In May 2020, a salvage excavation was conducted in Nahal Zanoah, near the Bet Shemesh bypass road (Road 3855; Permit No. A-8750; map ref. Area A—200882/625429, Area B—200480/627300), prior to the installation of a sewage pipe. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Mei Shemesh Water Corporation through the contractor David Eckerstein, was directed by N. Benenstein, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), S. Halevi (field photography and photogrammetry), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (finds drawing), D. Gazit (studio photography), H. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), O. Zakaim (plan), G. Goldenberg (metal detection) and J. Roskin (geomorphology), as well as T. Kanias, A. Shadman and Y. Zelinger.
The excavation took place in two areas (A, B; Fig. 1): Area A was opened on the northeastern slope of the hill on which Horbat Zanoah is situated, and Area B was opened in the streambed of Nahal Zanoah. Two field walls were excavated, one of Byzantine date. Previous surveys and excavations conducted in the vicinity uncovered multiple remains and finds from various periods, which are associated with the rural-agricultural system that extended along Nahal Zanoah (Weiss, Zissu and Solimany 2005; Dagan 2010; Shalev 2018, and see background and references there).
Area A (Figs. 2–5). The excavation uncovered two segments of a long field wall (W102, W106; width 0.6 m) built on a north–south alignment from stones of various sizes; it was preserved to a height of one to two courses (height c. 0.5 m). Excavations beside the wall (L104, L105) uncovered its foundation courses, which were set on a layer of brown alluvium; several small stones uncovered in the southern segment may have served as a foundation for the wall’s construction. The excavation yielded potsherds dating from the Late Roman to the Early Islamic period (not drawn), which had probably been swept there from nearby Horbat Zanoah.
Area B (Figs. 6–9). Two field walls (W203, W205; width c. 0.5 m, max. preserved height 1.2 m) were built on a general northwest–southeast alignment from stones of various sizes; W203 was preserved to a height of two courses, and W205 — to a height of three courses. An excavation beside W203 (L204) uncovered traces of its foundation (L208), which was built of small stones laid on brown alluvium. Wall 205 was slightly curved; it was founded on brown alluvium. Collapsed stones beside W205 show that the wall was probably higher. Beside W205, the excavation found an iron arrowhead (L206; Fig. 10) and fourth–seventh-century CE pottery, including basins (Fig. 11:1–3), cooking pots (Fig. 11:4, 5) and jars (Fig. 11:6, 7). Based on the pottery, the wall’s construction can be dated to the Byzantine period at the earliest.
Walls 102, 106 and 203 were probably used to demarcate farmland plots, whereas the curved wall (W205) served to confine and channel the course of Nahal Zanoah between the farm plots. Based on the ceramic finds from the two excavation areas, the four walls probably date from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods. A geomorphological survey conducted previously at the site (Roskin, Asher and Benenstein 2021) strengthens these conclusions.
Dagan Y. 2010. Ramat Bet Shemesh Regional Project: The Gazetteer (IAA Reports 46). Jerusalem.
Magness J. 1993. Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology: Circa 200–800 CE. Jerusalem.
Roskin J., Ascher Y. and Benenstein N. 2021. Function and Development Stages of Wadi-Terrace and Field Walls in the Nahal Zanoah valley, Judean Foothills, Israel. Judea and Samaria Research Studies 30/2:189–220 (Hebrew).
Taxel I. 2009. Khirbet es Suyyagh: A Byzantine Monastery in the Judean Shephelah. (Salvage Excavation Reports 6). Tel Aviv.