In May 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted west of Tel Qeshet (Permit No. A-8275; map ref. 177286/605209; Fig. 1), prior to construction of a new gas pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Petroleum & Energy Infrastructure Ltd., was directed by N.D. Michael (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), E. Aladjem (aerial photography and GIS) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
The excavation took place c. 200 m west of Tel Qeshet and c. 1.5 km southwest of Moshav Ahuzam, not far from Road 40 (Fig. 1). The site and its vicinity were included in several archaeological surveys, one of which reported a large broken Roman-period milestone on the northern slope of the tell (Dagan 2004:2689). While no remains of a road were found in this area, Dagan argued that the Roman road leading from Bet Guvrin-Eleutheropolis to Gaza passed near Tel Qeshet (Dagan 2004:2689–2690).
Two small excavation areas (A, B) were opened—Area A was located 150 m to the north of Area B—yielding remains that seem to date from the Byzantine period.
Area A yielded the remains of a mosaic floor made of white tesserae (1–2 cm), laid over a bedding of plaster above a foundation of fieldstones (L104; Figs. 2, 3). The mosaic floor was found only c. 0.2 m below topsoil and was not well preserved. It probably belonged to an industrial installation, such as a winepress. No diagnostic pottery was associated with the floor, but pottery sherds from the Byzantine period were retrieved from c. 3 m south of the mosaic floor (L101). These included bowls (Fig. 4:1, 2), basins (Fig. 4:3, 4), a cooking-pot lid (Fig. 4:5) and Gaza jars (Fig. 4:6–8).
Area B. Seven cist tombs (1–7; Fig. 5) lined with dressed limestones were uncovered but not excavated. They are oriented northwest–southeast, except for Tomb 2 which seems to have a northeast–southwest orientation. No pottery sherds were found in the vicinity of the tombs, and so their precise date remains unknown. Such cist tombs are found throughout the country and have been dated to the Late Roman to the Early Islamic periods (Avni, Dahari and Kloner 2008:103–104).
Thepoor preservation of remains is due to their location near the surface, where they have been impacted by modern agriculture. The presence of a mosaic-paved installation likely indicates that a farmstead existed nearby during the Byzantine period. The undated tombs may also have belonged to this period.
Avni G., Dahari U. and Kloner A. 2008. The Necropolis of Bet Guvrin–Eleutheropolis (IAA Reports 36). Jerusalem.
Dagan Y. 2004. Results of the Survey: Settlement Patterns in the Lachish Region. In D. Ussishkin ed. The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973–1994) (Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology Monograph Series 22). Tel Aviv. Pp. 2672–2690.