In several trial trenches (width 0.6 m) excavated in August 2006 and January 2007, pottery from the Chalcolithic period was found. A decorated copper standard dating to the Chalcolithic period was also discovered in one of the trenches (Fig. 3). Three excavation area were opened (A–C), yielding pits and remains of a tunnel dug in the clay soil were exposed. These contained alluvium mixed with pottery sherds, ceramic tiles(?), lumps of fired material, ceramic and stone figurines, flint tools, ground stone tools and vessels, as well as animal bones, fragments of mother-of-pearl, charred organic matter and ash. Pottery sherds dating to the Byzantine and Chalcolithic periods were found on the surface outside the pits.
Area A. Two bell-shaped pits (1a, 1b; L40–L43; diam. c. 2 m, depth below the surface c. 1.2 m; Figs. 4–6) belonging to one complex were revealed in the western part of the area; a channel (L42; length c. 2 m, width 0.6 m) unearthed between the two pits was originally a tunnel that connected them. Half of a pit (5; L39; diam. 1.3 m, depth below the surface c. 0.35 m) was excavated south of Pit 1a. In the eastern part of the area, a second complex was exposed. It comprised four pits: Pit 4 (L29, L38; diam. c. 2.5 m, depth below surface 1 m); Pit 2 (L27, L32; diam. 1.4 m, depth below the surface 0.3 m); Pit 3a (L37; diam. 1.2 m); and Pit 3b, which postdated Pit 3a as its floor level was higher (L28; diam. 1.5 m; Fig. 7). A piece of hard limestone that might have been used as an anvil and a limestone tool, possibly a hammer, were found on the floor of Pit 3b (Fig. 27:2). Reworked potsherds, which were fashioned into lids and spindle whorls, were found in this pit as well.
Area B. A pit was exposed (6; L36; diam. c. 2 m, depth below surface c. 1 m; Figs. 4, 8).
Area C. The size of the excavation area was reduced after the area east and west of Trial Trench 100 (c. 50 sq m; L101, L102; Fig. 9) yielded mainly natural soil. Two pits (7, 8; Fig. 10) were revealed.Pit 7 (L105; diam. c. 1.5 m) was dug in natural soil, as clearly apparent in the trial trench. The pit contained several pottery sherds from the Chalcolithic period and a decorated copper standard of the same period (below). Pit 8 (L107; max. diam. 0.5 m) was exposed while cleaning the floor of the trial trench where several pottery sherds were found. Both pits evidently date to the Chalcolithic period.
Pottery. The pottery vessels found in the excavation were mostly wheel-made. Several bowl fragments were discovered (Fig. 11–15). These include V-shaped bowls (Fig. 12) with a pointed rim; some have a red stripe around the rim. One bowl (Fig. 12:10), slipped and burnished a creamy-white shade, belongs to the group of Cream Ware, which is characteristic of the Be’er Sheva‘ culture. Open bowls of different diameters (Figs. 13, 14) and a group of bowls with thumb-indented rims (Fig. 15) were also exposed. Also found were kraters, some of which that have a round everted rim (Figs. 16, 17) and others—a ledge rim (Fig. 18). Some of the kraters are thumb-indented, and one krater has a spout (Fig. 16:6).
Other ceramic artifacts include numerous fragments of hole-mouth vessels (Fig. 19) used for storage and cooking; jars that have a short or long neck (Fig. 20); cornets, characteristic of the Ghassulian culture, which have a pointed rim, and red paint on some of them adorning their rim, body and pointed base (Fig. 21:1–6); and fragments of churns, characteristic of the Chalcolithic period, particularly the Be’er Sheva‘ culture (Fig. 21:7–11). A variety of lug handles (Fig. 21:12–14), a spout belonging to a small vessel (Fig. 21:15) and a fragment of a fenestrated incense burner (Fig. 21:16) were also uncovered. Two kinds of unique artifacts were exposed: ceramic tiles and lumps of clay. Many fragments of rectangular ceramic tiles (Fig. 21:17) were found in Area A. One side of the tiles was combed which the potter did with his fingers, and on the other side was the imprint of the surface on which the tiles were cast prior to firing. The amorphous lumps of clay were fired; these lumps, shoes purpose is unclea, were found mainly in Area A.
Figurines. Two ‘violin’ figurines depicting females were recovered from Pit 1b. One is made of fired clay (Fig. 22:1) and another was sculpted in stone (Fig. 22:2). The upper part of the clay figurine was broken and it is made of light brown clay and temper that included large black stone inclusions. It is somewhat round and is divided into two parts: a torso and bottom consisting of the waist and genital area. One of the breasts on the upper part remained affixed to the body of the figurine. The figurine is decorated on its front and back with three incised parallel and horizontal stripes that may signify clothing. A similar decoration was noted on a stone figurine found at Gilat (Commenge 2006b: Fig. 2:15.20). Similar ceramic violin figurines are rare finds in sites of the period, but there are several similar items such as the figurine from Sha‘ar Ephraim (Van den Brink, 2011:42, Fig. 39) and the figurine from Site H in Nahal Ha-Besor (Gophna 1990: Fig. 3:1, Pl. 1.C).
The stone figurine is made of light-colored slate that comes from Punon, Eilat or Sinai. The figurine has pointed shoulders and the upper center part of its torso is accentuated. Holes perforated from front to back at the level of the shoulders were apparently used to connect (by rope?) this part of the figurine with another part above it (a head?). Its size (presumed height 0. 5 m), its quality which emphasizes its femininity and the possibility that an upper part was connected to it are unique among the finds in Israel. Similar stone violin figurines are a common find at the sites of the period (Commenge 2006b: Fig. 2:15.20), but the reconstructed size of this figurine indicates that it is the largest one found to date in the country.
