Nahal Zippori 1 (Permit No. A-6214)
The site is located within a cultivated agricultural field on both sides of a dry tributary that drains into Nahal Zippori, c. 0.5 km to the northwest. Two excavation squares were opened.
The first square is located c. 5 m east of the tributary; four strata were identified (1–4; Fig. 2).
Stratum 1 (thickness c. 0.35 m). A surface layer of dark brown plowed sediment that contained small pebbles and flint items in low/medium density.
Stratum 2 (thickness c. 0.45 m). A layer of flint and limestone pebbles that contained chunks of flint and limestone; knapped flint items mixed in clay sediment.
Stratum 3 (thickness c. 0.2 m). A layer of light brown friable chalk that contained a small quantity of knapped flint items.
Stratum 4 (thickness in excess of 0.1 m). Hard chalk bedrock.
The archeological finds are located in Stratum 2, which is probably ancient fluvial deposits of the tributary. The finds are important, even though they were not discovered in situ. The vast majority are flint items from the Middle Paleolithic period (250,000–45,000 BP), including Levallois cores and flakes (Fig. 3). The assemblage is characterized by a high frequency of cores (c. 300 items) and debitage (primary flakes and core debris), while the frequency of the tools is relatively low and includes mostly retouched flakes and side-scrapers. This kind of repertoire is typical of knapping sites that are located near flint outcrops (e.g. Ekshtain et al. 2011). Such natural sources were identified upstream, at the top of a gentle hill, several hundred meters southeast of the excavation squares. Most of the recovered flint items are presumably remains of a knapping workshop from the Middle Paleolithic period, which were transported as a result of seasonal fluvial flows in the tributary.
The second square, located c. 60 m west of the tributary, was excavated in dark brown plowed soil (depth 0.8 m), which parallels Stratum 1 in the first square. The finds include abraded potsherds and flint items, some of which were produced by Levallois technique that is typical to the Middle Paleolithic period. All of the flint items are patinatd and abraded. The presence of the finds in this area is probably a result of modern plowing that scattered the flint items from the vicinity of the tributary.
Nahal Zippori 2 (Permit No. A-6214)
The site is located in acultivated agricultural field c. 200 m west of Nahal Zippori 1. Two squares (depth 0.72, 0.75 m) were excavated in dark brown plowed sediment. The scant finds consisted of flint artifacts, including Levallois items from the Middle Paleolithic period, and abraded potsherds. Backhoe trenches dug near each of the squares showed that the layer of dark brown soil reached the bedrock at a depth of c. 1.5 m. As was the case in the second square at Nahal Zippori 1, the finds from Nahal Zippori 2 were also not in situ. These were presumably dispersed throughout the agricultural field from the area of the tributary in Nahal Zippori 1 as a result of modern plowing.
Nahal Zippori 3 East (Permit No. A-6215)
The site is located on the southern bank of Nahal Zippori, at the foot of the eastern hill of Mizpe Zevulun (Khirbat el Musheirfa; Fig. 4). Thirty squares were opened and remains were ascribed to four main periods: Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (8,500–7,000 BCE), Pottery Neolithic (6,400–5,800 BCE), Chalcolithic (4,500–3,600 BCE) and Early Bronze IB (3,300–3,000 BCE).
The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Period. Remains from this period were found in the center of the excavation area. The remains include dwellings (at least two buildings) and installations (Fig. 5). These structures were constructed in accordance with the Lower Galilee PPNB tradition, which consisted of mud-brick walls and lime-plastered floors (Khalaily et al. 2008). Finds characteristic of the period such as flint sickle blades and arrowheads, polished pebbles and animal bones (including pieces of horn) were discovered on and between the floors. Large quantity of charred seeds, mostly legumes, was found inside one of the buildings within a lined pit that was incorporated in a plaster floor. Surface of angular stones adjacent to remains of a kiln for producing plaster were exposed nearby.
The Pottery Neolithic Period. Remains from this period were found in most of the excavation area. Remains of a Yarmukian courtyard building (Garfinkel 2004) were exposed in the center of the excavation area. The remains included a rectangular room that faced a courtyard where installations indicative of daily activities were found: a round silo (Fig. 6), pits filled with burnt stones that were used as cooking installations, a tabun, grindstones and pottery storage vessels, as well as a limestone grave marker. In addition, numerous fragments of Yarmukian pottery vessels and many flint tools were exposed. Prominent among the pottery vessels are those with a herringbone pattern decoration characteristic of the Yarmukian culture (Fig. 7).
