In October–November 2015, a salvage excavation was carried out within the area of the planned village of Hiran (Permit No. A-7501; map ref. 199826–944/580879–965; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by V. Lifshits and A. Rasiuk, with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying), N. Zak (plans), A. Peretz (field photography), E. Aladjem (aerial photography), S. Talis and N. Lect Ben Ami (pottery), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing) and E. Boaretto (radiocarbon dating). Further assistance was provided by N.D. Michael, D. Varga, D. Eisenberg-Degen, Y. Abadi-Reiss and laborers from Kuseifa.
The excavation area is situated on the east slope of a low limestone hill near Road 316, c. 7 km east of the town of Hura and c. 3 km west of Yattir Forest. Several archaeological surveys conducted previously in the vicinity (Negev 2002; Aladjem 2013; Michael 2017; Lifshits, in preparation) documented, among other finds, cisterns, field walls, winepresses and flint concentrations.
The excavation unearthed three strata (Figs. 2–4): Stratum III, comprising parts of a structure from the Iron Age IIC; and Strata II–I, which contained two architectural phases of a building with a courtyard and tabuns from the late Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods. Built on a steep slope, height differences of c. 4 m existed between the building’s highest point in the west and its lowest point in the east. As a result, most of the eastern part of the building was not preserved.
Wall foundations of a structure (estimated size 6.5 × 12.0 m) were unearthed beneath the center of the Strata II–I building’s courtyard. The foundations were built of roughly hewn flint stones placed directly on the bedrock. The remains of a floor bedding made of earth mixed with small fieldstones were found directly on the bedrock (L150, L178). The pottery from this stratum dates the structure to the Iron Age IIC (Talis, below).
Pottery from Stratum III
The Stratum III pottery assemblage contains serving, cooking and storage vessels characteristic of late Iron Age IIC and the early phase of the Persian period (late seventh–early sixth centuries BCE), which were common in the Judean Plain (Shefelah), the southern coastal plain and the northern Negev (Fig. 5). Most of the bowls are red-slipped and wheel-burnished. The bowls in this assemblage are an open, flat bowl with an infolded rim that is triangular in section (Fig. 5:1); a bowl with a sharp carination in the upper third of the body and an outfolded rim, with burnishing and red slip on both sides of the rim (Fig. 5:2); and three rounded bowls, two with burnish and red-slipped on the interior and exterior of their outfolded rims (Fig. 5:3–5). Similar bowls were retrieved from Stratum II at Tel Lakhish (Zimhoni 2004: Figs. 25.56:2, 26.43:7, 26.32:6–7, 26.43:8). Also found were a cooking pot, whose rim is incurved and bears an outer ridge and neck is concave and rounded (Fig. 5:6), similar to vessels found in Stratum II at Tel Batash (Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Pl. 55:2); a holemouth jar with a wide mouth and an elongated outfolded rim that meets the jar’s outer wall (Fig. 5:7), similar to a vessel found in Stratum II at Tel Batash II (Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Pl. 45:15); Two high-necked jars with an elongated outfolded rim meeting the vessel wall (Fig. 5:8, 9), belonging to a type that was common during the Persian period (e.g., Stratum I at Tel Batash; Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Pl. 105:6); and two jugs, one with an outfolded, rounded rim (Fig. 5:10), and the other with a trefoil rim (Fig. 5:11).
The remains of these two strata contained two architectural phases of one structure dated to the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Lect Ben Ami, below).
Stratum II. The walls of the Stratum III building were dismantled, its foundations were covered with a thick layer of soil, and a square structure (R1; 6.0 × 7.5 m) was erected to its west. The wall foundations of the new structure were built of two rows of partially dressed flint and limestone building stones with a core of medium-sized fieldstones. The courses above them were built of roughly dressed small and medium-sized stones adhered together with bonding material; the walls were coated with mud inside the structure. The entrance to the building was on its east side, via a stairway (1.0 × 1.2 m; Fig. 6) built of large fieldstones beside the east wall (W112). The floor (L116, L186) was made of tamped earth and had a bedding of soil mixed with crushed chalk, which was laid directly on the bedrock (L127). A semi-circular, stone-built installation (L194; 1.2 × 1.2 m; Fig. 7) that was used as an oven was incorporated in the building’s northwest corner, and a bench built of small stones (L186; 0.7 × 2.0 m) was set in the southwest corner. A square room (R2; 2.2 × 2.4 m; Fig. 8) was unearthed to the east of the building. Its walls and floor (L132) were constructed in a similar manner to those of Building R1. Based on the jar body fragments found in the room, it was probably used as a storeroom.
