The excavation was conducted on a gently sloping hillside descending northward and westward, west of the Nahal Yimla streambed, between Horbat Zanoah to the east, Khirbat el-‘Alya to the southwest and Khirbat Deir el-‘Asfur to the west. Two areas (A, B; Fig. 2), c. 400 m apart and comprising 16 squares in total, were opened. Area A, in the northeastern part of the hill, yielded three field walls, a retaining wall of an agricultural terrace and a built installation. Area B, opened in the western part of the hill—an area characterized by alluvium and large rock outcrops that broke loose and slid down the slope—yielded a field wall, rock-hewn installations and a pile of collapsed boulders.

Past surveys in the excavation areas noted field walls, rock cuttings and agricultural installations (Dagan 2010: Site 162). Remains of a settlement dating from the Pottery Neolithic, Early Bronze II–III, Late Bronze, Iron II, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods were identified at Khirbat el-‘Alya and in its surroundings (Dagan 2010: Site 205). An Intermediate Bronze Age settlement and a road dating from Iron II were found at the northern and northeastern edges of Khirbat el-‘Alya, above Nahal Yimla (Dagan 2010: Site 139; Shalev and Dallasheh 2017), and an extensive Intermediate Bronze Age burial ground was exposed between Khirbat el-‘Alya and Khirbat Deir el-‘Asfur (Paz 2012; Paz and Radashkovsky 2016). A survey of Khirbat Deir el-‘Asfur identified settlement remains from the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods (Dagan 2010: Site 132), and of Horbat Zanoah—settlement remains from Iron II and the Hellenistic–Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods (Dagan 2010: Site 171). An excavation conducted in 2017 west of the current excavation uncovered an agricultural road, perhaps the continuation of the Iron II road exposed in the past, as well as evidence of agricultural activity; the finds date from Iron II and the late Hellenistic through Byzantine periods (Ben-Ari 2019).

Area A (Figs. 3–5; 3D model)
Field Walls. Three field walls (W113, W114, W126; Fig. 6), possibly flanking an ancient road, were exposed. All three walls were founded on bedrock and constructed of fieldstones; two construction phases were observed. In the early phase, large and medium-sized square stones were laid side-by-side in a row, and small stones were placed on one side of this row. In the late phase, boulders were carelessly placed over the square stones. The walls were preserved 2–4 courses high; collapsed stones from both phases were observed throughout their entire length. It seems that the poor preservation of the walls is due to ground shifting and the downhill flow of rainwater. Walls 113 and 114 were built parallel to one another, along a northeast–southwest axis. Wall 126 is the extension of Wall 114 to the north, toward the streambed. The walls apparently flanked a turn in an ancient road that possibly connected Horbat Zanoah to the east with Khirbat el-‘Alya to the west and partly passed along the streambed. Alternatively, it could have been an agricultural road, providing access to fields on the hillside.
Retaining Wall of an Agricultural Terrace. A wall (W112; Fig. 7) was carelessly constructed of boulders and large stones placed in a row on bedrock. An earth fill found between some of the boulders suggests that these were laid at a later stage, perhaps as a repair. Adjacent to the northern face of the wall were several large boulders that were apparently meant to reinforce the wall. The agricultural terrace supported by the wall was not excavated, but in the southern section of the excavation, a dense fill of small stones was observed. This fill is characteristic of agricultural terraces, intended to aid in draining excess water and stabilizing the soil (Gibson 2001:114–115). No similar fill was found north of Wall 112. Therefore, it seems that the wall fulfilled its function of preventing the collapse of the terrace up until the development work at the site following the current excavation. Wall 112 seems to have cut most of Wall 113, and it is therefore later than Wall 113 and possibly later than Walls 114 and 126, as well. It is possible that the positioning of the boulders over the three field walls is contemporaneous with the construction of Wall 112.
Built Installation. West of the walls was an installation (L109; diam. 5 m; Fig. 8), constructed of an outer circle of large, roughly dressed ovoid fieldstones laid over a fill of brown earth (thickness 0.6 m). This outer circle bounded a dense fill of small and medium-sized fieldstones, some of which were burnt. The stone fill lay over a thick burnt layer (L134; thickness 0.5 m; Fig. 9) composed of earth mixed with ash and numerous charcoal pieces. An analysis of the charcoal pieces showed some to be of wood origin. The installation is later than the burnt layer and its function is unclear. A similar burnt layer was observed south of the eastern segment of Wall 114, below its lowest course, indicating that the wall is of a later date. A few potsherds from Iron II (not dawn) and the Byzantine period were found in the installation.
Pottery. Pottery found in soil accumulations in Area A dates mostly from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (third–sixth centuries CE). Several potsherds date from Iron II (eighth century BCE), and a few potsherds date from the Chalcolithic (Ghassulian culture), Hellenistic and Early Roman periods (below).
The Iron Age (eighth century BCE) pottery includes a bowl (Fig. 10:1) with a shelf rim and another bowl, possibly a casserole (Fig. 10:2) with a folded rim, both characteristic of the period and appearing throughout the century; a cooking pot (Fig. 10:3) with a molded rim, probably dating from the early phase of Iron II (late ninth–early eighth centuries BCE), with similar vessels found in Stratum IV at Lakhish (Zimhoni 2004: Figs. 25:14, 15); and a jar handle (Fig. 10:4) made of clay, similar to other Iron-age pottery, carrying a stamp with much worn details which seems to be a scarab.