A fairly large number of clay figurines that are characteristic of the Yarmukian culture were discovered. These included c. 30 body fragments, mostly of female figurines also known as “mother goddess” (Fig. 8). Parallels are mainly known from Yarmukian sites in the Jordan Valley: Sha‘ar Ha-Golan and Munhatta (Garfinkel 2004). Notably men and animals clay figurines were also found at within the Yarmukian contexts at the site.
The Chalcolithic Period. Remains from this period were identified in the eastern part of the excavation area. These included remains of a wall, possibly a corner of a building, and an extremely rich level of flint assemblage adjacent to it. The flint finds consisted sickle blades and bifaces that are characteristic of the Ghassulian culture. In addition, fragments of pottery vessels from the Late Chalcolithic period were exposed, including two churns and a unique "violin" figurine made of a polished green stone (Fig. 9).
The Early Bronze Age IB. This period is represented in throughout the excavation area consisting of remains of dwellings, walls and refuse pits and dumps. The main dump was located in the west part of the site. The debris discarded in pits included numerous pieces of broken limestone, some of which were burnt, potsherds, flint items and animal bones. Noteworthy among the finds is a bronze battle axe discovered at the eastern end of the refuse area (Fig. 10).
Remains of buildings with rounded corners were discovered in the center of the excavation area (Fig. 11). Only the wall foundations, built of a single course of medium-sized fieldstones, were preserved. Pottery vessels and a basalt groundstone tool were discovered on a floor that was exposed in one of these buildings.
The remains of long walls were exposed in the center and eastern part of the excavation area. A long wall built of medium and large fieldstones, in which a grave marker and ground stones were incorporated in secondary use, was revealed in the center.
Additional Finds. A scarab dating to Middle Bronze Age IIA (Fig. 12) was found in Early Bronze Age fills in the center part of the excavation. Remains from this period were excavated in Site 3 West (see below).
Nahal Zippori 3 West (Permit No. A-6215)
The site is located at the foot of the northern slope on the western hill of Mizpe Zevulun, between Sites 3 East and 4 (Fig. 13). The site was discovered by U. Berger during an archaeological inspection while water pipes were being laid simultaneous to the excavations that were carried out at Site 3 East. In the wake of the discovery, mechanical equipment was used to check two possible routes in the north and south for the installation of the pipes. An examination of the trial trenches revealed a lower density of archaeological remains in the northern route and therefore twenty excavation areas were opened, as well as four trenches that were dug by means of a backhoe. The location of the areas was determined by the presence of architectural remains that were identified in the trial trenches. Remains of four settlement strata that dated to Early Bronze Age IB, the Middle Bronze Age (2,200–1,550 BCE), the Late Bronze Age (1,550–1,200 BCE) and the Roman period (first century BCE–fourth century CE) were exposed.
Early Bronze Age IB. Remains of walls and layers of stones from this period were exposed in the eastern section of the detour route, at a depth of c. 2.5–3.0 m below the surface. Remains of a typical dwelling were exposed in one of the areas; these included a stone wall and a raised built surface alongside it, sections of a floor bed consisting of tamped roughly hewn stones and a ground stone (Fig. 14). Numerous fragments of pottery vessels, flint tools and animal bones were found as well.
The Middle Bronze Age. Remains dating to this period were discovered in two separate areas, in the western and eastern parts of the excavation area. Architectural remains from Middle Bronze Age I were discovered near the northern slope of Mizpe Zevulun in the western part. These remains were exposed along the southern trial trench (length c. 150 m). Three areas were opened and stone walls, a stone pavement and habitation levels were documented (Fig. 15). A multitude of tabun fragments and cooking vessels was evident, indicative of activity relating to the preparation and cooking of food. An infant store jar burial was found below one of the floors to the east (Fig. 16). These remains were founded directly above sterile soil, thus providing evidence that in this area of the site there was no pre-MB occupation.
More massive architectural remains from this period were discovered in the easternmost area of Site 3 West and they should probably be dated to a later phase of the remains described above, probably to the end of Middle Bronze Age I and beginning of Middle Bronze Age II. Noteworthy among these remains is a massive wall (min. length 8 m, max. preserved height 1 m; Fig. 17) that was built of large roughly hewn stones.
The Late Bronze Age. At the eastern end of the site, stratified accumulations that included numerous fragments of pottery vessels and large amounts of animal bones were discovered. Fragments of pottery vessels imported from Cyprus were identified alongside locally produced vessels. Some of these accumulations are presumably refuse pits.
The Roman Period. Walls, some of which were built of roughly hewn and dressed stones, were exposed in the northernmost square, close to the southern bank of Nahal Zippori (Fig. 18). These were meant to divert the flow of Nahal Zippori, probably for purposes of agriculture. Fragments of Kefar Hananya type pottery dating to the Roman period were found between the stones.
