In November–December 2011, a trial excavation was conducted to the north of Ahihud (Permit No. A-6314; map ref. 216/757), prior to the diversion of Highway 85. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by D. Syon and G.B. Jaffe, with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), R. Abu Raya (area supervision and photography), A. Shapiro (GPS), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), G. Finkielsztejn (identification of stamped amphora handles; see Appendix), N. Getzov (pottery) and H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing).
Development surveys carried out prior to the excavation identified quarries, rock-cut installations, winepresses, kilns and caves along two, mostly wooded, low chalk and nari hills (Abu Raya and Shapiro 2011; 2012). The excavation, carried out where remains were documented in the survey, uncovered several rock-hewn installations, including five winepresses, three limekilns, three other installations, four quarries and two caves (Fig. 1). Many Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine potsherds were retrieved in the excavation. In addition, probe trenches dug on the western fringes of the excavation area revealed an Early Chalcolithic site. Previous excavations were conducted in this low hilly area (Tahan-Rosen 2010; Abu Raya, Porat and Tahan-Rosen 2011; Paz and Vardi 2014).
Winepress 1 (Figs. 2, 3). The winepress comprised two treading floors on either side of a collecting vat. The eastern treading floor was plastered with a layer of crushed limestone (thickness c. 0.1 m); a few stones of its northern wall and a cut channel leading to the collecting vat were extant. In the western treading floor, only part of its northwestern corner and the cut channel leading to the collecting vat were preserved. The collecting vat (2.2 × 2.3 m, depth c. 2 m) with a hewn small settling pit (c. 0.4 × 0.4 m, depth c. 0.2 m), was coated with hydraulic plaster. Hellenistic and Early Roman sherds (second–first centuries BCE), retrieved in the soil accumulations on the eastern treading floor and in the collecting vat, included an ETS bowl base (Fig. 4:1), two Phoenician storage jars (Fig. 4:2, 3) and two Rhodian handles (see Appendix: Nos. 2 and 3).
Winepress 2 (Fig. 5). A carefully hewn winepress comprised a square treading floor (2.5 × 2.5 m, max. depth 0.5 m) and a collecting vat (0.5 × 1.5 m, depth 0.5 m), damaged by weathering. Four cupmarks (diam. 0.1 m, depth c. 0.15 m), hewn in the four corners of the treading floor, indicate that it had a roof supported by beams.
Winepresses 3, 4 (Figs. 6, 7). Two adjacent winepresses, each comprising a shallow treading floor and a rectangular collecting vat to its east. In Winepress 3, two small channels led from the treading floor to the collecting vat. Depressions hewn on both sides of the treading floor identified these winepresses as Ta‘anakh winepresses, a winepress type dated to the Middle Bronze II (Getzov, Avshalom-Gorni and Muqari 1998).
Winepress 5 (Figs. 8, 9). A shallow trapezoidal treading floor (c. 3 × 3 m) was exposed next to a rock-hewn circular cistern containing alluvial soil (diam. 1.4 m, only partially excavated depth 2.5 m). The cistern was probably hewn in the collecting vat after the winepress fell out of use.
Limekiln 1 (Figs. 10, 11). The kiln was mostly hewn out of the bedrock (diam. c. 3.5 m, depth 3.1 m), and its lower eastern side was lined with fieldstones and roughly dressed stones of various sizes.
Limekiln 2 (Figs. 12, 13). A small, partially preserved kiln (diam. c. 2 m, depth c. 1 m) was hewn at a cave entrance (Cave 1, see below). A shelf (width c. 0.2 m), hewn around the base of the kiln, probably bore the stones to be calcinated, reserving a large space for the fuel in the center of the kiln.
Limekiln 3 (Figs. 14, 15). The kiln (diam. 3 m, depth 3 m) was hewn into a gentle slope, and its upper part was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones. A narrow shelf was hewn around its base, as in Kiln 2. Two large worked stones (larger stone c. 0.3 × 0.4 × 0.8 m) set in the kiln’s western side framed a small opening.
