The site of Hirbiya was surveyed as part of the Ziqim Survey Map, revealing limited building remains and pottery from the Roman, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods (Berman, Stark and Barda 2004: Site 123). Archaeological excavations conducted in the vicinity of Kibbutz Karmiyya, at the sites of Mavqi‘im (Haimi 2008), Ard el-Mihjar (Nikolsky 2010) and Horbat Barbarit (Nikolsky 2013), revealed Byzantine winepresses dated to the fifth–sixth centuries CE.
Two excavation areas were opened in a ploughed field, exposed a Byzantine winepress (Area A) and meager constructional remains (Area B).
Area A. The winepress consisted of a treading floor and two collecting vats with sumps (Figs. 2, 3). The square treading floor (L6; 6 × 6 m) was made of a compact foundation layer of earth and small stones. An approximately circular depression (L12; 0.9 × 1.0 m, depth 0.27 m) without stones was found in the middle of the treading floor; this was probably the location of a secondary stone press, which was not extant.
To the east of the treading floor, two adjacent collecting vats (L8, L9) were built of small stones and plastered on the interior. The northern collecting vat was smaller and shallower (L9; 1.4 × 2.0 m, depth 0.23 m) than the southern vat (L8; 2.1 × 2.2 m, depth 0.6 m). The two vats were connected by a channel (L13; length 0.6 m, width 0.4 m; Fig. 4). The sump in the northern vat was located close to the channel and was rather shallow (diam. 0.3 m, depth 0.15 m), whereas the sump in the southern vat was set in the middle of the vat and was larger and much deeper (diam. 0.7 m, depth 0.6 m). The two collecting vats were re-plastered numerous times—possibly 18 times—indicating that the winepress was in use for many years.
The pottery retrieved in the winepress and from the topsoil above it (L2, L11) includes bowls (Fig. 5:1–3), kraters (Fig. 5:4) and Gaza-type storage jars (Fig. 5:5, 6), all characteristic of the fifth–sixth centuries CE. The glass fragments (not illustrated) are dated to the Late Roman–early Byzantine periods. Two coins were found in the larger collecting vat, one of which was found between the plaster layers, unfortunately rendering it unidentifiable. The other coin dates from the reign of Constantius II (351–361 CE; IAA 172627).
Area B. Five very poorly preserved walls without a clear plan were uncovered (W205, W209, W210, W216, W217; Figs. 6–8). The associated pottery sherds—from above Walls 209 and 210 (L206, L208) and to the north of W205 (L213)—include a bowl (Fig. 9:1), a cooking pot (Fig. 9:2), storage jars (Fig. 9:3, 4) and a jug (Fig. 9:5), all characteristic of the Early to Middle Roman period (first century BCE to second century CE). A single coin dates from the reign of Antiochus VII (139/8–138/7 BCE; IAA 172625) was also found.
The remains probably represent architectural elements of the agricultural hinterland of the nearby site of Hirbiya. The winepress in Area A is characteristic of the extensive wine industry in the region of Ashqelon and the western Negev during the Byzantine period (fifth to sixth centuries CE). Similar contemporary winepresses were uncovered in excavations at the nearby sites of Mavqi‘im, Ard el-Miḥjar and Horbat Barbarit.