The excavation took place on a low hill, which was divided into four units (A–D; Fig. 1). Unit A was excavated in the past (Spivak 2010; Fig. 1: Unit A), whereas Unit B–D were opened in the current excavation. Unit B extended along the western slope of the hill, and Units C and D extended along its eastern slope. Numerous bedrock outcrops with rock-cut features and cupmarks were scattered over the hill. The present excavation uncovered nine simple winepresses cut into the nari rock, five natural caves, four stone circles, four dams and an outcrop with rock-cut shafts. In addition, two stone-clearance heaps were partially excavated (F6, F8), but they produced no datable remains. Six probes (A1–A6), positioned at various points on the hill, yielded flint items dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.
Rock-cut winepresses (F2, F4, F15, F16, F19, F20, F22, F24, F124; area of treading floors 2.25–9.00 sq m; Figs. 2–7). Most of the winepresses featured a square treading floor moderately inclined toward a square collecting vat. Winepresses 2, 4 and 15 included a small, shallow settling pit. The floors of most collecting vats were ruined. An incomplete cist or arcosolium tomb was hewn in the center of Winepress 2’s treading floor. Winepress 124 had a stepped, fan-shaped treading floor that drained into and an ovoid collecting vat. At a later phase, a bodeda and an installation with small cupmarks and a channel were cut into the treading floor.
Natural caves (F4a, F5, F6, F16, F25). Cave 16 (3 × 4 m), which extended under Winepress 16 (Figs. 5, 6), was apparently used to store the winepress’s produce; five steps were hewn at the entrance to the cave. The largest of the caves was Cave F4a; its ceiling collapsed, and its entrance was apparently in the west. A round shaft cut into its floor (diam. 0.6 m, excavated depth 1 m) contained worn sherds and flint item dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; excavation of the shaft was not completed.
Stone circles (F19a, F20a, F28, F41; max. diam. 2 m; Fig. 8). Four stone circles were discovered. They were built of one row of large fieldstones usually preserved only one course high; no openings were found in them. All four circles were located along the banks of a shallow streambed that descends southeast from the top of the hill; three were built on its eastern bank, and one circle (F41) was built on the western bank. No datable finds were unearthed in these circles, which were probably the remains of field towers.
Dams (F15a, F16a, F21, F23). A system of four agricultural dams was found along a shallow streambed descending eastward from the top of the hill. They were built of two parallel rows of large fieldstones and a fill of small to medium-sized stones between them. Dam 23 (W18, W27; Fig. 9) was located farthest downstream and, therefore, was the most robust and included a retaining wall (W10) built perpendicular to the dam.
Outcrop F9 included two shafts (excavated depth 1.5 m and 2.5 m; Fig. 10) hewn c. 1.5 m apart. They were only partially excavated due to technical limitations, and consequently their function could not be clarified.
Flint assemblage. Various knapped and flaked objects were found. Most were collected from the surface, and a few were retrieved from the installations and probes. The density of the finds varied across the hill and increased toward the hilltop and to its west. No flint items were recorded in situ. Nevertheless, the retrieved assemblage (6,727 items; Table 1) is technologically and typologically homogenous, and all the items were made of local, Mishash Formation flint. Chunks of raw Mishash flint of various sizes were found on the hill, some embedded in the limestone, while others were detached.
The flint assemblage is dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Bifacial tools that were sharpened by transverse tranchet removals, typical of the period, were found in large numbers on the surface. The percentage of bifacial tools (see selected items in Fig. 11) is exceptionally high, representing different stages in their life history: manufacture, use, discard and re-use. Other tools, typical of the period—arrowheads and sickle blades—are striking in their absence.
Table 1. Flint tool assemblage
Primary objects
Core Trimming Elements
Bifacial tools
Other tools
Tranchet flakes
The agricultural installations discovered on the hill seem to have operated contemporaneously, constituting part of Horbat Kelah’s or Horbat Zekharya’s agricultural hinterland. Vine cultivation was apparently an important component of the region’s economy during the Roman and Byzantine periods (Zelinger and Avner 2010; Spivak 2010; Haiman 2013). Pre-Pottery Neolithic A flint assemblages are a common feature in the landscape of the Modi‘in area (Grosman and Goren-Inbar 2011; Zbenovich 2006). The quantitative prominence of bifacial tools coupled with the striking underrepresentation of arrowheads and sickle blades is a distinctive feature of the flint assemblages in this region. The wide distribution of flint assemblages in the area, alongside the absence of contemporaneous architectural remains, suggests these sites were used for industrial purposes rather than for habitation or agriculture. It seems that the same preferences held for the Classical periods, when these hills were considered unsuitable for habitation but were utilized for both industry and agriculture that supported settlement sites and served as their hinterland.