Area M – East
This season’s goals was to continue clearing the floors of the Late Bronze Age monumental structure that was uncovered in 2012, and to assess the correlation of the Late and Middle Bronze Age stratigraphic sequence with the phases discerned during the 1990’s in the ‘Podium Complex’ to the north (Fig. 1).
The Middle Bronze Age
This period is represented by the staircase uncovered in 2012 (Ben-Tor, Zuckerman and Bechar 2013). In 2013, two sub-phases were identified in the southwestern part of the staircase. The earlier phase consists of the stairs, a plastered walkway ascending from the north and the western staircase wall, built of large limestone monoliths that carried a mud-brick superstructure (Fig. 2). While the stairs continued in use during the later phase, the walkway was sealed by two walls built on and abutting the monoliths’ wall. All elements of this phase are cut in the north by the southern wall of the Late Bronze Age structure.
The Late Bronze Age
A thick constructive fill was laid against the southern wall of the Late Bronze Age monumental structure. Architectural remains of this period are thus known only in the northern part of the area, where two stratigraphic sub-phases were identified.
The Early Phase. During this phase, monumental walls were built in the western part of the area. These walls form part of a large structure, which extends westward, beyond the excavation area (Fig. 3). A second hall, bordered on the north by the southern wall of the ‘Podium Complex’ may have existed during this phase in the northern part of the area. A drainage system, the opening of which was found in the northwestern part of the area, was probably constructed during this phase as well (Fig. 4, to the west). The system, consisting of at least three drainage channels covered by basalt orthostats, is probably the continuation of the orthostat-covered drainage channel unearthed in the 1990’s to the north, under the pebble pavement of the “Podium Complex’ western courtyard.
A plastered floor uncovered in a very small trial trench belongs to this phase. On it were found fragments of heavily burnt mud bricks and carbonized olive seeds. The pebble pavement in the eastern part of the area and the northern part of the staircase were probably still in use during this phase.
The Late Phase represents a change in the structure’s plan, with the addition of an eastern hall with a pebble-paved floor, which was first used in the Middle Bronze Age. The northern part of the area was converted into a long corridor with a plastered floor that sealed the earlier walls, and in its western part a narrow partition wall was erected to delineate the area of the drainage-channel opening (Figs. 3, marked in red; 4).
During this phase, the western hall was divided in two by a mud-brick wall that ran parallel to the eastern wall of the hall. The eastern space was narrow and probably roofed; the western space, which clearly extended further west, was much larger and most probably unroofed (Fig. 3, marked marked in red).
A final sub-phase of decline was discerned in the late structure. It is characterized by a partial dismantling of walls, the blocking of openings and the reduction of architectural spaces. The two monumental walls delimiting the eastern hall were partially dismantled, and fills and small walls were laid on their stubs. A small, rounded installation, filled with bones and crushed limestone, was constructed beside the southern wall of the monumental structure. The northern corridor was stone-paved, and the northern wall was lined with a row of stones (Fig. 4, to the east). To the west of the corridor, a rounded stone installation was built against the northern wall. Dozens of vessels, including small cooking pots, kraters, jugs and two large cooking kraters were found inside the installation (Fig. 4, marked in red). The partition wall to the west was rebuilt, and a basalt orthostat was added to it (Fig. 3, marked in red). An additional basalt orthostat was found on a dirt floor, leaning against the northern mud-brick wall (Fig. 5). It most probably was one of the covering stones for the drainage channels, which continued in use during this final phase. A similar phenomenon—an orthostat covering stone that was removed and placed in the corner of a room prior to the destruction of the structure—was observed in the southern wing of the ‘Podium Complex’.
The eastern space of the western hall was used for storage during this phase: 13 pithoi were arranged in two rows on the beaten earth floor and wooden beams, leaning against the mud-brick wall. Pithoi fragments were found strewn over of the lower courses of northern, partly dismantled section of the monumental wall, indicating that it was dismantled prior to this final phase (Ben-Tor, Zuckerman and Bechar 2013).
