During December 2000 an excavation was conducted in ‘Mitham Ha-Shimshni’ in Modi‘in (Permit No. A-3353*; map ref. NIG 2004–6/6455–69; OIG 1504–6/1455–69). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by S. Weksler-Bdolah, with the assistance of E. Levi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying) and C. Amit (photography).
An installation that was used as a limekiln according to its shape and a cave dwelling from the Byzantine period, which served as a charcoal kiln in a later period, were excavated.
The Limekiln (diam. 3.5 m, depth 2 m, Figs. 1, 2) was discovered at a depth of 0.4–0.5 m below surface. The kiln consisted of a circular bedrock-hewn pit, with a flat bottom and upright walls that slightly widened toward the top. In several places where bedrock was worn away the walls were augmented with construction or blocked with mud and stones. The walls of the kiln and its floor were lined with gray material that was apparently a byproduct from burning limestone in the installation. A shallow plastered ventilation channel (length 1.5 m, width 0.7 m) led from the north into the kiln. The plaster, which was white and free of temper, covered the bottom of the channel and its walls. The channel was enclosed on the east and west with thin walls that were preserved to a single course high. The combustion chamber, whose walls were stone-lined and it was topped with a dome that was composed of stone layers meant to be burnt, was in the center of the pit. Once the firing in the kiln was completed and the produced lime was removed, all that remained was the hewn pit exposed in the excavation. Several dressed building stones, some of them ashlars, which were probably brought as raw material for burning, were discerned around the kiln.
The Cave (Fig. 3). The bedrock-hewn cave was c. 10 m southeast of the limekiln; rock-cut steps led from the south to its entrance (Fig. 4). The cave consisted of a square chamber (c. 4.0 × 4.5 m, height c. 2.5 m) that was filled with soil and stones to a height of 1.7 m. A small circular opening in its ceiling was sealed with a fitting stone (Fig. 5). The excavation in the eastern part of the chamber revealed five layers that attested to three main phases of activity. In the earliest phase (Stratum V) the cave was used as a dwelling. A staircase descending to the leveled bedrock floor was noted in its southern side. The red-brown soil (thickness 0.3 m) that accumulated on the floor contained a few stones and fragments of pottery vessels, as well as a stone-carved grinding bowl. In the next phase (Stratum IV) the cave was utilized in connection with the nearby limekiln. A layer of mainly dressed masonry stones was spread out in disarray. This stone layer was probably related to the use of the limekiln. In a later phase (Stratum III) the cave served as a charcoal kiln. A layer of fine dark gray–brown soil (thickness 0.6–0.7 m) that contained ash and lumps of charcoal was discovered; light-colored ash was discerned at the bottom of the layer. The staircase that led to the cave in St. V was blocked with soil and stones and the occupation layer outside the cave was slightly raised. The two upper strata (II–I) reflect the time that elapsed since the cave was no longer in use. Stratum II (thickness 0.2 m) was a fill of red earth with small and medium-sized stones that accumulated in the cave from the main entrance and from the aperture in its ceiling after the cave ceased to be used. Stratum I was a layer (thickness 0.1 m) of fine-grained dark brown soil.
The ceramic finds indicate that the cave was used for dwelling during the final stages of the Byzantine period (sixth–eighth centuries CE); subsequently, it was connected to the nearby limekiln and served as a charcoal kiln. The final two phases can not be accurately dated.