From September to November 2001 an archaeological, geomorphological, botanical and geological survey (GIS) of the ancient farm system in Nahal Noqed (Nahal Ha‘etz) was conducted (License No. G-103/01; map ref. NIG 17909–18100/53430–53510; OIG 12909–13100/03430–03510). The survey, on behalf of Cambridge University, UK and the Israel Antiquities Authority, was financed by the Council for British Research in the Levant, the Palestine Exploration Fund, the National Science Foundation and private donations. The survey was directed by Brian Pittman (photography and soil analysis) and Tali Erickson-Gini, with the assistance of H. Lewis, F. Sturt and M. Brudenell of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.
The site of Nahal Noqed consists of a well-developed terraced farm system covering the whole length of the wadi and adjacent tributaries. The wadi is located within 1 km of the site of Horbat Haluqim in the central Negev Highlands and approximately 2 km northwest of Qibbuz Sedé Boqer. The wadi was surveyed in 1981 by Rudolph Cohen (Map of Sedé Boqer: East ), who discovered a farmhouse in the middle of the farm system in the wadi. The structure was subsequently excavated by Pittman and Erickson-Gini during the same season that the survey of the wadi took place (Permit No. A-3492). The purpose of the survey was to reconstruct the sedimentary development of the agricultural system and the crop assemblages it supported by way of micormorphological and phytolith analysis.
The survey revealed the presence of natural rock shelters and caves in the slopes of the lower end of the system, some of which were reported by Cohen's team in the earlier survey. Some of these rock shelters and caves appear to have been used as matmarot or storerooms by the Beduins, who also used them for burials, probably in modern times. Soundings (1 × 2 m) were excavated behind terraces at the lower extreme of the system, next to the excavated farmhouse, and in the upper extreme of the system. Random core samples were extracted throughout the wadi and soil samples were analyzed in the laboratories of Cambridge University.
The results of the survey and the excavation of the farmhouse indicate that the farm system was utilized in two distinct historical periods: the Late Byzantine period, when the system appears to have been part of the viticulture regime in the central Negev Highlands and the Early Islamic period, when the system was used to produce field crops.