Trench along J Squares (0.5 × 7.0 m; Figs. 4, 5). The trench was excavated in perpendicular to the wadi bank, which surrounds the northern part of the site. The trench, which runs between the wadi and Tumulus 2, cuts across the courtyard and Walls 1 and 3. The excavation was conducted in units of 0.5 × 1.0 m; hearths were excavated in smaller units. The excavation layers were usually 0.1 m thick. All the sediment removed was fully sieved: surface units with a 6 mm mesh, and the remaining units with a 2 mm mesh. Charcoal collected in the field was immediately placed in suitable containers. Sediment samples (0.5–1.0 liters) were collected from concentrations of ash, from habitation levels and from hearths without sifting and taken for various analyses, such as radiocarbon dating and the study of phytolith and pollen.
The sediment in the upper part of the trench was composed mainly of yellowish, clayey aeolian material, and the soil became dark brown at a depth of c. 0.1 m. Small stones and gravel were occasionally found beneath the surface. Gray patches containing ash and charcoal inclusions were discovered at different depths in several places. These patches usually had a dusty consistency, and it was difficult to determine their outlines. Samples from all the patches (0.5–1.0 liter) were extracted without sifting.Two hearths were discovered. A well-preserved one (c. 0.3 m diam.; Fig. 6) was unearthed in Sqs J10 and J11. It does not have a clearly-defined outline, and it was identified by ash, charcoal and charred stones. No flint items or potsherds were found in the hearth or in its immediate vicinity. A second hearth, discovered at the bottom of the section in Sq J13, yielded ash, charcoal and charred stones. The virgin soil, encountered at a depth of 0.4–0.5 m, was rich in stones and gravel, and identical to the natural layers found outside the site. Excavating beneath W1 in Sq J16, on the northern fringes of the trench, revealed that the courtyard floor was horizontal, whereas the upper layers of the wadi terrace sloped naturally southwestward. It thus seems that the builders of the courtyard dug and prepared a wide, level construction area.
Tumuli. Trench J revealed the northern fringes of Tumulus 2 (4.5 × 5.0 m, preserved height c. 0.8 m; Fig. 7). It was built over the yellow clayey layer, and therefore clearly postdates the hearths found in the trench. A few stones were removed from the base of the tumulus in Sq J9; no flint items or potsherds were recovered from between the stones or from the vicinity of the tumulus. Numerous chunks of brown sheep dung (max. diam. 0.1 m; Fig. 8) were unearthed from a depth of 0.1 m below the base of the tumulus to the bottom of the trench; multiple samples were taken for laboratory analysis. These chunks were found only beneath Tumulus 2. Elsewhere along the trench, there appeared to be patches where the sediment was brown and darker, possibly evidence of disintegrated dung. The two other tumuli, Tumulus 1 (3.5 × 4.0 m; Fig 9) and Tumulus 3 (3 × 3 m), were documented but not excavated; they were both well preserved.
Trench along L Squares. A trench (0.5 × 2.0 m; Fig. 10) was excavated in Sqs L4–L6, between Tumulus 2 and a nearby peripheral wall (L4; length c. 6 m; Fig. 11) in a section where the wall appeared to join and enclose a small area (an oblong room?). The exposed sediment is lighter in color than that exposed in Trench J, includes less organic matter and contains far more stones. Nevertheless, it did yield ash patches and charcoal inclusions. A fragment of a sandstone grinding tool was also discovered.
Hearth. A circular hearth (diam. c. 0.5 m, depth c. 0.2 m; Figs. 12, 13) was discovered on the surface in Sq I12, west of Trench J and immediately north of W3. Most of it was covered with gravel and stones. After an initial cleaning, the hearth—except for its western fringes—was excavated in small units, a few centimeters deep. The hearth yielded thin layers of red, brown and gray ash, as well as numerous charred stones of various sizes. Among these charred stones were a massive limestone scraper and flint artifacts, including blades and flakes.
