In January 2019, an excavation was conducted near Nahal Sekher, about 5 km west of Dimona (Permit No. A-8669; map ref. 194745–986/555342–512), prior to the installation of a high-voltage electricity line. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Israel Electric Corporation, was directed by T. Abulafia (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), E. Aladjem (surveying and drafting), I. Azoulay (plan) and D. Gazit (studio photography).
The excavation (Fig. 1) uncovered field walls (W100, W101), circular installations (L102, L104) and tumuli (L103, L105) in a limited area on the southern slope of a spur next to Nahal Sekher. Tumulus 105 was dated to the Ottoman period by a tobacco-pipe fragment.
Remains of seasonal buildings and installations were discovered in the vicinity of the excavation and along the entire length of Nahal Sekher. Most of them cannot be dated, and a few are dated to the Early and Middle Bronze Ages and the Byzantine period (Eldar-Nir and Traubman 2015, e.g., Sites 52, 54, 55, 77).
Wall 100 (length 3.2 m, width 0.6 m), built of three rows of medium-sized flint stones, was a single course high.
Wall 101 (length 2.7 m, height 0.5 m; Fig. 2) was built with a right-angled corner from flint stones and preserved to a maximum height of two courses. The lower course was built of large stones, while the upper course was built of medium-sized stones.
Installation 102 (diam. 1.8 m; Fig. 3) was built of a row of medium-sized flint stones placed beside each other without bonding material, which demarcated an area containing a fill of non-packed loess soil (depth 0.1 m). The loess fill yielded three knapped flint items that cannot be dated.
Tumulus 103 (diam. 1.3 m) was built of a single course of medium-sized flint stones. The tumulus was devoid of finds; it may be a modern tumulus.
Installation 104 (diam. 1.6 m) was built on bedrock from a semi-circular row of medium-sized flint stones, enclosing a rock outcrop. A protruding rock step in the center of the installation divided it into two cells.
Tumulus 105 (Fig. 4). A horseshoe-shaped tumulus was built from two to three courses of medium-sized flint stones laid on top of a rocky outcrop protruding above the surface. The presence of loess soil between the stones in the lower courses and the absence of such soil between the upper courses suggests that these are later additions. A fragment of a decorated clay tobacco pipe was found at the southeastern end of the tumulus (Fig. 5). The stem of the pipe is decorated with vertical lines and dots, and there are two round notches on the base of the bowl. This type of pipe is typical of the late Ottoman period (nineteenth century CE; Simpson 2002:164–165, Figs. 2:12, 3:21; Simpson 2008:440–441, Fig. 269:51).
The remains unearthed in the excavation lie in a strategically high location overlooking the Nahal Sekher valley and may therefore have been used for guarding and as a temporary shelter for shepherds in the region.
Simpson St. J. 2002. Ottoman Pipes from Zir‘in (Tell Jezreel). Levant 34:159–172.
Simpson St. J. 2008. Late Ottoman Pipes from Jerusalem. In K. Prag. Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem, 1961–1967 V: Discoveries in Hellenistic to Ottoman Jerusalem; Centenary Volume Kathleen M. Kenyon 1906–1978 (Levant Suppl. S. 7). Oxford. Pp. 433–446.