Stratum I. The Stratum II building remained in its previous form, with the addition of two rooms to its northwest and two rooms to its southwest (23 × 34 m total area), as well as a courtyard (14 × 24 m) to the east of the enlarged building. The courtyard was enclosed by walls built of large and medium-sized fieldstone; these were preserved in the southeast corner of the courtyard (W111—c. 13 m long, 0.8 m wide, W174—28 m long, 0.8 m wide). The walls of this phase were built of two rows of stones (0.6 m wide): the outer row was built of large fieldstones and the inner row was built of medium-sized fieldstones coated with mud. The rooms were entered from the courtyard via openings in W112, whose threshold stones (c. 0.4 × 0.7 m) were preserved. A stone-built bench-like installation was built on the floor (L122) in Room R6 (4 × 6 m); it stretched from the center of W163 to the northeast (length 1.4 m; Fig. 9). Room R5 (4 × 5 m) had a tamped-earth floor, which was laid on a bedding of crushed chalk (L143) with an installation in its east corner. Room R3 (4 × 5 m) had a tamped-earth floor (L162), a tabun in each of its east and the west corners, and a raised installation along the room’s east side. Room R4 (4 × 6 m) contained a tamped-earth floor, which was laid on a bedding of crushed chalk (L114, L153).
Pottery from Strata II–I
Nir Lect Ben Ami
The finds from Strata II and I include a variety of domestic vessels. The bowls include a small bowl with a thick, outfolded and drawn-in rim (Fig. 10:1) that resembles examples dated to the early Islamic period (ninth century CE; Torgë 2017:56, Type G-1.2.1); a bowl with a plain drawn-in rim (Fig. 10:2), comparable to bowls dated to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE; Torgë 2017:58, Type C-2.2.1); a bowl with an upright rim (Fig. 10:3) that is similar to late Byzantine examples (seventh century CE; Nikolsky and Figueras 2004: Fig. 46:5); a bowl with a thickened out-drawn rim (Fig. 10:4) of a type dated to the late Byzantine period (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994: Fig. 3:4, 5); and a bowl with a thick, outfolded and in-drawn rim (Fig. 10:5), comparable to Early Islamic examples (ninth–tenth centuries CE; Torgë 2017:59, Type G-1.2.1). The cooking vessels include a small casserole (Fig. 10:6) that resembles vessels dated to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Rosenthal-Heginbottom 1988: Pl.V:200); a casserole with a combed body (Fig. 10:7) that has parallels from the Byzantine period (seventh century CE; Magness 1993:212, Form 1.13); a casserole lid with a combed body (Fig. 10:8) resembling examples dated to the end of the Byzantine period (seventh century CE; Nikolsky and Figueras 2004: Fig. 46:5); a cooking pot with an upright neck, a thickened rim and two strap handles (Fig. 10:9), similar to pots dated to the late Byzantine period (seventh century CE; Nikolsky and Figueras 2004: Fig. 46:10); a cooking pot with a vertical neck and an out-drawn rim (Fig. 10:10) of a type dated to the late Byzantine period (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994: Fig. 6:20); a cooking pot with a concave neck and a thickened rim (Fig. 10:11), of a type dated to the Byzantine period (seventh century CE; Magness 1993:220, Form 4C:1); and a cooking pot (Fig. 10:12) that has parallels from the Early Islamic period (eighth–ninth centuries CE; Torgë 2017:70, Type A-1.3.2). Also found were a Fine Byzantine Ware juglet (Fig. 10:13), dated to the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE; Nikolsky and Figueras 2004: Fig. 31:23); two buff-clay jugs (Fig. 10:14, 15) resembling examples dated to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Torgë 2017:88–90, Type 1.2.4); a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 10:16) that has late Byzantine parallels (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Magness 1993:226, Fig. 1:2); and a mold-made lamp (Fig. 10:17) of a type dated to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Magness 1993:256, Form 4B:2, 3).Two other vessels recovered were made of steatite and had a ledge handle, a simple rim and an upright body (Fig. 10:18, 19); similar examples have been dated to the late Byzantine period (seventh century CE; Nikolsky and Figueras 2004: Fig. 68:2, 5, 6). The entire assemblage dates from the seventh–ninth centuries CE, and most of the finds were from the seventh–eighth centuries CE.
Additional Remains (Fig. 2)
Cave. A rock-hewn cave (8.0 × 10.5 m; Fig. 11) was excavated to the west of the buildings; it contained no apparent architectural remains. Its roof had caved in, forming a collapse (3.5 m high) that covered ash layers (L193, L195) dated to the fourth–second centuries BCE following radiocarbon analyses (Sample Nos. RTD8539, RTD8540). It is therefore clear that the cave was not in contemporaneous use with the nearby buildings.
