Rock-hewn tombs, burial-cave shafts, quarries and rock-cuttings were found in four locations on a broad bedrock outcrop (A1–A4; Fig. 3).
A1. Remains of a burial cave whose ceiling had collapsed, containing ten hewn tombs, were found filled with soil and stones and devoid of finds (Fig. 4). Six of the tombs belonged to adults (length c. 2 m) and four, to children (length c. 1 m). Most of the tombs were 0.3–0.5 m deep except for a tomb (L104), which was 1.4 m deep. The tombs were concentrated around an open area (L105) in four clusters (a–d), oriented in one direction. Group A consisted of three tombs aligned east–west, one of them, Tomb 104, containing an adult and two (L122, L123) containing children. Another tomb (L124), probably also containing a child, differed in its direction and style from the rest of the tombs. The tombs were rectangular; along one of the long walls, at the connection between the wall and the floor, was a row of stones blocking a narrow channel that penetrated the wall. The channel in Tomb 104 was in the northern wall (Fig. 5), whereas in Tombs 122 and 123, the row of stones blocking the channel was next to the southern wall (Fig. 6).
Similar tombs were found at the Nah
adera (North) site south of H
orbat Kosit (Gorzalczany 2010
:117*–123*), where a cemetery that was uncovered contained tombs dug in this style. Until that excavation, such tombs were found in the Jerusalem region, in the south of the country and in Transjordan, where they were dated from the end of the Second Temple period until the third century CE, and were attributed to local ethnic populations (Gorzalczany 2010
:120* and see references cited therein). The numerous graves in Nah
adera led the excavator to assume that this was a type of individual burial that prevailed in the Roman period in several regions of the country, without any connection to a specific ethnic group. The appearance of this tomb style at Nein reinforces this assertion.
Group B consisted of two tombs (L120, L121) aligned in a northeast-southwest direction belonging to adults, while Group C was a single tomb of an adult (L109) oriented east–west. Group D included two tombs (L106, L117) of adults and one (L125) of a child oriented north–south. At the bottom of the child’s tomb adjacent to the western side was a row of stones.
The tombs were filled with soil and a few non-diagnostic body fragments of pottery vessels. Open Area 105 between them was covered with large boulders—the remains of the cave’s collapsed ceiling. The opening of the cave was not found.
. A square shaft (L102; 2.5 × 3.0 m, depth 3 m) hewn in chalk was exposed in the bedrock outcrop sloping to the north. In the shaft’s southern wall was an arched opening leading to a hewn cave that was blocked with soil and small stones; the cave was not excavated (Fig. 7). The shaft was filled with soil, medium-sized stones, numerous fragments of pottery vessels and lamps and several fragments of glassware. Most of the finds date to the Roman period (first–third centuries CE), some date to the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods. The Roman-period pottery included several cooking pots, representative of two types: cooking pots (Fig. 8:1, 2) like those found at H
orbat ʽAqav (Calderon 2000
:95–96, Pl. III:46–49) and cooking pots (Fig. 8:3) found in the first century CE assemblages at Z
ippori (Balouka 2013
:27, Pl. 2:14–19). Numerous fragments of Sikhin-type jars characterized by a tall neck, a rim that is stepped on the inside and a ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 8:4–9) were found which are reminiscent of the jars discovered at Z
ippori (Balouka 2013
:37–38, Pl. 10) and in the burial caves at el-Mujeidil (Migdal Ha-‘Emeq; Getzov, Avshalom-Gorni and Mokary 1998
:203, Fig. 8). Also found were jars with a rounded or triangular rim and a ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 8:10, 11) such as those discovered in H
orbat ʽAqav (Calderon 2000
:91–92, Pl. 1:1–12). The assemblage of lamps comprises mainly knife-pared lamps, some of which have a smooth nozzle (Fig. 8:12), others that have a line incised widthwise across the nozzle (Fig. 8:13) and a small number that are decorated (Fig. 8:14). Several fragments of decorated discus lamps were also found (Fig. 8:15). Most of the lamps are from the pottery workshop in Sikhin and some are from Jerusalem (according to a microscopic examination by A. Shapiro and based on a petrographic study of a group of lamps from the workshop at Sikhin and from settlements in the Western Galilee). A similar assemblage of lamps from this period was found in the burial cave at ‘Ibillin (Feig and Hadad 2015
:99–113, Figs. 9–17), in burial caves at el-Mujeidil (Getzov, Avshalom-Gorni and Mokary 1998
:203, Fig. 8) and at H
orbat ʽAqav (Calderon 2000
:101–102, Pl. V:90–93).
The ceramic finds attributed to the Byzantine–beginning of the Early Islamic periods include several fragments of jars with a low neck, a thick wall and a thick rim that is either everted or triangular in cross section (Fig. 8:16, 17) like those found in Capernaum (Loffreda 2008
:96, DG 84) and in H
orbat ʽAqav (Calderon 2000
:104–105, Pl. VI:7–8). In addition to the pottery vessels, several fragments of glassware were found that date to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods (Gorin-Rosen, below).
