Four squares (80 sq m out of c. 175 sq m; Fig. 3) were excavated in the eastern part of Compound C—the highest topographic area of the excavation. The eastern end of the area was damaged by the digging of a modern trench, which constituted the eastern stratigraphic section of the area. A sequence of habitation levels from the Islamic period to the Iron Age was discerned in the section; its date was based on potsherds collected when the section was straightened and cleaned. Several walls that extended to the west into Area B were also visible in the section. It seems that the modern activity in the northeastern part of the area reached down as deep as the ancient periods’ layers, which were exposed elsewhere in the site. The soil contained finds from the Islamic to the Chalcolithic periods, as well as modern artifacts.
Chalcolithic Period. A small amount of potsherds and flint tools was found.
Iron Age. Part of a large public building was exposed throughout the area, as far as its western boundary, where it extended west into Area B. The walls (W101–W106, W108) were built of two rows of rough, large square fieldstones, set on their broad side, with a core of loess and pebbles and an underlying layer of pebbles, below which was another layer of fieldstones, and so forth. Another wall (W111) was only built of pebbles. Nine rooms were discerned and three were excavated (3, 5, 6). A level of crystalline, yellowish brown tamped earth abutted Walls 103 and 104 in Room 3 (L536; 1.5 × 2.0 m). The accumulation on the floor contained mostly potsherds from the Iron Age. The accumulation in Room 5 also contained mostly potsherds from the Iron Age atop a level of tamped earth. A floor (L530), paved with medium-sized pebbles and dated to the Iron Age, was exposed in Room 6 (2.45 × 2.60 m; Fig. 4). Overlaying the floor was a tabun, next to Walls 104 and 108 and an accumulation of earth, mixed with mud-brick material, which contained ceramic finds, mostly from the Iron Age and some from the Byzantine, Late Roman and Chalcolithic periods.
Late Roman Period. The use of the structure, probably a public building, was renewed only in this period. One phase, in which rooms were enlarged, walls were plastered and the roof was covered with tiles, was discerned. A section of a pebble pavement (L502; c. 0.7 × 1.0 m) was exposed in Room 2, east of W101. The pavement and the northern end of W101, at the point where they both joined W103, were probably disturbed by a modern channel, oriented northwest-southeast. The pebble pavement was cut in the east by a pit that contained ash. The ceramic finds recovered from the room included two potsherds from the Chalcolithic period and fragments from the Iron Age, Late Roman and Byzantine periods. The pebble pavement section was dated to the Late Roman period, based on the initial pottery reading and stratigraphic data. A section of a floor (1.5 × 2.0 m) that abutted W101 in Room 3 was discovered. It seems that the room was delimited by Walls 101, 103, 104 and 106 in this period. Remains of lime/plaster were discerned on W104. A drainage channel (L537) that apparently belonged to this layer was exposed on the western side of W101 in Room 3. To the west of W104 was a room (5, 6), whose size resembled that of Room 3. It was delimited in the north and south by Walls 105 and 108 respectively. A hard-packed earthen floor of pale gray loess was revealed in the room. Coins that dated to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE) were discovered alongside the ceramic finds, which included fragments of several roof tiles. The floor bedding exposed in the northern half of the room consisted of large dressed limestone (0.30 × 0.45 × 0.80 m), probably Herodian stones of unknown provenance, in secondary use. The northeastern corner of a room (7), delimited by Walls 108 and 109, was excavated south of Room 6. The room was paved with ceramic tiles (L517; tile size 0.26 × 0.26 m) and contained artifacts from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, as well as a few finds from the Iron Age. The floor at the southern end of the room was severed by a refuse pit/hearth (0.2 × 0.9 m) that contained mostly modern finds.
