During September 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted along the southeastern slope of the village of Tamra ez-Zo‘abi in the Jezreel Valley (Permit No. A-3986*; map ref. NIG 23830/72675; OIG 18830/22675), prior to private construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Tepper (photography), with the assistance of I. Dadush (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), D. Avshalom-Gorni (ceramics), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and H. Tahan (drawing).
The houses of the modern village of Tamra, east of Giv‘at Ha-More, were constructed along a basalt spur and its slopes. The core of the village is built around a gentle ravine at whose bottom flows the spring of ‘Ein et-Tahta. Nine archaeological excavations (Fig. 1) were conducted along the eastern slope of the village, exposing dwellings, streets and installations that dated to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, as well as finds from the Persian, Roman and Crusader–Mamluk periods (HA-ESI 109:95*; 113:30*–33*). Previous excavations next to the spring, at the bottom of the slope, exposed remains from Iron Age I, II and from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (HA-ESI 117).
The excavation (50 sq m) revealed a square building with two rooms that is dated to the sixth century CE. Two phases were discerned in the structure. Probes conducted after the conclusion of the excavation ascertained that the building extended beyond the limits of the excavation area and at least another room could be reconstructed to the west, as well as one to the east. It can reasonably be assumed that the building also continued to the north. The walls of another dwelling were exposed to the east.
. The building was constructed on top of the natural basalt bedrock (297.25 m above sea level; Figs. 2, 3). Two rooms were exposed; a western (Loci 103, 108; 2.5 × 3.4 m) and eastern (L115; 3.45 × 4.20 m) rooms that shared a common opening in W106 and another one was in the southern wall (W120) of the eastern room. Flat basalt paving stones, placed on the smoothed natural bedrock, were overlaid with dark earth, which contained potsherds and fragments of glass vessels, dating to the sixth century CE. The walls (width 0.75 m) of the rooms were built of medium and large basalt blocks, mostly roughly hewn, with small basalt pieces and earth between them. The walls were set on bedrock without a foundation trench. The bottom courses of the southern (W105, W120) and eastern (W114) walls were built of large stones. The eastern, western and southern walls were preserved two courses high (0.3–0.5 m). The northern wall (W101; at least 7.75 m long) was preserved six courses high (max. 0.96 m) and had a built pilaster in its western part, which could not be fully understood under the constraints of the excavation. Next to W114 of Room 115 was a low stone shelf (W116) that probably served as a shelf or a bench.
. The building was renovated during the course of the sixth century CE. The passage in W106 was blocked with large basalt stones that were partly dressed and in secondary use. A layer of earth was deposited to a height of 0.3 m above bedrock in the western room (L103). A floor of flat basalt stones overlaid this layer. A similar situation was discerned in the eastern room (L115) where many stones were placed at a uniform level, but in disarray. The later floor covered the shelf/bench (W116), negating its use and the opening in the southern wall (W120) was also sealed. One of the stones was a broken basalt millstone of the Olynthus mill that was probably used in the early phase of the building and incorporated in its construction as a masonry stone in the later phase (Fig. 4:1).
Seventy-six rims were collected, 80% of them dated to the sixth century CE. Some were found in Room 115 from the early phase (Fig. 5:1, 2, 4) and some were on Floor 103 of the later phase (Fig. 5:5, 6, 8). Imported bowls (41%) are red slipped (Fig. 5:1–8) and the rest are locally manufactured vessels, including cooking pots (Fig. 5:9–13), some decorated with white-painted runs (Fig. 5:11) and wavy incisions on the neck (Fig. 5:12), bag-shaped jars (Fig. 5:14) and a single lamp fragment (Fig. 5:18). A few of the rims (17%) dated to the seventh–eighth centuries CE and were all found in the upper soil layer, among them jars (Fig. 5:15, 16) and a cup (Fig. 5:17). A few potsherds (3%) dated to the first–fourth centuries CE and a single fragment was from Iron Age I.
The glass assemblage (not drawn) included bases of wine goblets with hollow rings, fragments of bottle rims and bases––all dating to the Byzantine period. A basalt grinding tool was also found (Fig. 4:2).
Compared with the multi-period artifacts that were found in other excavations near the spring of the Tamra village, the building exposed in the current excavation is a single-period dwelling that was constructed on bedrock. This building supplements our accumulated knowledge on the settlement distribution along the fringes of the Jezre’el Valley and in the lower eastern Galilee during the Byzantine period. The large quantity of imported vessels is probably related to the settlement expansion in this period, when Christianity became established in the region.