The excavation uncovered the remains of a rectangular tower, dated by its finds to the eighth century BCE. The tower was built on a westward-sloping ridge in the southern Judean Shephelah (430 m asl), commanding a view of the Hebron Hills to the east, the Judean Shephelah to the south and north, and the coastal plain and Ashkelon to the west. Northeast of the site lie two of the largest Iron Age II sites in the region— Tell Beit Mirsim (2 km away) and Tel ‘Eton (6.5 km away)—both destroyed by the Assyrians in 701 BCE; to the south lies the large eighth-century BCE site of Tel Halif (6.5 km away).
The tower (3.5 × 5.0 m, preserved height 2 m; Figs. 2, 3) was founded on partially leveled bedrock, and its walls (W001–W004) were built of huge, coarsely dressed stones (0.5–0.6 × 0.9–1.6 × 1.2–1.8 m; max. weight 8 tons), laid lengthwise on their narrow side. The massive stone base indicates that the tower probably stood to a height of 4–5 m. The entrance (L106; width 0.85 m) was in the northeastern corner, and a few medium-sized stones found in the entrance suggest that it was probably deliberately blocked up before it was abandoned. Inside the structure, a bench (W005; 1.35 × 0.4 m, height 0.4 m; Fig. 4) was built along W004 of four roughly-dressed, medium-sized stones (c. 0.4 × 0.4 m). The westward-sloping bedrock served as the tower’s floor (L100, L101, L107), on which were retrieved a few potsherds and a circular stone basin (0.4 × 0.5 m) with a rounded depression (0.2 × 0.3 m).
The small pottery sherd assemblage represents a variety of Iron II types that are characteristic of Iron IIB Judean Shephelah and southern coastal sites, with parallels at Tel Lachish Stratum III, Tel Batash Stratum III and Tel Be’er Shevaʽ Strata III–II. Some of the vessels bear wheel-burnished red slip. The pottery include bowls with rounded rims thickened inside and out (Fig. 5:1–3; Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.32:5; Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Fig. 15:6, 7); rounded bowls with an outfolded rim (Fig. 5:4–7), a very common type in the eighth century BCE (Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.26:1; Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Fig. 13:24–26); a bowl with a sloping-in ledge rim (Fig. 5:8), resembling a chalice bowl at Timnah (Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Fig. 22:8); two kraters with rounded outfolded rims (Fig. 5:9, 10; Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Fig. 15:6, 7, 10; Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.20:9, 10; Singer-Avitz 2016: Fig. 12.79:6); holemouth jars with smooth wide outfolded rims (Fig. 5:11–13; Mazar and Panitz-Cohen 2001: Fig. 21:7–9, 10; Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.16:4, 26.5:11, 12, 26.25:7; Singer-Avitz 2016: Fig. 12.138:6–8); a jug with a long neck and rounded rim (Fig. 5:14), designated a ‘cooking jug’ (Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.27:5); and the lower part of a black juglet with an elongated body and a rounded base (Fig. 5:15), a common Iron II type at Judahite sites (Zimhoni 2004: Fig. 26.39:10).
The location of the tower furnished it with an advantageous strategic position for observing and reporting on the Philistine enemy, one of whose cities was Ashkelon. In Iron Age II, a system of towers and fortresses was constructed in Judah to secure communication lines and to signal messages and field intelligence. The tower was part of this system, connecting the major cities of Tell Beit Mirsim, Tel ‘Eton and Tel Lachish. In antiquity, messages were conveyed using smoke beacons during the day, and fire signals at night. The Bible records of the use of beacons (mas’et in biblical Hebrew), for example, smoke beacons in the account of the concubine at Gibeah (Judges 20:38–40), and (fire) signals announcing pending war (Jeremiah 6:1). One of the ostraca discovered in the outer gate rooms of the fortress at Tel Lachish (Letter No. 4) reads, “Then it will be known that we are watching the (fire)-signals of Lachish according to the code which my lord gave us, for we cannot see Azeqah.” The letter shows that beacons and signaling systems were an integral part of the defensive system and routine security concept when the kingdom of Judah was under threat; the tower uncovered by the current excavation is probably one of the beacon signaling towers. It was probably abandoned just before the campaign of Sennacherib, King of Assyria to Judah in 701 BCE, when its entrance was deliberately blocked up, and the force that manned it was transferred to one of the nearby fortified cities.