Nahal Zippori 3 East and West: Conclusions
The two sites, Nahal Zippori 3 East and West, are located at the northern foot of Mizpe Zevulun (Map of Nahalal , Site 69) and they constitute an inseparable part of it. The excavation results contribute to our understanding of the settlement’s boundaries in the northwestern part of the tell, especially in the proto-historic periods, from the Neolithic period until the Early Bronze Age. It seems that the eastern part was more densely inhabited in the early periods, until the Chalcolithic period. The scope of the settlement increased in Early Bronze Age IB and extended evenly across the eastern and western parts of the site; in later periods—during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages—only the western part of the site was occupied. The two sites were established in the Nahal Zippori valley and are separated by the stream channel that drains the two hills of the tell. The geomorphologic analysis of the tell and its surroundings greatly contributed to our understanding of the settlement at the foot of the mound over time. The flooding and flow of the water that resulted from Nahal Zippori overflowing its banks were documented as fluvial deposits in some of the excavation areas, as was the culluvial slide of finds and sediments from the tell, which undoubtedly affected the scope of the settlement in the different periods. Apart from the hydrologic construction that occurred in the Roman period, there is no evidence indicating these areas were occupied later than the mid-second millennium BCE.
Nahal Zippori 4 (Permit No. A-6216)
The site is located on the southern bank of Nahal Zippori, c. 100 m northeast of the western end of Site 3 West. South of it are remains of houses and orchards belonging to the Ottoman village Musheirfa, which was situated at the foot of Mizpe Zevulun. One square was excavated (depth 1 m) near the stream channel and layers of dark brown soil were exposed; between these were light colored layers of fluvial deposits composed of small stream pebbles and mollusks. Most of the finds were discovered in the fluvial layers and included eroded flint items, potsherds and two coins, probably Musheirfa village, from the Ottoman period (Fig. 19).
Nahal Zippori 6 (Permit No. A-6242)
The site is located in the middle of an agricultural field, north of the eastern neighborhoods of Ka‘abiyye village, c. 150 m north of the stream channel. One square was excavated (depth 0.65 m) in dark brown plowed soil. The main finds consisted of flint items, mostly from the Middle Paleolithic period. The items are slightly worn and bear a brown patina indicating they were in clayey soil. In addition, another group of flint items that differs from the first one in its preservation and the culture and period to which it is ascribed, was found. A fragment of a bifacial tool (axe?) makes it possible to ascribe this group to the Neolithic or Chalcolithic periods. The formation of the site seems to be related to the cultivating activity that dispersed the flint items throughout the field.
Nahal Zippori 7 (Permit No. A-6237)
Two excavation areas were opened in an agricultural field, c. 200 m east of Khirbat Shabana, on the southern bank of Nahal Zippori, next to the stream channel.
Two squares were excavated in the first area; an ancient stream crossing that underwent several repair phases until it was no longer used as a result of agricultural development work in the region, was discovered (Fig. 20). Three strata (I–III) were exposed:
Stratum I. Surface level, which is composed of a thin dark brown plowed soil layer.
Stratum II. An improvised stream crossing built of medium-sized fieldstones mixed with gray mortar (width 2.7 m, thickness 1 m) and oriented north–south. It seems that the construction constitutes a later addition (post British Mandate?) to an earlier stream crossing from Stratum III.
Stratum III. A stream crossing (length c. 9.5 m, width 2.5 m) whose core was built of small stream pebbles mixed with tamped mortar, and its western end was delimited by a wall, built of dressed nari (0.25 × 0.25 × 0.35 m) and preserved three courses high. The eastern boundary of the crossing consisted of medium-sized fieldstones. Based on the construction style and the ceramic finds, the crossing is dated to the Roman period (second century CE).
Four squares were opened in the second area and part of a water reservoir or pool was exposed (diam. c. 20 m; Fig. 21). The reservoir is dated to the time of the British Mandate and was constructed from two courses of dressed stones. Its exterior was retained by a level of stream pebbles and mortar that was covered with a layer of silt. The reservoir was partially damaged as a result of modern agricultural activity. An added row of stones to the reservoir was exposed to its south, and it aided in preventing the stream’s water from spreading south in the direction of the fields.
Nahal Zippori 8 (Permit No. A-6237)
Three excavation areas were opened on the southern slope of a hill that descends toward the Nahal Zippori channel.
