In December 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted at Khirbat Umm edh-Dhiyab (Permit No. A-7583; map ref. 200179–419/623332–589; Fig. 1), prior to development in Ramat Bet Shemesh Neighborhood E. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and funded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by Y. Tzur, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (photography), A. Eirikh-Rose (GPS), E. Belashov (plans) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
The excavation took place on the northern slope of Khirbat Umm edh-Dhiyab, a site located at the top of a hill, overlooking Nah
and the western slopes of the Judean Mountains. It revealed a columbarium, winepresses, cisterns, a quarry, cave openings, a stone clearance heap, remains of walls and a plastered installation (Fig. 2). The area was surveyed in the past (Nagorsky 2010
; Dagan 2010: Site 326). A previous excavation at Khirbat Umm edh-Dhiyab, unearthed building remains, an alleyway and a pottery kiln, dating from the first century BCE to the fourth century CE, as well as two burial structures, and a few tombs dating from the second to the fourth centuries CE (Permit No. A-7369). Winepresses were previously found in the vicinity of the hill, as well as quarries, agricultural terrace walls, roads, cisterns and caves (‘Adawi 2015
; Zilberbod and Lieberman 2016
; Greenwald 2017
Columbarium (L100; Fig. 3). The columbarium was hewn in soft chalk, and it featured a vertical shaft in its roof (opening diam. 1.23 m, depth 2.5 m), leading into an ovoid chamber (diam. 5 m, height 3.5 m). Small niches were carved in the chamber walls (c. 0.25 × 0.25 m, average depth 0.2 m; Fig. 4). Non-indicative sherds were found in an alluvial accumulation (L129) in the columbarium. The columbarium was not fully excavated due to safety considerations.
Winepresses. Four rock-hewn winepresses (1–4) were discovered. Winepress 1 (Figs. 5, 6) had a rectangular treading floor (L101) and a collecting vat (L102), scarcely preserved, apparently due to damage by mechanical equipment. Winepress 2 had a rectangular treading floor (L104; 3.30 × 3.45 m, depth 0.3 m; Figs. 7, 8), whose southern wall was probably damaged by mechanical equipment. At the northeastern end of the treading floor, a channel led into a square collecting vat (L105; 0.9 × 1.0 m, depth 1.2 m), in whose floor a settling pit was hewn. This winepress had an additional collecting vat (L106; 0.85 × 1.25 m, depth 1.1 m), in which a layer of stones mixed with mortar, containing a few Hellenistic sherds, was found (L128; Fig. 9). The stones had probably accumulated naturally on the plaster layer of the vat. Winepress 3 (Figs. 7, 10) had a rectangular treading floor (L109; 3.6 × 4.4 m, depth 0.75 m), the center of which had been destroyed by mechanical equipment. Near the eastern wall of the treading floor, a squarish settling pit was hewn (L110; 0.75 × 0.75 m, depth 0.8 m). East of the settling pit, a square collecting vat was hewn (L112; 1.15 × 1.20 m, depth 1.6 m; Fig. 11). The wall that separated the settling pit from the collecting vat was damaged by mechanical equipment. At the bottom of the collecting vat, a layer of stones bonded with mortar (L126) contained some sherds, probably from the Hellenistic period. North of the collecting vat, another levelled bedrock surface was found (L122; 1.50 × 1.65, depth 0.3 m), in the corner of which was a small settling pit (diam. c. 0.3 m, depth 0.1 m). South of the collecting vat was a later rock-cut cistern (L113; Fig. 12) with a round opening (diam. 1.35 m). About a meter below the surface, a layer of hydraulic plaster was discovered in the cistern. Alluvium, stones, animal bones and non-indicative sherds were found in the cistern, which was not fully excavated due to safety considerations. Winepress 4 (Figs. 13, 14) had a rectangular treading surface (L118; 2 × 3 m, depth 0.7 m). In its northern wall was a narrow channel leading to an ovoid, rock-cut, plastered collecting vat (L120). West of the vat was another rectangular pit (L119), that probably also served as a collecting vat.
Quarry (Figs. 7, 15). A hewn, levelled stone surface was unearthed (L108; 1.6 × 3.0 m, depth 0.4 m), to the east and west of which were detachment channels. On the rock surface, a rock-cut basin was discovered (L107; diam. 0.5 m, depth 0.35 m). The surface and the basin were probably part of an agricultural installation that had been converted into a quarry.
Cave openings (Fig. 16). Two rock-hewn cave openings (L114, L115) were discovered, between which a reddish soil layer (L125; Fig. 17) was excavated, in which the remains of an ossuary and some sherds were found. A fieldstone wall found in the opening of Cave 114 (W116; Fig. 18), may have been built in recent times to prevent looting. The opening of Cave 115 was not excavated.
Stone clearance heap (Figs. 19, 20). A stone clearance heap was bounded by walls built of medium-sized, roughly worked stones (W117, W133). The fill (L134, L137) between the walls consisted of alluvium and small stones, devoid of pottery finds. The walls were apparently built as a base for the stone clearance heap.
Plastered installation (Figs. 21, 22). A rock-cut installation unearthed revealed two phases of use. In the early phase, the installation served as a winepress with a treading floor (L138), and in the later phase, a trapezoid-shaped pit was hewn into the southern part of the treading floor (L139; depth 1.3 m). A step was cut into the southwestern corner of the pit. The bottom and sides of the installation were coated with hydraulic plaster. Building stones and non-indicative sherds were found in the alluvium layer (L140) that had accumulated in the installation.
The remains uncovered in the excavation revealed evidence of agricultural activity. Few datable sherds were retrieved, probably dating to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, contemporary to the period of the settlement at Umm edh-Dhiyab. The caves interiors were not excavated; from the finds discovered outside one of the caves, it appears that they were used for burial in the Second Temple period, and they were subsequently looted.
‘Adawi Z. 2015. Ramat Bet Shemesh, Khirbat Umm edh-Dhiyab. HA–ESI 127
Dagan Y. 2010. The Ramat Bet Shemesh Regional Project: The Gazetteer (IAA Reports 46). Jerusalem.
Greenwald R. 2017. Bet Shemesh, Ramat Bet Shemesh, Khirbat Umm edh-Dhiyab. HA–ESI 129
Nagorsky A. 2010. Bet Shemesh, Survey of Ramat Bet Shemesh Area. HA–ESI 122
Zilberbod A. and Lieberman T. 2016. Bet Shemesh, Ramat Bet Shemesh. HA–ESI 128