During October 2007 and May 2008, an excavation was conducted near the community of Metar (Permit Nos. A-5273, A-5428; map ref. 194851–78/583046–72). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Jewish National Fund, was directed by A. Fraiberg, with the assistance of Y. Lender (administration), V. Essman, M. Kunin, M. Kipnis and N. Zak (surveying and drafting).
The excavation area is located along the western slope of a gentle hill (Spot Height 472), c. 0.5 km north of Metar. A cistern was exposed and cleaned, as well as nearby walls that were used to divert the surface run-off (Fig. 1).
A cistern opening and a curved wall, built of small and medium fieldstones in dry construction (W10), were visible on the surface prior to the excavation. The wall was excavated in two places (L103, L106). Another curved wall (W11; length 5.5 m; Fig. 2) was discovered southeast of W10 (L104). Wall 11, built of fieldstones, was preserved five courses high. Four built steps were incorporated in the construction of the wall and descended to a small bedrock landing; eight hewn steps descended from the landing to the cistern’s entrance.
The cistern was hewn in chalk (c. 7 × 8 m, height 5.7 m) and a hewn column (c. 1.0 × 1.5 m, height 5.7 m; Figs. 3, 4) in its center supported the ceiling. The entrance into the cistern was via an opening in its southwestern corner. A round opening (diam. 0.8 m) close to the northwestern corner of the ceiling was used for drawing water.
Fourteen steps that were a continuation of the outer staircase descended from the cistern’s entrance to its floor. The floor of the cistern was covered with silt (thickness c. 1 m) and the cistern’s four bottom steps were revealed in a probe at the bottom of the steps (Fig. 5), which were exposed prior to the excavation (L102).
A few fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Byzantine period were discovered inside and outside the cistern.
The cistern is dated to the Byzantine period and was intended for storing rain water. Walls 10 and 11, built near it, were probably used to divert the run-off. Wall 10 postdated W11 and was built after the latter was no longer in use. The two walls were apparently also meant to prevent refuse from penetrating into the cistern when it was being cleaned periodically. The cistern was hewn outside the populated area and it is assumed that it served the agricultural hinterland of the nearby settlements. Sites from the Byzantine period were discovered at Khirbat al-Fakhta, c. 2 km northeast of the site and at Horbat Hiran, c. 2.5 km east of the site.