Byzantine Period. The use of the building for public purposes continued in this period. The eastern wall was repaired and new walls were added (W102, W109, W110), enclosing another room (1) and adding to the building’s overall dimensions, while its roof was covered with tiles. Wall 102, built of pebbles, was a repair to W101 (Fig. 5). Wall 110 adjoined W102 and was built of similar pebbles in the same manner. It seems that the two walls were built at the same time in the Byzantine period. Wall 109 was constructed on the southern end of Wall 104. A large hard flagstone, which had been placed upside down in secondary use, was found at the bottom of W109. Three tamped-earth floors/habitation levels were exposed in Room 1. These were overlaid with numerous potsherds from the Byzantine period, as well as coins, glass vessels, remains of metal artifacts and a stone basin that was discovered upside down on top of the second-level floor. Many black and white tesserae were found, mostly in the early Level 3. In addition to these items, a few potsherds that dated to the Iron Age and the Late Roman period were discovered, as well as two hand axes from the Paleolithic period. Large limestone collapse was discovered below Level 3, at a depth of more than one meter.
Islamic Period. The ceramic finds from the Islamic period consisted mostly of Gaza-type ware and relatively small quantities were found in practically all parts of Area A, although only in the upper layers. A pit in the southwestern part of the area contained ash (L519) and finds that were mostly from this period. The pit had cut through a floor in Room 7 that dated to the Late Roman period.
Four squares were excavated in this area (c. 100 sq m out of c. 250 sq m; Fig. 6), which is located between Areas A and C in the middle of the excavation area. The top of a massive wall (W203) and its continuation (W204), built of fieldstones, was visible on the surface in the north side of the area, prior to the excavation.
The remains in the area, dating to the Iron Age and the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, were few. So far, remains from the Chalcolithic period were not discovered and questions regarding the dating of walls and floors to the Iron Age and/or the Late Roman period have not yet been completely clarified. This is probably the result of suspending work in this area, c. 1.5 m higher than in other areas.
A large gray patch (L702/703) that covered most of Sq N15 was exposed in the southern part of the area. A multitude of modern finds were discovered, along with fragments of Gaza ware, an ancient Islamic seal, as well as potsherds from the Late Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman periods. A modern disturbance noted in the southwestern corner of Sq N15 was caused by a bulldozer that had cut through Loci 702 and 703.
Iron Age. Most of the finds in Area B that dated to the Iron Age were found in Room 10, which was delimited by three walls (W203, W205, W206). It seems that W206 did not join W203 and the room’s southern boundary was unclear. Three gray patches that contained a few ceramic finds from the Chalcolithic period and the Iron Age were discovered in Sq M15, next to W203. Above these patches was a light brown deposit (L704) that included potsherds from the Iron Age and the Late Roman period. The Iron Age level below this deposit is characterized by mud bricks and mud-brick material. Wall 206 was tentatively dated to this level because adjoining its eastern side was a row of c. 11 mud bricks neatly placed on their broad side, with their narrow side next to the stones of the wall.
The mud bricks, which filled most of the area enclosed within W205 and the western section, were found on a level, 1 m lower than that of L706 and below the top of W205 (Room 9, the paved area). A level of large mud bricks (L711; Fig. 7), whose original size is unknown, was discerned east of W206. An oven (L710; 0.4 × 0.8 m), delimited by three mud bricks arranged in a U-shape, was discovered on the mud-brick surface, next to W203; its opening faced the wall. The oven contained reddish dark brown soil that was not visible outside, as well as three large potsherds of a cooking krater and a fragment of a bowl with a flat base, both from the Iron Age. The wall was abutted by a thin layer of soil mixed with ash that apparently came from the oven. As no signs of heat were discerned on the stones of the wall adjacent to the oven, it is unclear if the oven was next to the wall or the wall had cut through it. It is possible that during the course of the excavation, a layer of soil that protected the wall from the heat of the oven was removed from its surface.
Late Roman and Byzantine Periods. An elongated room (8; L701; length 9 m, width 3.5 m) with massive walls (width 1.0–1.2 m) was discovered in the two eastern squares. The room, delimited by Walls 201, 202 and 204, was first built in the Iron Age and continued to be used in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. During the excavation, it was decided to focus on the northern half of the room (Sq M16). Collapse consisting of wadi pebbles was discovered, yet its excavation has not been completed. A few of the potsherds found among the stones dated to the Iron Age and several non-diagnostic body fragments could probably be dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
The southern boundary of the collapse was c. 3.5 m from the southern face of W204. On the last day of the excavation, another wall was apparently found next to the southern balk of Sq M16, but its identity is still uncertain because most of the collapse has not yet been removed. A course of stonework (length 1.6 m), bonded with W202 and protruding c. 0.2 m from its eastern face, was also identified at the end of the season. It is unclear if these were the wall’s foundations or perhaps a stone bench.
