About one meter below ground level, a segment of an ancient road on a southwest–northeast axis, was discovered (c. 30 m exposed length, c. 5.9 m width; Fig. 4). The road surface consisted of a layer of medium- and small-sized fieldstones, interspersed with a fill of soil and crushed stones, including much flint. The road was delimited on both sides with a row of medium-sized, square fieldstones. The road surface was slightly convex to allow rainwater to drain over the sides. The road bedding was built of medium-sized, dressed fieldstones set on sterile ẖamra soil. A small coin was found on the surface between the stones (not yet identified). This road was probably part of the Roman road linking Antipatris and Caesarea, a road that continued in use in the Byzantine period.
In this area, 12.5 excavation squares were opened. In the western part, three walls, not forming a single coherent plan, were uncovered, along with a pit grave, containing the remains of articulated human bones but no other finds. The deceased was laid supine in a general east–west direction with the head in the west. No connection was found between the walls and the grave. The area produced meager pottery finds, mainly including body sherds of carinated jars, that apparently date to the Byzantine period.
Thirty-one squares were excavated in this area, which slopes down moderately from north to south, c. 30 m south of Area B1. Four strata (Strata 4–1) were uncovered. In Stratum 4, the earliest stratum, a wall stump of undetermined date was found.
Stratum 3 was identified in the southern part of the area, revealing eight cist graves (T1–T7, T9; Fig. 5) dated to the Roman period (the first to second centuries CE). One grave seems to have cut through the western end of the Stratum 4 wall. The graves were dug into red ẖamra soil, and they were lined with dressed limestones. Covering stones were found on three of the graves. Only one grave (T6) was found sealed with stone slabs; it contained a rich trove of glass and pottery vessels and metal items. The glass vessels were dated from the first to the second centuries CE, providing a date for the graves.
Stratum 2, identified in the northern part of the area, revealed a row of four deep collecting vats on a north–south axis (Fig. 6). The vat floors were made of industrial white mosaics, and the sides were lined with several layers of grayish plaster, overlain with a layer of pink plaster, characteristic of the Byzantine period. The remains of a mosaic floor, apparently a service area, surrounded the northern collecting vat.
Stratum 1 produced iron spikes from railroad ties, probably from the historic Ottoman eastern railroad that lay c. 15 m west of the excavation area (Fig. 2: the two yellow stripes on the right). The berm of this track can be seen west of the excavation area.
Two squares, a northern and a southern one, were exposed in this area, revealing a refuse pit dug into sterile ground; it continues out of the excavation area. Numerous sherds were retrieved in the pit, along with pieces of glass from the Byzantine period.
In this area, 31.5 squares were opened. The area slopes downwards from west to east in the southwestern part of Area C. In the northern part of Area C2, poorly preserved foundation layers consisting of small stones, possibly served as paths in the winter, to prevent the sinking of the swampy ground in the area. Refuse pits were unearthed in the northern part of the area, containing sherds from the Early Islamic period. In the southern part of Area C2, four built pit graves were found; two lay on an approximate northeast–southwest axis, and two on an approximate east–west axis. Poorly preserved human bones were found in the graves, with almost no other finds. Wall stumps were discovered in the southern part of the area, possible the remains of graves, and a refuse pit exposed dated to the Byzantine period.
Ninety-five squares were excavated in Area C3, the northwestern part of Area C. Remains of structures from the Late Roman period were unearthed here, as well as a winepress complex dating to the Byzantine period, an Islamic cemetery, a well from the Ottoman period, and a water reservoir from an undetermined date.
Remains of structures. In the southern part of Area C3, the eastern part of a villa was discovered, comprising three poorly preserved rooms. In two of the rooms, the remains of a multicolored mosaic floor were unearthed, decorated with vegetal and geometric designs (Fig. 7). The villa was dated to the Late Roman period, mainly by its stratigraphic relation to the adjacent winepress complex. About 15 m north of the villa, the foundations of the corner of a structure that had been built into sterile, red ẖamra soil, were discovered. This structure was found partly under the winepress complex from the Byzantine period (see below) and therefore it should probably also be dated to the Late Roman period.
