During February 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted at ‘Elabbon (Permit No. A-5878; map ref. 237875–914/749662–94), in the wake of exposing a layer of ash and a concentration of potsherds prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by N. Feig (field photography and surveying), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS and probe trenches), H. Tahan (drawing of finds) and G. Cinamon.
The excavation was conducted at an ancient site (c. 7 dunams) that had not been excavated previously, within the precincts of ‘Elabbon. The excavation area (4 × 6 m; Fig. 1) was located in an olive grove, on the slope of a hill, on the northeastern fringes of the settlement. A habitation level dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods was exposed (Fig. 2).
Surveys in the region recorded burial caves and rock-hewn tombs that dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. There is a spring house within the village, whose date is unclear. V. Guérin, who visited ‘Elabbon at the end of the nineteenth century CE mentions the remains of a synagogue. The site is identified with ‘elbo, the seat of the Ha-Koz division of the priestly order, who fled Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple. Other priestly families arrived in this area, among them the Jachin division who settled in Kefar Yohanna, identified with Deir Hanna, and the Delaiah division who settled in Zalmon,identified with Horbat Zalmon.
Prior to the excavation, mechanical equipment removed the layer of soil (thickness 2 m) in which olive trees were planted. Beneath this layer were accumulations of soil (thickness 0.8–1.0 m) that contained several potsherds, originating from the hilltop (tell?), which included a jar (Fig. 3:1) and a cooking pot (Fig. 3:2) dating to Middle Bronze Age IIA, two worn fragments of kraters from Iron Age II and a jar from the Persian period (Fig. 3:3). A well-tamped light yellow habitation level (L101, L102, L104; thickness 0.15–0.20 m; Fig. 4) was exposed below the soil accumulations. This level was set on a bedding of heavy brown soil, which contained a layer of ash (thickness 0.2 m) that was discerned along the excavation’s northern balk. Soil fill (L103; thickness c. 0.2 m; Fig. 5) intentionally deposited on the bedrock was exposed beneath the brown soil.
Ceramic finds were discovered on the well-tamped habitation level and in the brown soil beneath it. These included a few potsherds, such as cooking pots (Fig. 3:4, 5) from the Early Roman period, a variety of sherds, including a Kefar Hananya Type 1B bowl (Fig. 3:6), a Kefar Hananya Type 3B cooking pot (Fig. 3:7), a closed cooking pot (Fig. 3:8), and jars produced in the pottery workshop of Ahihud (Fig. 3:9, 10) from the Roman period, as well as sherds from the Byzantine period, including bowls (Fig. 3:11–13), two of which are Kefar Hananya Type 1E (Fig. 3:11, 12) and imported red-burnished vessels, including bowls (Fig. 3:14–16), predominantly Late Roman C Type 3 bowls (Fig. 3:15, 16).
It is possible that the discovered habitation level was part of an installation, which was connected to a settlement located at the site in the Roman (second–fourth century CE) and Byzantine periods. The date of the finds matches that of the burial caves and the tombs that had been surveyed in the vicinity and underlines the hypothesis that a settlement existed at the site during the Mishnah and Talmud times.