During November 1999 a trial excavation was conducted at the Neolithic site of Nahal Yarmut, near the Ramat Bet-Shemesh junction (Permit No. A-3158; NIG 17518/64680; OIG 12518/14680) in preparation for road paving and the development of the area. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Housing and Construction, was directed by H. Khalaily, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), L. Zinger, M. Smilansky (flint drawing), O. Marder and R. Bankirer.
The site is located on the southern bank of Nahal Yarmut, at the point where the estuary changes its direction from east–west to north–south (today the Ramat Bet Shemesh junction). Active springs are adjacent to the site and at its foot—a fertile valley. Y. Dagan discovered the site and carried out a sounding there, within the framework of the Bet Shemesh Map Project. The survey and the sounding disclosed the presence of a small prehistoric settlement that was estimated to be c. 8 dunams in size. The present excavation exposed remains of occupation from the end of the Pottery Neolithic period (end of the fifth millennium BCE).
Eight 4 × 4 m excavation squares were distributed over the area slated for development, with the aim of assessing the size of the site and the depth of the ancient remains. Three probes were opened by mechanical equipment on the margins of the site. The single-period site (depth 1.5 m) was rich in finds and included four occupation levels. The upper level (thickness 0.8 m) included pits and consisted of light brown-colored sediment mixed with pockets of ash and stones. The second layer (thickness 0.4–0.6 m) was composed of crumbly, light-gray sediment, and contained high concentrations of potsherds and flints. The third layer (thickness 0.2 m) was dark gray sediment mixed with small burnt stones. The fourth layer essentially comprised light brown sediment mixed with brick material and medium-sized stones.
Remains of a building were discovered at the base of the central square (C5; Fig. 1). The three walls formed a rectangular room, oriented northwest–southeast. The walls were constructed from large undressed stones with brick material between them. The packed earthen floor in the room had signs of burning; a grinding stone was found in its center. A hearth of crushed chalk was discerned against the eastern wall. A wall (W6) that emerged close to the northern margin of the square possibly belonged to an additional building that was not excavated. Circular installations and stubs of walls were discerned in the other squares.
The probes and the excavation squares permitted us to define the exact size of the site, which turned out to be relatively small, extending over an area of 4 dunams. The finds, typical of the late Pottery Neolithic period (Wadi Raba Culture) included a large quantity of potsherds, flint tools, stone vessels and bones of goats, sheep and pigs. The presence of many sickle blades, grinding stones and bones shows that the occupants of the settlement engaged in agriculture. Ornamental items were also retrieved, including beads made of schist and many bone points.