During July–August 2000 an archaeological sounding was conducted north of the cemetery at Or ‘Aqiva (Permit No. A-3282*; map ref. NIG 1923–5/7136–7; OIG 1423–5/2136–7), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Nagorsky, with the assistance of A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying), N. Zak (drafting), N. Ze’evi (pottery drawing) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
A building from the Byzantine period was discovered at a depth of c. 2 m below surface. The building is located in a sand dune area, c. 160 m northwest of an ancient road, c. 170 m north of a winepress and c. 270 m south of a threshing floor, all of which date to the Byzantine period (HA–ESI 115:33*–34*).
The building is rectangular (8.5 × 9.2 m) and consists of three rooms (Figs. 1, 2). It was founded atop dark-brown sand of an ancient dune. The water table is 0.8 m below the level of the building. The structure’s foundations were built of medium-sized fieldstones; dressed stones were used in several places. The superstructure's walls comprised two rows of ashlar stones preserved one or two courses high. Remains of white, yellow and green-colored plaster (Fig. 3) were visible on and between some of the building’s stones, indicating that some of the structure's stones were in secondary use. The construction method was not uniform and usually consisted of header and stretcher; sometimes, the stones were set one next to the other the length of the wall.
The entrance to the building (width 0.8 m) was on the eastern side and led to a long room (A; 2.6 × 7.7 m). Jar rims (Fig. 4:2–5) dating to the fourth–seventh centuries CE were discovered in its southeastern corner, at the elevation of the tops of the walls, as well as a fragment of a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 4:6). Similar vessels are known from nearby sites, dating to the Early Islamic period (seventh–tenth centuries CE). A section of a ceramic pipe (Fig. 4:1) was lying next to the foundation of the northern wall. Two doorways led from this room to two other rooms, one in the west (B; 3.7 × 4.6 m) and the other in the east (C; 2.6 × 3.7 m). The entrance to Room C was coated with plaster. Room B contained many fragments of marble floor tiles that may have been used to pave the room. Two bronze coins, the later of which are dated to Constantius II (351–361 CE; IAA 92121), were discovered between the tile fragments.
The uniform height of the tops of the walls, the absence of floors and the location of the building in an area that is poor in raw materials suitable for construction indicate that the structure was probably dismantled intentionally and its stones were removed to another building site.