The present excavations took place in two areas that had been previously excavated to some degree by de Miroschedji (Fig. 3): the monumental palace complex (Palace B1), and the domestic quarter immediately to its southeast (Area J); in both areas work focused on the last occupation phase of the EB III. A third area, the EB II monumental gateway(Area E; Fig. 4), which was fully excavated in the past, required restoration work, as it was vandalized several years ago and is slated to be the main entrance to the future archaeological park.
The monumental complex of Palace B1 (72.1 × 84.5 m; Fig. 5) comprises two main areas: a very large walled courtyard (35.0–46.5 × 81.0 m) and a series of rooms, halls and smaller courtyards to its northwest. The excavation focused on completing the exposure of the peripheral walls of the courtyard and of one of the inner courtyards, dubbed ‘the Forecourt’ by de Miroschedji, adjacent to the main entrance into the palace; and on dismantling the balks left at the end of de Miroschedji’s excavations within the main structure of the palace (Fig. 6). Although the intention was to expose only the last phase of the palace complex, from the end of the EB III, elements related to earlier fortification systems were partly exposed along the southeastern peripheral wall of the courtyard.
The large courtyard was surrounded by massive, freestanding walls (width 1.85 m) built of large to medium-sized boulders and supported by 39 massive buttresses (length 1.9 m, width 1.85 m) set at regular intervals along the walls’ inner face. Eighteen of the buttresses were fully or partially exposed by de Miroschedji.
A close inspection of their construction techniques and materials, and a calculation of their carrying capacity—both suggest that the walls could have once stood at least four or five meters high. The width of the main walls and of the buttresses, as well as the regular distances between the buttresses, have all been shown to conform to the Egyptian Royal Cubit of 52.5 cm (Miroschedji 2001:471–478; 2003:159*).
The walls were set on two to four courses of subterranean foundations, which were built of roughly hewn stones; their foundation trenches could be clearly discerned lining the walls and the buttresses on both sides.
The southwestern peripheral wall (Sub-Areas Bd, Be and Bg; Miroschedji 2009: Fig. 6). The excavation along the southwestern peripheral wall, which could be traced for 83 m, showed that the wall was preserved up to the elevation of the modern ground surface (Fig. 7). With the exposure of its upper course, a nearly continuous foundation trench was revealed along both sides of the wall, indicating that the extant remains of the wall in this area were primarily subterranean foundations for its massive superstructure (Fig. 8). Between two buttresses near the southeastern end of the wall was a unique installation: a small, roughly built semi-circle of stones (Fig. 9), possibly for the placement of a storage vessel, which abutted a small wall that supported a fill of small–medium fieldstones. This was the only constructed element which was found to abut the peripheral wall.
The foundation of the peripheral wall cut through earlier remains in this area (see Fig. 8). To the southwest of this wall, outside the palace, these included numerous terracing walls and several massive platforms associated with the EB II fortification systems (Fig. 10). To the northeast of the wall, within the courtyard, these comprised the remains of the earliest EB II fortification wall (known as Wall A), numerous stone fills associated with a later fortification phase and a few stone fills within robber trenches of Wall A. All these were dismantled when the outer courtyard wall was constructed (Fig. 11).
The southeastern peripheral wall (Sub-Areas Bd and Bh; Miroschedji 2009: Fig. 6), which could be traced for 46.5 m (Fig. 12), was preserved up to a height of four courses; its foundations were left unexcavated. The gradual upward slope in this area towards the acropolis enabled the good preservation of the wall, since its southeastern face also functioned as a terrace wall. The floors between the buttresses in this area were exposed, revealing a crushed and beaten chalkstone surface overlaid by a loose and silty gray matrix. Upon one of these floors was a large hewn stone basin with knobs (Fig. 13).
The exposure of the southeastern wall included an excavation within a smaller, open courtyard (‘the Forecourt’ in de Miroschedji’s terminology) that connected the main entrance (the Hypostyle Hall) to the palace rooms (see Fig. 5). The inner perimeter of this courtyard was previously exposed, revealing walls, buttresses, benches and a drainage system (Miroschedji 2003:164*). The present excavation of this courtyard fully uncovered its beaten crushed-chalkstone floor (Fig. 14), including a few crushed store jars lying upon it.
This excavation extended into the Hypostyle Hall. A later terrace wall (W5078/W5081) was partly dismantled, revealing both the continuation of the main entrance (W5089; Fig. 15) to the palace and the northeastern closing wall of the Hypostyle Hall (W5083; Fig. 16). The latter changes our understanding regarding the size of the Hypostyle Hall. Seven pillar bases—two full rows of three pillars each and one pillar base of a third row—were found in situ by de Miroschedji, and three more pillar bases were found in terraces fills above the Hypostyle Hall. It was thus suggested that the hall originally had four rows of three pillars each (Miroschedji 2003:161*–164*, Figs. 10, 12, 13). However, with the northeastern closing wall of the Hypostyle Hall now revealed, it seems that the hall originally had only three rows of three pillars each.
The northwestern peripheral wall (Sub-Area Bf; Miroschedji 2009: Fig. 6). The enclosing wall on the northwest was badly damaged due to robbing of stones but was nevertheless traceable for its entire length (35 m; Fig. 17). The floors of the courtyard comprised two or three superimposed surfaces of crushed and beaten chalkstone, which were exposed to the southeast of the wall; the same sequence of resurfacings was revealed in this area by de Miroschedji (pers. comm.). By exposing the lowest surface, it became evident that the wall was preserved between one and three courses high. Previous excavations (Ben-Tor 1975) showed that the subterranean foundations in this area descended at least three more courses below the courtyard of Palace B1 (Fig. 18).
Balk removal within the main palace structure. Nearly all the palace rooms were previously excavated (Miroschedji 2013:778, Fig. 12), revealing remains of an earlier palace structure (Palace B2) below Palace B1. While dismantling the balks down to the floor level of Palace B1—in preparation for conserving the palace of this phase—several architectural units, such as an entrance to a small courtyard featuring a threshold and steps (Figs. 19, 20), and a few crushed storage jars were found on the floors of Palace B1 (Fig. 21).
Area J, extending to the southeast of the palace, revealed a densely built domestic quarter separated from the palace by a street (Figs. 22, 23). Much of this quarter was excavated by de Miroschedji (2013:778, Fig. 12). The excavation in this area included both the removal of balks from previous excavations and the exposure of large tracts that were never excavated before, connecting Sub-Areas Ja and Jb of de Miroschedji’s excavations. The work focused on unearthing the last EB III occupation phase (Stratum J1), which was contemporaneous with Palace B1; remains of earlier strata were observed but were not exposed.
Numerous buildings and rooms were exposed throughout both Sub-Areas Ja and Jb. As the street separating these dwellings from Palace B1 clearly determined their orientation, it anchored their stratigraphic link with the palace. The Stratum J1 remains in the southwestern part of Area J were discerned directly above a layer comprising large amounts of destruction debris. Towards the northeast, both Sub-phases—J1a and J1b—were identified, and they both related to the street. Further to the northeast, several walls previously excavated by de Miroschedji may immediately predate Palace B1. Evidence of an orderly abandonment of Sub-phase J1a was observed: doors were sealed with stones, and only very large and heavy storage jars and grinding stones were left behind.
The present excavations at Tel Yarmut are an initial stage in a very large project intended to develop an archaeological national park at the site, which will be open and accessible to the public. Although extensive, the excavation was limited in location and depth to two areas with widespread architecture from the EB III period that was extensively excavated by de Miroschedji: Palace B1 and the last phase of the domestic quarter in Area J.