In January–February 2015 a salvage excavation was conducted at Kibbutz Lahav (Permit No. A-7303; map ref. 187412-556/587364-604), prior to the construction of a neighborhood. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by Kibbutz Lahav, was directed by S. Talis, with the assistance of Y. Al-‘Amor (administration), M. Kahan (surveying) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
The site is located in the northeastern Negev, on the western slopes of Mount Hebron, c. 600 m south of Tel Halif, c. 840 m southwest of Horbat Tilla (Khirbat Khuweilifa) and c. 800 m north of Horbat Rimmon (Kh.er-Rammamin; Fig. 1). The excavation area (175 sq m) extended across a moderate slope that descends to the southeast, in a valley covered with clay soil containing chalk concretions. Numerous remains from the Byzantine period were documented in surveys performed in the area in the 1970s. Winepresses, cave dwellings and columbarium caves were discerned and the sites Horbat Barod, Khirbat Abu Khaff and Horbat Rimmon were surveyed. The results of the excavation at Horbat Rimmon indicate that the settlement was a regional center at that time.
Following the establishment of Kibbutz Lahav in the 1950s, many excavations and surveys were carried out at Tel H
alif and its immediate vicinity. The tell was excavated in 1976–1999 by an American expedition (Lahav Research Project), who uncovered remains of nineteen settlement strata dating to the Early and Late Bronze Ages and from the Iron Age to the Crusader period (Seger 1993
:553–559; Dessel 2009
; Hardin 2010
). An Iron Age cemetery was excavated south of the tell. Burial caves were first discovered in 1965 by Biran and Gophna (Gophna 1970
). Borowski (1992
) exposed additional tombs in 1977–1988 and in 1994–1996, an American expedition headed by T. Levy and D. Alon discovered remains from the Middle Bronze Age I and a large Egyptian-style burial cave at the Nah
al Tilla site, on the slopes of Tel H
alif (Levy et al. 1997
). In 2007, prior to the expansion of Kibbutz Lahav, I. Peretz discovered cave dwellings and burial caves dating from the Middle Bronze Age II until the Iron Age II, as well as the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods (Peretz 2011). Tombs from the Roman and Early Byzantine periods were revealed by A. Kloner at Horbat Tilla (
Khirbat Khuweilifa), east of Tel Halif (Kloner 1984
). On the hilltop of H
orbat Rimmon, south of the current excavation, a synagogue and other areas from the Byzantine period were excavated by A. Kloner
) and N.S. Paran and S. Talis (Paran and Talis 2009).
Two areas (A, B) where ancient remains were observed were opened (Fig. 2).
Clay fill containing small fieldstones and pottery vessels was discovered c. 0.6 m below the surface (L101–L107, L201–L207) in both of the excavation areas (A—65 sq m, Figs. 3, 4; B—85 sq m, Figs. 5, 6). The stones were exposed in scattered concentrations and may have been collapse. No obvious architectural remains were discerned.
Pottery vessels from the Early Bronze Age, Iron Age IIB and the Late Byzantine–Early Islamic period were found, including bowls, kraters, cooking pots, jars, jugs and holemouths. The pottery ascribed to the Early Bronze Age includes several body fragments and a flat base; it was impossible to ascribe it to a specific vessel type (Fig. 7:1). The Iron Age pottery comprises local types and types that are characteristic of the southern coastal region, similar to those discovered at Tel H
alif and its vicinity (Borowski 1994
: Figs. 1–4). Some of the pottery vessels are red-slipped and wheel-burnished, including open bowls with a rim thickened on the inside and a straight wall (Fig. 7:2), and a triangular rim thickened on the outside (Fig. 7:3, 4), a flat base of an open bowl (Fig. 7:8), curved bowls that have a thickened rim folded outward (Fig. 7:5–7), kraters with tapering sides and a ledge rim (Fig. 7:9, 10) and curved kraters with a thickened rim folded outward (Fig. 7:11, 12), a cooking pot without a neck with a rim thickened on the inside and grooved on the outside (Fig. 7:13), jars with tall necks (Fig. 7:14, 15), jugs with thickened and plain rims (Fig. 7:16–19) and holemouths with a rim thickened on the outside (Fig. 7:20, 21). The pottery from the Late Byzantine–Early Islamic period included shallow and deep bowls that have straight and diagonal ledge rims (Fig. 8:1–5), a base of an imported red-slipped bowl (Fig. 8:6), a cooking pot with an upright neck (Fig. 8:7) and part of a bag-shaped jar (Fig. 8:8).
The finds indicate that the fill was part of ancient remains from many periods that were disturbed at the time the kibbutz was established. The Iron Age II at Tel Halif was a period of prosperity and growth. The excavations on the tell revealed clear evidence of a large settlement that included residential buildings, numerous installations and large assemblages of pottery and stoneware. The finds from the current excavation might be indicative of settlement outside the walls of the tell, which provided the Iron Age city with agricultural produce, and a settlement or agricultural installations from the Byzantine period.
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