During June 2009, a 3-day salvage excavation was conducted to the east of the Hathor Temple in the JNF archaeological park of Timna‘ (Permit No. A-5679; map ref. 19562/40874), in the wake of development work preceding the annual Anafaza event. The excavation, on behalf the Israel Antiquities authority, was directed by T. Erickson-Gini (field photography), with the assistance of E. Cohen-Sason (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; GPS and drafting), S. Shalev and S. Shilstein (Weitzmann Institute of Science; metallographic analysis) and students from the Archaeology department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Additional assistance was provided by M. Lavi, the development manager in the Timna‘ Park.
Several structures were visible on a sandy plain, located 100 m east of a sandstone geological formation, popularly known as ‘Solomon’s Pillars’ and the Hathor Temple. A modern track, aligned east–west, divides the area. The structures were designated as Areas A, B and C (Fig. 1; the purple markings on the plan denote Bedouin burials). Area A is south of the modern track, while Areas B and C are north of it. The structures of Areas A and B were excavated, using a 1×1 m grid. Limited probes were carried out in Area C. The sandy soil in all areas was dry-sieved. In spite of careful inspection, no ancient ceramic, lithic or metal objects were discovered in or around the structures. Modern refuse discovered in Area B indicates that they were filled and possibly excavated in the 1970s. However, no written or oral reports of any previous excavations in the structures have yet come to light. Y. Eshel reports that he excavated mounds in the 1970s, described as ‘Beduin’ graves that were located south of Area C (Y. Eshel, pers. comm.).
Area A contained a low wall (W1; length 4.5 m, width 0.36 m; Fig. 2), constructed from a row of small and medium-sized sandstone fieldstones. The wall is oriented east–west and bends northward; on its eastern side it stands a single course high (c. 0.3 m). A pile of stones (remnants of a previous excavation?) located next to the north edge of the wall appears to have been created at a much later date than the structure itself.
Area B contained five walls and a stone-built installation, constructed from small to medium sandstone fieldstones and preserved a single course high. The long wall of the structure (W3; length 7.4 m, width 0.38 m; Fig. 3) is oriented north–south. Toward the northern end, a second wall (W5; length 3.9 m, width 0.5 m) extends eastward. A small installation, like a platform (0.86×1.37 m; Fig. 4), is attached to the northwestern corner of W3. At the southern end of W3, a third wall (W4; length 1.2 m, width 0.74 m), oriented east–west, extends eastward.
Area C is located east of Area B (Fig. 5). It consists of a long wall (W6; length 15 m, width 0.57 m), oriented east–west and built of a single row of small to medium sandstone fieldstones. The eastern and western ends of W6 curve to the south at right angles. A short partition wall (W7; length 4.5 m, width 0.36 m) extends from W6 southward, dividing the structure into two. Two excavation probes (C1, C2; 2×2 m) were opened on either side of W7 and no ancient remains were detected (Figs. 6, 7). Low stone mounds located a few meters south of Area C were reportedly found to be Bedouin graves, excavated in the 1970s. None of these mounds were investigated in the current excavation.
The structures in Areas A, B and C appear to have been thoroughly excavated at some previous date. Modern debris, including a modern Israeli coin from 1971, intentionally placed in the structures when they were back-filled, suggests that they were investigated in the 1970s. In spite of the presence of Bedouin graves in the immediate area, the structures appear to be of a much earlier date. Shortly after the current excavation, a well-preserved copper spear head was discovered near the structures (Fig. 8). The examination of the object determined that it was indeed ancient.