Another room (9; L706; 2.8 × 4.5 m) delineated by Walls 202, 203 and 205 was discovered west of Room 8. The interior of the room was paved with medium-sized pebbles that covered most of its area. A narrow space (width 0.2 m) between Walls 203 and 205 was mostly filled with soil; therefore, this was probably a later phase that leaned against W203, which predated it. The few potsherds recovered from the top of this pavement dated mostly to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Several pebbles and large fieldstones were found in the southern part of Room 9, but no delineating wall was noted. A stone basin, placed on its long side, was discerned next to the southern end of W205, in the room’s southwestern corner. It seems that the basin was brought from elsewhere on the site or was moved from its original location by a modern disturbance. Several large stones in disarray, probably a collapse, were found around it.
Four coins, one of which is a ‘city-coin’, were discovered west of Room 9 (L704), as well as several fragments of a Bet Nattif lamp that indicate the building was also used in the Late Roman period.
Islamic Period. Several artifacts from the Islamic period, including a few potsherds, a fragment of a decorated steatite bowl and an Islamic seal, were found in the upper layers above the architectural remains, which they post-dated.
This area is located in the western part of the excavation, which is topographically the lowest area. Five squares were excavated (c. 125 sq m out of c. 225 sq m; Fig. 8). The partial outlines of three rooms, used first in the Late Roman period and last in the Byzantine period, were discovered. Traces of activity that can probably be ascribed to the Islamic period were found in these rooms, although it is uncertain if the rooms themselves were used at that time. Two levels and a pit from the Chalcolithic period were found below the rooms. The construction of the walls in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods disturbed the Chalcolithic habitation levels and may also have eradicated habitation levels from the Iron Age, if these had existed at all. Architectural remains and distinct habitation levels that dated to the Iron Age were found in the two other excavation areas.
The excavation had begun in two squares (M–N13). The layer damaged by a modern disturbance (L904) had disrupted habitation levels of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Subsequently, the excavation was deepened in these squares and the surface level in Squares N12, O12 and O13 was removed by a bulldozer. Wall 303 was discovered when part of the balk between Sqs N12–13 was removed.
Chalcolithic Period. Two levels and a pit were discovered. The first level (L921; c. 2 × 3 m), discovered in the middle of Sq N13, included bifacial tools, sickle blades with gloss sheen, a fan scraper, flint cores and a copper ore, as well as several mud bricks at its southern end. On the second level (L925; c. 0.8 × 2.0 m), discovered in Sq N12, were sickle blades, an unknown kind of a flint spearhead, flint cores and copper slag. An ash pit (L924; c. 0.17 × 0.23 m) that contained flint artifacts, ceramic finds and several fragments of bones was discovered south of L925. Part of another pit (L926; c. 0.25 × 1.10 m), which contained several fragments of pottery vessels and bone fragments, was exposed to the north of L925 and next to the balk of the square.
Iron Age. Unlike Areas A and B, the finds in this area consisted of only potsherds, mostly discovered in the eastern part of Sq N12.
Late Roman Period. Bet Nattif lamps that dated to the third century CE were found in the upper layers of Room 11 (L904; Fig. 9). The remains from this period in Room 12, west of Room 11, were also damaged due to modern activity and W309 was partly destroyed. Indicative evidence of two building phases that dated to the Late Roman period was discerned in this room: Wall 312—built of large wadi pebbles and W310—built on top of W312 in a later phase of fieldstones and wadi pebbles. An entrance threshold to a room that had collapsed was set in the center of W309. Ceramics from the Late Roman period, mixed with potsherds from the Iron Age and the Chalcolithic period were found near W303, in the eastern part of the room.
The continuation of L904 was visible in the northeastern part of Room 13 (Fig. 10). A large amount of potsherds was discovered on the habitation level of the Late Roman period (L918), together with nearly fifty bronze coins, bronze implements (probably for medical use; Fig. 11), lids for stone jars, several stoppers, one of which bears a Greek inscription, a complete bronze ring, fish scales and a loom weight. An installation built of several stones was exposed in the corner between W301 and W302.
