A large courtyard-type structure (Area A; c. 36 × 41 m; c. 1.5 dunam; Fig. 2) was discovered at the top of a hamra hill. Two strata (III, II) were identified in the building, but it was sometimes difficult to separate them, due to the poor preservation of the remains and the repeated use of occupation levels. The finds from both strata date the use of the building to the Hellenistic period (mid-third to mid-second centuries BCE). The remains of another structure and winepresses (Areas B–D) were discovered near the building. After it was abandoned, the building remained exposed to the elements and was destroyed (Stratum I).
Stratum III. In the early stratum, the building consisted of a wide courtyard, with two rooms at its center, and surrounded by four wings with rooms; only the northern end survived of the western wing. Most of the walls of the building in the early stratum were constructed without foundations, of unfired sun-dried mud-bricks. The mud-bricks were made of indigenous hamra and contained small quantities of organic matter. Two sizes of mud-bricks were discovered (0.2 × 0.4 m, 0.4 × 0.4 m, thickness 8–10 cm). Most of the walls were founded on the hamra soil, and only a few, mainly in the southern part of the area, were erected directly on the kurkar rock. The walls in the courtyard and in several sections of the building had foundations of kurkar fieldstones bonded with dark mortar. In the eastern and southern wings, and in much of the northern wing, the walls were built of two rows of bricks, wide side down, a wide brick next to a narrow one (width 0.6 m). The floors of the rooms were made of mud-brick material. Outside the northeastern corner of the building, at the highest part of the farmhouse, rooms with thick walls were exposed, possibly part of a tower. An elliptical installation (L175), possibly a potter’s kiln was found c. 1 m from the eastern outside wall of the building. The opening of the kiln faced east and in its center, next to the western wall, was a built pillar (Fig. 3). Remains of another structure, a tabun and occupation levels (L226), were uncovered northeast of the building (Area B). Five winepresses (1–5; Fig. 4) were discovered west (Areas C and D) and southeast (Area B) of the building. All the winepresses have a ‘Four Squares Plan’ and include a treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat, which were coated with several layers of gray plaster and light hydraulic plaster.
Stratum II. Only a few remains of the later stratum of the farmhouse were discovered. It seems that many of the walls of Stratum III remained in use in Stratum II. Most of the walls ascribed to this stratum were built of fieldstones without mortar; some were erected on the walls of the earlier stratum. New floors, made of the same material as the floors in the previous stratum, abutted the walls.
Part of a large rural settlement that extended across the hill was exposed (c. 15 dunams; Fig. 5); the area of the settlement was c. 30 dunams at its peak. More than fifteen buildings were discovered, and six strata were discerned (VII–II), ranging in date from the Late Iron Age (end of the eighth–seventh centuries BCE), to the mid-second century BCE. Part of the settlement’s cemetery was exposed on a small spur to its south (Area J). The graves that were found were documented but not excavated. Several graves dating to the Early Roman period (Stratum I) were discovered. No excavation was conducted at the top of the hill, where the center of the settlement was probably situated. The remains in this area were intentionally preserved for future research.
Stratum VII. Remains of two buildings, which date to the Iron Age and extend beyond the limits of the excavation, were discovered in Areas M and N. Their foundations were made of mud-bricks and set in sand (Fig. 6). Concentrations of pottery were also discovered.
Stratum VI. Part of a building ascribed to the Persian period was exposed in Area A. It included a square room (3.5 × 3.5 m) with particularly thick walls (width 0.9–1.0 m), and may have been used as a tower. Several walls and installations, including a kiln and a tabun, were found west of the building. The walls in this stratum were severely damaged by the construction that took place in Strata IV–III. Most of the walls of the buildings from this stratum were built of unfired mud-bricks identical in dimensions to the bricks used in the farmhouse.
Stratum V. A large building (over 15 × 30 m), dated to the Late Persian and early Hellenistic periods was uncovered in Area M. The walls of the structure extended beyond the excavation area to the north, west and south. This was apparently a courtyard-building, and part of the central courtyard, which was surrounded by rooms, was exposed. All the rooms of the eastern wing and some of the rooms in the northern and southern wings were uncovered. Large parts of the structure were damaged when the building in Stratum IV was constructed.
Strata IV–III. Remains dating to the Hellenistic period were discovered throughout the excavation area, and they include fourteen buildings (1–14). Building 1 was the largest and most complete, and it consisted of a long building (28.5 × 43.0 m) with a square unit (14.5 × 15.0 m) attached to its eastern side. It seems that the building was constructed in several stages. Most of the walls and foundations were built of mud-bricks; stone foundations were discovered in several places. Essentially only the foundations of the building survived (Fig. 7). The building included several large rooms that faced courtyards, two of them large ones; rooms of various sizes were constructed on either side of the large rooms. A small room was exposed in the southwestern corner of the building. Its walls were built of medium and large fieldstones, and it had a plaster floor. Some of the buildings, as for example Building 2 (14 × 16 m), were small. Fieldstone wall-foundations were discovered in Buildings 3, 5 and 9 (Fig. 8). Walls from earlier strata were used in the construction of Buildings 8 and 11. Building 14, judging by its plaster floor, was apparently used as a storehouse. The walls and foundations of Building 7, which was almost entirely exposed (14.0 × 16.5 m), were made mainly of bricks. In Stratum IV, this building comprised eight to ten rooms and a courtyard. A stone floor was exposed in three of the rooms (Fig. 9) and installations were found in other rooms. Several whole jars were discovered in a room that served as a storeroom. They had been placed inside pits, which were dug down from the level of the floor. Changes were made to Building 7 in Stratum III: stone walls were built over the walls in the northern part of Stratum IV, and tabuns and stone surfaces were built over the tops of the walls and the floors in the southern part of Stratum IV. In Area F, twelve circular pits (diam. 1.1–3.0 m), which contained gray fill consisting of soil, ash, numerous pottery sherds and some animal bones, were exposed. A stone floor was exposed at the bottom of one of the pits (Fig. 10).
Stratum II. After the settlement was abandoned, the stone foundations of some of the walls were robbed, and the brick walls, which were exposed to the elements, and were destroyed.
Stratum I. A tomb ascribed to the Early Roman period was found in Area F. It was built of stones, some of them ashlars, and contained two burial benches. A limestone ossuary from the Early Roman period was discovered in the cemetery in Area J. After this period the site was covered by a thick layer of sand (max. thickness 10 m).
Settlement at the site began during the Iron Age IIB. Remains from the Persian period were discovered over most of the hill. The settlement reached its peak during the Hellenistic period, when it extended over the entire hill, along its spurs, and on the level ground at the foot of the hill. The rural settlement from the Hellenistic period included a central residential quarter (Areas E, G, O, M), an area dedicated to crafts and industry in the east and northeast (Areas F and K) and a cemetery in the south (Area J). Remains of a large rural settlement were discovered, of a type that had not previously been discovered in the region. The farmhouse and the rural settlement which were uncovered in the excavation, together with other farmhouses from the Persian and Hellenistic periods which were exposed c. 1.5 km north of the site (Tal 2005
; 2014; Permit No. A-3147), and a settlement which was discovered in the Yavne sand dunes southwest of the site (Gorzalczany, Barkan and Iechie 2010
), contribute additional information regarding the types of rural settlements in the coastal plain between Yaffo in the north and Ashqelon in the south, and their distribution.