During July 2012, a trial excavation was conducted in a region of ancient agriculture in a wadi near Khirbet Bulei‘is (Permit No. A-6575; map ref. 18552/55172; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by Y. Lender, with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration) and M. Kunin (surveying), and with the participation of Professor H. Bruins of the Institute for Desert Research of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who took soil samples that will be used for dating and analysis of the soil composition.
Three squares (Areas A, B, C) were excavated on the farming terraces, unearthing sections of walls down to their bases.
Area A (Figs. 3–5). A square (4×4 m) was excavated on both sides of a farming terrace (W100; width 0.5–0.8 m, maximum height 0.55 m) oriented in a north–south direction and built of local limestone and flint stones stacked in no particular order. Downstream, about 0.3 m west of W100 and at a lower elevation, a wall (W102) built of one course of large stones (0.3×0.5 m, height 0.2 m) was unearthed. The wall was either meant to impede the flow of the water down the farming terraces and prevent them from undermining the terrace, or the remnant of an earlier farming terrace.
Area B (Figs. 6–8). Approximately 30 m southwest of Area A, a square (4×5 m) was excavated on both sides of a farming running along an east–west axis (W101). It adjoined W100 c. 25 m to its east (Area C). This wall (maximum height c. 1.25 m) was stepped downstream, facing north. It was built of five courses of medium and large stones (height per course 0.25–0.35 m, width 0.1–0.3 m), mostly of flint and few of limestone (in the bottom course). The wall has only one face, as it served to retain a fill of loess and small stones behind it.
Area C (Figs. 3, 9). A square (4×4 m) was excavated c. 5 m south of Area A, at the point where the Farming Terraces 100 and 101 met. The terrace (maximum width c. 1.3 m, maximum height c. 0.6 m) was built of a pile of various sized fieldstones stacked in no particular order. The base of W101 was c. 0.1 m lower than that of W100, which was apparently built later and abutted W101.
Only several pottery sherds were found on the surface, but they were not collected. The proximity to Khirbet Bulei‘is suggests that these farming terraces were part of the agricultural complex belonging to of nearby farmstead, which extended across the adjacent wadis. It is thus plausible to dated the terraces to the end of the Byzantine period and beginning of the Early Islamic period. The examined terraces were built on loess that was deposited in the streambed prior to their construction. Soil samples were taken from below, above and inside the terraces. They will be used for dating (14C, OSL) and determining the composition and texture (granulometry) of the soil, thus providing data for dating the construction of the terraces.