In October 2015, a trial excavation was conducted c. 900 m northeast of Nevatim (Permit No. A-7523; map ref. 190671–758/569703–54; Fig. 1), following the discovery of an ancient site during inspections prior to paving Highway 6. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Cross Israel Highway Company, was directed by F. Kobrin, with the assistance of I.M. Peretz (preliminary antiquities inspection), Y. Al-ʽAmor (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), N. Zak (plans) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
Two phases of remains of an agricultural complex that date to the Byzantine period were revealed: an early phase with remains of an agricultural terrace and meager building remains; and a late phase, during which a building was constructed, canceling the earlier remains. Almost nothing was preserved of the later phase. Two ancient cisterns were also documented.
Early Phase. Earthmoving work carried out in the Byzantine period created a terrace that ran counter to the topographical slope (L105; Figs. 2, 3). A retaining wall (W4; length 6.5 m, width c. 0.6 m; Fig. 4) ran in an east–west direction, perpendicular to the terrace. It was constructed of fieldstones and small and medium river pebbles that were preserved to a height of ten courses. The southern face of the wall built perpendicular to the topographical terrace was well preserved, unlike the northern face, which was left exposed. Building stones that collapsed from the wall were found north of the retaining wall. Meager remains of additional walls (W5, W8, W9; Fig. 5), probably all that was preserved of a building, were found c. 1.5 m west of the retaining wall.
Late Phase. A building constructed in this phase canceled the early phase; its remains were found in a very poor state of preservation. These comprise three delimiting walls (W1–W3; Fig. 6), of which only the foundations survived; the western wall did not survive. The walls of the building were constructed of fieldstones and medium-sized river pebbles (Fig. 6). Walls 1 and 2 were built above the western end of W4 of the earlier phase (Fig. 7). It seems that W3 continued eastward, suggesting that another space that belonged to the building existed in that direction; no floors were preserved.
Ceramic Artifacts. A meager amount of pottery sherds was found. These were mainly body fragments of bag-shaped jars, and only four diagnostic sherds that date to the Byzantine period: a cooking pot (Fig. 8:1) and a cooking jug (Fig. 8:2) that were recovered from the fill of the early phase, north of the retaining wall, and two fragments of bag-shaped jars (Fig. 8:3, 4) that were found on the surface.
. Two stone-lined cisterns were documented. One cistern (L119; diam. c. 3 m; Fig. 9) was located 25 m northwest of the excavation area. The western part of the cistern was partially collapsed. The cistern was slightly to the east of a settling installation for debris from the water that flowed into the cistern. Installations of this type are characteristic of water collection systems at sites in both the northern Negev (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994
) and the northwestern Negev (Paran 2000
; Nikolsky 2010; Nahshoni and Seriy 2014
) during the Byzantine period. The second cistern (L120; Fig. 10) was c. 600 m south of the excavation area and had a drainage channel in its eastern part. ;