The site extends over a low spur (c. 250 m asl) on the southern bank of Nahal Peli’i, a tributary of Nahal Soreq. Water sources in the area include two wells, ‘En No‘ar (Ne‘ura) and ‘Ein Rafat (Bir Qoubar), and many water cisterns (see, e.g., the Latrun sheet of the British Mandate Survey of Palestine 1929: Sheet 13–14). There are many archaeological sites in the area, such as ‘En Peli’i, Horbat Kefar Soreq and Khirbat Hasan (Fig. 1). Most of the area is the property of Deir Rafat monastery, and was surveyed many times over the years (for past surveys, see Betzer 2014). An excavation conducted in 2011 west of the present excavation exposed the remains of an undatable structure, a miqveh from the first century BCE – first century CE and a cave that may have been used as an oil press (Betzer 2014).
The present excavation (c. 70 sq m) identified four strata (Fig. 2): remains of a Roman-period (Stratum IV), Byzantine period (?; Stratum III) and Abbasid period (Stratum II) settlement, and a field wall, probably modern, possibly an agricultural fence (Stratum I). Two phases (1, 2) are attributed to Stratum II.
Stratum IV—The Roman Period
Two wide walls (W6, W8) abutting each other form what is probably the northwestern corner of a structure. The walls were founded on bedrock and were constructed of a single row of coarsely dressed rectangular stones. At the corner is a vertical rock-cut shaft that leads into a small subterranean space that apparently served as a store or silo (L24; Fig. 3). At a later date, apparently when the structure was still in use, a vaulted passage (A) was cut into the southern wall of the subterranean space. Passage A leads into a small oval space (B), which opens into another oval space (C), where another passage (D) leads northeast; Passage D was explored only up to the point where it was blocked with earth.
Fills and accumulations of earth in Passage A and in Space 24, as well as in the corner of the two walls above them (L20), contained numerous potsherds dating from the late first century BCE–first half of the second century CE. These included a bowl (Fig. 4:1), cooking vessels (Fig. 4:2–4), jars (Fig. 4:5–9), a stand (Fig. 4:10), a jug (Fig. 4:11) and juglets (Fig. 4:12, 13), as well as a fragment of a soft limestone vessel (Fig. 4:14). The subterranean passage appears to have been deliberately blocked before the second half of the second century CE, and therefore may have served as a hiding complex.
Stratum III—The Byzantine period(?)
To this stratum is attributed Wall 15 (preserved height 0.5 m), constructed of two rows of dressed stones with a core of earth and small stones. The wall passes over the opening of a rock-cut cave (M1), which is reached through a rock-cut corridor from the west (L31; Fig. 5). The cave entrance is arched (height 1.5 m, width 0.7 m), with two rock-cut steps. The cave (c. 4.5 × 4.7 m; not excavated) has an irregular outline, perhaps because of the poor quality of the rock. The cave may have served as a cellar or subterranean storeroom of a structure that stood above it but was not preserved. A fill (L44) abutting W15 from the west contained body sherds of jars and cooking vessels dating from the Byzantine period (not drawn). Some body sherds of jars, also dating from the Byzantine period, were collected inside the cave. Byzantine pottery was also found in later fills (see Fig. 13).
Stratum II—The Abbasid Period
The Early Phase (1) comprises part of a structure (W3, W4, W7, W19, W20, W22; max. preserved height 1 m) that included at least two rooms (L22, L23; Fig. 6) and an open space (L43) to the east, probably a courtyard. The rooms’ walls, and W4, which bounds the courtyard on the north, were constructed of two rows of stones: one row of large, dressed stones, and another row of smaller stones and earth. Wall 3, which bound the rooms on the north, has a foundation of large, dressed stones laid on bedrock that protrudes c. 0.3 m north from the line of the wall. Wall 7, separating the rooms, was founded on a step cut in bedrock. Its western face was relatively well preserved, whereas its eastern face, constructed of small stones, was only partly preserved (Fig. 7). In the eastern part of Room 23, a stone paving (L37) without a bedding abuts W19 and W22. Walls 3 and 7 are abutted in both rooms by what appear to be floor beddings made of small stones.