Field Walls and Cisterns. A field wall (W164; 7.5 m long, 0.6 m wide, preserved height 5–6 courses) was excavated c. 9 m northeast of the Stratum I building. The wall, built directly on the bedrock, was apparently part of a stone fence near the building. Two rock-hewn cisterns (L302, L303) were documented further on, c. 300 m away. A concrete surface set in a metal frame was constructed over the two cisterns in modern times to serve the local population. Another field wall (W301; 4 m long, 0.9 m wide) was excavated c. 50 m southeast of the building. It was built of large fieldstones, preserved to two courses high, and probably served as a dam.
The building from Stratum III dates from Late Iron Age IIC and was probably a farmhouse. There is scholarly consensus that settlement in the southern Hebron hill country ceased in the wake of Sennacherib’s 701 BCE campaign, and that throughout the seventh century BCE, the region contained only a nomadic population (Batz 2006:70). However, the finds from the current excavation and other recently excavated farmsteads in the Lakhish region (as yet unpublished) attest to agricultural settlements in the area after Sennacherib’s campaign as well.
The Strata II–I building is typical of Early Islamic farmhouses in the Negev, most of which include a central courtyard surrounded by rooms. The building dates from the Early Islamic period (Umayyad and Abbasid, eighth–ninth centuries CE), although the ceramic finds indicate that its construction was begun as early as the late Byzantine period. Most of the pottery from the building is characteristic of sites from this period in the Negev (Nol 2008:83–84). The agricultural hinterland of Be’er Sheva‘ in the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods included numerous diverse sites (Ramot neighborhood in Be’er Sheva‘—Gilad and Fabian 2008:327; Hura—Peretz 2012; Lehavim—Kobrin 2016; Nahal ‘Ashan—Eisenberg-Degen and Kobrin 2016; Horbat Moladah—A. Fraiberg, pers. comm; Horbat Rosh—V. Nikolsky-Carmel and N. Lect Ben Ami, pers. comm.); the site at Hiran apparently belongs to this settlement array.
Aladjem E. 2013. Nahal Bikhra, Survey. HA-ESI 125.
Batz S. 2006. The Region of the Southern Hebron Hills from the Period of the Iron Age II to the Persian Period in Light of Recent Excavations. In Y. Eshel ed. Judea and Samaria Research Studies 15. Ariel. Pp. 55–72 (Hebrew).
Eisenberg-Degen D. and Kobrin F. 2016. Be’er Sheba‘, Nahal ‘Ashan, Newe Menahem B. HA-ESI 128.
Gilad Y. and Fabian P. 2008. 7,000 Years of Settlement: The Archaeological Remains in Be’er Sheva‘ from the Sixth Millennium BCE until the End of the First Millennium CE. In Y. Gradus and E. Meir-Glitzenstein eds. Beer Sheva: Metropolin Be-Hithavut. Be’er Sheva‘. Pp. 303–331 (Hebrew).
Kobrin F. 2016. Lehavim (South). HA-ESI 128.
Lifshits V. In preparation. Nahal Yattir Survey (the Roads at Hiran). HA-ESI.
Magness J. 1993. 1993. Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology: Circa 200–800 CE (JSOT/ASOR Monograph Series 9). Sheffield.
Mazar A. and Panitz-Cohen N. 2001. Timnah (Tel Batash) II: The Finds from the First Millennium BCE; Plates (Qedem 42, I). Jerusalem.
Michael N.D. 2017. Hiran HA-ESI 129.
Negev N. 2002. Survey in Yattir Forest.HA-ESI 114:96*–97*.
Nikolsky V. and Figueras P. 2004. Descriptive Pottery Catalogue. In P. Figueras ed. Horvat Karkur ‘Illit: A Byzantine Cemetery Church in the Northern Negev; Final Report of the Excavations 1989–1995 (Beer-Sheva XVI). Be’er-Sheva‘. Pp. 151–209.
Nol H. 2008. Settlement, Economy and State in the Arava during the Early Islamic Period from the Archaeological Data.M.A. thesis. Ben Gurion University. Be’er Sheva‘ (Hebrew).
Peretz I. 2012. Hura. HA-ESI 124.
Rosenthal-Heginbottom R. 1988. The Pottery. In Y. Tsafrir. Excavations at Rehovot-in-the-Negev I: The Northern Church (Qedem 25). Jerusalem. Pp. 78–96.
Torgë H. 2017. The Development of the Town of Ramla in the Early Islamic Period in Light of the Archaeological Finds. Ph.D. diss. Bar Ilan University. Ramat Gan (Hebrew).
Ustinova Y. and Nahshoni P. 1994. Salvage Excavations in Ramot Nof, Be’er Sheva‘. ‘Atiqot 25:157–177.
Zimhoni O. 2004. The Pottery of Levels III and II. In D. Ussishkin. The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973–1994) I (Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology Monograph Series 22). Tel Aviv. Pp. 1789–1899.