Walls. The walls were well preserved, and thus only documented. The remains of W1 (length c. 10 m, width 2–3 m), which runs along the wadi, are wider than those of other walls, and thus probably represent the foundation and the collapse of a narrower wall. Wall 2 is a short wall (length c. 2 m; see Fig. 12), which abuts W1 on its southwest edge; it may have been part of the courtyard’s outer wall. Wall 3 (length c. 5 m) crosses the courtyard. Wall 4 (length c. 2.5 m) is located west of Tumulus 3. Wall 5 (length c. 2 m), preserved three courses high, is one of the best-preserved walls at the site. It encloses on the southwest a compound (L6), which is delineated on the west and north by a wide wall that runs along the wadi bank. Wall 6 runs perpendicular to Tumulus 2 and adjoins it on the north; it was built of tightly packed stones and of larger tones in its northern part, which is curved. Wall L5 encloses a small area around the western part of Tumulus 3. The remains of the walls may have belonged to rooms that were built around the courtyard. Their building stones were probably appropriated to build the tumuli once the settlement ceased to be occupied.
Section in the wadi (Figs. 14, 15). The wadi that cuts across the northeast part of the site damaged the architectural remains, and stones from Tumulus 1, W1 and L6 apparently collapsed into the wadi. In the middle of the section formed by the wadi is a layer with copious organic matter. This concentration was one of the reasons for excavating the site, and the section was excavated in order to reach it and examine its stratigraphic context. This was done in two main stages. In the first stage, a vertical section (length 4 m) was excavated in Sqs J17–G17 from the level of the organic layer downward, in a natural layer of alluvial soil, stones and boulders. In the second stage, a single sample area, Sub-Square G17b, was chosen for a meticulous excavation: the sediment was thoroughly sieved with a 2 mm mesh, and unsieved samples were taken for laboratory analysis. This sub-square yielded two concentrations of dark organic matter, containing ash and charcoal were unearthed (width 0.3–0.4 m, thickness 0.5–0.7 m; Fig. 16). The concentrations were found at various elevations, ranging from 447.2 to 447.6 m asl. The eastern concentration was found at the level of the hearths at the bottom of Trench J. The western concentration, found at a lower elevation, slopes toward the northeast. This suggests that the habitation area at the site extended northward beyond the confines of W1, indicating that the wadi cut into the northeast part of the site. Numerous additional patches of organic matter were found at the site, particularly on the fringes, near the wadi. A number of similar patches were identified using GPS technology, but some of these are clearly only partially exposed, whereas others are covered with fine sediment or gravel.
Probe. A small probe was dug c. 20 m southwest of the site. A section (depth c. 0.2 m) in the probe revealed a fill of stones and clay soil beneath the topsoil (the desert floor). It contained relatively little aeolian matter compared with the fill found in Trench J.
The excavation areas yielded few finds. The richest locus was L4, where a few potsherds, probably from Early Bronze Age IV (Fig. 17), were found between the stones of a wall. In addition, a stone pounder (Fig. 18) and a large flint item (Fig.19) were recovered from the base of Tumulus 2. Flints and potsherds were collected from the surface. Two marine shells were found in the courtyard to the east of Trench J: a worked Nerita shell and a wide, broken shell (Fig. 20). In a survey conducted in the immediate vicinity of the site, potsherds and flint artifacts were collected in units of c. 3 × 3 m, using GPS to mark the central point of each; most of the finds were discovered to the west and southwest of the site. Also found were several fragments of grinding stones; the largest came from beneath a boulder on the northwest fringes of the site.
Radiocarbon dating. Two charcoal samples from Trench J were dated by radiocarbon analysis (AMS 14C; Fig. 21). The first sample (No. 1) was taken from a cluster of goat dung in Sq J9 at the top of the trench (448 m asl). The result, 2500–2450 BCE (calibrated; Fig. 22), indicates that the site was occupied during the Early Bronze Age. The second sample (No. 2B) was taken from a taxonomically unidentified charcoal, which was extracted from the middle of Sq J13 near the base of the trench (447.35–447.60 m asl). The result, 5220–4950 BCE (calibrated; Fig. 23), attests to the site’s use at the end of the Pottery Neolithic period. The site’s stratigraphy indicates that there were at least three habitation periods at the site: an early period, comprising the hearths at the base of the trench; a period when the buildings were constructed, dated by the dung at the top of the trench; and a period when the tumuli were built.
