Three areas (A–C; Figs. 2, 3) were excavated. A square building and two field walls were uncovered in Area A (13 squares); a rock-hewn cistern surrounded by an enclosure wall, and a terrace wall, were exposed in Area B (8 squares); and remains of a ruinous cemetery were revealed in Area C (3 squares).
Area A (Fig. 4)
A square building (7.8×8.5 m), delimited by walls on the north (W1; length 8.3 m, width 1 m, height 0.3 m), east (W4; length 7.7 m, width 0.9 m, height 0.45 m), south (W3; length 8.5 m, width 1.15 m, height 0.35 m) and west (W2; length 7.8 m, width 0.9 m, height 0.32–0.40 m) was uncovered. The outer walls were coated with white plaster mixed with gray inclusions (thickness 2 cm; Fig. 5). The bedrock on which the building was founded was exposed in the north (L116), east (L102, L104) and south (L106). The walls’ foundations were built of two rows of roughly hewn flint and limestone blocks, with a core of medium-sized fieldstones. Inside the building (5.7×6.2 m) there were two pairs of pillars: Pillars W6 and W7 (length 0.7 m, width 0.7–0.8 m, height 0.2 m) abutted Walls 2 and 4; Pillars 8 and 9 (length 1.0–1.1 m, width 0.53 m, height 0.4 m) were bonded in W1 and W3. It seems that the pillars were used to support the roof of the building; since no stone collapse was discovered inside the structure, it was probably covered with wooden beams. The floor of the building was made of pounded earth (L107, L114) on a foundation of tamped loess mixed with crushed chalk (L103, L109) deposited on the bedrock. In a later phase a stone surface (W5; length 1.76 m, width 0.95 m, height 0.35 m; Fig. 6) that was probably used as a work surface was affixed to the northern part of Wall 4. The building was probably entered through its eastern side, in a blocked opening (width 0.8 m) fixed in the southern part of Wall 4.
Pottery discovered on the floor of the building, in the floor bedding and around the building included fragments of bowls (Fig. 7:1–6), cooking pots (Fig. 7:7–9); a fry pan (Fig. 7:10), jugs (Figs. 7:11–13; 8: 1), a black stone bowl with a curved side (Fig. 8:2) and lamps (Fig. 8:3, 4), all of which date to the Abbasid period.
A building with a somewhat similar plan and construction method was discovered near the entrance to the Hura, c. 15 km west of the site, and is dated to the end of the Byzantine period – beginning of the Early Islamic period (HA-ESI 119).
An agricultural field wall (W10; length 9 m, width 0.4 m, height 0.5 m) running in an east–west direction was discovered c. 10 m south of the building. The wall was built of small- and medium-sized flint and limestone and set on the bedrock (L117) and was preserved to a height of three courses. Another field wall (W101; length 9 m, width 0.45 m, height 0.6–0.8 m) constructed of large flint nodules placed on loess was discovered c. 60 m to the southeast of the building. Soft brown loess (L303–L305) excavated next to the wall was mixed with several fragments of pottery vessels that included among other things a fragment of a jug (Fig. 9:7) that dates to the Hellenistic period and an amphora sherd (Fig. 9:9) from the seventh century CE.
Area B (Figs. 10, 11)
A rock-cut cistern (depth c. 4.5 m) was exposed on a hilltop, c. 80 m southwest of Area A; above the cistern was a built surface of partially hewn limestone (W53; 3.4×3.5 m, height 0.6 m). A circular stone trough (diameter c. 0.4 m, depth 0.2 m) was placed on the northwestern side of the cistern, and on its eastern side was a feeder channel (L520) built of two rows of stones and cemented in its center with concrete. A square iron frame (0.6×0.6 m) was installed in the cistern’s opening. The iron frame and concrete in the feeder channel indicate the cistern was also used in the modern era.
A peripheral wall (W50, W51; length 14 m, width 0.3–0.5 m, height 0.3 m), running to the south and east of the cistern, was built of fieldstones that were placed on the loess and was preserved to a height of just one course. On the eastern slope of the hill, c. 8 m northeast of the wall, an agricultural wall (W52; length 11 m, width 0.5, height 0.4 m) ran in a north–south direction. The wall was built of flint and limestone blocks that were placed on the bedrock (L507, L509) and the loess (L505). It was preserved to a height of two to three courses. A wall (W54) built in a similar manner but running in an east–west direction was bonded to the northern part of Wall 52.
