Stratum II. Sections of walls (W33, W36, W42) associated with two habitation levels (L12/L35, L34) and an installation (L41) were exposed in the eastern part of the area. Wall 42 was built of a row of medium-sized limestone fieldstones and abutted Installation 41. The installation was only partly excavated, but seems to have been circular (diam. c. 1 m, depth 0.3 m); its floor penetrated below Habitation Level 12. The habitation level extended to the east of the installation and of W42 (L35). It was founded on the bedrock, and was in part made of beaten and tamped earth (L35) and in part built of small fieldstones (Fig. 3). The remains of Walls 33 and 36, constructed of medium-sized fieldstones, were discovered in the southeastern corner of the excavation. Wall 36 was founded on the bedrock and probably served as a foundation for the construction of W33. A habitation level built of small fieldstones (L34) and founded on the bedrock adjoined W36 (Fig. 4).
Pottery sherds dating from the EB I were discovered in the habitation levels. Among them were a black-slipped bowl (Fig. 5:1), holemouths (Fig. 5:2–4) and jars characteristic of the period (Fig. 5:5–8). The habitation levels were covered by a layer of dark gray earthen fill (L29; thickness 0.4 m) that contained sherds from the EB I, including two hemispheric bowls (Fig. 5:9, 10), a krater adorned with a rope ornamentation (Fig. 5:11), holemouths (Fig. 5:12–14) and a jar (Fig. 5:15).
Stratum I. Remains of a building from the Roman period were exposed above the EB I remains (Figs. 6, 7). The structure was erected on the slope and comprised three units on separate levels, adapted to conform to the topography. Sections of walls that delimited two units (1, 2; W16, W28, W32, W39) were exposed in the western part of the building, located on the upper level. The walls were built of limestone fieldstones and were laid on a layer of fill. The floors in both units were made of tamped earth (L30, L40) and founded on a fill of soil and fieldstones. Wall remains belonging to two other units of the central part of the building (3, 4; W13, W19, W25, W28, W31, W32) were exposed on the middle level. The construction of the walls was identical to that of the walls of Units 1 and 2. A threshold built of dressed limestone blocks was installed in the southern part of W13 (Fig. 2: Section 1–1). The floors in these units (L10, L18) were paved with limestone slabs in the west and made of tamped earth in the east; they were founded on a layer of fill (L37) that contained potsherds from the Early Roman period.
During the Early Roman period, a wall (W20) was constructed in the northern part of Unit 4; it divided the unit into two. An opening (width 1 m; Fig. 2: Section 3–3) that connected the spaces was fixed in the center of the wall.
Wall remains belonging to another unit (5; W13, W14, W30, W38; Fig. 2) were unearthed in the eastern part of the building, on the lower level. These walls were identical in construction to the rest of the building’s walls, but were founded on the remains of Stratum II. A wall (W15) exposed in the center of the unit served as the base for a pillar that supported the unit’s ceiling. The floor in this unit consisted of tamped earth (L21) that was laid on a layer of fill.
A fill of friable soil was found overlying all of the building’s floors. The ceramic finds in the floor foundations and above the floors (Fig. 8) were homogenous, dating from the Early Roman period. These included cooking pots (Fig. 8:1, 2), jars (Fig. 8:4, 5), juglets (Fig. 8:6, 7) and a Herodian lamp (Fig. 8:8). A fragment of a hemispheric chalk bowl (Fig. 9:8; Magen 2002
:174) decorated with a groove on the outside, beneath the rim, was also found in Stratum I. Such chalk vessels, which are not subject to the ritual laws of cleanliness, attest to the presence of Jewish residents. Mixed potsherds dating from the EB I, Hellenistic and Early Roman periods were found in topsoil. The pottery from the Hellenistic period—kraters (Fig. 9:1, 2), a bowl (Fig. 9:3) and a jar (Fig. 4:9)—allude to a presence at the site at that time, although no building remains from this period were discovered in the excavation area.
The limited excavation at Horbat Zelef sheds light on the nature and the date of the settlement there. The settlement at Horbat Zelef was probably established in the EB I, and its buildings were founded on bedrock; this settlement was abandoned at the end of the period for some unknown reason. The pottery sherds from the Hellenistic period suggest a limited presence at the site during this period. The area was reinhabited during the Early Roman period, and at least some of its inhabitants were Jews. The settlement was apparently deserted at the end of this period.