In June–July 2014, a salvage excavation was carried out on Tel ‘Agol in the Na‘ura Military Base (Permit No. A-7141; map ref. 235050–200/726300–50; Fig. 1), following damage to antiquities whilst installing electric poles. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by N. Feig, with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), M. Kunin, A. Hajian and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), Y. Bibas (photography), Griffin Company (aerial photography), A. Shapiro (GPS), H. Tahan-Rosen (finds drawing) and workers from Kafr Manda. Lt. Col. A. Korin, the army base commander, provided much assistance.
Tel ‘Agol was first surveyed in the late nineteenth century (Guérin 1880:118; Conder and Kitchener 1882:77). The archaeological survey carried out by N. Zori recorded pottery from Middle Bronze Age I, Iron Age I and the Persian period (Zori 1977:62–63); the Archaeological Survey of Israel identified pottery also from Iron Age II and the Byzantine period (Gal 1998:71: Site 14
). The location of the round tell, commanding a view of the Jezreel Valley, prompted scholars to identify it with biblical sites. B. Mazar identified it with Anah
arath, a town in Thutmose III List and in the inheritance of Issachar (Joshua 19:19; Maisler 1955:451), whereas Z. Kallai identified it with biblical ‘En Dor (Kallai 1982).
The excavation (100 sq m; Fig. 2) on the tell slope, 40 m south of the summit, comprised a western and an eastern pair of squares, located ten meters apart. An Iron Age settlement (Strata IV–II) with a casemate wall, and a Persian-period occupation level (Stratum I), were uncovered (Figs. 3, 4).
Stratum IV. A wall built of massive stones (0.7 × 1.2 m; Fig. 5) in the eastern squares was part of the foundations of a rectangular structure, possibly an elevated surface. To its east, wall remains that were probably part of a massive wall, perhaps a fortification wall, were found. The associated pottery mostly dated to Iron Age IIA; a few Iron Age IIB sherds possibly penetrating from overlying Stratum III.
Stratum IIIA. The Stratum IV remains were filled in and overlain with basalt stones and boulders, forming a level surface, on which a casemate wall enclosing the summit of the tell was constructed (Fig. 6). Three casemate rooms (I–III) were exposed in the western squares and two, or three (IV, V) in the eastern squares (Figs. 7, 8). The outer wall of the westernmost Casemate I curved westwards following the tell’s topography (Fig. 9). The outer casemate wall was exposed in all the squares (length 22 m, width c. 1 m), and the inner wall was only partly exposed. The cross walls between the casemates were built of large stones extant for 8–9 courses.
The casemate rooms had different dimensions and may have served different functions. Casemate III was rectangular, and its walls were extant to a height of 2 m (Fig. 10). The floor yielded dozens of broken pottery vessels, mostly jars and cooking pots, overlain by the crushed remains of a clay shelf that may have been attached to the cross wall. The finds indicate that the room was used for storage. Casemate IV was elongated and was the largest room excavated (7 sq m). Casemate V was a very small, slightly curved room that yielded numerous basalt tools and chippings, suggesting that it was a production workshop for basalt stone tools (Fig. 11).
East of Casemate V, a well-preserved floor made of medium-sized stones, abutted the northern face of the outer wall and extended northwards beyond the line of the inner wall, to the interior of the settlement. It was not fully excavated, but since no casemate room was found here, this floor may have been part of a gate courtyard.
The pottery in the casemate rooms and on the stone floor dated to Iron Age IIB, dating the wall and its use to this period.
Stratum IIIB. The casemate wall was damaged in an earthquake whose results were clearly visible (Fig. 3, marked in green). The outer stone row of the outer casemate wall shifted and collapsed (Fig. 12). In Casemate III, a few fallen stones visible on the eastern side of the room where the clay shelf and smashed pottery were found, probably fell from the inner casemate wall causing the shelf to collapse. In Casemate IV, stone collapse was visible in the eastern cross wall, and the outer wall collapsed at a uniform angle along its entire length.
Stratum II. The damaged but still-standing casemate wall was repaired, and courses were added to the walls. The repairs are evident in Casemate III, where two courses were added to the eastern cross wall and the interior face of the outer casemate wall was faced. A couple of walls were built at the eastern end of Casemate V, which was mostly destroyed (Fig. 4, marked in brown), dividing the stone-paved area into two spaces (Fig. 13). The associated pottery indicates that these repairs were carried out within Iron Age IIB.
Stratum I. No architectural remains were discerned, but a concentration of characteristic Persian-period pottery was retrieved on a packed earth surface that was laid over the northeastern part of the stone floor (Fig. 4, marked in blue). Persian-period potsherds were also found in a surface layer near the top of the western cross wall of Casemate IV, and on and around the wall tops of Casemate III.
The excavation showed that Tel ‘Agol was first settled in Iron Age II, probably in Iron IIA, as attested by the few pottery vessels dated to this phase, and by the remains of the massive Stratum IV wall. The Stratum III casemate wall, of which five rooms were exposed, was built over the Stratum IV wall, following the hill’s topography. In Iron Age IIB, probably in the mid-eighth century BCE, the site was struck by an earthquake whose damage was evident in the excavation. An attempt to repair the earthquake damage included the Stratum II repairs to the walls, the addition of wall courses, wall cladding and the construction of new units. The settlement may have been abandoned less than three decades later, before Tiglath-Pileser III conquered the Galilee in 732 BCE, as the excavated area exhibited no signs of destruction and devastation. The settlement was abandoned for about three centuries, from the Assyrian conquest until the resettlement on the tell in the Persian period. The resettlement began towards the end of the fifth century BCE, when the area was part of the province of Megiddo. In the light of the data, Kallai’s identification of the tell with the biblical ‘En Dor appears the most plausible.
The discovery of the Iron Age II casemate wall at Tel ‘Agol is an important contribution to understanding the settlement pattern in the Jezreel Valley during this period.
Conder C.R. and Kitchener H.H. 1982. The Survey of Western Palestine II. London.
Gal Z. 1998. Map of Har Tavor (41), Map of ‘En Dor (45) (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Guérin V. 1880. Description géographique, historique et archéologique de la Palestine 3: Galilée I. Jerusalem.
Kallai Z. 1982. ‘En Dor. Eretz-Israel 16:168–170 (Hebrew; english summary 257*–258*).
Maisler B. 1955. Anaharath. Encyclopaedia Biblica (Encyclopaedia Miqra’it) I. Jerusalem (Hebrew).
Zori N. 1977. The Land of Issachar: Archaeological Survey. Jerusalem (Hebrew).