In May 2006, a salvage excavation was conducted at Kh. Bir in Deir el-Asad (Permit No. A-4803; map ref. 224617/760451; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Asadi Taysir Amin, was directed by M. Cohen, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘akobi (administration), A. Hajian and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), V. Raisa (metallurgical laboratory) and G. Bichovsky and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
The excavation was carried out on a broad terrace that had been damaged in the past due to earthworks and construction (Fig. 2); modern debris was found on the surface. One excavation square was opened in the western part of the terrace, which was apparently undamaged. Architectural remains were uncovered with evidence of three occupation periods: Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk (Figs. 3, 4).
The Roman Period. Sherds from the first–second centuries CE (not drawn) found on the bedrock (L16, L25) and the remains of a wall (W22) attest to the first settlement at the site. A stone object (Fig. 5) with a pair of breasts protruding in the front and bearing remains of plaster and red paint, possibly a cornice, was found upside down in secondary use in W22.
The Byzantine Period. A building exhibiting two phases of construction was unearthed. In the early phase, two walls (W12, W17; Fig. 6) were built on the bedrock. The outer face of the walls was built of roughly dressed stones, and the inner face was constructed with small stones. The structure was abutted on the south by an occupation level (L20): earth containing sherds dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE (not drawn). Three walls (W14, W18, W21) were added in the later phase. A collapse of roughly dressed, large stones (L19) sealed the entire excavation area, except for the eastern part, which had been leveled by modern activity. The fill found under the collapse was dated to the Byzantine period. It contained a bronze coin from 355–361 CE (IAA 113548).
The Mamluk Period. Above the heap of collapsed stones was a layer of fill containing finds from the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE; not drawn)—glazed sherds, green and brown-yellow in color, fragments of glass vessels, iron nails, a bronze bell pendent and pieces of lead used for repairing pottery vessels—as well as a few animal bones.
The site was apparently a small settlement first built in the Roman period. The collapsed stones indicate the settlement’s destruction toward the end of the Byzantine period. The finds show a clear gap in settlement from the Byzantine to the Mamluk periods, and from the Mamluk period to the present.