Winepress Complex. A large winepress complex was found near the villa on the north, above the corner of the abovementioned structure. The winepress (c. 12 × 22 m; Fig. 8), was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones, and paved with industrial white mosaic; most of the walls and the treading floors were damaged due to their proximity to the surface. The winepress was delimited on the north by a substantial east–west wall, dated to the Byzantine period, exhibiting at least two phases. The complex consisted of two adjacent main treading floors, a western and an eastern one, each connected via a filtration/settling pit to a square collectingvat. In the center of these treading floors there was a pit to hold a screw press; heaps of large building stones were found in these pits. In the pit in the western treading floor, pieces of a column and a capital were found, apparently originating in the adjacent villa. To the west of the main treading floors, the complex comprised three smaller rectangular treading floors (1.5 × 9.0 m) delimited by walls; these floors were built at a higher level than the main treading floors and sloped down to the west. The pressed wine or grape juice flowed via channels installed in the center of the western wall of the three treading floors into a row of rectangular cells built at a lower level, in each of which was a round collecting vat. The more poorly preserved complex to the east of the main treading floors was similar to the western complex, except that it comprised four small treading floors and four rectangular cells, in each of which was a round collecting vat; here, the four round collecting vats and the foundations of the treading floors were preserved.
Cemetery (Fig. 9). In the winepress complex and to its north, part of a large cemetery was uncovered, which began to function in the Byzantine period, after the winepress fell out of use. A total of 150 simple cist graves were discovered, dug on an approximate east–west axis, most of which were covered with field stones. The deceased were laid on their side, the head is on the west and the face is facing south, which is typical of Muslim burials. Almost no datable material was found. The cemetery was dated to the Ottoman period, as attested by a few glass bracelets discovered, characteristic of that period.
Water installations. East of the winepress complex, part of a rectangular, underground reservoir was uncovered, roofed with a barrel arch (Fig. 10). The reservoir was lined with stones and coated with hydraulic grayish-white plaster; it was not excavated to the bottom due to safety considerations. It may be dated to the Byzantine period. In the northeastern part of Area C3, a well was discovered, apparently dating to the end of the Ottoman period.
Area C4 (Fig. 11)
Twenty-three squares were opened in this area, revealing three construction phases, dating to the Byzantine period. A wall segment (4.2 m long), on an east–west axis, was attributed to the earliest phase. It was uncovered in the northeastern part of the area, at a depth of c. 1.4 m below the surface. A square structure, attributed to the middle phase, apparently served as a watchtower for the winepress complex. A structure (9.7 × 11.0 m), built west of the tower, was assigned to the latest phase; its walls were plastered, and its floor consisted of poorly preserved, ribbed stone slabs (Fig. 12). The bases of sack-shaped jars were discovered in situ on the floor. Above the floor, and in other areas of the structure, a large accumulation of crushed jars was unearthed. The doorway of the structure was in the southern wall; south of the doorway, a stone-slab paved area was found. The structure was apparently a storeroom for jars, to store wine produced in the nearby winery.
Forty-five squares were opened in this area, unearthing the remains of a structure, comprising five construction phases (Phases 5–1; Figs. 13, 14). Four of the phases were dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods, and the fifth was dated to the Early Islamic period. A mausoleum was also discovered, in which three phases were discerned.
Remains of a structure. The poorly preserved remains of a square structure (c. 10 × 12 m) were attributed to Phase 5, the earliest phase. A few patches of mosaic flooring survived, abutting the walls. On the outer face of all four walls, a smoothed coating of mortar (‘rolka’), preventing water from leaking into the foundations of the wall, was preserved (Fig. 15). The doorway of the structure (width 1.4 m) was in the southern wall; south of the doorway was a partially preserved courtyard paved with fieldstones. This phase dated apparently to the Late Roman period.
A small, rectangular room (D2) abutting the structure on the east was attributed to Phase 4. The walls of the room were coated inside and out with hydraulic plaster.
In Phase 3, the structure was transformed into an olive oil press with the construction of a crushing room (see Fig. 14: E, F; 4.3 × 5.5 m) and two adjacent pressing rooms, one on the east (G; 4.0 × 9.0 m), and the other on the north (I; 3.1 × 7.8 m). In order to make the length of Room I equal to the length of Room G, Room I was extended westward beyond the boundaries of the structure. In the center of the crushing room, a round crushing basin was installed (diam. 1.83 m). Room G was paved with a white industrial mosaic, and in the center an elliptical collecting vat was found full of fallen stones. When the stones were removed from the vat, a fragment of a stone pressing installation was found, the rest of the stone not preserved. In the northern part of Room G, a screw weight of the round type was uncovered (diam. 1.07 m), with a socket and two trapezoid-shaped grooves on the outside, characteristic of central region of Israel, particularly the Sharon Plain and Samaria (Frankel 1986:35). Another round screw weight, the upper part of which was missing, was found in the eastern part of Room I.
