Khirbat ‘Ein Zagha (Fig. 2) extends across the top of a basalt hill (c. 120 m asl) near a spring. The ruins were first recorded by the Survey Department of Palestine in the 1940s (Es-Salihiya Map, 1:20,000, Survey Department of Israel, 1950). Since then, the site has been surveyed several times (Dayan 1962; Shaked 1998; Hartal 2017: Site 11; Greenberg 2002). A 2006 survey which focused on the ruins, documenting buildings remains and installations (Bron 2009). Finds from all the surveys date human activity at the site to Early Bronze Age II and the Roman–Ottoman periods. This is the first excavation to be conducted at the site.
The excavation concentrated on the northwestern corner of a building (Fig. 3) documented in the 2006 survey; damage to its eastern side prompted the current excavation. The building overlooks the Hula Valley and the Galilee to the west. The building’s excavation (Figs. 4, 5) unearthed at least three construction stages (III–I), all dated to the Ottoman period. Numerous finds discovered both in the excavation and on the surface date from the Mamluk period, suggesting the presence of additional, more ancient strata. Remains of additional walls (W101, W108), probably associated with the same structure, were visible near the excavation area.
Stratum III. The stratum contained the remains of a fieldstone-built wall (W116) and a thick layer (L114) containing ash, lime and numerous charred branches. A lime and ash layer with a sandy texture (L115) was unearthed below L114. These may be the remains of collapsed roofing made of branches and clay, a typical traditional building technique in the Golan (Roth 1984). Remains of another wall (W102; length c. 6 m, width 1 m) built of roughly dressed and undressed basalt stones were unearthed to the west of W116. Five courses of the wall were unearthed; it was not dug down any further, but additional courses were detected below these. Wall 116 clearly existed when activity took place in this stratum, and it probably continued in use in later strata as well; nevertheless, it may have been built in an earlier period. This is suggested by a layer of homogeneous soil (L117) revealed beneath L115, abutting W102; it cannot be attributed with any certainty to Stratum III, and thus may be a deposit associated with an earlier stratum (IV).
Stratum II. A clay and stone layer (L113) above the remains of Stratum III. Large fragments of Rashaya el-Fukhar ware were found scattered horizontally on this layer, and it was covered by a soil deposit (L112). As Layer 113 was only partially preserved, it was difficult to determine whether it served as a floor or whether it was a thin layer of collapse containing fragments of plaster from the walls.
Stratum I. A wall (W107) was built over the Stratum II remains to abut the upper courses of W102 from the east. A stone collapse (L109; not in plan) covering the entire area between W102 and W107 was overlain with a soil deposit (L104). A wall (W103) uncovered along the north face of W107 appears to be associated with this stratum as well, although its relation to the building is not sufficiently clear. Due to the nature of the excavation and its focus on the area to its south, it was impossible to determine whether W103 was a late addition to W107, possibly associated with another building or room to the north, or whether it belongs to an earlier building.
The Finds. Fragments of southern Lebanese Rashaya el-Fukhar ware, dating from the Ottoman period, were found in all the strata and on the surface. These include a bowl (Fig. 6:13), jars (Fig. 6:14, 15) and a jug (Fig. 6:16). Two fragments were found of clay tobacco pipes dating from the early seventeenth century CE (Fig. 7:1) and the second half of the nineteenth century CE (Figs. 5 [circled in green; 7:2); they may represent the time span during which the building was in use (Shapiro, below).
The site also yielded numerous Mamluk potsherds, including glazed bowls (Fig. 6:2–6), a frying pan (Fig. 6:7), cooking pots (Fig. 6:8–11) and a green glazed jug (Fig. 6:12). Other finds from this period include a horseshoe (Fig. 8) and a fals coin dating from the rule of Sultan al-Mansur Muhammad (1361–1363 CE; IAA 168998).
In addition, a few earlier finds indicate the possible existence of additional settlement strata at the site. These finds include several potsherds from the Early Islamic period, including the rim of a green and yellow glazed bowl (Fig. 6:1), small body fragments of ribbed pottery, as well as Terra Sigillata Ware from the Roman period (not drawn) and industrial tesserae bearing traces of plaster (Fig. 9), hinting at the existence of a nearby installation with a mosaic paving.
Tobacco Pipes
Anastasia Shapiro
Two fragments of Ottoman-period tobacco-smoking pipes were unearthed in the excavation (Fig. 7:1, 2). Both pipes have smoked interiors, indicating that they had been used. The typology of these pipes was compared with that of some 2000 previously studied specimens retrieved from the excavations in the Hospitaller Compound in the Old City of ‘Akko (Shapiro, forthcoming). The fabric was examined under a binocular microscope at magnifications of 20× and 40×.
Fragment 1 is a lower part of a small bowl made of light gray fabric with inclusions of quartz sand, chalk, dark minerals and rare, tiny laths of mica. The body of the bowl is decorated with five vertical rouletted lines and four floral stamps. A V-shaped braid-like rouletting delineates the protruding keel. Pipes of the same fabric, shape and size, but with different decorations, were unearthed at Banias (Dekkel 2008), Khan et-Tujjar (Shapiro 2021a) and ʻAkko (Shapiro 2021b). They are dated to the first half of the seventeenth century CE and were apparently imported from Damascus (Shapiro 2021a).
Fragment 2 is of a shank made of pink fabric with numerous foraminifers, biogenic chalk and rare quartz and minute specks of iron oxide. The surface is in a shade of beige, and it bears remains of red burnished engobe. The shank has a wide bi-conical termination at the opening, and a slightly protruding relief ring in the middle. The upper part of the termination is decorated with three gridiron rouletted stripes, and the bottom of the ring—with a single gridiron rouletted stripe. The lower left side of the shank bears a round pipemaker’s mark with a Turkish inscription. No typological parallels could be found, but the fabric has parallels at Tur‘an (Kleiner 2018) and in ‘Akko (Shapiro 2021a). The shape of the shank and even more so the inner diameter of its opening (16 mm) point to a date in the second half of the nineteenth century CE.
The excavation unearthed three construction phases of a building from the Ottoman period—part of a settlement at the site; it is impossible to determine the date of the building’s construction or the nature of the settlement. Most of the excavation finds are associated with the building’s latest phase (Stratum I). However, it also yielded earlier finds from the Roman, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods, which are consistent with finds from previous surveys conducted at the site. Following the excavation, the plan to expand the Kefar Szold cemetery westward was halted, and the excavated area was marked and covered with sterile soil brought from the Hula Valley.