The excavation (25 sq m) was conducted on the southeastern fringes of el-Ja‘una, an Arab village from the Ottoman period until 1948 (Biran and Selzer 2018). The site was surveyed by V. Guérin and by the Survey of Western Palestine, who identified ancient architectural elements in the village houses (Guérin 1880:454; Conder and Kitchener 1881:198, 224). An additional survey of the village in the late 1880s recorded remains of an ancient bathhouse and other architectural elements (Schumacher 1889). The 1960s Department of Antiquities Survey of the ruined village documented ancient buildings and other architectural remains. The Rosh Pinna Map Survey identified almost continuous occupation at the site, from the Early Bronze Age to the present day (Stepansky 2012). In the southeastern part of the site, where the excavation was conducted, the survey identified Roman and Byzantine building remains, as well as architectural elements that may attest to the existence of a synagogue (Stepansky 2012: Site 187). Previous excavations uncovered architectural remains and destruction layers from the Iron Age, and occupation layers from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods (Stepansky 2008; Hartal 2009; Alexandre 2019).
The excavation unearthed remains of the stone-built vault and rock-cut cistern of a building dating from the British Mandate period, buried beneath a layer of modern rubble and waste. The vault walls were built on the leveled bedrock surface and were preserved for seven courses (Figs. 2, 3). The vault contained collapsed stones, soil accumulations, much modern waste, and a few sherds of Rashaya el-Fukhar ware dated to the Ottoman and British Mandate periods (Stern 2016:84–88). Beneath the accumulations, an opening hewn in the center of the bedrock floor (Fig. 3: Section 2–2), led down via two rock-hewn steps into a bell-shaped plastered cistern (diam. c. 1.2 m, depth 0.7 m; Figs. 4, 5). The cistern yielded seven Israeli coins: six pruta coins from 1952 and an agora coin from 1960 (Fig. 6). The cistern must have served the building’s occupants. Similar cisterns are visible today in old houses in Rosh Pinna, and in the ruined houses of el-Ja‘una.
An aerial photograph from 1945 shows a house in the el-Ja‘una village in the area of the excavation (British Royal Air Force 1945; Fig. 7); the vault and the cistern exposed in the excavation evidently lay under this house. The coins retrieved in the cistern postdate the village, indicating that the building, adjacent to Rosh Pinna, may still have been in use in 1960, and the coins were probably discarded in the empty cistern in that year, when it was still empty of accumulated debris.