Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Period. Settlement remains from this period were exposed on the bedrock throughout the excavation area, with the exception of its western end. However, distinct habitation levels were discovered mainly in the eastern part of the excavation (Sqs C–F/12–19; Fig. 1), an area where the later, Chalcolithic-period settlement did not extend. Flint tools characteristic of this period were discovered in and around the entire excavation area, as well as on the surface. The eastern part of the excavation area is characterized by high bedrock, hence the shallow accumulation (max. depth 1 m) in most of the squares there. Two phases were discerned in this stratum.
Black-brown soil levels (Fig 1: N), mixed at times with small grains of limestone, were discovered on the bedrock in Sqs D14 and E–F/13–16; they are ascribed to the early phase of the period. Numerous flint implements were found in these levels; notable among them were numerous Helwan arrowheads, characteristic of the early phase of the PPNB, and thousands of charred broad bean (Vicia Faba), lentil (Lens Culinaris Moench), and pea (species yet to be identified) seeds. The charred seeds provide concrete evidence that these legumes were already domesticated in the early phase of the PPNB, much earlier than the accepted date for their domestication. In Sq D14, this level was an actual habitation level on which a surface made of small stones and a basalt grinding stone were discovered. A clay anthropomorphic figurine (length c. 5 cm) was found nearby. Other finds discovered on the habitation level of the early phase in this period included numerous obsidian items, among them a core, two arrowheads and many bladelets; polished votive axes fashioned from green rock that originates in the northern Levant or southern Europe (Aegean Islands?); a stone tool; and many animal bones, notable among them wild species that were hunted, such as deer. Uncovered in the excavations were rock-hewn installations and floors founded on bedrock where various activities were conducted. A section of a plaster floor was exposed in Sq D9. Remains of three human burials are also attributed to this early phase. One, discovered in Sq E8, contained a complete skeleton placed in a flexed position without the upper part of the skull, as was customary in this period. The other two consisted of several bones together with a few flint and stone implements. The burial that was discovered in Sq C9 shows that a considerable amount of effort was made in its preparation. Utilizing a one-meter difference in elevation between a high bedrock ledge and a circular depression in a lower bedrock level, a semicircular niche (diam. c. 1 m; Fig. 2) was hewn in the bedrock ledge to serve as the front of the tomb. Several human bones and flint tools that were probably funerary offerings were discovered in the tomb.
The finds ascribed to the late phase of this period included walls founded on bedrock or on brown sterile soil. They were built of medium to large-sized stones, some in excess of 1 m long (Fig. 3). In Sq C–D/16–19, a poorly preserved wall that formed a large circle was discovered (Fig. 1:P; diam. c. 15 m). Excavations in Sq E–F/12–15 yielded two semicircular walls (Fig. 1:K, L) that were built on the slope and were intended to prevent soil from sliding down the incline to the north. The bottom parts of the walls were constructed of large stones, whereas their upper courses were built of medium-sized stones. The walls were abutted by a thick level of crushed orange limestone (max. thickness 0.5) that was probably deposited in order to create a stable level, on which houses or installations may have been built. No datable finds were discovered on or above the orange chalk level; however, since this level was discovered above the black-brown level of the early phase of the period, it is clear that the walls and the orange chalk level postdate it. Several arrowheads dating to the late phase of the PPNB were discovered in a number of places between the stones of the walls. A broad wall (Fig. 1:M), oriented in a north–south direction and dated to the Chalcolithic period, was discovered between Sq E13 and Sq E14; to its west were found remains of a burial and potsherds ascribed to the Wadi Rabah culture. The level of Wall M was higher than that of Wall K, the round wall; thus, it seems that Wall M postdates Wall K. For this reason we argue that the round walls and the orange level abutting them do not belong to the Chalcolithic period layer but rather to the early stratum at the site.
Early Chalcolithic Period (Figs. 4, 5). A large part of a village with well-preserved architectural remains was discovered immediately below the surface. Remains of two habitation layers dating to the fifth millennium BCE were discerned in the village, similar to contemporary settlements, among them Horbat ‘Uza, Nahal Zehora and ‘Ein el-Jarba. Most of the constructed remains were discovered on either bedrock or virgin soil in the western part of the excavation area; only wall stumps, some of which were above the PPNB settlement remains and pottery, were discovered in the center and eastern parts of the area. The remains in the eastern part were less well-preserved, perhaps because the bedrock was high there. It is possible that the inhabitants preferred to construct their houses on bedrock in the western part of the excavation area rather than on the remains of the previous settlement.
The early settlement layer was discovered in just two places in the excavation area, in Sq E3–4 and in the area between Sq D2 and Sq E2. Remains of two stone buildings, oriented in a northwest–southeast direction, were revealed. In Sq E3, part of a building (Figs. 4:J; 6) was exposed in which there was a wall (length 3.4 m) built of one row of medium-sized stones (0.3 × 0.4 m) and two superposed plaster floors related to it, the top one gray and the bottom one white. Both floors, founded on a substrate of small stones, represent two construction phases. Remains of the same building were discovered nearby in Sq E4 where two superposed plaster floors and installations were dug into the upper floor. A section of a wall (width c. 0.5 m), also built of medium-sized stones and oriented in a northwest-southeast direction, was discovered in the excavation area between Sq D2 and Sq E2.
