The 2008 excavation allowed for a thorough investigation of the fort and its surrounding area and provided new information regarding the method of its construction and its size and shape (Figs. 4, 5). Four areas were excavated in within the fort down to bedrock: an area to its north (C402, D102), where the main entrance to the fort was discovered in its north wall (W19); the courtyard west of its western wall (W20; B202); the long room south of the courtyard (B102); and the western ‘rooms’ or partitions in the tower (C110, C120). An area excavated to the north of the fort uncovered a small winepress (F4, F5). A square opened c. 5 m northeast of the fort yielded a field wall (W18; not on plan). A number of wadi terraces are visible 25–50 m south of the fort. One of them, c. 25 m southeast of the fort (Area F, W19; not on plan) was also excavated in the wake of damage caused by nearby construction work.
The main entrance into the fort (c. 1 m wide) was revealed in W19 (Fig. 6) when excavating in C402. Immediately inside the entrance, to its east, was a stone (0.27 × 0.54 m) with eight depressions carved in two rows, apparently a game board. An area in front of the entrance was enclosed on the west by a wall (W14), which was added along the line of the western wall of the fort (W20). A built channel (F6; length 5.34 m, width 0.22 m, depth 0.31 m; Fig. 7) runs diagonally across this area, from its southwestern corner to its northeastern corner, passing c. 0.3 m east of a tabun that was discovered in the 2001 season. The channel was apparently used to drain rain water from the corner of the fort, where the stones of W14 are disturbed. The channel was hewn into the bedrock and lined with ashlars, some showing Nabataean-style chisel marks (Fig. 8).
The northern end of the channel was cancelled with the construction of the small winepress in D102 (Fig. 7). The winepress consists of a small treading floor (F4; 1.20 × 1.48 m, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 9) paved with stones that still retain remains of hydraulic plaster, and a small, square collecting vat (F5; 0.95 × 0.93 m, depth 0.6 m; Fig. 10). The must from the treading floor drained through an opening on the northern side of the installation that led into the collecting vat. The winepress apparently operated in the Early Byzantine period (fourth – early fifth centuries CE), when the area was cultivated.
In the courtyard to the west of the fort, the rock-cut foundation trench (depth up to 0.15 m) of the western wall of the fort (W20) was revealed. The courtyard was entered from the rooms to its south via two entrances in its southern wall (W7). The eastern entrance, between W7 and W20 (width 0.82 m; Fig. 11), formed a step from the higher level of the bedrock in B102 down into the courtyard; the threshold is not extant. The western entrance (width 0.8 m; Fig. 12) was located mid-way along W7, and consists of a raised threshold, and a step leading down to the room. The raised threshold may have been constructed in order to prevent debris from flowing into the room from the courtyard.
Previous excavations in the tower on the south end of the fort revealed that it was partitioned into four spaces by lines of stones (Fig. 13). In 2008, the two western spaces (C110, C120) were excavated down to bedrock. A pit carved into the bedrock (F3; diam. 0.45 m, depth 0.32 m) was found below the dirt floor of C110 (Fig. 14). No finds were discovered in the pit. An unidentified coin and iron nails were discovered in the adjacent space (C120).
Sherds of a Nabataean strainer jar with plastic decoration that were discovered on the bedrock in front of the fort (C402; Fig. 15:2, 3) give evidence to Nabataean presence in the Early Roman period. Ceramic finds in other parts of the fort date to the Early Byzantine period (fourth – early fifth centuries CE) and include basins (Fig. 15:4–6), juglets (Fig. 15:7, 8) and jugs (Fig. 15:9, 10), cooking pots (Fig. 15:11, 12) and Gaza wine jars (Figs. 15:13–16). Burn marks on the interior of one Gaza wine jar attest to its use as a brazier (Fig. 15:15). Examples of the upper half of storage jars (usually Gaza wine jars) used as braziers have been found in Late Roman contexts (e.g., at Moyat ‘Awad) and especially in Early Byzantine-period contexts in Mampsis and Oboda. Other finds include the lower half of a globular juglet with a ribbed body (Fig. 15:8) that was discovered on the floor of the collecting vat (F5), and the rim of a glass bowl (Fig. 15:17) that was found in front of the fort (D102).
Outside the fort, two field walls were investigated. Wall 18, oriented east–west (length 5.07 m; Fig. 16), is constructed on the slope northeast of the fort of a line of medium–large field stones. In previous investigations, a small quantity of Early Roman pottery was discovered near it; during the 2008 excavation, the rim of a Roman-period strainer jar was discovered here (Fig. 15:1). Wall 19 (total length 16.5 m, excavated length 5 m; Fig. 17) is part of the terraced wadi south of the fort. It is constructed of a line of large field stones. No diagnostic artifacts were discovered.
The fort at Horvat Bor was constructed next to a pre-existing cistern on an important road that connected Mampsis with other towns, including Oboda, in the Negev Highlands. Evidence of Nabataean presence along this road was found in an unexcavated site inside the northern entrance to Yeroham and near Mezad Yeroham. In recent years, a Roman milestone was discovered along this route, between the modern settlement of Midreshet Sede Boqer and Oboda (H. Ben-David, pers. comm.). Evidence to Roman army presence was found along the road at Mezad Yeroham and Horvat Haluqim.
The site of Horvat Bor was originally settled by the Nabataeans sometime in the Early Roman period. At that time, the arched cistern was constructed. To date, no other Nabataean structures have been discovered at the site, but Nabatean coins and pottery were found throughout the area, and ashlars with Nabataean-style chisel marks that were found in 2008 indicate some kind of a structure that may have been destroyed to make way for the construction of the Late Roman fort in the Diocletianic period. In this period, numerous military installations were erected throughout the Negev, the Arava and Transjordan.
The artifacts discovered in 2008 and in earlier excavation seasons suggest that the fort was occupied in the Late Roman – Early Byzantine periods (late third – early fifth centuries CE). Thus, the construction of the winepress apparently took place some time during the later fourth or early fifth centuries CE.
The results of the 2008 season proved the original reconstruction of the plan of the fort (Israel and Erickson-Gini 2001–2002) to be untenable. The main structure is rectangular, with a tower on the southern end and a staircase inside the main room. The main entrance to the structure is located on its northern end. A game board, probably used by guards, was found just inside the entrance. A game board of this type was also found inside the Diocletianic gate at nearby Mampsis. Other walls around the core structure, as well as the wine press, were added to the main structure in the later fourth or early fifth centuries CE.