The excavation was conducted at the foot of the northern slope of H
orevot Sokho (Tel Sokho, Kh. ‘Abbad) on the western fringes of Ha-Ela Valley, one of the widest and most fertile valleys in the Judean Shephelah. The tell’s slopes are steep on its north, west and south, creating a natural fortification. To the east, the tell is joined by a natural saddle to Kh. esh-Shuyukh, which preserves the ancient name of the site. The tell (c. 60 dunam) rises to a height of 349 m asl and provides a good vantage point over Ha-Ela Valley and the surrounding hills, where ancient sites such as H
orbat Qolad and H
orbat Bet Nat
if have been surveyed (Dagan 2010
: Sites 354, 370). Near the tell is a road that runs through Ha-Ela Valley from west to east, leading from the coastal plain to Bethlehem.
Sokho was one of the lowland Judean cities during the Iron Age, and according to the biblical description, it lay between ‘Adulam and ‘Azekah (Joshua 15:35). The city is mentioned four more times in the Bible, as well as in Eusebius’s Onomasticon
. Scholarly opinion is divided regarding the site’s identification with the tell, but the prevailing view identifies it with Kh. ‘Abbad (Tzur 2012
The site was never excavated, although several surveys of the hill in the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century revealed that the tell had been occupied intermittently from the Middle Bronze Age to the Ottoman period. A few potsherds from the Middle and Late Bronze Age were recovered (LB pottery was discovered around plundered tombs on a hill to the south of the tell), as well as an abundance of pottery from Iron Age II and the Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods (Dagan 1992
:134). In 1980, an excavation conducted at the foot of the tell’s western slope unearthed a Byzantine structure from the fifth–sixth centuries CE and a colored mosaic floor (Gudovitch 1996
). In 2003, another excavation at the foot of the tell’s western slope uncovered Iron Age II remains and rock-hewn installations. Trial trenches cut over the years detected walls that were dated to the Early and Late Bronze Age (Nagorsky 2007
). In 2010, an Iron Age terracotta figurine was discovered on the surface (Ganor 2011
). In 2011, an archaeological survey was conducted on the tell (Tzur 2012
). The results of the survey suggest that there was a Late Bronze Age settlement at the site, and that it was occupied again during the late Iron Age I and the early Iron Age II. A large settlement developed at Tel Sokho during Iron Age IIB. Jar handles bearing lmlk
stamps, as well as wasters, indicate that a pottery-manufacturing industry developed at the site. Tel Sokho probably continued to be occupied during the Persian period, after the destruction by Sennacherib in 701 BCE. The site’s second era of significant settlement was the Hellenistic period; numerous nearby sites dating from the early Hellenistic period are known in the region, such as Ramat Bet Shemesh, Khirbat Qeiyafa and Tel ‘Azeka (‘Azekah). A Jewish settlement seems to have occupied the site during the Early Roman period. In the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, the settlement continued to exist, but it was probably much reduced in size. After the Byzantine period, Kh. ‘Abbad was abandoned, and the settlement moved to the eastern hill—Kh. esh-Shuyukh, where it existed until the Ottoman period.