It seems that the fill inside the shaft – large quantities of pottery sherds and medium-sized stones—was intentionally deposited there after the burial cave ceased to be used, probably during the third century CE or later. The shaft was likely used for discarding detritus and over the course of time fragments of pottery and glass vessels were swept into it.
Three rock-hewn cist graves (L116–L118) were discovered near the burial cave shaft, at the lower northern end of the bedrock outcrop. The graves were filled with earth mixed with several non-diagnostic fragments of pottery vessels.
A3. Nine rock-hewn cupmarks (diam. and depth c. 0.1 m), two of which were connected (Fig. 9), and a game board consisting of two rows of seven hewn depressions (length 0.4 m, width 0.2 m; Fig. 10) were found on a high flat bedrock outcrop (L101).
In the west, the bedrock falls off precipitously, and a shaft of a burial cave (L110; 2.4 × 2.4 m, depth 2.1 m; Fig. 11) was exposed on its lower part. Two arched openings in the southern and eastern sides of the shaft led to two burial caves. The shaft was filled with soil, medium-sized stones and a few body fragments of unidentified pottery vessels. The caves were not excavated.
On the northern side of the bedrock outcrop (L101) was an opening of a cave (L113; Fig. 12) with a gabled lintel fashioned from nari. In the area east and south of the opening (L114, L115) were many boulders that probably had collapsed from the ceiling of the cave.
To the north of the bedrock outcrop was a cist grave of an adult (L111; depth 0.4 m; Fig. 13) that was hewn inside an ancient quarry (L112). The dimensions of the stones (length 0.75 m, width 0.6 m) that were produced in the quarry could be determined based on the severance channels and negatives of the stones that remained in the bedrock.
A4. A quarry was identified in this subarea that had three rock-cuttings in which there was evidence of severance channels attesting to the production of building stones (length 1 m, width 0.75 m).
A shaft of a burial cave, rock-cuttings and two winepresses (Fig. 14) were exposed on a high bedrock terrace at the top of the slope, where the chalk bedrock was fractured and weathered. The shaft (L502; 2.50 × 2.75 m, depth c. 2.5 m) was hewn in a bedrock surface that was extensively eroded. The western wall was partially destroyed and an arched entrance in the shaft’s eastern wall opened into the burial cave (Fig. 15) that was not excavated. The shaft was filled with accumulated soil, some stones and several non-diagnostic pottery sherds. Two shallow rock-cuttings (L508, L509), including rectangular negatives and channels that were used to detach building stones (length 1 m, width 0.6 m), were exposed on the bedrock surface next to the shaft’s opening. Rock-cutting 509 was probably damaged by Shaft 502 and its western part was missing, and the eastern part of Rock-cutting 508 was destroyed by the natural weathering of the bedrock.
Two winepresses were discerned west of the shaft. One had a small, elliptical and shallow treading floor (L527) that drained southward to a rectangular collecting vat (L528; 0.4 × 0.6 m, depth 0.4 m; Fig. 16) with a curved bottom and sides. All that survived of the second winepress was an elongated shallow treading floor (L525; length 2.2 m) sloping to the east, without any defined borders.
A limekiln, a winepress and a shaft of a burial cave were found on a low bedrock terrace northeast of Area B (Fig. 17). The limekiln was rock-hewn (L520; diam. 3 m, depth 2.3 m; Fig. 18); vertical and horizontal holes cut in the walls of the installation were probably used to build a structure above which a kind of dome was erected. The opening was fixed in the north whence the bedrock descended on the slope to the kiln. The lower parts of the kiln’s walls were hewn while the upper parts were built of medium-sized fieldstones. Signs of burning and soot were found on the walls of the kiln, and friable soil fill mixed with a large amount of ash was discerned along its bottom. Numerous medium-sized fieldstones, probably remnants of the raw material used to produce the lime in the kiln, were found around the opening. No potsherds were discovered either inside or outside the kiln; hence, it was impossible to determine the time when the installation was used.
The winepress had a meticulously hewn treading floor (L513; 2.7 × 3.0 m; Fig. 19) that sloped to the north and drained into a large deep rectangular collecting vat (L516; 1.0 × 2.0 × 1.7 m) that was almost as long as the treading floor was wide; its walls and corners were straight. The cistern was found filled with alluvium and a few ribbed body fragments from the Roman or Byzantine periods.
