Area A (65 × 75 m)
A winepress was exposed in the middle of the area (Squares G7–I8; Figs. 3, 4). Parts of its treading floor, three collecting vats, a plastered channel and a terracotta pipe had survived. The preserved section of the treading floor included part of the floor (L342) and its bedding (L321). The bedding consisted of small stones and potsherds arranged in a herringbone pattern and bonded with mortar; the floor was composed of small stones bonded in mortar and coated with hydraulic plaster. A plastered channel (L309) extended to the west from a shallow depression in the treading floor and a terracotta pipe extended to the south. The channel led to a collecting vat west of the treading floor (L308; 2.4 × 2.7 m, depth 0.82 m; Fig. 5) and the pipe led to a collecting vat south of the treading floor (L325; 0.85 × 1.53 m, depth 0.67 m; see Fig. 5). A pressing installation was probably located at the diverging point of the channel and the pipe. A terracotta pipe (diam. 0.06 m, length 0.1 m), which was incorporated in the western wall of Vat 325, conveyed the must to an adjacent collecting vat on the west (L307; 1.6 × 2.5 m, depth 1.1 m; Fig. 6).
The collecting vats were hewn in kurkar bedrock and lined with roughly hewn kurkar stones bonded with mortar; the stone lining was coated with two layers of pinkish gray hydraulic plaster (thickness 1–2 cm). The floors in the vats consisted of white mosaics; the tesserae were arranged in diagonal rows, set within a square frame. Rock-hewn sumps were exposed in the center of the vats. The sump (diame. 0.31 m, depth 0.18 m; see Fig. 6) in the middle of Vat 307 was paved with a mosaic and a ceramic krater was placed inside it. The sump (diam. 1.22 m, depth 0.5 m) in the middle of Vat 308 was lined with potsherds bonded with mortar and its base was paved with medium-sized kurkar stones, also bonded with mortar.
An elliptical rock-hewn refuse pit (L333, L350; east–west diam. 2.95 m, north–south diam. 5.1 m, depth 0.5 m) and remains of a building were excavated west of the winepress (Squares G6–I7; see Fig 3). The layers of fill in the refuse pit contained ash, bones, stones, a lump of glass and pottery vessels dating to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods. Two walls (W33—height 0.6–1.0 m; W39—height 0.5 m) that formed a corner were built above the pit after it was no longer used; only their foundations were preserved. Wall 33 extended south beyond the limits of the refuse pit; it was built of fieldstones in dry construction and was set inside a hewn foundation trench. Its southern end formed a corner with a hewn foundation trench (depth 0.2 m) of a robbed wall (W44). The floor of the building was not preserved.
Four squares (C3–D4; see Fig 3) were opened in the southwestern part of Area A. A layer of soil (L507, L508; thickness 0.11–0.26 m) below the surface was excavated. It was mixed with clay and organic material that originated from the roots of citrus trees. It contained scant building remains and the bases of foundation trenches of walls that were not preserved.
A plastered surface (L348; 3.5 × 6.0 m, height 0.1 m; Fig. 8) was discovered in the northern part of Area A (Squares O7–P9; Fig 7). It consisted of concrete poured atop a foundation of medium-sized kurkar stones mixed with clay. The surface abutted the adjoining walls to the east (W43) and south (W45); these were built of fieldstones,partially arranged in two rows and partially placed at random, which were preserved a single course high (0.13–0.16 m). A small depression (diam. 0.1 m, depth 0.06 m) was discerned in the southern part of the surface. The purpose of the installation is unclear; it was probably part of a winepress that did not survive. The ceramic finds recovered from the installation (Fig. 9) represent the pottery assemblage from the entire excavation (see below).
A layer of clay and kurkar that contained a few potsherds and tesserae of industrial installations was excavated with the aid of mechanical equipment in the northwestern part of Area A (Squares N4–P6; see Fig. 7). Below it, a sterile layer of husmas and the natural kurkar bedrock were exposed in Squares N5–P5, and a layer of clay that abutted the kurkar bedrock was uncovered in Squares N4–P4. A wall (W11) oriented east–west was discovered below the clay layer; to its south were irregular-shaped clusters of stones (L109, L110, L112, L113) and a small pit (L121, diam. c. 0.9 m, depth 0.76 m) with numerous potsherds. A hearth that abutted W11 and the natural bedrock was located east of the wall and nearby.