Pollen Analysis. Five soil samples were examined from Trench J: two from the lower level (c. 5100 BCE), one from the middle of the section (c. 4000 BCE) and two from the upper level (c. 2500 BCE). In each sample, 200 pollen grains were identified and counted. The prominent finds in all the samples were desert plants that are still known in the ‘Uvda Valley today. However, the occurrence of tree pollen in the samples is markedly higher than its level at present. One of the lower samples contained reed pollen, attesting to an ancient water source nearby, which no longer exists. Both the early samples and the middle sample contained pollen from domesticated cereals. Similar results were arrived at in studied at other sites in the valley, where they were found along with abundant flint and stone implements, including numerous grinding stones (Avner 1998; 2015).
Summary and Conclusions
Site 190 was a small habitation site. Based on the surviving architectural remains, it covered c. 350 sq m, but it is evident that activity at the site stretched over a larger area. The site, situated on the bank of a wadi and slightly concealed from the wide valley to its west, was first inhabited at the end of the Pottery Neolithic period. Radiocarbon dates show that is was used for at least 2500 years, although perhaps not continuously.
Traces of hearths and ashes throughout the site and at various depths point to domestic activity in the area over a long period of time. The density of the hearths is unknown, but if each ash patch that is several dozens of centimeters in diameter does indeed represent the remains of a hearth, then the finds in the trench indicated that the area contained dozens of hearths. The use of stones inside hearths was common at the site. The remains recovered so far do not clarify what type of activity took place around the hearths.
The courtyard was built within a wide hollow that had been dug into the desert floor; no earlier archaeological stratum could be found in any of the excavated sections. The remains from this phase consist of flint artifacts, including blades, a few potsherds and several stone implements. No bones were recovered, but a few teeth were preserved. Sheep/goats were probably kept in the central area. Architecturally, a number of building styles were identified at the site. The walls of the earliest style are surrounded by the yellow clayey soil, but most of the wall tops are exposed and bear gray patina, as, for example, in L6 and beneath W2.
The construction style of the tumuli differed from that of the earlier walls: they were built of large stones arranged in no particular order. The tumuli were built over the courtyard, which by this time was filled with clayey soil and other matter and so was at the same elevation as its surroundings. Tumulus 2 was built probably in the EB IV, and so were probably the other two tumuli. The construction of tumuli above earlier remains is a known feature in the Negev. In two of the three Samar kites, tumuli were built on top of the kites, which were dated to the Early Bronze Age (Nadel et al. 2010
). Tumuli 2 and 3 have nearby walls (L4, L5), which may have been contemporaneous, but could also be the remains of walls from the earlier buildings. Traces of ash and charcoal, stone tools, potsherds and flint artifacts exposed in a trench (Sq L4) indicate domestic activity alongside Tumulus 2.
In the course of the surveys and excavations conducted in the ‘Uvda Valley (Avner 2007
), 182 habitation sites have been documented so far; almost all of them in the east of the valley, where they are denser than anywhere else in the Negev. Four of the sites were settled in as early as PPNB, such as the sites in Nah
al ‘Issaron (Goring-Morris and Gopher 1983
; Carmi et al. 1994
) and in Nah
al Re‘u’el (Ronen et al. 2000
); the other sites are attributed to the sixth to third millennia BCE. Almost all the habitation sites include courtyards or sheep/goat pens surrounded by dwelling rooms (Avner 1998
). The surveys and excavations conducted to date point to a continued occupation of the valley from PPNB onward (Avner 2006
), culminating in farming by Bedouin from the H
ayuwat tribe that continued up to the mid-twentieth century CE.