During May 2002 a trial excavation was conducted in Moshav Bet Nehemya, within the boundaries of Khirbat Beit Kufa (Permit No. A-3634*; map ref. NIG 19621–3/65360–2; OIG 14621–3/15360–2), after archaeological remains were discovered during an antiquities inspection performed by A. Nagorski and prior to the construction of a private house. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by S. Lichtenberg (owner of the plot), was directed by G. Parnos, with the assistance of Y. Dangor (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), M. Avissar (pottery reading), E. Kamaisky (pottery restoration) and M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (drawing).
Stratum III (Byzantine Period). The southwestern corner of a building (Figs. 2, 3) was revealed. Its well-built walls (W110, W116) consisted of an exterior row of large dressed stones and an interior row of small stones bonded with cement. The southern wall (W110) was preserved to a minimum of three–four courses high (the walls were not excavated to their foundations) and was also used during later phases. The floor of the building was not reached. A single course high wall (W102; Fig. 4) was c. 3 m south of W110 and parallel to it. Its northern side consisted of a single row of dressed stones, whereas the southern side was lined with a fill of small stones. The wall was founded on bedrock that was leveled to its north and served as a floor, into which a cupmark was hewn (diam. 0.12 m) and a fill of very light, loose soil (L105) covered it.
The meager ceramic finds in L105 included the rims of two late types of Gaza jars (Fig. 5:16), dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE and an Abu-Mina-type jar (similar to those in Fig. 5:18, 19), ascribed to the sixth–eighth centuries CE (see below). Two Late Roman C bowls (Fig. 5:1, 2) were among the other vessels that dated to the Byzantine period (from other loci). The earlier of the bowls (Fig. 5:1) dated to the first half of the sixth century CE and the other (Fig. 5:2), to the end of the sixth–beginning of the seventh century CE. The finds indicated that the Byzantine settlement existed from the beginning of the sixth century until about the beginning of the seventh century CE.
Stratum II (Umayyad Period). Remains of this layer were discovered in a probe excavated alongside the corner of W110 and W116, which continued to exist in this period, although the northern extension of W116 was covered with a fill of large, densely packed stones that may be a collapse (L115; 0.8–1.0 m). Numerous fragments of jars were found in L115, which was completely excavated. East of L115 was a level of beaten earth (L114) overlaid with the remains of a flat-stone pavement.
The ceramic finds from Loci 114 and 115 included a cooking pot (Fig. 5:14), dating to almost the end of the Byzantine period and the lid of a cooking krater (Fig. 5:15) that occurred over a long time span, from the end of the third century until the tenth century CE. Two of the three jar types from L115 were Abu-Mina jars (Fig. 5:18, 19), which were very common throughout the coastal Shephelah and the northern Negev, having a broad chronological range from the sixth–eighth centuries CE. A jar with a tall neck and a ridge at its base (Fig. 5:17), which probably originated from the Jerusalem area, is also dated to the sixth–eighth centuries CE. The third jar (Fig. 5:21) was an import from Egypt. Similar jars at Pella were dated to the first half of the eighth century CE. In Egypt, these jars seem to have continued in use until the tenth century CE. Based on the ceramic assemblage Stratum II should be dated to the Umayyad period.
Stratum I (Abbasid Period). Two construction phases were discerned. Phase 1 included a corner (W101a, W111) that was preserved two courses high and was affixed to the western end of W110. Wall 104a, parallel to W110 and c. 3.3 m to its north, was also attributed to this phase. The space between these walls was paved with a plaster floor (L113); when dismantled, fragments of buff-colored vessels characteristic of the Abbasid period were uncovered. Floor L113 was covered with an ash-laden fill (L112) that contained a clay grinding bowl (Fig. 5:13), which was probably imported from Syria. Such bowls are dated from the third–sixth centuries CE and it therefore seems that the bowl was not in situ. Other finds included a small krater of buff-colored clay and a cup (Fig. 5:9) characteristic of Abbasid assemblages. Similar vessels are known from Mevo Modi‘in and Ramla.
Wall 110 continued to be used in Phase 2; Wall 101b and W104b superseded W104a and the northern extension of W101a. The top of a wall (W117) that probably belonged to the architectural complex of Stratum I, Phase 2, was exposed c. 0.5 m west of W101. Wall 101b was preserved a single course high and it seems that a narrow doorway was installed at its southern end, using the bottom course of W101a as a threshold stone (Fig. 3). The room, delineated by Walls 110, 104b, 101a–b, was paved with a plaster floor (L109), overlying a bed of gravel. Dismantling the floor revealed ceramic finds that included a Fine Byzantine Ware cup (Fig. 5:3), dating to the eighth–ninth centuries CE; plain buff-colored bowls (Fig. 5:5) and bowls with rims folded out (Fig. 5:8) that are characteristic of Abbasid assemblages; a large krater with a thickened rim and combed decoration (Fig. 5:12) that is also common in Abbasid assemblages, but has a broad chronological range from the seventh until the tenth centuries CE; a Jerusalem-type jar (Fig. 5:20) and a jug of buff-colored clay with a thickened, folded-out rim (Fig. 5:23). A bone handle that contained the remains of an iron blade (Fig. 5:24) was possibly an awl.
Wall 102 of Stratum III continued into Phase 2 of Stratum I. Overlying the fill of the Byzantine period (L105) were two plaster floors (L103, L106), one atop the other, dating to the Abbasid period. The ceramic finds recovered from the upper floor (L106) included a Fine Byzantine Ware bowl (Fig. 5:4) that dated from the middle of the seventh century until the ninth century CE; a small buff-colored krater (Fig. 5:10) that is similar to vessels from assemblages in Ramla, and a large krater (Fig. 5:11). Two buff-colored bowls (Fig. 5:6, 7) and the rim of a jar or amphora (Fig. 5:22) came from the top of the lower floor (L103). The conspicuous absence of glazed vessels from the ceramic assemblage of Stratum I indicates that this settlement probably ceased to exist before glazed vessels first appeared, in which case Stratum I should be dated to the second half of the eighth century CE.