During 2004–2005 archaeological excavations were conducted in Horbat Rimmon (Permit Nos. A-3976, A-4080, A-4531; map ref. NIG 1875/5870; OIG 1375/0870). The excavations, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Jewish National Fund, were directed by Y. Abadi (2003–2004) and N.S. Paran (2005), with the assistance of O. Feder and K. Golan (area supervision), H. Lavi (administration), V. Pirsky and A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), E. Belashoc (drafting), A. Pikovski (pottery drawing) and O. Aflalo (Negev Archaeological Center). Youth groups from Israel and abroad participated in the excavations in the framework of the ‘Jewish layer’ project of the JNF.
At the top of Horbat Rimmon’s hill, 470 m above sea level, along the fringes of the Lahav Forest in the southern Judean Shephelah and c. 60 m south of the current excavations, a synagogue and other areas had previously been excavated by A. Kloner (HA 67-68:52–53; 72:32–34; 76:34–35 [Hebrew]). A new are (A) was opened in 2003 in the upper third of the northern slope of a hill that was documented by B. Zissu and D. Amit (B. Zissu, 2001. Rural Settlement in the Judean Hills and Foothills from Late Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Ph.D. dissertation, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem). A miqwe (ritual bath) and a building were exposed (Fig. 1).
The rock-hewn miqwe is nearly square (L11; 6.6 × 7.1 m). Its northern part was opened and the ceiling of its southern part was the nari rock. Above the quarried eastern and western sides, walls were built (W11—length 2.2 m, width 0.7 m, height 0.5 m, a single course; W10—length 3.5 m, width 0.5–0.6 m, height 0.4–0.6 m, a single course). Seven hewn steps accessed the miqwe; five extended its entire width (length 7.3 m, width 0.30–0.65 m, height 0.2–0.5 m) and the other two were partially preserved and apparently were completed with construction that only partly survived. A compact, white-gray hydraulic plaster was preserved on the rock ceiling and on some of the miqwe’s walls, particularly in the covered section, as well as on the rock wall in the open northern section, but not on the steps.
The finds recovered from the miqwe were mixed and dated from the Byzantine period to modern times.
To the south of the miqwe and higher up on the slope, a building founded on a rock shelf and roofing the southern part of the miqwe, was exposed. The tops of its walls were visible above surface prior to the excavation. The building consisted of three rooms in a row, aligned north–south (Rooms R1–R3) and an adjacent open courtyard on the west (R4) whose southern wall did not survive.
The walls of the rooms (W3–W8; width 0.65–0.80 m, max. height 0.6 m, 1–2 courses) were built of large ashlar and fieldstones (0.2–0.4 × 0.6–0.7 m), set on the leveled rock surface that served as the floor of the rooms. The walls of the courtyard (W1, W2; width 0.4–0.6 m, max. height 0.7 m, 2 courses) consisted only of fieldstones and were set on a fill.
The finds from the building included potsherds and a few flint artifacts. The potsherds were mixed and dated from the Hellenistic period to modern times.
The mixed finds did not enable to set a date, yet the Jewish settlement in Kloner’s excavations was dated from the first to the sixth centuries CE.