In November 2015–April 2016, the first excavation season was conducted at Burgin Well, at the foot of Ḥorbat Burgin in the Judean Shephelah (Permit Nos. A-7554, A-7670; map ref. 196837/616222; Fig. 1). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was conducted as part of the 'Masa Israely' Journey educational project. It was directed by E. Marco (field photography, metal detection), with the assistance of Y. Lavan, N. Nehama and Y. Alamor (administration), I. Azulay and N. Isaac (area supervision), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), G. Rosensweig and G. Shevelman (youth counselling), Z. Turgeman-Yaffe and H. Neugborn (project coordination), I. Delerzon (plan) and A. Peretz (photography, ammunition identification), as well as and Y. Israel and Y. Zelinger (consultation and scientific guidance). Teenagers from across the country participated in the excavation.
Burgin Well was and still is active, but it had never been excavated before. It appears on the Palestine Exploration Fund Survey of Western Palestine map of 1880 (Fig. 2). At the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, excavations and a survey were undertaken at Ḥorbat Burgin (Zissu and Ganor 1999; 2008; Ganor and Klein 2011, and see additional references therein). In recent years, excavations have been conducted at Ḥorbat Burgin as part of the educational program of the Israel Antiquities Authority, directed by H. Neugborn, which focused on underground cavities. Additional excavations took place up the slope from the well (Rotstein and Klein 2019; Shor 2019) as part of the 'Masa Israely' Journey project. Remains uncovered in these excavations and in the survey attest to the presence of a settlement from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods, as well as to activity during the Early Islamic period and to renewed settlement during the Ottoman and the British Mandate periods.
During the excavation (c. 350 sq m; Figs. 3, 4), which took place in the well and in built remains surrounding it, c. 250 cu m of building stones were removed by a backhoe. Remains were uncovered of a reservoir (A), a flour mill from the British Mandate period (B) and a structure built around the well (C); the reservoir (A) is later than the structure of the well (C). The buildings were destroyed by modern military activity. The excavation extended over a large area but did not reach down below the top stratum. The architectural remains were dated to the Ottoman and the British Mandate periods. The ceramic and glass finds were dated to the Late Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Ottoman periods, as well as to our time.
Reservoir (A; W101–W103; W125; Fig. 5). A square plastered reservoir was built near the well head. Three construction phases were identified with three corresponding layers of plaster. The two later layers were applied on a bedding of sherds dating from the Byzantine to the Ottoman periods and are mixed with modern cement; they were hence dated to the British Mandate period.
A layer of plaster (L107) uncovered on the floor of the reservoir’s northwestern corner was dated to the early phase; presently, this plaster layer cannot be associated with those on the walls and cannot be dated. A set of plastered steps descending into the reservoir from the top of the northern end of W102 was built in the second phase, dated to the British Mandate period. In the latest phase of the reservoir, the steps were obviated by construction of an engaged pier (L122; Fig. 6) in the northeastern corner of the reservoir. The pier, coated with the same cement-based plaster as the wall, was apparently built to support an arch, but no engaged pier was found across from it because the northwestern corner of the pool’s walls did not survive. This phase of the reservoir appears to have supplied the water for a steam-powered flour mill (B), like the flour mill from the British Mandate period at Nevaṭim (Y. Israel, pers. comm.).
The top of a wall (W152; Fig. 7) running in a general north–south direction was uncovered west of the reservoir—part of a structure that probably extended westward. This structure was earlier than the flour mill, but the meager finds could neither it date nor point to its use.
Flour mill (B; W100, W136, W151; 10 × 20 m). A flour mill was founded against a chalk bedrock outcrop to the south of the well. The remains of the mill—a rectangular building constructed of dressed stones—were covered with a heap of fallen building stones (max. height 2 m). Under the heap were also a complete modern millstone made of smooth cast concrete containing broken stones and several fragments of such millstones. The entrance to the building is through a doorway set in the middle of W136, where three steps descend into the structure. The doorway was blocked with two large rocks (L143; Fig. 8), perhaps intentionally. The chalk outcrop was incorporated into Wall 151 (Fig. 9). Part of a rectangular plastered installation (L132; 0.7 × 1.0 m, depth c. 0.1 m; Fig. 10) was found beside the outer face of W100; a narrow drainage channel runs through the center of its northern wall. The plaster of the installation resembles the latest plaster in the reservoir. A layer of yellowish soil containing sherds from the Late Roman period at the latest was uncovered toward the conclusion of the excavation east of Installation 132. North of the flour mill was an area that had also been covered by a heap of stones (L113); it was partially excavated, and no finds were discovered.
The tail of the 120 mm mortar that had demolished the building was found when excavating the building. A metal detector revealed in W151 two 9 mm rifle bullets. In the northern part of the flour mill and in the area between the mill and the reservoir were World War II-era mortars and ammunition of a type used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in its early days. Most of the ammunition uncovered in the excavation was made in Israel, and therefore it may be assumed that the building was destroyed during IDF activity in the 1950s. Parts of a modern plow were also discovered in the building, indicating that in its later phases it may have been used for agricultural storage.
A comparison to similar remains of a flour mill at Nevatim suggest that it was powered by steam and should be dated to the British Mandate period.
Building surrounding the well (C). A rectangular building (W110, W111, W134, W139, W142) surrounds the mouth of the well; its doorway was set in the western wall. A floor of flat stones (L137) had probably been in use during the latest phase of the building. A layer of soil that had accumulated on the building’s floor contained stones, potsherds, glass shards and charcoal, but the floor’s construction cannot be dated. The top of a parallel wall (W155) was uncovered north of W142; its date and association to the building remain unclear (Fig. 11). The northern wall of the reservoir (W125) cut W111 and W139 (Fig. 12).
Two walls were uncovered to the east of the reservoir: an east–west wall built of large, dressed stones (W104; Fig. 13) and a perpendicular wall (W126; Fig. 14)—only the head of which was exposed—running north–south. These walls indicate the presence of another structure, which predates the reservoir. The excavation in this area revealed numerous glass bracelets from the Ottoman period, suggesting that the building had been in use during this period, although its time of construction remains unclear.
Although the site was last used for Israeli military training, it was last occupied during the British Mandate period, when a steam-powered flour mill was situated there; the last phase of the reservoir is also attributed to this period. The excavation unearthed a great deal of pottery dating from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (not drawn), indicating human presence at the site at that time; nevertheless, architectural remains from those periods are yet to be uncovered.
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Ḥorbat Burgin. HA-ESI 131.
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Zissu B. and Ganor A. 2008. Survey and Excavations at Ḥorbat Burgin in the Judean Shephelah: Burial Caves, Hiding Complexes and Installations of the Second Temple and Byzantine Periods. ‘Atiqot 58:15–48 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 60*–64*).