Wall 4, delimiting the courtyard on the north, was founded on a fill of earth. A wide entrance (width 0.9 m; it was blocked in Phase 2 by a wall [W5]) set in W4 led from the north into the courtyard (see Fig. 6). Wall 20 (Fig. 8), exposed in the southern part of the excavation, was constructed differently from the other walls—a single row of coarsely dressed rectangular stones, of which only one course survived; it appears to be a partition wall within the courtyard, whose southern part was not exposed.
The construction of a new approach corridor to Cave M1, flanked by two walls (W16, W18; Figs. 8, 9), should also be attributed to this phase. Entry into the corridor was from the northwest, over three built steps (W17; Fig. 10). This corridor slightly changed the direction of approach to the cave’s original entrance (L31), as suggested by the direction of W16, which partly cancels a rock-cut line that appears to relate to the original entrance; it may be that the change was necessary because W19 prevented the use of the original corridor. The northeastern wall of the corridor (W18) was partly built over W15 of the earlier stratum. The corridor was found full of modern accumulations. A packed-earth floor (L21) northwest of the structure abuts W3. A thin lime floor (L18) north of the structure was laid over a fill of light brown earth and small stones (L20) that covered Walls 6 and 8 of the Roman period.
The Late Phase (2). Several modifications were made to the structure in this phase. A wall (W21), constructed of a single row of coarsely dressed medium-size stones and preserved two courses high, was attached to the southern face of W4. The entrance in W4 was blocked by a wall (W5; Fig. 11) that continued from the entrance northward. Wall 5 was constructed of two rows of large, coarsely dressed stones in secondary use, with a core of earth and small stones; this wall cut Lime Floor 18. East of W5 is a round installation (L17) surrounded by a massive wall (W2; Fig. 11); only the western part of the installation was exposed. Wall 2 was partly founded on bedrock and partly on an earth fill. It was poorly constructed of two rows of large, dressed stones with a core of earth and small stones; the stones were possibly taken from an earlier structure. A low rectangular opening (0.60 × 0.73 m; Fig. 12) in the wall faces northwest, toward Nahal Soreq. The inner face of the wall showed traces of fire; it is therefore possible that this is a limekiln and that the opening was an air inlet into the kiln. Wall 5 is parallel to the southern part of W2 and may be related to the kiln’s ventilation system. Wall 7 of the early phase of Stratum II was abutted in the later phase by a wall (W9) constructed of a single row of large, dressed stones. This wall was founded on the layer of small stones in Room 22 and may have divided the room in Phase 2.
Ceramic Finds. The loci under the floors of the early phase of Stratum II (L18, L22, L23) and of the accumulations above the stratum were mixed, containing pottery from the Byzantine period, including bowls (Fig. 13:1, 2), cooking wares (Fig. 13:3) and jars (Fig. 13:4–6); and from the Abbasid period, including bowls (Fig. 14:1–7), casseroles (Fig. 14:8–11), jars (Fig. 15:1–7), simple jugs (Fig. 15:8–14), mold-made jugs (Figs. 16:1–4; 17) and lamps (Fig. 16:5–9).
Stratum I
This stratum includes only a wall (W1), poorly constructed of medium-size dressed stones. It may have been a retaining wall of a farming terrace or a pen. Potsherds found in the accumulations reaching the wall date from the Early Islamic period until the present (not drawn).
The excavation exposed remains of a Roman-period structure (Stratum IV) with a subterranean hiding complex. The hiding complex and the date and nature of the finds within it appear to suggest the existence of a Jewish settlement at the site during the first century and possibly also the second century CE. Based on the results of the many surveys conducted in the area, it can be assumed that at that time the settlement extended over the entire spur, and that its western margins were at the current location of the monastery, some 300 m west of the excavation. In the Byzantine period (Stratum III), there must have been some settlement at the site, as suggested by the meager remains—a wall segment and a rock-cut cave—as well as the finds from the excavations and the surveys. The settlement continued in the Abbasid period (Stratum II), but apart from the remains exposed in the excavation there is no evidence that points to its character or extent. The limekiln suggests that during this period the excavation area lay at the margins of the settlement, as such kilns—a source of heavy pollution—were usually located at a distance from settlements  or at their margins. It is likely that at this time the cave was converted into a storehouse that either served the limekiln operators or for storing some other industrial products. The limekiln and the other Abbasid-period structures were abandoned still during this period, and at some later time the area was turned into farming land.