A traditional building and a cistern were discovered; around the building, a circular installation and a subterranean complex/rock-hewn cave were exposed (Fig. 2).
The building was square (5.7×5.7 m) and consisted of a single small room built in a traditional method and covered with a cross-vaulted ceiling. The walls survived to their full height (c. 3 m). The vault was not preserved, yet its remains were apparent on top of the inner walls (Figs. 3, 4).
The building was constructed from well-dressed indigenous fieldstones (soft chalk). The structure’s doorway faced east (Fig. 3) and windows existed in the northern (W4; Fig. 4) and southern walls (W2; Fig. 5). A niche was set in the western wall (W3; Fig. 6) of the building. The floor consisted of modern concrete (thickness 1 cm) and was founded on top of two layers: an upper layer of small flint stones (0.1–0.2×0.1–0.2 m) and gray soil (thickness 0.15 m) and a lower layer of yellowish brown soil (thickness 0.2 m), above the bedrock.
A raised plaza/podium (2.5×5.7 m) was built outside the building’s entrance. Its floor was made of modern concrete, similar to that of the building (Fig. 3). Approximately 1.5 m east of the plaza was a cistern (depth 4.05 m) with a large round capstone that was broken in half (diam. c. 1.3 m, thickness 0.4 m; Fig. 3). The capstone was placed on a rectangular opening (0.4×0.5 m) built of four courses of well-dressed fieldstones, founded on a circular opening hewn in the bedrock (dimensions are unknown), beneath which the cistern was hewn. The bottom of the cistern was not excavated but it may be beneath the water level and at a depth of c. 4.05 m below the broken capstone at the top of the cistern.
A strip (width 1.0–1.5 m) was excavated around the walls of the building, revealing the structure’s foundation trenches, without any datable finds. A round, rock-hewn installation (L109; diam. 0.8–0.9 m, depth 0.1 m; Fig. 2), whose nature and function are unclear, was exposed c. 1.7 m south of the building, at the level of the bedrock.
A subterranean complex/rock-cut cave was excavated 5 m south of the installation. The complex/cave has three chambers and remains of a fourth chamber to the north were damaged during the development work that preceded the excavation. Two of the chambers were elliptical and one was square. The southern chamber, which was elliptical (L107; diam. 1.6–1.8 m, depth 1.6 m` Fig. 7), could be reached by way of an opening breached in the upper part of the eastern side (Fig. 7: Section 1-1). Most of the opening was damaged by the development work undertaken prior to the excavation (Fig. 8). Inside the chamber was fill that consisted of brown and white soil and modern refuse. The northern side of the chamber was connected to the square northern chamber (L110; 1.65×1.75 m, height 1.3 m), which was originally entered by way of a natural elliptical opening in its ceiling (0.7×1.3 m; Figs. 8, 9) and a vertical rock-cut entrance shaft (depth 0.8–1.3 m; Fig. 7: Section 2-2). Brown and white soil fill and modern debris were found inside the chamber. From this chamber it was possible to access the elliptical western chamber (L111; c. 1.40×1.65 m, height 1.5 m), which also contained brown and white soil fill and modern debris. Potsherds dating to the Late Hellenistic period were mixed in the soil fill.
The excavations in and around the building and in the three chambers reached the level of the bedrock. Alluvial fill mixed with modern material was found in and around the building and in the first two chambers of the adjacent subterranean complex. The alluvial fill in the third and innermost chamber of the subterranean complex contained ceramic artifacts, including cooking pots from the Late Hellenistic period. In the absence of an ancient habitation level inside the complex, it is assumed that the finds were swept inside it. It is also possible that the cave was used for a short time during the Hellenistic period.
The building stands in an open area several hundred meters from the historical nucleus of the Ṣur Bahir village, located to the northeast. There are no remains in the vicinity of the building that attest to its association with its surroundings. It might have been used as a watchman’s hut or to store crops from the areas on the slope where groves were planted in the past (olive, vineyards, almonds).
No datable finds were discovered in the excavation, other than several potsherds dating to the Hellenistic period, whose context is unclear. They were probably washed down the slope from the northwest.