In July–August 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted north of Bet Zayit (Permit No. A-8307; map ref. 215602–3/632733–972; Fig. 1), following the discovery of antiquities in probes dug prior to the laying of new section of the fifth water pipeline to Jerusalem. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Mekorot Water Company, was directed by N. Ben-Ari (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama, E. Bachar and Y. Lavan (administration), M. Kahan and V. Essman (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (photography), E. Marco (preliminary probes, aerial photography and photogrammetry), C. Shliker, S. Dallasheh and O. Shalev (preliminary inspections), S. Hirschberg (antiquities inspection), A. Eirikh-Rose (GPS), M. Shemer (flints), A. De Groot, L. Freud and S. Kisilevitz (pottery), Y. Gorin-Rosen and T. Winter (glass) and A. Shadman (scientific guidance).
The excavation took place in a wide valley flanked by steep slopes near the western bank of Nahal Soreq, which flows today to the southeast of the site. Based on the results of the preliminary probes, two areas were opened (A, B) c. 200 m apart. Area A contained a building dating from Iron Age IIC to the Hellenistic period, and a small segment of a field wall was excavated in Area B. Flint items were found scattered throughout the entire excavation area; some are abraded Levallois cores from the Mousterian culture, and others, discovered in situ, attest to a local flint industry dating from the Iron Age.
Tel Moza and the megasite to its south, located c. 500 m northeast of the current excavation, have yielded settlement remains dating from Pre-Pottery Neolithic B to the Ottoman period (Khalaily and Vardi 2019; Kisilevitz and Lipschits 2020; ‘Ad and Eirikh-Rose 2021; Vardi and Khalaily 2021; and see further references in these publications). Remains of buildings and installations from the Hasmonean, Roman and Byzantine periods were excavated at Bet Zayit (Eisenberg 1974; Greenhut and Weiss 2000), as well as an Early Roman workshop and a magnificent Byzantine building (Permit Nos. A-5462, A-5636; A. Nagorsky, pers. comm.).
Area A (Fig. 2). A square building uncovered in this area had been damaged by seismic activity, farming and extensive stone robbing. The eastern half of the building was better preserved than the western half, which was damaged, and only parts of its walls were preserved. Some of the building’s walls were founded directly on the hewn bedrock and a fill of small stones, and some were founded on alluvium. The walls founded on the bedrock were probably the building’s original walls, and those founded on soil were added in later phases. The building contained tamped earthen floors set on a bedding of small stones and quarrying debris.
The excavation identified three soil levels: a surface level, a thin accumulation at the height of the wall tops, and sporadic accumulations on top of the floor remains and in their underlying beddings. The level at the height of the wall tops was probably formed by post-depositional processes: the collapse of walls over time, and the effects of modern farming activity. The floors and their beddings yielded abundant Iron Age IIC pottery and Persian and Early Hellenistic pottery, as well as flint items. These included a complete smashed jar from the Early Hellenistic period, which was found in situ on a floor, beneath collapsed stone rubble (Fig. 3); and a complete Iron Age IIC krater that was found on the bedrock beneath the bedding of a floor in one of the building’s rooms. The flint assemblage attests to a local ad hoc industry, probably from the Iron Age. The assemblage also includes abraded flint items from the Mousterian culture. The building’s northwestern end yielded a glass assemblage, which includes several complete and intact vessels (Fig. 4). The assemblage is characteristic of burials from the Roman period, and it probably comes from a grave that was not preserved. A similar assemblage of grave goods was recently discovered at Moza (Khalaily and Vardi 2019: Fig. 16).
Area B (Fig. 5). The area contained a stump of a dry-stone wall built of two rows of fieldstones with a core of small stones. The wall was built parallel to the stream and was therefore not part of a dam. It may have been a demarcation wall between cultivation plots. The finds include abraded potsherds from the Roman–Byzantine periods and worn flint items.
The excavation uncovered a farmhouse dated by the finds to a late phase of the Iron Age, reminiscent of buildings found at Horbat ‘Alona (Weksler-Bdolah 2021). The farmhouse was probably associated with the settlement from this period discovered at Tel Moza. The building continued to exist as an isolated farmstead in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. Isolated buildings from these periods have been found at Har Adar (Dadon 1997), at Horbat ‘Eres (Mazar and Wachtel 2014) and recently also in Abu Gosh (‘Adawi 2017); however, the buildings at Har Adar and Horbat ‘Eres were forts, whereas the site in Abu Gosh was a farmhouse. The assemblage of Roman glass from the site is typical of burials, thus providing the only evidence of a burial that has not been preserved. The assemblage resembles glass assemblages from tombs at Moza, suggesting that the area at the site served as a burial ground for that settlement.
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