In March 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted at Khirbat Abu Hadaid, on the western margins of Kibbutz Erez (Permit No. A-7680; map ref. 158475–501/607589–836; Fig. 1) prior to construction of a news neighborhood. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Sha‘ar Ha-Negev Regional Council, was directed by A. Fraiberg, with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), I. Delerson (plans), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (drawing), C. Amit (photography of finds), T. Winter (glass), Y. Abadi-Reiss (consultation and oversight), H. Mamalya and O. Shmueli (trial trenches), as well as A. Rasiuk (IAA southern district) and laborers from Ashqelon.
Kibbutz Erez was established on the ruins of the village of Damra, which lied on the site of Kh. Abu Hadaid. Previous excavations at the site and in its vicinity uncovered two mosaic floors and finds from the Middle Bronze and the Iron Ages (Druks 1967; Rahmani 1973) were discovered. Monumental architectural elements collected from the ruins of Kh. Abu Hadaid and displayed at the Kibbutz Erez were cataloged in 1994–1995 into the National Treasures Collection. Also reported in the vicinity of the kibbutz was an ancient cemetery (Shu‘fat Abu Jakha) and caves, as well as and columns and capitals.
The excavation took place following the opening of several trial trenches on a kurkar hill with scattered dressed kurkar stones not in situ. It yielded three cist graves dated to the Late Roman period.
The graves (Fig. 2) were hewn into soft kurkar rock in a general northwest–southeast alignment and were lined with dressed kurkar slabs. Their state of preservation varied, as they had suffered damaged due to twentieth-century activities; the graves were found full of dark soil and collapsed stones. Two of the graves, different in size, were set one along the other in the northern part of the excavation area (L100). The smaller grave (L102; interior measurements c. 0.4 × 1.5 m) was preserved to a depth of c. 0.3 m. The larger one (L103; c. 0.6 × 2.4 m) was preserved to a depth of c. 0.5 m; several of its cover slabs collapsed into the grave. The third grave (L101; width c. 0.6 m) was found in the southern part of the excavation. Only the northwestern end of the grave was preserved, but numerous dressed stones as well as pottery sherds were scattered around it.
The layer of collapsed stones above the northern pair of graves (L100) yielded pottery sherds from the Later Roman and Byzantine period—a cooking pot (Fig. 3:1), an almost complete early Gaza jar (Fig. 3:3) and a worn fragment of a mold-made lamp (Fig. 3:4), whose exact date is unclear—and north of Grave 101 was another early Gaza jar (Fig. 3:2). Also found above the northern pair of graves was a complete candlestick-type glass bottle (Fig. 4) with an inward-folded rim and a candlestick-type container, dated to the second to mid-third centuries CE. A similar glass bottle was discovered in a lead coffin found in a grave from the Roman period at the Fishermen’s Beach in Ashqelon (Varga 1999: Fig. 202).
The uncovered graves were part of an ancient cemetery that apparently extends over most of the kurkar hill. They were dated based on the finds to the end of the Roman period.
Druks A. 1967. Erez. ESI 24:8–9 (Hebrew).
Rahmani L.Y. 1973. The Erez Mosaic. Eretz-Israel 11:263–264 (Hebrew).
Varga D. 1999. Ashqelon, Hof Ha-Dayyagim (Fishermen’s Beach). HA-ESI 109:89*–90*.