In January 2006, a trial excavation was undertaken along Highway 1, between the ‘Anava and Latrun Interchanges, south of Kibbutz Sha‘alvim (Permit No. A-4666; map refs. 195777–96/642812–33 [Area A], 197942–53/641379–94 [Area B]; Fig. 1), following the discovery of archaeological remains in the course of development work on the railway track. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Railways Company, was directed on by Y. Rapuano (field photography), with the assistance of I. Kornfeld (archaeological inspection), Y. Ohayon and S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), L. Yihiye (GPS), L. Kupershmidt (metal conservation), C. Hersch (pottery drawing) and R. Kool (numismatics).
The excavation was carried out in two areas (A, B; Fig. 1), c. 2.6 km from each other, yielding limited remains of walls and installations, probably related to agricultural activity. A few potsherds and a single coin retrieved provide a possible date for these remains in the fourth–fifth centuries CE. Previous excavations carried out in the vicinity have exposed a variety of agricultural installations (Parnos 2007
; Arbel 2008
Area A (3.5 squares). An elongated mass of clay and field stones (wall? exposed length over 13 m, max. width c. 1.2 m; Fig. 2) was exposed along the northern edge of the excavated area within a layer of dark red alluvial soil (L200, L202). Large field stones (c. 0.15 × 0.30 × 0.30 m) were laid at approximately regular intervals along an east–west axis, interspersed with smaller stones (up to 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.2 m). It seems that the stones were simply laid upon the soil surface, and then bonded with clay; no ancient surface was associated with it. It may have been the foundation of a terrace wall or possibly a dam.
The retrieved pottery sherds were quite worn, mostly small and non-diagnostic. They were probably washed in with the alluvium from the surrounding area, rendering their association with the architectural remains doubtful. These included a Late Roman C bowl (Fig. 3:1; Sq A1, L200, B301) dated to the late fourth and fifth centuries CE (Hayes 1972:325–327, Form 1), and a storage jar (Fig. 3:2; Sq A3, L202, B303) from the fourth–fifth centuries CE (Magness 1993:223–226, Form 4B).
Area B (1.5 squares). A long northeast–southwest wall (W1; exposed length over 15 m, max. width 0.61 m; Fig. 4) was unearthed within a layer of dark red alluvial soil; the wall continued beyond the excavated area, under a path running along the northern side of the site. The wall was constructed of a single row of boulders (c. 0.20 × 0.35 × 0.60 m) along with smaller stones (up to 0.12 × 0.12 m), all bonded together with earth and preserved one and occasionally two courses high; several of the largest stones had toppled out of place, falling slightly to the west. It seems that the stones were laid directly on the soil, without a foundation trench.
A small, roughly circular installation (L214; diam. c. 1.25 m) abutted the western face of the wall (Fig. 5); it was only partially excavated. The installation was constructed of a low, single-row wall built of smallish field stones (6 × 11 cm) bonded with earth, extant for one or two courses high (height c. 0.3 m). Two small stones abutting the southern exterior of the installation’s base may be the remains of an associated surface.
The few small pottery sherds retrieved were mostly worn and unidentifiable. A single, small bronze coin found approximately at the level of the installation, or just slightly below it, was dated to the Late Roman period (second half of the fourth or the fifth century CE; IAA 109649; L211, B320). Wall 1 may have been a terrace wall or perhaps a boundary fence between two tracts of land. Installation 214 was possibly used for storage.
Arbel Y. 2008. Sha‘alvim. HA–ESI 120.
Hayes J. 1972. Late Roman Pottery. London.
Magness J. 1993. Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology: Circa 200–800 CE (JSOT/ASOR Monograph Series 9). Sheffield.
Parnos G. 2007. Sha‘alvim. HA–ESI 119.