The late settlement stratum was discovered over the ruins of the early stratum. The buildings in this layer were oriented in a north–south direction; their walls were wide (0.6–1.0 m) and their method of construction was uniform. A rectangular room constituted the basic unit in each building. The walls of the buildings were constructed of an outer face of large-sized stones (max. dimensions 0.60 × 0.65 m) and an inner face of medium-sized stones (average dimensions 0.2 × 0.2 m), with small stones in between. Especially large stones were incorporated in the corners of the buildings. The walls of the stratum were mainly preserved to a height of one or two courses; it seems that these were the foundations and the upper parts of the walls were built of mudbricks, none of which were preserved. Several building phases were discerned in the late settlement layer, but the chronological differences between them are unclear. Six buildings from this stratum were exposed (Fig. 4:A–F) in the excavation area, two of which were complete (A and C). Building A, consisting of a rectangular room (3.7 × 4.4 m), was founded on a fill of soil and small stones laid on bedrock. The outer stone face of the building’s southern wall was missing, possibly because it was deliberately removed in a later building phase. Building B was erected near Building A, along the same line of construction, and was founded on bedrock. It included a rectangular room (c. 4 × 5 m), whose northern and western walls were only partially preserved. The northeastern corner of Building C was set next to Building B and deviated west of the line along which Buildings A and B were constructed. The building was founded on soil fill placed on bedrock, and consisted of a rectangular room (3.5 × 5.0 m). The eastern and western walls of Building C adjoined the wide, northern wall of Building E. Inside the building was a wall ascribed to the early settlement layer which ran in a northwest-southeast direction and was used as a bench in this phase. A semicircular installation was built outside the structures, next to the corner formed by Buildings B and C. Building D was discovered slightly west of Building C. Large quantities of potsherds were found between the two structures, including fragments of a large stand that was discovered in situ. Building D was only partly preserved but it too was most likely rectangular. Fragments of Building E were preserved over an extensive area (Sq E1–3; presumed dimensions c. 4 × 6 m). The building’s northern wall was broad and long (exposed length c. 9 m) and might have delimited additional structures. The southern wall of Building E was not preserved. An installation built of small stones (Fig. 4:H) covered with a convex plaster surface was discovered inside Building E, close to the eastern wall. This was probably a baking installation that belonged to an early phase of the Chalcolithic period settlement. Another similar installation (Fig. 4:G; Fig. 7) constructed of stones and covered with plaster was revealed west of Installation H. Installation G was built over a clay oven that apparently belonged to an early phase in the Chalcolithic period. All that survived of Building F were the southern and western walls which were perpendicular to each other. It is also possible that both these walls belonged to two different buildings, of which just one wall was preserved from each structure.
Human burial remains were discovered in four places in the late settlement stratum. Two of the burials contained only several bones or part of a skull. A burial was discovered in Sq F7 in which the lower limbs were bent in a position atypical of the Early Chalcolithic period. The upper portion of the skull was missing, and a point and polished votive axe dating to the PPNB were found close to the other skull parts. Numerous potsherds from the fifth millennium BCE were discovered on the same level as the burial, making it difficult to date the burial to PPNB. The lower part of a skeleton, including several lower limbs that were probably flexed in a fetal position, was discovered in Sq E7. Tens of thousands of potsherds of the Wadi Rabah culture (fifth millennium BCE) were discovered inside the village houses, the most common being bowls bearing gray and black slip and burnish (‘gray-burnished bowls’), red-slipped and burnished deep bowls, square-rimmed holemouths, bow-rimmed jars, holemouth pithoi and stands. In addition, two red-slipped handles, hollow and square and adorned with a plastic button-like decoration were also found. These handles might have been part of a kernos-like cultic vessel or coal pan. To date no similar vessel has been discovered in contemporary assemblages in the country. The excavation of this layer also yielded animal bones, including numerous pig bones. Two special finds provide some insight into inhabitants’ symbolic world; that is, a limestone phallus-shaped figurine (length 7 cm) and a fragment of a limestone tablet on which female genitalia are depicted. The latter finds a close parallel at Munhata site, which also belongs to the Wadi Rabah culture.
Remains of two settlements were exposed in extensive excavations, one from the seventh millennium BCE, the other from the fifth millennium BCE. The first occupants of the site settled on bedrock and adapted it to their needs. They engaged in hunting and grew various kinds of legumes. The thousands of charred seeds discovered in this habitation layer might be one of the first and earliest attempts at domesticating different species of legumes in the early phase of the PPNB. The residents of the site were also involved in long-distance commerce, as evidenced by the many obsidian items that originate outside of Israel. In the early fifth millennium BCE, a small agricultural settlement was established at the site whose residents built rectangular houses with various installations in them, some of which were plastered. This village belonged to the Wadi Rabah culture. Its inhabitants produced high-quality pottery vessels and were engaged in farming and raising pigs. The village at the site joins other contemporary settlements in the region, among them Horbat ‘Uza, Nahal Zehora, Ard el-Samra, ‘Ein el-Jarba and ‘En Zippori. Discoveries in recent years at these early fifth millennium BCE sites in the northern part of the country indicate that this was a period of economic and social prosperity.