body fragments. This group consisted of bowls with rims folded outward, bottles with a rounded rim, bottles with a trail decoration around the neck, wine goblets, a small crude handle of a bowl lamp and a small fragment of a biconical bead with a white trail wrapped around it. Two fragments represented the maximum chronological span of the assemblage: a cup with a solid base, dating to the fourth century CE and a folded inward jar rim that belonged to a type popular in the later part of the Byzantine period and beginning of the Umayyad period.
Four bronze coins were found, three of them identified (Figs. 6–8).