Intermediate Bronze Age (Strata VI–V)
Based on a survey of the ancient remains the settlement from this period extended across an area of 10–15 dunams. This was a well-planned settlement that included a central courtyard (L556), surrounded by residential units composed of courtyards and rooms (Figs. 3, 4). Alleys and paved streets separated the buildings. Only the northern and western buildings were completely exposed, while the others were only partially revealed because they extended beyond the limits of the excavation area. The dwellings were built on a slope in a terraced fashion and were supported by straight retaining walls. Their walls were built of unfired bricks founded on one or two stone courses. The floors were composed of tamped earth and crushed chalk; in one instance stone slabs were incorporated within leveled bedrock surfaces whose depressions and grooves were filled in and paved with stones. Two or three superposed floors were found in several of the rooms; the installation of a new floor was not accompanied by significant changes to the plan of the buildings. Round stone bases were incorporated in the floors of several rooms. Wooden posts were placed on these bases and supported the wooden structure that covered the building. Stone mortars were embedded in the floors and circular stone pestles were found in their vicinity. Bedrock- hewn cupmarks were found as well as signs of hearths on flat stones. The various artifacts found on the floors point to a permanent agricultural settlement in the area during the Intermediate Bronze Age. The most common finds are pottery vessels of the southern family that is characteristic of the Intermediate Bronze Age in the region, particularly store jars, as well as a variety of table ware, cooking pots and oil lamps that are typical of the period. In addition, flint tools including numerous sickle blades, grinding stones and animal bones were found.
Stratum VI. A large square public courtyard (L556; 6.5×6.5 m), surrounded on three sides by residential buildings, was exposed in the middle of the excavation area. The entrance to the courtyard was from the direction of the alley to the east. The courtyard’s floor was composed of tamped earth set on a foundation of small stones; in western part, the floor was placed on the bedrock whereas in the eastern part, it was founded on soil fill intended to raise the area to the height of the bedrock. Presumably, the courtyard was used for a variety of household tasks and as a sheep pen (Fig. 5). To the west of Courtyard 556 was a small broad residential building (12.5 sq m) that included a wide front room (L540) and an adjacent storage compartment to the north (L527). Numerous crushed jars and jugs were found on the floor of the storage compartment, indicating its use as a storeroom (Fig. 6).
Remains of a building (c. 78.5 sq m) were exposed to the north of Courtyard 556. It consisted of two large long rooms (L439, L553) of identical size. Room 553 was a large long hall (3.5×10.5 m) and to its west was a broad room paved with flagstones (L530; Fig. 7). The doorway connecting the rooms was not located. Three circular stone bases on the latest floor of Room 553 indicate that the roof was supported by wooden posts. A bench of two rows of stones was built along part of the southern wall and next to it, five round stone pestles and a grindstone were found. A large stone mortar was hewn in the southwestern corner of Room 553. The plan of the room or that of Courtyard 439 to its north is not very clear because of damage caused to it by agricultural activity in the Roman period. The walls, which were founded on straightened bedrock surfaces, were only partially preserved. A stone mortar, pestles, pottery vessels and flint implements were found on the floors.
The foundations of two large rooms (L533, L545; c. 60.5 sq m) were exposed south of Courtyard 556. The rooms had tamped chalk floors that were placed on a bedding of small stones (Fig. 8). Several phases of raising the floor levels were discerned. Hearths on flat stones were found on some of the floors and animal bones were collected around them. In the middle of the floor in Room 533 was a depressed plastered surface, which was probably used as a base of a wooden column. Only the southern part of Room 545 was exposed; it had a narrow opening with a stone threshold in its southern wall. An alley (L525) led to Room 533 and in the direction of the western building.
Stratum V was established after a short settlement hiatus, still within the Intermediate Bronze Age, above the northeastern part of the buildings in Stratum VI. The buildings of the stratum are similar in most of their characteristics to the previous structures but vary in their thicker walls and their different orientation. The main building was composed of two rooms (L498, L549). The northern Room 498 was a broad room (7×8 m). Its northern and southern walls were wide and built of large stones, while the eastern wall was narrower. The floor was founded on straightened bedrock and its depressions and grooves had been filled-in and paved with stones. The entrance to the room was located in the eastern wall where a threshold stone and two doorjambs of large stones survived. The square Cell 549 that was probably used for storage or cooking adjoined the southern wall of the room; a raised rectangular surface of large stones was built in its northeastern corner.
