It was noted prior to the excavation that the limekiln had been well preserved and a large mound of lime towered above the kiln’s outer support walls. The excavation exposed the kiln’s central firing chamber, built conduit, and the surrounding support walls (Fig. 2).
The location of the oval central firing chamber (4.5×5.5 m, max. depth 5 m) seems to have been chosen based on a large natural dip in the bedrock. The dip was probably manually shaped and enlarged, although no clear signs of carving were discerned.
The bedrock ridge formed by the depression served as the base for the central chamber’s southern and western limits (Fig. 3). As no bedrock was present on the eastern border of the firing chamber, the gap was intentionally filled with medium-sized fieldstones. Similarly, another wall (W2) was built in the north, spanning the width of the kiln. At the top of W2 in the central area, four large flat topped stones were arranged to create a rectangular window. Only the northwestern half of the chamber was completely excavated and within it, a homogonous layer of white lime was revealed. Below this layer and above the chamber's bedrock base, a layer of lime with black ashy inclusions was uncovered.
Surrounding the outer periphery of the kiln, a circular wall was exposed (W1). The wall, built of large fieldstones and preserved to a maximum of two courses high, was set upon a layer of alluvial soil above the bedrock. Wall 1 seems to have been used as a support wall for the kiln’s domed superstructure (Fig. 4).
The conduit, located to the north of the central chamber, consists of two parallel walls (W3, W4) that formed a narrow passageway (Fig. 5). The southern section of the passage, leading to the firing chamber (W2), was covered with four large rectangular slabs. At the connection of the passageway to the firing chamber, directly under the top ventilation window within W2, the bedrock dips down leading to three additional rectangular ventilation windows (Fig. 6). These windows, along with the additional window, built higher up at the top of the wall, would have allowed air to circulate within the chamber during the limekiln’s operation.
Of all the limekilns recently excavated in the area, the current limekiln was found to have had the best state of preservation. The kilns, similar to each other, include a central ovular firing chamber. The chambers are mostly hewn in the bedrock, often making use of natural depressions or fissures in the bedrock. In areas where no bedrock was available, simple walls were added to frame the chamber. Although the upper superstructure of the limekilns was not preserved, an upper ventilation window was uncovered in the current kiln, unlike the other kilns. This large window, set at the top of the kiln’s firing chamber, may have been used as a loading niche and as an additional outlet for air circulation.
A handful of potsherds were collected from the surface area surrounding the limekiln. The ceramic assemblage, dominated by gray Gaza ware potsherds from the Ottoman period, included a few badly worn potsherds from the Byzantine period. No indicative dateable remains were recovered from sound stratigraphic contexts and dating the kiln to the Ottoman period may be inferred from the kiln’s location in relation to H. Bet Natif and its resemblance to the other limekilns excavated in the area.
It can be assumed that the kilns were most probably operated by the inhabitants of the nearby Beit Nattif village. The location of the kilns, at an ample distance from the village, was chosen to avoid the disturbance to the villagers caused by smoke generated during the kiln’s operation. Another reason for the concentration of limekilns in the area may be correlated to suitable bedrock that could supply plentiful accessible raw material (soft limestone). These limekilns together seem to be part of a large system of lime production that operated during the Ottoman period in conjunction with a rise in demand for lime.