Installation 1 (map ref. 21735/75760; not in Fig. 1). The installation comprised a round olive-press crushing stone fragment (diam. c. 1.4 m, thickness c. 0.7 m) that protruded above the surface (Abu Raya and Shapiro 2012: Site 28).
Installation 2 (Figs. 16, 17). An undefined rock-cut installation comprised a small east–west aligned channel (length c. 2 m, width 0.1 m, depth 0.1 m) on the southern side of Quarry 1, and a rectangular rock-cutting (0.3 × 1.2 m, depth 0.1 m) on its northern side.
Installation 3 (Fig. 18). A rectangular rock-hewn pit (0.5 × 1.3 m, depth c. 0.25 m) may have been part of a small winepress, or it may have been used to collect other liquids. A similar installation in the vicinity was dated to the Late Chalcolithic period (Getzov 2011). Similar installations were excavated at several nearby sites (Tahan-Rosen 2010).
Quarry 1 (Figs. 16, 17). The quarry (7 × 7 m, max. depth c. 1 m) exhibited three shallow quarrying levels and stone quarrying marks.
Quarry 2. The quarry (c. 2.5 × 3.0 m) had a single quarrying level.
Quarry 3. The small quarry (c. 0.4 × 0.6 m) had a single quarrying level.
Quarry 4 (Figs. 19, 20). The quarry (c. 3.5 × 4.0 m) had two quarrying levels with stone quarrying marks; a partially quarried stone (c. 0.4 × 0.5 m, thickness c. 0.2 m) remained in the center of the quarry.
Cave 1 (Figs. 12, 13). A rock-cut cave (c. 7 × 11 m) had an opening on its upper eastern side (c. 0.6 × 1.0 m) and another opening on its southwestern side that was blocked when Kiln 2 was hewn. The roof was removed prior to the excavation out of safety considerations. The cave interior was mostly full of alluvium soil and stones, particularly near the openings. The excavation between the stones yielded many sherds, predominantly Hellenistic (second century BCE) and Roman-period (first to second centuries CE) jars and cooking ware. The Hellenistic sherds are of local and imported wares, including a mold made bowl (Fig. 21:1), a cooking pot (Fig. 21:2), a Phoenician jar (Fig. 21:3), an amphora neck with two handles (Fig. 21:4), one bearing a Knidos stamp (see Appendix: No. 5), a Rhodian amphora base (Fig. 21:5), and two Rhodian handles (see Appendix: Nos. 1, 4). The Roman sherds include a Shihin casserole (Fig. 22:1), Kefar Hananya cooking ware vessels (Fig. 22:2–5), a Yodefat jar (Fig. 22:6), Shihin jars (Fig. 22:7–12) and Phoenician jars (Fig. 22:13, 14).
Cave 2 (Figs. 6, 23). The excavation uncovered a small burial cave (c. 1.0 × 1.5 m, max. depth c. 1.4 m) hewn in a nari rock surface whose entrance shaft had a rectangular opening (0.7 × 1.3 m). A small notch cut in the shaft’s northern side served as a foothold. Two burial troughs, separated by a vertical rock wall, were hewn at the bottom of the cave.
At the western edge of the excavation, c. 100 m east of Ahihud junction, the development survey identified flint knapping debitage in the area between Winepress 5 and Installation 3. Five mechanically dug probe trenches, dug to establish the site’s boundaries and settlement strata, revealed that the site (length c. 100 m) was composed of two Chalcolithic settlement strata that were mostly damaged by the earlier construction of Highway 85. The Early Chalcolithic pottery included three bowls (Fig. 24:1–3), a krater or jar flat base (Fig. 24:4) and a jar decorated with an incised herringbone pattern (Fig. 24:5).
The excavation results confirm the survey finds, enhancing the picture of the rural landscape in the chalk hills on the eastern fringes of the ‘Akko Plain. The area is well-suited for quarrying building stones and hewing agricultural installations. The discovery of the Ta‘anakh winepresses, together with a Ta‘anakh winepress previously recorded in a nearby survey (Lerer 2012), augment the data on the distribution of these Middle Bronze Age winepresses, from the Jezreel Valley in the south to Tirat Tamra in the north. The excavation attests to agricultural activity in this area in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.