During May–June 2004, a salvage excavation was carried out at Tel Burga (Kh. el-Bureij), located in the Sharon Plain, 1 km east of Binyamina (Permit No. A-4163; map ref. NIG 1970–7140; OIG 1470–2140; HA 21:10; 39:18; 41–42:15–16). The excavations were undertaken at the request and with the funding of the Israel Electric Company prior to the erection of two new high-voltage pylons. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Golani, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), E. Belashov (drafting), Y. Nagar (anthropology), E. Oren (antiquities inspector) and T. Horwitz (district archaeologist).
The site has been extensively surveyed in the past, defining a large oval-shaped tell of 250 dunams, encircled by an artificial rampart (Fig. 1). Surveys identified the remains of at least two fortification towers and a wall upon the rampart and two small summits located in the southern perimeter of the site, where ceramic remains from the Chalcolithic period, Early Bronze, Intermediate Bronze, Middle Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as the Roman and Medieval periods, were collected. The major portion of the site consists of a broad plateau that produced surface pottery of the MB IIA period only, while a limited salvage excavation conducted in the western portion of the site revealed remains of a gateway from the same period. The present excavations were conducted as two limited exposures located in separate areas of the tell (Areas A, B; Fig. 1).
Located in the western portion of the site, adjacent to a west–east dirt track that transverses the tell (Fig. 1). One large square was opened, revealing remains of a thin and severely eroded occupation level just below the modern surface, which was situated upon a sterile layer of marl and small stone chips. The occupation layer included several pits full of stones, eroded architecture and a habitation surface that was badly damaged by modern intrusions (Fig. 2). One of the pits contained three primary adult burials placed one next to the other. The westernmost burial was that of a male in a flexed position, lying on his side with the head in the southwest, next to another individual of undetermined gender, laid on his back in a similar orientation, next to another male, also on his back, yet with the head in the northwest. The burials were not accompanied with any datable finds.
A square-shaped stone burial structure (3 × 3 m), sunken 1.5 m into the ground, was uncovered in proximity to the burials. Its initial phase of use consisted of a deep pit dug into the sterile hamra soil and then lined with four walls. This burial chamber was accessed through a semicircular pit that led to an entrance in the western wall of the chamber, found blocked up with large stones (Fig. 3). No traces of stone slabs were found within the tomb and it may be assumed that the roofing was composed of wooden beams and earth. The burial deposits were concentrated along the sides of the structure and appeared to have been partly disturbed (Fig. 4). Two store jars whose necks were cut off, one with a dipper juglet inside, were flanking the entrance. None of the bones were articulated and many of the ceramic vessels seem to have been moved from their original position. The tomb's assemblage contained at least twenty five vessels, along with a few amethyst and rock crystal beads and the osteological remains of at least five individuals of various ages.
At a later stage of the tomb, a partition wall was built within the structure, directly upon the burial deposits of the initial phase of use. This wall created a cist (length 2 m, width 0.5 m), wherein a primary burial of a young male in a flexed position, lying on the right side with the head toward the northeast, was placed (Fig. 5). An upright store jar with the neck was cut off and a dipper juglet inside it was at the feet of the interred, while another juglet was near the area of the abdomen. Two faience scarabs with geometric designs were recovered below this burial, yet it is uncertain to which of the burial phases they should be assigned. The rich ceramic repertoire associated with both burial phases may be dated to the MB IIA period.
A single square was opened in this area, located in the northern side of the tell, close to the northern rampart (Fig. 1). The archaeological remains were covered over by more than 1.5 m of heavy alluvium. Excavation exposed the remains of two architectural phases; both may be dated to the MB IIA period (Fig. 6).
The earliest phase (2) was only partially excavated and included two walls built of one row of large fieldstones, along with an associated beaten-earth surface. A meter-wide gap between the walls may indicate an entryway.In the subsequent Phase 1, two walls (width c. 0.90 m each) preserved three courses high, joined to make a corner of a large building (Fig. 7). The features of the earlier phase were covered with a constructional fill that was sealed with a layer of gray-white marly soil (thickness 5 cm). Outside the building, a small portion of a flagstone pavement was exposed. A beaten-earth surface was discerned between the Phase 1 walls, while two additional lower courses of these walls functioned as sub-surface foundations for this massive structure, penetrating deep into the Phase 2 remains.
Although both excavation areas are very limited in size, the finds indicate that all or most of the area encompassed within the earthen rampart of the site was settled only during the MB IIA period and that a part of the tell was used for burial at the same time. This conclusion, along with the large size of the site, indicates that Tel Burga was the major settlement in this region during the MB IIA period; occupation apparently discontinued at the site during the MB IIB period. The discovery of a large MB IIA burial structure and the lack of a MB IIB occupation is intriguing, in light of the fact that a large cemetery of both periods is known just 2 km to the north, near Shuni.