Flint Tools. Eighteen items were found including cores, a bladelet, sickle blades, bifacial implements and tools knapped on flakes. The cores comprise a flake core (Fig. 23:1), two bladelet cores (Fig. 23:2, 3) and a blade core (Fig. 23:4). The flake core has multi-directional striking platforms. The bladelet cores were made of chunks of transparent flint and have a unidirectional striking platform. The blade core was made of a river pebble and has a unidirectional striking platform, which is knapped unevenly. The one bladelet found was made of transparent flint (Fig. 24:1).
The sickle blades (Fig. 24:2–6) are backed and exhibit a low level of standardization; some were ad hoc and made on thick blades (Fig. 24:4–6). One sickle blade (Fig. 25:1), made of Eocene flint, has a cutting edge that is not denticulated and the retouched back is on the ventral side of the tool. The assemblage also included a retouched blade (Fig. 24:7), a micro-scraper made of transparent flint (Fig. 24:8), a burin fashioned on a broken blade (Fig. 24:9) and two bifacial tools: a short thick implement (Fig. 24:10) and a fragment of an axe or adze bearing polishing marks (Fig. 24:11). Also found were two coarse and massive scrapers (Fig. 25:2, 3), one of which was is a primary flake (Fig. 25:2). The flint tool assemblage is largely characteristic of the Chalcolithic period (Gilead 1995; Hermon 2008); the sickle blade in Fig. 25:1 is apparently an indtursive, dating to the Early Bronze Age.
Stone Tools. Eight small stone tools were found. Three of them are side scrapers mad of limestone: one was fashioned on a flake (Fig. 26:1) and the others are peripheral scrapers prepared on river-pebble flakes (Fig. 26:2, 3); the scraper in Fig. 26:3 was knapped on its ventral side as well.
Three limestone tools were perforated with a drill; a wooden handle was probably meant to be inserted through the hole in it. One of them is quite flat and elongated (Fig. 27:1) and could have been used as a pickax, and the others are elliptical (Fig. 27:2, 3) and might have been used as hammers. In addition, two spindle whorls or loom weights were found, both of limestone: one is flat and worked on all of its surfaces (Fig. 27:4) and the other was produced by drilling a river pebble (Fig. 27:5).
Also found were several rounded hammerstones and grinding stones made of flint (not illustrated).
Stone Bowls. Four fragments of basalt vessels were found: three of rim fragments of bowls or decorated incense-burners (Fig. 28:1–3) and the fourth is a fragment of a pedestal belonging to an incense-burner (not drawn). The outer side of the bowls is adorned with an incised herringbone decoration. On the inside of the bowl rims is an incised decoration of triangles that have their apexes pointing down and diagonal incising inside them. A fragment of a limestone bowl (Fig. 28:4) was also found. It is typologically similar to the basalt bowls. The basalt objects are characteristic of the Ghassulian and Be’er Sheva‘ cultures, and are common in Chalcolithic assemblages found throughout the country (Rowan 1998).
Decorated Copper Standard. The copper standard that was found during the preliminary inspections (above; Fig. 3) was broken in two, thereby making it possible to evaluate its production technology and core materials. Similar standards were found in the Cave of the Treasure in Nahal Mishmar in the Judean Desert (Bar-Adon 1972: No. 73–102), at Giv‘at Ha-Orenim (Scheftelowitz and Oren 2004: Fig. 2:5.2) and perhaps at Horbat ‘Illit B in the Shephelah (Milevski et al. 2013: Fig. 57). The standard has a piriform thickening decorated with prominent diagonal fluting, a discus rim at the upper end and a jutting ring below the thickening. Below the jutting ring is a decoration of indented rings, below which is a herringbone pattern and near the bottom end is another decoration of indented rings. There is an aperture in the middle of the standard. The standard was examined by Y. Goren and D. Ashkenazi (Ashkenazi et al. 2009), who employed several methods, including radiography, optical microscopy, SEM-ED characterization, micro-hardness testing and petrography. The tests indicate the object was produced by means of the ‘lost-wax’ technique, using copper containing a small amount of antimony and arsenic additives. The standard also contains remains of the ceramic mold. The petrographic analysis of the ceramic remains ascertained that the molds were prepared using a method known as ‘ceramic shell’.
The finds are characteristic of the Ghassulian and Be’er Sheva‘ cultures of the Late Chalcolithic period (the last quarter of the fourth millennium BCE; Milevski et al. 2013). Despite the earthworks that damaged the site, leaving no evidence for reconstructing the activity outside the pits, it was nevertheless possible to reconstruct certain aspects. The pits were dug in natural soil. The large bell-shaped pits (1a and 1b), which were connected by a tunnel, might have been used as dwellings. Pits 3a, 3b and 4 might also have been dwellings. The small-diameter pits were probably intended for storage, digging soil used to prepare pottery, as building installations or for making bricks. Refuse was discarded in them after they were no longer used. These characteristics—underground dwellings linked by tunnels and smaller diameter pits located nearby—are common phenomena at the Be’er Sheva‘ sites (Abu Matar, Bir es-Safadi, Horbat Raqiq, Tel Sheva‘, Nahal ‘Ashan and Nahal ‘Amra; Perrot 1992), and probably also at the Gat-Govrin site (Perrot 1962; Khalaily and Hermon 2013). The figurines and the decorated standard that were found in the pits together with the fragments of pottery vessels and lumps of fired clay raise the question of whether the pits were intended for discarding refuse or use as a favissa.