During October 2010, a small-scale salvage excavation was conducted at the entrance to Ha-Solelim car park, within the precincts of the Yiftah’el antiquities site in the Lower Galilee (Permit No. A-6011; map ref. 221943–2085/739963–40119), after a trench for a waste-water pipeline of Qibbuz Ha-Solelim was dug east of Highway 79. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the National Roads Company (Department of Public Works), was directed by H. Khalaily, with the assistance of A. Shapiro (GPS) and Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration).
The Yiftah’el site, extends along the eastern terrace of Nah
’el, c. 0.5 km south of Ha-Movil Junction. The site was discovered in 1982 when the road was paved from Allonim to Ha-Movil junction and numerous excavations have been performed alongside it (HA-ESI 121
; Fig. 1) where extensive parts of a stratified settlement, the earliest dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (8000–7000 BCE) and latest to Early Bronze Age I (3600–3300 BCE), were exposed.
While digging the trench to install the pipe, an archaeological layer rich in flint artifacts was exposed and sections of a plaster floor were discovered at a depth of 1.5 m. The aim of the excavation, c. 75 m east of Yiftah’el, Area E, was to ascertain the extent of the archaeological remains beyond the known boundaries of the site, their intensity, chronology and the relationship between the remains exposed in the other areas of the site.
The excavation was concentrated in two adjacent squares; a southern square (A) and a northern one (B), both excavated to a depth of 1.75 m, down to natural bedrock or sterile soil. The stratigraphic section is similar in both squares and indicates a single archaeological stratum between the natural bedrock and the surface. The layer is homogenous both in the composition of its sediment and in its finds. The clay sediment was dark brown and contained small angular stones that were densely packed in the upper part of the stratum and decreased in the bottom part.
A floor of a rectangular building, whose walls were not preserved, was exposed at a depth of 1.5 m in the northern Sq B. The nature of the excavation did not permit complete exposure of the building; however, its dimensions (length c. 8 m, width 4 m) could be reconstructed from the preserved parts. It was aligned north–south, in keeping with other buildings that were excavated in the center of the site (Fig. 2). The building had a floor of fine quality plaster, founded on a bedding of densely packed stones, whose upper part was made smooth. The bedding was prepared as a foundation and an even layer of plaster (thickness 3 cm) was applied to it. Numerous disturbances were discerned in the floor, some ancient, contemporary with the period of the building’s use and other are modern, including those caused when the pipe trench was cut. A thin layer of crumbling plaster (thickness 1 cm) could be discerned in one of the ancient disturbances. The thickness of the plaster and its state of preservation indicate that it was added after the disturbance occurred. Another disturbance was a shallow depression in the plaster, which was probably a column base. The plaster became thicker at the ends of the floor and scaled the base of the wall 2–3 cm high. Lumps of burnt clay were found in place of the building’s wall that did not survive, indicating that the walls were built of fired mud bricks—a common construction technique in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. No burials were found above or below the floor, as was the custom of the residents of the period; however, a human femur was found in the side of the trench that had cut the floor.
The main finds in this stratum are flints, together with animal bones and a few stone tools. The flint artifacts included numerous cores and blades, products of the naviform technology, known in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. This is a developed technology whose aim was to produce blades from boat-shaped cores (Fig. 3). Mostly arrowheads and sickle blades, tools characteristic of the period (Fig. 4), were prepared from the flint blades. Predominant among the animal bones are those of deer and pigs, whereas the bones of wild cattle were less prevalent.
The small-scale excavation has shown that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlement extended eastward, beyond the route of Road 79. The archaeological remains in the excavation indicate that the Neolithic settlement of Yiftah’el was spread across an area in excess of 80 dunams, which was determined after the 2008 excavations. The exposure of further architectural remains will allow a correct estimation of the site’s extent, as well as a better understanding of the dynamics within it. The material finds, especially the flint, date the settlement stratum to the middle phase of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B.