Horvat Sher (Umm es-Sur in Arabic) was first mentioned in the publication of the British Survey of Western Palestine, conducted at the close of the 19th century. Since then it has been visited by several archaeological surveyors who reported various features—stone columns, walls and strange stone edifices of unknown function.
The results of our own surveys, conducted prior to our excavations, have shown that the site is comprised of several concentrations of archaeological remains:
At the lower, western reaches of the site, bordering on a small, gentle valley we have identified the main settlement area. This is a ruin approximately two to three acres in size, with lots of stone heaps, terrace walls and at least three water cisterns.
Well-dressed stones can be seen in some of the terrace walls, indicating residential use. Sherds collected from the surface of the site teach us that the place was first settled during the Hellenistic (Hasmonean or Maccabean) period, during which time there existed a thriving village with a synagogue at nearby Umm el Umdan. Umm el Umdan was excavated several years ago by the Israel Antiquities Authority and tentatively identified by the excavators as ancient Modiin of the Maccabees.