The settlement of Stratum VI was larger in area than the other remains exposed in the excavation. It seems that the site was inhabited by a household or several households that shared courtyards and planned their dwelling units around them. Their economy was based on dry farming and grazing and the agricultural produce was stored in the jars that were found on the floors. The large number of jars, flint tools and stone implements that remained intact on the floors (Figs. 9, 10) indicates that the settlement was abandoned quickly. The settlement of Stratum V had a similar material culture and existed later on in the Intermediate Bronze Age.
The plan of the settlement’s dwellings, its agricultural installations and the pottery assemblage are similar to those of a contemporary site that was discovered in Nahal Refa’im, west of the Judean Hills watershed. It seems that in Nahal Refa’im and Ras al-‘Amud semi-nomadic populations from the Judean Hills region coalesced into permanent settlements that existed near stable sources of water. The settlements from the Intermediate Bronze Age at Ras al-‘Amud and in Nahal Refa’im illuminate the period in the region of Jerusalem in a different light than was previously known. Prior to these settlements, only a number of tombs were found, such as a shaft tomb that K. Kenyon excavated on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives (Prag K. 1995 The intermediate Early Bronze–Middle Bronze Age Cemetery on the Mount of Olives. In I. Eshel, ed. Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967 IV :The Iron Age Cave Deposits on the South-East [British Academy Monographs in Archaeology 6 ).Oxford. Pp. 221–242). The residents of the Ras al-‘Amud site may have been interred in these tombs.
Sites similar to Ras al-‘Amud were excavated among the Negev sites of Har Yeroham and Har Zayyad, and in Transjordan, at Khirbat Iskandar and Tell Iktanu. Other settlement sites from the period were recently discovered in the Jordan Valley, in the region of Bet She’an and on the Plain of ‘Akko.
Other Periods (Strata IV–I)
Stratum IV. At the beginning of the second millennium (Middle Bronze I [=IIA]), a new settlement was established above the floors of the previous settlement. The new inhabitants utilized the buildings of the two previous strata and lived right on their floors, without making any architectural changes to the dwellings. The nature of the settlement and the pottery indicate this was a settlement of nomads whose inhabitants remained there for a season or several short seasons.
Stratum III. Finds from a tomb or several tombs, dating to Middle Bronze Age III [=IIC]–Late Bronze Age, were discovered. The finds, not in situ, were discovered in the deep stone fill of an Iron Age terrace (Stratum II). Most of the finds were discovered in the previous excavation (HA-ESI 124) and only a small amount was found in our excavation. The contents of the tomb or tombs included dozens of broken pottery vessels, including fragments of Chocolate-on-White ware, coming from the Jordan valley and Monochrome and Base-Ring vessels that are imported from Cyprus and are ascribed to the end of Middle Bronze III and the beginning of Late Bronze IA, as well as several fragments of milk bowls that can be attributed to Late Bronze IIB. The special finds include a calcite alabaster-like vessel, stamped scarab impressions on handles and scarabs, all from the end of Middle Bronze III–beginning of Late Bronze IA.
Stratum II. At the end of the First Temple period, after a long settlement hiatus, the site became a cultivation plot along Jerusalem’s eastern border. On the western boundary of the site, the stone walls of the Intermediate Bronze Age and the tomb or tombs from the Late Bronze Age were dismantled and a farming terrace that crossed the area from north to south was built. In addition to the contents of the tomb or tombs, the terrace fill contained pottery vessels and objects characteristic of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah in the ninth–seventh centuries BCE. Presumably, the provenance of the finds is in the settlement or a nearby farmhouse that was not discovered in the excavation area.
Among the finds from Stratum II is a fragment of a jar handle, which was incised before firing with an inscription that reads “ ...ל (?)מ/נחם ” (“Le[?]m/nhm”; Fig. 11). This important inscription joins the collection of names with the root "נחמ" (“nhm”) that were found in archaeological excavations, in the Levant in general and in Israel in particular.
Stratum I. Terraces dating to the Late Roman–Early Byzantine periods, built on the ruins of the previous structures were discovered, indicating that the region was cultivated at this time.