Fragments of pottery vessels with no stratigraphic ascription were found, including a bowl (Fig. 9:1) from the Byzantine period, a cooking pot (Fig. 9:2) from the Byzantine period and jugs from the Hellenistic (Fig. 9:3), Byzantine–Early Islamic (Fig. 9:6), and Late Ottoman (Fig. 9:4, 5, 8) periods.
Area C (Fig. 12)
A ruinous cemetery was exposed on a natural slope that descends toward the west, c. 150 m east of Area A. Human bones that were identified as belonging to two adult individuals 20–30 years of age were discovered scattered on the surface level. In most of the area the bedrock (L702, L703, L705) was exposed beneath a thin layer of loess (L701, L704). Stone collapse and chalk slabs that were exposed on the bedrock seem to indicate that the deceased were also placed on the bedrock.
Several fragments of pottery vessels with no stratigraphic ascription were found that cannot be identified, save a jar fragment (Fig. 9:10) that dates to the late sixth–early seventh century CE, and glass vessels that date to the Late Roman–Byzantine periods (below). It therefore seems that the cemetery should be dated to the Roman–Byzantine periods.
The Glass Finds
The glass finds from the cemetery at the site were discovered in a fragmentary state, and pieces from a single vessel were spread out in different loci, suggesting that the burials were plundered. The finds included about twenty fragments of closed vessels (Fig. 13), characteristic of the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods, i.e., the third and fourth centuries CE. The glass vessels are green and greenish-blue, and they bear weathering marks and iridescence; several have been mended.
The jar (L703, L704; Fig. 13:1) has a rounded rim, a wide fold or bulge on the neck, a cylindrical body and a pushed-in bottom. The long wavy trail handle (L701; Fig. 13:2) may have belonged to it. Jars of this type, dated from the fourth to the mid-fifth centuries CE, were occasionally decorated with horizontal or zigzag trails and/or two–three handles.
The two-handled cosmetic tube (85 mm high; L704; Fig. 13:3) has an irregularly infolded rim, a funnel-shaped mouth, an elongated body that widens toward the bottom, and a flat ring base. The unevenly applied trail handles were drawn from the body up onto the rim; the complete handle was folded at the top. A similar, slightly larger vessel has only its lower part intact (L703; Fig. 13:4). The pushed-in base (L701; Fig. 13:5) and the thin ribbon handle (L702; Fig. 13:6) probably belonged to other juglets. A severely corroded bead fragment (L705; not illustrated) was also among the diagnostic glass finds.
The glass vessels from the cemetery at Horbat Kasif are characteristic of burial offerings from the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods. Although not many funerary glass assemblages from this period have been published from the Negev, similar jars and juglets were recorded in cist tombs in Be’er Sheva‘ (ESI 19:90*–91*, Fig. 185) and at Horbat Raqiq, north of the city (ESI 18:105, Fig. 199).
The glass vessels from Horbat Kasif also resemble examples in contemporaneous assemblages from funerary contexts in the Judean Shephelah, such as a burial cave at the foot of Tel Halif (Gophna and Sussman 1974: Pl. XXIV:1–4); Tombs 155 and 201 at Gezer (Macalister 1912: Figs. 119:5; 123:7); Tomb 200 at Giv‘at Sharet in Bet Shemesh (Seligman, Zias and Stark 1996: Figs. 15:2, 3; 17:1); the cemetery at Horbat Rimmon (Gorin-Rosen 2004: Figs. 3:25; 4:36); and the southern cemetery of Bet Guvrin (Winter 2008: Fig. 6.2:7, 8, 15, and see therein numerous examples from the region).
The structure that was excavated should be identified as a farmhouse that was part of the agricultural hinterland of Horbat Kasif in the Abbasid period. Numerous such farmhouses were discovered in the region of the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley. Traces of activity dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were also discovered at the site. It seems that the ruinous tombs exposed in Area C belong to one of the cemeteries that were established around Horbat Kasif in the Roman–Byzantine period, and that the ancient cemetery predates the farmhouse.