During August 2011, a trial excavation was conducted north of Khirbat Harsis (Permit No. A-6262; map ref. 202010/636715), prior to the construction of the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv railroad track. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by E.D. Kagan (field photography), with the assistance of R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), O. Ackermann(geological consultation) and I. Berin (plans).
The excavation area is located northwest of Sha‘ar Ha-Gāy Interchange, near Highway 1, on the northern bank of Nah
shon, at the foot of the hill where the village of Deir Ayub was situated (Fig. 1). This area was cultivated until recently. An excavation and a survey were conducted in the vicinity in recent years, revealing remains of the agricultural hinterland of the settlement near Deir Ayub in the Second Temple and the Byzantine periods (HA-ESI 122
; HA-ESI 122
Prior to the excavation, trial trenches were dug with the aid of mechanical equipment, and remains of a wall and a cavity in the bedrock were discovered.Three squares were opened in the excavation, next to the trial trenches and the wall and cavity that had been exposed (Fig. 2).
Meager remains of a farming terrace wall were exposed in the northern square (W103; Fig. 3). Built on the bedrock, it was preserved two courses high. Two large stones in the western part of the wall had been shifted as a result of modern agricultural activity. A layer of farming terrace fill (L102) abutted the northern side of the wall. Prior to the excavation, a trial trench was dug in this fill by means of mechanical equipment (L110). The western part of the fill layer was excavated (L105); it consisted of alluvium and stones. A layer of alluvium (L104) was revealed south of the wall; it contained fragments of pottery vessels from the second–first centuries BCE. Plow marks were exposed on the bedrock north and south of the wall.
An irregular-shaped cavity in the bedrock (min. dimensions 2.5×3.0 m; depth c. 2 m) was partly excavated in the two southern squares. It contained fill that consisted of small and medium-sized fieldstones (L101; Figs. 4, 5). After consulting a geologist, it is suggested that this is a natural karstic cavity. A trench was excavated in the stone fill (L106) and it was determined that the fill consisted of several stone clearance heaps that were piled on top of each other (Fig. 6). Based on a geological examination of the stone fill, it turns out that some of the stones are from the bottom of a stream and some come from the slope. A layer of alluvium (L108) that covered the bottom of the natural cavity was exposed below the stone fill. Potsherds dating to the second–first centuries BCE and a fragment of a stone vessel from the Early Roman period were found amongst the stones in the fill. Several non-diagnostic potsherds were discovered in the alluvium layer below the stones.
It seems that the remains at the site are part of the agricultural hinterland of the Second Temple period settlement at Deir Ayub.