Medium-sized kurkar stones that bore the remains of mortar (L515–L517, L519, L520, L522) were revealed in a layer of clay that was excavated below the surface in the eastern part of Area A (Squares J11–M12; Fig 10).
Area B (55 × 75 m)
A room enclosed within four walls (W71–W74; width 0.4–0.5 m, height 0.23 m) was discovered in the northwestern part of Area B (Squares S14–T14; Figs. 11, 12). The walls, built of medium-sized fieldstones (0.08 × 0.12–0.20 × 0.35 m), were preserved a single course high and were abutted by a floor foundation (L745; thickness 0.07 m) of tamped soil mixed with small stones, shells and remains of mortar. The walls and floor foundation were set on top of a clay layer. The floor itself was not preserved and the entrance to the room was not identified due to poor preservation of the walls.
Collapse of small and medium kurkar stones, bonded with mortar (L704, L708; thickness 0.19–0.28 m) was discovered on top of natural sandy clay soil at a depth of 0.15 m, in the northeast of Area B (Squares L21, N22, P22–P24; Figs. 11, 13).
Two rows of store jars, perpendicular to each other (Figs. 13, 14), were discovered in Squares L16–M16. The store jars were found placed upside down, with their bases missing, and embedded 0.35–0.44 m in a level of natural husmas (L742). The row aligned north–south contained 16 jars and 11 jars were in the row perpendicular to it. A habitation level abutted the long row of jars from the east (L746; thickness 0.18 m) and the west (L738; thickness 0.2 m); it was characterized by small stones, mortar, mud-brick fragments and potsherds. Habitation Level 746 accumulated on the natural kurkar and Habitation Level 738 was deposited on a layer of husmas.
Layers of clay soil and numerous potsherds from the Byzantine period – probably the fill of a large refuse pit (L726, L733, L737) – were discovered c. 0.2 m below the surface in the southern squares of Area B (F19–F20).
A destruction layer (L728; thickness 0.19 m; see Fig 13) was exposed at a depth of 0.53 m below the surface in Square I17; it was characterized by a concentration of small stones, scattered across the entire square, and bonded with mortar. The stones were probably the collapsed remains of walls that were not preserved. The level of stones was on top of a natural husmas layer (L729).
The pottery vessels recovered from the two excavated areas are characteristic of the southern coastal plain in the sixth and seventh centuries CE; these included bowls (Fig. 9:1–3), some decorated with straight and wavy combing, kraters decorated with combing (Fig. 9:4, 5), cooking vessels (Fig. 9:6, 7), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 9:8, 9), Gaza-type jars (Fig. 9:10), and a jug (Fig. 9:11).
The glass artifacts were poorly preserved and included types that are common to the Byzantine period, from the end of the fourth to the sixth centuries CE. The artifacts consisted of bowls, numerous plain bottles, bottles decorated with glass trails, suspended oil-lamps and window fragments. A chunk of glass – raw material or a fragment of a large weight – was discovered in Refuse Pit 350.
Two Byzantine coins from the fourth century CE (IAA 120661, 120662) and three Umayyad coins from the first half of the eighth century CE (IAA 120660, 120663, 120664) were found.
The excavation finds testify to the intensive industrial activities that were carried out in the region during the Byzantine period. Due to modern farming activity, only the building foundations and the installations hewn in the kurkar bedrock or dug into the clay soil were preserved. The poor state of preservation and destruction of the winepress’ components above ground, preclude identifying its type or complexity. The excavation area was characterized by numerous destruction levels, which consisted of small and medium kurkar stones bonded with mortar that were scattered or in small concentrations. The chunk of glass found inside Refuse Pit 350 may be indicative of a glass industry in the settlement. It seems that the finds are remains of a farming estate or village that was no longer in use at the end of the Byzantine period or at the beginning of the Early Islamic period. These finds are indicative of flourishing economic activity, whose center was probably in Ashqelon.