Remains of ancient flint quarries were exposed in two areas. These were uncovered beneath a shallow layer of brown top soil. Eocene flint nodules stratified in the bedrock were exposed in both areas; some of the nodules had scars indicative of quarrying attempts (Fig. 22). The two areas yielded numerous limestone flakes that show bedrock was quarried for the purpose of extracting flint nodules, as well as several flint flakes that are indicative of the initial stages of knapping undertaken at the site. In addition, several quarrying tools (chisels) of flint were found that probably date the quarrying activity to the Neolithic period.
A wall built on the bedrock, delimiting a cultivation plot, was exposed in the third area.
Nahal Zippori 10 (Permit No. A-6237)
On the eastern slope of Khirbat Shabana, facing Nahal Zippori, six ancient flint quarries were identified with large flint nodules stratified in the bedrock; some of the nodules bear scars indicative of quarrying attempts (Fig. 23). The slope was documented but not excavated.
Nahal Zippori 21 (Permit No. A-6240)
Two excavation areas were opened in an agricultural field northeast of Khirbet Shabana; two squares were excavated in each. A stratum consisting of dark brown plowed soil and limestone fragments was excavated. The finds were mixed and included modern remains, abraded potsherds from the Byzantine period (fifth century CE) and flint items from Early Bronze Age IB. The finds and their state of preservation indicate they were not in situ and probably a result of modern plowing activity that transported archaeological items from the outskirts of Khirbat Shabana.
Nahal Zippori 22 (Permit No. A-6241)
Three excavation areas were opened in an agricultural field northwest of Khirbat Shabana and four squares were excavated . The three areas yielded a similar stratigraphic sequence comprising three strata (I–III).
Stratum I is surface level—a packed dark brown plowed soil layer.
Stratum II is a layer of mixed fluvial deposits that contained small stream pebbles and flint items from the Middle Paleolithic period. The flint items bear signs of erosion and a patina indicating they were transported and rolled through water.
Stratum III is bedrock—the end of the archaeological accumulation.
As was the case at Nahal Zippori 1, it seems that the finds in Stratum II had been transported by ancient currents of water from a distant source, probably from one of the hills that surround Khirbat Shabana to the south.
Nahal Zippori 23 (Permit No. A-6246)
A section of a stone-built aqueduct (length c. 300 m) from the beginning of the Umayyad period was discovered (and see more details in the final report in this issue). The aqueduct traverses the valley from the north and parallel to the Zippori stream. A more western section of this aqueduct was exposed in the past (ESI 14:46–49).
The Nahal Zippori excavation project uncovered remains from many periods, ranging from the Middle Paleolithic period until the British Mandate era. It can generally be seen that the nature of activity and settlement in the Nahal Zippori basin changes over time.
It seems that most of the activity in the earliest periods, as documented in the excavations of Nahal Zippori 1, 2, 6, and 22, was related to the natural flint outcrops in the stream basin, for example at Nahal Zippori 8 and 10. It is true that all the flint concentrations excavated at these sites were transported there by water, but they are sufficient to attest to intense knapping activity in the Middle Paleolithic period. This phenomenon was documented in the eastern part of the Nahal Zippori basin at the Giv‘at Rabi (East) site where a Mousterian flint knapping workshop that was situated directly on sources of raw material was excavated (HA-ESI 122; Ekshtain et al. 2011).
With the transition to farming communities, as of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period until the Early Bronze Age, the nature of activity in the stream basin changed. Small permanent villages were established in the fertile valley of Nahal Zippori, as documented at the sites of Nahal Zippori 3 East and West. Interestingly, despite the long period of time (c. 7,000 years) the early farmers repeatedly chose the northern foot of Mizpe Zevulun for building their rural settlements, with the small spatial changes in accordance with the flow regime of the stream channel. This phenomenon was also observed at proto-historic sites further upstream, for example at Yiftah’el and ‘En Zippori (HA-ESI 122). The selection of the same parcels of land probably stems from the villages’ economy that was based on growing agricultural crops in the valley, as reflected in the archaeobotanical finds from Nahal Zippori 3 East. It seems that the settlement pattern in the Nahal Zippori valley changed only with the transition to an urban society, when the settlements moved to the hills above the valley, upon which fortified towns were erected, such as Mizpe Zevulun.
The third pattern of activity that was identified is related to the hydrology of Nahal Zippori and is characteristic of later periods, from the Roman period until the present era. Stream crossings (Nahal Zippori 7), aqueducts (Nahal Zippori 23), dams and reservoirs (Nahal Zippori 3 West and 7) were built at this time. The construction of these installations is indicative of planning and extensive engineering knowledge; therefore, it can be assumed that they are related to larger affluent settlements located outside the valley.