The pottery from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods mainly consists of local wares, with very few imported bowls. The Hellenistic period is represented by a cooking pot (Fig. 10:5) with a triangular rim, dating from the first century BCE–first century CE, and a jar (Fig. 10:6) with a thickened rim, dating from the second–first centuries BCE. Late Roman and early Byzantine (third–fifth centuries CE) vessels form the majority of the assemblage and include ARS bowls (Fig. 10:7, 8; Hayes 1972:112–116, Form 67), rouletted bowls (Fig. 10:9, 10; Magness 1993:185–187, Form 1), jars (Fig. 10:11, 12; Magness 1993:222–224, Forms 3 and 4A) and a holemouth jar (Fig. 10:13; Magness 1993:231–233, Form 1A). Byzantine (fifth–sixth centuries CE) vessels include a rouletted bowl (Fig. 10:14; Magness 1993:187–189, Form 2A), a basin (Fig. 10:15) with an arched rim bearing spiral decorations of clay (for further examples, see Taxel 2013) and a jug (Fig. 10:16) decorated with a herringbone pattern.
Area B (Figs. 11, 12; 3D model)
Field Wall. In the northern part of the area was a field wall (W207), constructed of a row of fieldstones laid partly over the exposed bedrock and partly on earth accumulations; only one course survived. On rock slabs below the wall were earlier rock-cut installations (below).
Agricultural Installations. A bodeda and two rock-cut cupmarks were found on rock slabs in the northern part of the area. These rock slabs appear to be parts of a larger bedrock outcrop that disintegrated due to erosion prior to the construction of the wall; it is therefore possible that all rock-cut installations were part of a single agricultural system. The bodeda (Fig. 13) comprises an inclined rectangular treading surface (L208), a shallow basin (L210), a conical collection pit (L211) and a cupmark (L219); a short rock-cut channel led from the treading surface to the collection pit. The two cupmarks (L213, L214) were cut into a smoothed rock surface; above them was Wall 207. South of the bodeda was another smoothed rock surface (L212), perhaps part of another installation that was not preserved.
In the center of the area was a bodeda, which was documented in the past and was re-exposed in the current excavation (Fig. 14; Dagan 2010: Site 162e). This bodeda was cut into the nari rock and comprised a treading surface (L209) and a rectangular collecting vat (L215) with a settling depression at the bottom. On the treading surface were a basin (L216) and a cupmark (L217), apparently cut at a later stage. A shallow rock-cut channel can be seen on a previously published plan, situated between the cupmark and the collecting vat (Dagan 2010: Plan 162.1). Today, the channel is not entirely distinguishable, but if it did indeed exist, it was likely part of a secondary use of the bodeda. Southwest of the bodeda was a basin (L202) cut into a large, smoothed rock slab. Nearby, there were additional similar large, smoothed rock slabs, apparently all parts of a larger bedrock outcrop that disintegrated. In alluvium accumulated next to Basin 202 were worn potsherds, dating from the Chalcolithic, Iron II and the Roman–Early Islamic periods (not drawn).
Collapsed Boulders. In the southern part of the area were several collapsed boulders (L205) that originated in a field wall; meager remains of the wall survived outside the square. Within the square, down to bedrock, were soil accumulations containing worn potsherds from the Chalcolithic, Iron II and the Roman–Early Islamic periods (not drawn).
The installations and walls uncovered testify to the agricultural character of the region. In Area A, several activity phases have been identified. Of the earliest, remain only traces of ash and charcoal, resulting from the burning of plants and wood for an unknown purpose. The second phase consisted of two parallel field walls, perhaps flanking a road. In the third phase, additional courses of a different character were carelessly placed over the walls, perhaps as a repair. Wall 112 was built during the same phase, or possibly at a later stage, canceling one of the walls of the second phase and showing signs of repair itself. The round installation could not be assigned to any of the phases, apart from determining that it is later than the layer of ash. Pottery found in Area A mainly dates from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, with some potsherds dating from Iron II. The prevalence of Late Roman and Byzantine pottery possibly allows dating the field walls and soil accumulations in Area A to these periods, at the earliest. This area seems to have been used for farming by the settlements at Khirbat el-‘Alya, Khirbat Deir el-‘Asfur and Horbat Zanoah. The presence of Iron II pottery is not surprising, as surveys at both Khirbat el-‘Alya and Horbat Zanoah showed the existence of large, fortified settlements during this period. The same applies for the few Chalcolithic (Ghassulian culture) sherds, as a large settlement from this period was discovered nearby, at the foot of Khirbat el-‘Alya.
The installations in Area B are the eastern continuation of hundreds of similar installations exposed around and below Khirbat el-‘Alya. Pottery found in this area is mixed and did not help in dating the installations. The pottery and the settlement history around the site suggest that this area, similarly to Area A, was the focus of agricultural activity in the Chalcolithic period, at the earliest. The prevalence of Roman–Byzantine pottery in this area shows that farming intensified in these periods.