During April 2005 a trial excavation was conducted south of Khirbat Burnat, in the region of Modi‘in (Permit No. A-4451*; map ref. NIG 19652/65728; OIG 14652/15728), prior to the construction of an ‘Osem’ plant. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Zelinger, assisted by A. Hajian (surveying) and T. Sagiv (photography).
The excavation areas were determined in the wake of a preliminary survey and probe trenches carried out by R. Lupu. A water cistern, walls and installations were excavated and documented on a hill that was a farming area of an ancient village.
Water Cistern. A cistern for collecting runoff that drained an exposed bedrock surface (c. 20 sq m) was discovered on the eastern slope of the hill. The cistern had an elliptical mouth (diam. c. 1 m) and was hewn through a layer of nari (depth 2 m; Fig. 1). The cistern’s bell-shaped cavern was hewn in the soft chalk layer beneath the nari (diam. 5 m) and was coated with white hydraulic plaster, known at numerous other sites of the Roman period. The cistern was filled with alluvium and stones and could not be completely excavated due to safety precautions; hence, its maximum depth is unknown.
Installations. A hewn basin (0.55 × 0.70 m, depth 0.3 m), probably a trough for watering sheep and goats, was discovered on a bedrock surface near the water cistern. Nearby, A cupmark, which had a wide upper part (diam. 0.38 m, depth 0.15 m) and a narrow lower part (diam. 0.2 m, depth 0.1 m), was exposed on a leveled bedrock surface.
Farming terraces. Two walls that originally formed a corner (W510, W511; Fig. 2) were found. Wall 511 (width 0.7–0.8 m) was built of large fieldstones (0.7–1.0 m) and W510 was constructed from medium-sized fieldstones (0.3–0.5 m), some of which had collapsed and were lying on both sides of the wall. A sounding on both sides of W511 exposed bedrock that was overlaid with alluvium (thickness 0.1 m), which contained a few potsherds that dated, at the earliest, to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The system of farming terraces was probably built by the residents of the adjacent village that was situated at the top of the hill. Two additional walls discovered on the southeastern slope of the area probably delineated cultivation plots and were not terrace walls, intended to retain the soil. One of the walls, exposed for a length of 8 m (size of stones 0.5 × 0.7 m, height 0.5 m), had no accumulated soil along its sides.
A trial square was opened next to a farming terrace (width 0.3–0.5 m, preserved height 0.6 m), ascertaining that its foundation consisted of small stones, with large stones placed above. The construction of this wall could not be dated as no potsherds were found.
Stone Clearance Heap (diam. 10 m, height 1.2 m). A probe trench (length 3 m, width 1 m; Fig. 3) was excavated in its southern end, aiming to date the period of its usage. Small clearance stones that had been placed on a raised bedrock surface were discerned; however, no retaining walls around the heap were noted. The potsherds recovered from the trench included a fragment of a large candlestick lamp, which is characteristic of the Byzantine period, dating from the middle of the sixth to the beginning of the eighth centuries CE. Consequently, it seems that the stone clearance heap evidence the preparation of this agricultural area during the Byzantine period, similar to the farming terraces, which were built on the ruins of the adjacent village that dated to the Roman period.
Judging by the finds, this region was cultivated in the Roman period by the villagers of the nearby Khirbat Burnat (Permit No. A-4188), located 0.5 km to the north. It appears that during the Byzantine period farming plots existed on the ruins of the village, as well as in the area described here, which may have belonged to the inhabitants of the adjacent Khirbat el-Bira.