In Phase 2, elliptic-shaped pits were dug in the center of Pressing Rooms G and I. The pits were found full of fallen stones; the olive press fell out of use at this time. Signs of an intensive fire were discerned, which burned the southern parts of the crushing room and Room I. Parts of the round crushing basin were used to close a space between the basin and the southern wall of the crushing room. After the fire, the rooms filled with soil and sherds up to the height of the crushing basin. The upper part of the fill consisted of a thick layer of crushed jars, which was leveled and used as a floor. The screw weights were delimited with a circle of stones and surrounded by four walls. During this phase, six rooms were built (A–C, D1, K, L) south and east of the defunct olive oil press. The rooms were stone-paved, apart for Room L, which was mosaic-paved. The floors of these rooms are about one meter higher than the courtyard floor from the previous phase. Between Rooms A and B, and Rooms C and D1, a passageway on an east–west axis (width 4.5 m), was discovered . Room J is a stone-paved vestibule that led to the olive oil press. In the western part of Room K, three sack-shaped jars were discovered, one of which contained remains of olive pits. In Room L, the mosaic-paved room, the press bed and a collecting vat of an oil press (Fig. 16) were found. There is no doubt that in this phase, the structure became another oil press, which extended eastward beyond the boundaries of the excavation. Based on the pottery finds, this phase was dated to the Byzantine period.
Room M was attributed to Phase 1, the latest phase. Based on the pottery finds, this phase seems to have dated from the end of the Byzantine period to the beginning of the Early Islamic period.
Mausoleum. In the southwestern part of Area C5, a square structure was unearthed (6 × 6 m; Figs. 17, 18), comprising a single rectangular room (2.5 × 3.5 m) with wide walls and paved with large limestones. The entrance into the room was in the western wall. The interior faces of the structure’s walls were built of dressed stones, while the outer faces consisted of fieldstones, coated with white bonding material mixed with glass shards. The walls were preserved to a height of two courses. The upper part of the structure was robbed, and apparently damaged by previous development work. The structure saw prolonged use, apparently from the Byzantine to the Abbasid periods, and three different phases were discerned.
Based on the structure’s plan and the substantial nature of its construction, which resembles Samaritan mausolea, in its early phase it was apparently a mausoleum. No sarcophagi or other burial remains were preserved here, whilst a decorated marble fragment found in Area C2 may have been part of a sarcophagus.
In the middle phase, the building was transformed into a storage place for clay tiles (see Fig. 18), some of which were discovered in situ in the building. These tiles were used to construct hypocausts in bathhouses; a bathhouse has not yet been found at the site. In the last phase, partition walls were built over the tiles, dividing the room into three burial cells: two narrow cells in the north and a wide cell in the south (Fig. 19). The partition wall delimiting the northwestern cell was built out of two cornices in secondary use, which probably came from the early phase of the building. Numerous very poorly preserved human skeletal remains were found in all three cells. In the wide cell, a fragment of a glass vessel was found, as well as complete glass vessels, dated to the Umayyad period. A few metal items were also retrieved, along with a bronze necklace. The burial was apparently disturbed when the building was robbed in the Abbasid period.
A portion of an ancient road discovered in Area A, was apparently the Roman road between Antipatris and Caesarea, which was also in use during the Byzantine period, and perhaps even later. Another segment of this road may have been uncovered near Kh. Ibreika in excavations carried out by the University of Haifa, before Highway 6 was built (Ofer 1999:13).
The remains from the Late Roman period unearthed in the excavation—the villa in Area C3 and the structure in Area C5—were apparently part of a rural estate. During the Byzantine period, the site was transformed into a large industrial zone, including an extensive winepress complex (Area C3) and nearby, a storage facility for wine jars (Area C4), as well as an olive press (Area C5). A similar winepress complex was uncovered at Tel Hefer (Yannai 2009). The industrial zone was delimited on the north by a substantial wall (Area C3), which crossed the entire area, and apparently continued westward beyond the boundaries of the excavation. A watchtower may have stood at the northeastern corner of the industrial zone. The economy of the settlement in the Byzantine period was apparently based on large-scale production of wine and olive oil. At the end of the Byzantine period, the industrial zone was abandoned and ceased to function. A few oil lamps were discovered in the excavation, most of them Samaritan lamps. At nearby Zur Natan there was a Samaritan settlement, and Samaritans may also have been present at Kh. Ibreika. The destruction of the oil press and the winepress complex may reflect an act of revenge by the Byzantine government following the Samaritan Revolt in 529 CE. After the winepress complex was abandoned, the site became a Muslim cemetery, which seems to have continued in use until the end of the Ottoman period. This cemetery apparently extended to the east, west and northwest, beyond the boundaries of the excavation.