The western hall was enclosed from the north by a very narrow wall built of one row of mud bricks. The southern part of the hall is paved with medium flagstones. Several bowls, two empty pithoi and a krater were found on it. Leaning against the southern wall of the hall were three “Canaanite” storage jars filled with a yellowish substance (Figs. 6, 7).
Another concentration of vessels, which included a very large flask, bowls and scoops, was uncovered in the northern part of the hall. Nearby was an installation, possibly shelves, made of wooden slabs coated with a light-colored material (plaster?), which extended westward, beyond the excavation area; on top of the installation were several scoops. Two shattered basalt platters were found leaning against the eastern mud-brick wall, and below them were a basalt pestle and an accumulation of shells (Fig. 7).
The Destruction Layer
The Monumental Structure was destroyed by a violent conflagration. Fallen mud bricks and burnet wooden beams were found throughout the building. The basalt vessels in the western hall and some of the clay vessels seem to have been intentionally smashed prior to the final destruction.
Decades later, probably in the tenth century BCE, the “Masseboth precinct” was erected on top of the destruction layer of the northern part of the structure (Ben-Tor, Zuckerman and Bechar 2013).
Area M – West
The area is located between area M-68 to the west and area M-East to the east (Fig. 8). In 2013, four stratigraphic phases were identified in this area, all postdating the ninth century BCE. These phases will be described below, from the earliest to the latest.
The northwestern corner of a spacious structure (length 10 m, width 6 m), most of which was previously exposed in Area M-East, was uncovered (Fig. 9). During this phase, the limestone pillars were free-standing; only fragmentary architectural remains are related to them—parts of a pavement, rows of stones. The inner space of the structure is divided by a north–south wall. A white, plastered beaten-earth floor abutted the western wall of the structure from the west. A beaten earth floor and a rounded installation containing burnt wheat seeds were attributed to this phase.
This phase is marked by changes in the inner division of the structure; no changes were made in the outer walls and the pillars. A partition wall (length c. 6.5 m) was erected, and the spaces between the pillars were filled with small stones. Another plastered floor abutted the structure from the west. This is the last phase of use of the structure.
Architectural remains from the phase following the abandonment of the large structure (which was in use in Phases IV and III), were found only in the western part of the area. The stone foundation of a north–south wall, which might form part of a structure still lying to the west, was found in the southern corner of the area. A beaten earth floor and a possible pavement abutted the wall from the west.
Another corner, belonging to a structure which was partly exposed during the excavations of area M-68, was exposed to the north (Fig. 10). Inside the structure, two east–west partition walls end 0.5 m from the eastern wall, creating a narrow corridor along the wall. Fragments of beaten earth floors and small stones pavements were found in the three inner spaces of this structure.
A flagstone pavement of was found between the northern and the southern structures. This might have been part of a blocked alley, which continued westward, beyond the excavated area (Fig. 11).
Only one fragmentary wall, in the southwestern corner of the area, was attributed to this phase. It follows the course of the eastern wall of the southern structure of Phase II. No floors abutted this wall.
Area M – Northwest
This area is located above the westward continuation of the pebble-paved courtyard of the ‘Podium Complex’, uncovered in the 1990's. The full course of the ninth-century BCE solid wall that surrounded the upper city was unearthed during this season. This wall was already uncovered in the Yadin's excavations, in area M-68, where it connects to the outer face of the casemate wall of the tenth century BCE (Fig. 10). Its eastwards continuation, with two outer towers, was uncovered in area M in 1992.
The middle courses of the solid wall, which were exposed this season, are built of two rows of large stones with a dense fill of small stones between them (Fig. 12). The wall and tower are much wider than the wall that extends from them eastward. In the western part of the area, in the point of connection with area M68, the corner of the inset was found. Another corner seems to have been uncovered further east along the inner face of the wall. A white plastered surface (glacis), attached to the outer face of the solid wall, was detected in the western part of the area (Fig. 13). The excavation in this area was discontinued, until Area M-West to its south will be excavated down to this level.