In October 2014, a trial excavation was conducted at Ramat Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A-7221; map ref. 198904/624307; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by R. Greenwald, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), Y. Tzur and S. Gendler (inspection and preparation of excavation areas), A. Peretz (field photography), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), N. Zak (plans), C. Amit (studio photography) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery and small-finds drawing).
Two excavation areas were opened (J, J1) on a gently sloping southeastern spur in an area unaffected by the surrounding development, which had been left as an untouched natural ‘island’. A rock-hewn pit and remains of a wall were excavated, and potsherds from the Iron Age and the Persian period were found. A thorough survey conducted in the surrounding region documented numerous agricultural installations (Dagan 2010). Remains of a settlement from the Persian period (Permit No. A-6993) were discovered to the east of the excavation area, on the western bank of the upper reaches of Naḥal Yarmut.
Area J (Fig. 2). Excavations were resumed in a rock-hewn pit (L108) that had previously been excavated (Dagan 2010:175, Site 225); the previous excavation had been halted upon reaching sandy soil. The pit was cleaned of accumulated soil and dug down to its floor. A narrow, round shaft (diam. 0.7 m, depth 0.8 m) hewn in the nari rock led down to the pit; a groove (width 0.1 m; Fig. 3) was hewn around the mouth of the shaft to hold a cover. The circular pit (depth 1.3 m, diam. 2.0 m) was hewn in soft bedrock. Inside the pit were potsherds dated to the Iron Age and the Persian period.
Area J1 (Fig. 4). In the center of the excavation square were remains of a wall (W109; Fig. 5) built of a row of large fieldstones (0.5 × 1.0 m). A stone surface (L106) was unearthed to the west of the wall, and Iron Age and Persian potsherds were found on top of it.
The Finds. Both areas yielded fragments of bowls (Fig. 6:1–5), jars (Fig. 6:6–13), a jug (Fig. 6:14) and oil lamps (Fig. 7:1, 2), as well as part of an alabaster bowl (Fig. 8), all dated to the late Iron Age. Fragments of Persian-period mortaria (Fig. 7:3, 4) were also recovered.
Similar alabaster vessels were previously found nearby (Permit No. A-6993). An alabaster quarry was recently discovered in the Cave of the Twins (Frumkin et al. 2014). The raw material for these vessels may have been quarried locally, and not imported from a distance.
The pit’s function and date are unknown, but it may have been used for storage in the Persian period. The context and function of W109 are also unknown, but based on the ceramic finds it can be dated to the late Iron Age or early Persian period.
Dagan Y. 2010. The Ramat Bet Shemesh Regional Project: The Gazetteer (IAA Reports 46). Jerusalem.
Frumkin A., Bar-Matthews M., Davidovich U., Langford B., Porat R., Ullman M. and Zissu B. 2014. In-situ Dating of Ancient Quarries and The Source of Flowstone (‘Calcite-Alabaster’) Artifacts in the Southern Levant. JAS 41:749–750.