On October 14–29 2020, a trial excavation was conducted southeast of Khirbat Keila, located in the Zor‘a Forest (Permit No. A-8835; map ref. 199450/632475–545; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of a reservoir. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Mekorot, the Israel National Water Company, was directed by N. Benenstein, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), S. Halevi (photography and photogrammetric documentation), O. Rose (photogrammetry and plan), E. Marco (surveying), A. Shadman and Y. Zelinger (scientific guidance) and T. Kanias.
Two excavation areas (A, B) were opened c. 50 m apart and field walls were uncovered, some of which were used to enclose agricultural plots and some to divert surface runoff water to prevent it from damaging the plots. A survey undertaken in 2003 in Zor‘a Forest (Nagorsky 2012; Fig. 1: A-3863) identified agricultural installations, rock cuttings and caves. An excavation conducted in 2008 on Tel Zor‘a revealed a winepress (Betzer 2010; Fig. 1: A-5482).
Area A (Fig. 2). Three excavation squares were opened and the remains of two walls were uncovered (W101, W104). Wall 101 (length 20 m, width 1 m, preserved height c. 0.5 m; Fig. 3) was built on a northwest–southeast alignment of large stones placed on a layer of brown soil; it was preserved to the height of a single course. Wall 104 (length 16.5 m, width 1 m, height c. 0.5 m) was built on a north–south alignment of large and medium-sized stones and preserved to a height of two courses, the lower of which was placed on a layer of brown soil.
Area B (Fig. 4). Three excavation squares were opened, revealing three walls (W201, W204, W207). Wall 201 (length 16 m, width 1.2 m, preserved height 0.4 m; Fig. 5) was built on a northwest–southeast alignment of fieldstones placed on a layer of brown soil (L202); it was preserved to the height of a single course. Wall 204 (length 9 m, width 0.7 m, height 0.4 m; Fig. 6) was built on a general north–south alignment of medium-sized fieldstones. A square excavated to the east of the wall (L203) uncovered an accumulation of small stones and brown soil of a lighter color than that of L202 beneath the base of the wall; this layer was also discovered in probes to the west of W204 (L205, L208). Wall 207 (length c. 6 m, width c. 0.7 m, height c. 0.3 m) was built on a northeast–southwest alignment of partially dressed stones and preserved to the height of a single course. The wall was apparently built on a layer of brown soil (L206). The wall and the nearby soil layers was damaged while preparing the ground for tree planting.