In March 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted to the east of Deir Ayub, c. 2 km northeast of Sh‘ar Ha-Gay (Permit No. A-6437; map ref. 203257–428/637448–604), prior to infrastructure work. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Israel Electric Corporation, was directed by E. Kogan-Zehavi, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), A. Peretz (field photography), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), C. Hersch (pottery drawing), L. Kupershmidt (metal laboratory), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and D. Ben Ami (scientific guidance).
The site is situated on a hill between Nahal Yitla on the north and Nahal Ilan on the south, 1.3 km east of the ruined village of Deir Ayub, which was abandoned in 1948. The site was surveyed and excavated in the past (Ein Mor 2010; Fig. 1), revealing installations—winepresses, cisterns, cupmarks, pressing installations and limekilns—as well as the remains of a building, a field tower and stone-clearance heaps that were dated to the late Hellenistic–Early Roman and Ottoman periods. Agricultural fences crossing the southern slope of the hill were visible on the surface and indicate agricultural activity at the site during the Ottoman and British Mandate periods.
The excavation (Fig. 2) took place on the southern slope of the hill, yielding an ancient road (Area A) and a building (Area B) that were part of a Hasmonean period settlement at the top of the hill. Two visible agricultural fences crossing the southern slope from east to west were also investigated but did not yield any datable material.
Area A. An ancient north–south road led from the settlement at the top of the hill to the wadi to the south. The road (width 1.8 m; Figs. 3, 4) was delimited by two rows of roughly worked stones. Its bedding (L106) was made of pebbles and small fieldstones. A few sherds (not drawn) found in the earth fill (L107) under it were dated to the Hasmonean period.
Area B. Remains of a building (c. 3.0 × 5.5 m; Figs. 5, 6) consisting of five rooms (1–5) were uncovered. Its walls were partly rock-cut and partly built of roughly worked rectangular stones; they survived to a maximum height of two courses (max. height c. 0.4 m). On the southeastern side of the building two doorways were identified: one (L110) led to Room 1, and the other (L119) to Room 2. Room 1 extended across about half of the building’s area (2.0 × 2.5 m). An opening in its southeastern corner, hewn in the shape of a gable (Fig. 7), led eastward into a round cave (L112) via two rock-cut steps. Sherds from the partially exposed cave include those of a cooking pots (Fig. 8:2, 3) and a lid (Fig. 8:5) dated to the Hasmonean period. Two use phases were identified in Room 1: In the early phase a plaster floor (L116) was laid on partially leveled rock; in the later phase the floor was raised and paved with flat fieldstones (L115) and flat stones were set in the doorway to conform to the new floor level. Access to the cave in the second phase is unclear; there may have been a step, or the opening may have been blocked. On the floor from the earlier phase sherds were found dating to the Hasmonean period, including a cooking pot (Fig. 8:4); part of a basalt lintel (Fig. 9:3) was also found. A basalt lower millstone (Fig. 1:9) was discovered on the floor of the later phase.
In the doorway of Room 2, perhaps its anteroom, a staircase was found. A small niche was hewn in the rock-cut western wall of Room 3, possibly in which to set a lamp. Both rooms had leveled bedrock floors (L111, L108) yielding sherds dating to the Hasmonean period, including a krater (Fig. 8:1), jars (Figs. 8:6–13), a fusiform juglet (Fig. 8:14) and a pinched lamp (Fig. 8:15). A flint pestle was also found (Fig. 9:2). Rooms 4 and 5 were partially uncovered. In Room 4 a compact earthen floor (L118) was laid on the bedrock.
Six coins were found on the surface and dated from the first quarter of the second century BCE to approximately the first quarter of the first century BCE: two coins from the time of Antiochus III (198–187 BCE; possibly from the ‘Akko mint; IAA 158840, 158841); a coin from the time of Antiochus IV (173/2–168 BCE; ‘Akko mint; IAA 158838); a coin from the time of John Hyrcanus I (IAA 158837); and two coins from the time of Alexander Jannaeus, one from c. 80 BCE (IAA 158836) and the other from 80/79 BCE at the earliest (IAA 158839).
The finds from the excavation together with the data from past excavations attest to the presence of a settlement on the top of the hill in the second century BCE. The variety of installations uncovered previously on the outskirts of the settlement contributes to our knowledge of activity in it. This settlement joins others from the Hasmonean period in the vicinity, such as Horbat ‘Eqed (Gihon 1992) and Horbat Mezad (Fisher 2008). The sherds in the pottery assemblage are of types common in Judea in the second–first centuries BCE (for an extensive discussion, see Bar-Nathan 2002). It was determined that the settlement at the site was abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean period or the beginning of the Early Roman period. This phenomenon, while uncommon, was seen also at Horbat ‘Eqed (Hizmi, Haber and Aharonovich 2013).
Bar-Nathan R. 2002. Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho; Final Reports of the 1973–1987 Excavations III: The Pottery. Jerusalem.
Fisher M. 2008. Horvat Mazad. In E. Stern ed. NEAEHL 5. Jerusalem. Pp. 1940–1942.
Gihon M. 1993. Horvat ‘Eqed. In E. Stern ed. NEAEHL 2. Jerusalem. P. 416.
Hizmi H., Haber M. and Aharonovich E. 2013. From the Maccabees to Bar Kokhba: Evidence of Fortification and Revolt at Khirbet el-‘Aqd: The Results of the Renewed 2012 Excavations. In G.D. Stiebel, O. Peleg-Barkat, D. Ben-Ami, S. Weksler-Bdolah and Y. Gadot eds. New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region VII. Jerusalem. Pp. 6*–24*.