Byzantine Period. The walls of the Late Roman period continued to exist in the Byzantine period. Due to the modern disturbance (L904), no habitation levels or floors from the Byzantine period were discovered in Room 11, except for potsherds. A pale gray soil floor (L923), overlain with fragments of glass, flint, bones, metal, shells, a basalt vessel and pottery, which included a fragment of a sandal lamp from the Byzantine period, was discovered in Room 12. The habitation level (L918) discovered in Room 13 included a floor of tamped loess, overlain with a large amount of ceramic artifacts.
Part of a courtyard (14) that dated to the Byzantine period was discovered in Sq O12, west of W301; two installations, delineated by Walls 306 and 308, were found in it. Installation 306 was rectangular (1.1 × 2.2 m) and the exterior face of its wall was built of large fieldstones, whereas the interior consisted of large wadi pebbles. A limestone basin in secondary use was utilized in the construction of its southwestern corner. The installation is apparently only partially preserved and it included a platform of wadi pebbles that extended into the northern balk of the square. Next to the southwestern side of Installation 306 was another installation (L915; 0.66 × 1.45 m), built of six rectangular fieldstones that formed a rectangle. The tamped-loess floor of the courtyard that abutted W301 was exposed east of the two installations. The nature of the floors and the function of the installations have not yet been determined.
Islamic Period. Several gray patches and very few artifacts that dated to the Islamic period were found in Area C, including an oil lamp fragment from the Umayyad period that was recovered from Room 11.
Remains that dated to four main settlement periods were preserved at the site, despite the modern disturbances: Byzantine (fifth–sixth centuries CE), Late Roman (third–fourth centuries CE), Iron Age II (eighth–seventh centuries BCE) and Chalcolithic (end of the fifth millennium BCE). In addition, potsherds and other artifacts that indicated a presence during the Islamic and Ottoman periods, as well as the British Mandate era were found, although no architectural remains could be attributed to these periods.
Several potsherds and flint artifacts from the Chalcolithic period were discovered, ex-situ, in all the excavation areas. One or two floors from the Chalcolithic period that were damaged by the Byzantine-period settlement were found in one spot in Compound C. The types of pottery vessels and the raw material for their production are identical to those characteristic of the Be’er Sheva‘ culture sites, such as Bir es-Safadi and Abu Matar. In addition to the potsherds, numerous flint artifacts, including blade cores, blades, sickle blades and unique tools, such as a very large arrowhead or spearhead, were found. Remains from Iron Age II were discovered only in Areas A and B. Potsherds from the period were found in the fill below the floors in the public building of the Late Roman period and floors and installations of the Iron Age were revealed c. 20–40 cm beneath the Late Roman-period floors. Noteworthy among them are two ovens that were built one atop the other and a floor of mud bricks that abutted the massive walls. Hence, it appears that at this stage, the massive walls, floors and installations were not built in the Late Roman period, but rather belonged to a very large building that had been constructed in the Iron Age—possibly a citadel. It seems that the local residents of the Late Roman period used the building which, at this time, was filled with an accumulation that covered the Iron Age finds in the bottom part of the rooms. The excavation has not yet reached the base of the walls of this large building.
Remains from the Late Roman period were discovered in all the excavation areas of Compound C. A large, probably public structure that was divided into rooms, stood in the eastern part (Areas A and B). Remains of floors were discovered; these did not suffer damage from the Byzantine period or later occupation, and were overlain with Late Roman-period coins. The floor exposed in Area A, which was paved with ceramic tiles, is remarkable. Contemporary remains of a different nature were discovered in Area C. The building walls in this area were not as thick and a floor in one of the rooms was overlain with dozens of coins from the third–fourth centuries CE, as well as three bronze objects that were possibly medical implements and stone and ceramic stoppers, one of which bears a Greek inscription.
Walls and floors in Area A and floors and wall stumps in Area C were ascribed to the Byzantine period. The many fragments of tesserae and roof tiles may indicate that a public building, whose nature is still unclear, once stood in the eastern part of the excavation area. The importance and characteristics of Be’er Sheva‘ in this period can be gleaned from its appearance on the Madaba map, among other things. A large army camp, whose foundations were established in the Late Roman period, once stood in the adjacent area, north of Compound C.