The excavation, conducted on a flat area to the south of Nahal Pehar, uncovered remains of a well-preserved square farmhouse (c. 28 × 28 m; Figs. 2–4) with a single occupation layer; the finds date the building to the Late Byzantine–Abbasid periods (late seventh–early ninth centuries CE). Architectural changes and building additions were discerned in the farmhouse.
A previous excavation to the southwest of the current site uncovered remains of a monastery and a farm from the Byzantine period
). To the southeast of the site, scant Iron Age remains were found, as were architectural remains dating from the Hellenistic–Early Roman periods and a Byzantine farmhouse
The farmhouse originally consisted of a square open courtyard (13) and ten rooms (1–10) to the east and south of the courtyard. The building’s walls were founded on loess soil containing chalk deposits and were built of soft limestone blocks. The walls were built without foundations or bonding material and were lined with mud. The outer walls (W1, W2, W13, W17; width 0.7–0.8 m, max. preserved height 0.9 m) were wider than most of the inner walls; they were built of two faces of partially dressed stones with a core of small fieldstones; in most of the walls, the outer face was built of larger stones than those of the inner face. The inner walls (W5–W8, W10, W11, W14, W15, W20; width 0.5–0.6 m, max. preserved height 0.8 m) were built of two faces of partially dressed stones, smaller than those of the outer walls; some of the walls had a core of earth and small stones between the two faces and some had no such core. One of the inner walls (W12; width 0.75 m, max. preserved height 0.65 m) was wider than the others; it was built of two lower courses of large, dressed stones with courses of small fieldstones above them. Entrances to the building were found in the farmhouse’s outer walls (W2, W13, W17).
The opening in W13 led to the courtyard (c. 21 × 22 m); a lintel stone was discovered among the collapsed rubble near the wall. Walls 13 and 17, which enclosed the northern and western sides of the courtyard, were not preserved to their full length. The partially excavated courtyard contained a habitation level of soil overlain with a light scattering of potsherds (L175). A tabun (L176; diam. 0.35 m; Fig. 5) paved with a flat stone was uncovered in the courtyard’s southwestern corner; the tabun was filled with ash and small charred riverbed pebbles, and the paving slab was burnt. The courtyard may have been used as an animal pen.
Openings (width 0.6–1.0 m) in the courtyard’s southern and eastern walls led directly into most of the building’s rooms. Internal openings between the building’s rooms were also discovered. Threshold stones were preserved in many of the openings. All the rooms’ floors were made of beaten earth, except for Room 2, most of which was paved with large flat limestone slabs (L134, L141; Fig. 6). Rooms 1 and 2 were probably used as storerooms, based on their elongated plan; they were joined together by an opening (L154; width c. 0.6 m) at the southern end of the rooms’ dividing wall (W12). The outer opening in W17 (width c. 0.7 m) led into Room 1. Four openings (width 0.6–0.8 m) were discovered in Room 3, one in each wall, including the outer entrance opening in W2 (width c. 1.2 m). Rooms 5–9 contained openings in the northern wall that linked them to the courtyard. The threshold to Room 7 was particularly high (c. 0.35 m above the living surface in the courtyard), possibly to prevent animals from entering the room from the yard. Evidence of internal openings was also found, including threshold stones between Rooms 5 and 6 (Fig. 7), Rooms 7 and 8, and Rooms 8 and 9.
The building’s rooms contained various installations: the northern side of Room 1 contained a round installation (L198; diam. c. 0.6 m; Fig. 8) built of limestones of different sizes and possibly used for storage; Rooms 4 and 7 contained tabuns (L210—diam. c. 0.4 m; L211—diam. c. 0.45 m; Fig. 9); wall closets were also revealed: one (width c. 0.8 m, depth 0.35 m) was set in the southern wall of Room 5 and the other (width c. 0.8 m, depth 0.3 m; Fig. 10) was set in the eastern wall of Room 6; Rooms 8 and 9 contained three rectangular installations (L193, L202, L208; Fig. 11): Installations 193 and 202 (c. 0.6 × 1.0 m) were built of dressed limestones, while L208 (c. 1 × 2 m) was larger and was roughly built using a variety of limestones.
During the lifespan of the farmhouse, it underwent architectural changes and building additions. The opening between Rooms 7 and 8 was blocked, and a wall closet (width c. 0.27 m, depth 0.2 m) was built in its place in Room 8. The opening between the courtyard and Room 10 was also blocked. Walls (W16, W21; Fig. 12) were built in the eastern part of the courtyard, creating a new room (11) that separated Room 3 from the courtyard. A room (12; c. 2 × 3 m; Fig. 13) was built next to the building’s outer southeastern corner. A wall (W19; Fig. 14) built near the building’s outer southwestern corner formed a southward continuation of Wall 13. The later additions were roughly built from various limestones, most of them small.
The Finds. The excavation yielded fragments of pottery, glassware and stone items. The pottery (see appendix) dates from the Late Byzantine–Early Islamic periods.
The glass finds consist of ten fragments, most from soil accumulations on the floors, including bowls/beakers with a rounded rim (Fig. 15:1), a convex wall of a bowl or bottle with an interior, horizontal, hollow fold (Fig. 15:2), a bottle with a rounded rim and a cylindrical neck (Fig. 15:3) and a concave bottom whose walls are decorated with vertical pinches (Fig. 15:4). These glass vessels are characteristic of the seventh–eighth centuries CE. Similar vessels have been found in Umayyad-period assemblages, for example, at Ramla (Gorin-Rosen 2010:215–220, Pls. 10.1:1–3, 6; 10.2:3a).
The stone items consist of food-processing implements found on the floors in Rooms 3, 7 and 10, including an upper millstone (Fig. 16:1), a fragment of a donkey millstone (Fig. 16:2) and three hammerstones (Fig. 16:3–5), as well as a fragment of a decorated architectural feature found in the courtyard (Fig. 16:6).
The excavation uncovered a farmhouse with an open courtyard and rooms whose plan is typical of farmhouses in the northern Negev in the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. However, the storage rooms discovered in the building are unique to the farmhouse at this site, and no parallels have so far been found at other farmhouses in the region.