During April 2004 a salvage excavation was conducted on the northwestern fringes of Tel Shelat, within Moshav Shilat (Permit No. A-4147*; map ref. NIG 20230/64735; OIG 15230/14735), prior to the construction of a swimming pool. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by Moshav Shilat, was directed by Y. Zelinger, with the assistance of A. Bechar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), L. Yihiye (GPS), O. Shorr (pottery restoration), C. Amit (studio photography), A. Pikovsky (pottery drawing) and E. Belashov (drafting).
Four excavation areas (F1–4; Fig. 1) were opened in an area, which was apparently used for cultivation by the adjacent settlement in antiquity and continued to be used for this purpose by the residents of the Arab village, located on the ruin until 1948. The remains uncovered in the four excavated areas were indicative of agricultural activity. No previous excavation was ever conducted at the site, which was, however, surveyed (Archaeological Survey of the Hill Country of Benjamin, 1993, Site 2) and more than half of the collected ceramic finds dated to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, at which time the site was probably inhabited.
Area F1. An ancient road, running in a general north–south direction for a distance of c. 30 m, was discovered (Fig. 2). It had an average width of 3 m and was delimited on both sides by walls (W205, W206), built of medium-sized fieldstones and founded on natural bedrock terraces. Two probe trenches (2 m wide) were excavated perpendicular to the road (Fig. 3). Below surface and next to W206 in the southern trench three cooking pots that dated to the Hasmonean-Early Roman period were discovered (Fig. 4). The pots were in situ and sufficiently well preserved to be restored. Their presence in the middle of the road was unclear. To ascertain that the pots were not found inside an earlier building, the northern probe trench was excavated c. 3 m away, revealing solely the road bedding and no diagnostic ceramic finds. The width of the road, the method of its construction and its geographic location indicate that it functioned as a secondary farm road between two adjacent settlements, perhaps Horbat Shelat and Khirbat Badd ‘Isa. As such, it was part of the agricultural road network in the region. A similar road, branching off from the main Roman road from Lod to Jerusalem and going in the direction of Khirbat Badd ‘Isa, was identified in the past by Magen (Magen Y., Zionit Y. and Sirkis A. Qiryat Sefer – A Jewish Town and Synagogue from the Second Temple Period. Qadmoniot 117:25 [Hebrew]).
Area F2. An east–west oriented wall (length 50 m, width 1.2–1.4 m, height 1.2 m) was cleaned in this area. It was probably a terrace wall built by the residents of the adjacent Arab village, using ancient masonry stones. Numerous clearance stones were heaped on top of the wall.
Area F3. The southern part of a watchman’s booth (Fig. 5) was excavated. It was enclosed in the south by a wall (W209; length 4.5 m, width 0.8–0.9 m, height 0.1–0.5 m) built of two stone rows; the exterior row consisted of large stones (0.5 × 0.7 m) and the interior one comprised small stones. Once the watchman’s booth was no longer in use a clearance heap, containing stones gathered from the nearby agricultural plots, was piled on top of it.
Area F4. A stone clearance heap (diam. 3.2 m, height 0.8 m), piled on top of a large bedrock outcrop and delimited on all sides by walls built of large fieldstones, was cleaned.