The burial cave’s shaft (L504; 2.1 × 2.5 m, excavated depth 1.3 m) was adjacent to the treading floor of Winepress 513. A breach in the side of the shaft was discovered in the southeastern corner, probably the result of a robbery, possibly in antiquity. The entrance to the cave was not found. The interior of the cave was visible through the breach. It was filled with an accumulation of soil to more than half its height, and the loculi
that were hewn in the sides of the cave were also noticeable. The bottom of the shaft was filled with boulders to the height of the breach, probably discarded in it when the shaft was no longer used. Above them were medium-sized stones, soil and pottery vessels from the Roman and Byzantine periods, as was the case in Shaft 102 in Area A2. The pottery ascribed to the Roman period included a Type C4 cooking pot (Fig. 20:1; Adan-Bayewitz 19
93:128–130), a Type 1B5 juglet (Fig. 20:2; Adan-Bayewitz 1993
:140) and an intact glass bottle (Fig.20:3; Gorin-Rosen below) that was apparently removed from the cave at the time it was plundered. The ceramic finds from the Byzantine period included two cooking pots (Fig. 20:4, 5; Calderon 2000
:108, Pl. VII:31) and jars (Fig. 20:6, 7; Loffreda 2008
:91, DG 79) that were used in the Byzantine period and continued until the beginning of the Early Islamic period. A coin of the Roman emperor Valens from the years 364–375 CE was found while cleaning the bedrock in this area (IAA 158246). It seems that the cave was used from the Early Roman period to at least until the end of the period, and possibly even afterward, at which time it went out of use. The shaft of the cave was blocked with boulders (unlike Shaft 102 in Area 2A), and the cave filled up with soil. At some point, it is not clear when, it was breached and robbed, after which the shaft filled up again with accumulations. The shaft of the cave was hewn in an ancient quarry where there were rectangular negatives and stone severance channels (length 0.75 m, width 0.5 m).
Two channels (L515, L524; length 0.7 m, width 0.2 m) were hewn in the upper part of the bedrock surface above the shaft’s opening, which were probably intended to drain water to a cistern (L514), c. 1.5 m from the edge of the shaft.
A winepress (L507; Figs. 21, 22) consisting of a shallow elongated treading floor with rounded corners and a deep rectangular collecting vat (L511; 0.7 × 1.3 m, depth 0.6 m) was exposed on the upper part of the bedrock terrace. The walls of the vat were curved and a sump at the bottom was used to collect the remnants of must.
On the lower part of the bedrock terrace next to the winepress was a quarry consisting of two steps: a high level (L506) and a low level (L522; Fig. 21: Section 1–1) on which there were rectangular negatives and severance channels for building stones (length 0.75 m, width 0.4 m). The winepress and nearby quarry may have been used simultaneously.
About 5 m to the west, on the lower part of the bedrock terrace, was another quarry (L523) that had two rows of rectangular negatives and stone severance channels (length 0.75 m, width 0.4 m, height 0.55 m) that were identical in size to those hewn in nearby Quarries 506 and 522.
Several non-diagnostic pottery sherds were found in the soil layer that covered the winepress, collecting vat and quarries.
Two rock installations (Fig. 23) were documented on the lowest bedrock terrace in the excavation area, adjacent to the wadi channel: a rock-hewn cell (L127) the purpose of which is unknown, and a building-stone quarry (L128) that included the severance channels used to detach the stones from the bedrock (length 1 m, width 0.65 m).
The excavation revealed several fragments that could be identified and dated in the two shafts of the burial caves, which, as evidenced by their finds were used for a different purpose in a later period. In Shaft 102 in Area A, mainly body fragments and small fragments were found (not drawn or photographed): two fragments of necks belonging to bottles or jars decorated with a thick glass trail. The vessels and ornamentation are of a greenish-blue shade of glass and date to the late Byzantine and the Umayyad periods. Another fragment was an everted bottle rim that forms a wide shelf, made of translucent glass typical of the Abbasid–Fatimid period. Such vessels are known, for example, in Tiberias (Gorin-Rosen 2013
, Fig. 7:2, 3). Among the body fragments were those dating to the Early or Late Roman periods.
A small lump of industrial glass debris was also found. This is a fragment of raw greenish-blue glass whose surface had been heated and curved. Industrial glass debris was also found in previous excavations at Nein, and it is therefore clear that a glass workshop operated in the ancient settlement (Gorin-Rosen 2014
Another basket from L504 in Area C included fragments of a large candlestick bottle of which remains of its rim, neck and body, and fragments of its base, survived (Fig. 20:3). The bottle has a rim that is folded in with a broad hollow fold and a long neck that converges to a constriction where it connects to the body. The body is bell-shaped with a horizontal ridge in its center, and the base is a low concavity. This type of candlestick bottle is very common in funerary assemblages and dates from the end of the first century to the beginning of the third century CE. This bottle presumably represents the original burial in the shafts, and the other fragments that were found in Shaft 102 represent the later use that was made of these shafts in later periods.
Winepresses, quarries, shafts, rock-cuttings, burial caves and cist graves from various periods were found on the northeastern fringes of Nein. Of the four winepresses that were revealed, three (525, 528 in Area B, 507 in Area D) had a plain, undefined shape and were found in an open area with no stratigraphic reference, and therefore could not be dated. They are similar to the Type III winepresses that were found in the rural area of Tel Hazor (Amos and Getzov 2011
:33). The fourth winepress (513 in Area C), dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods, was exposed near Shaft 504, and at some point, they were presumably used together.
The eight quarries (112 in Area A; 508 and 509 in Area B; 512 in Area C; 506, 522 and 523 in Area D; and 128 in Area E) were located on bedrock outcrops in open areas, without any datable finds. The date of some of the quarries can be estimated based on their location relative to installations. For example, it can be assumed that Quarries 112, 508, 509 and 512 predate the Roman period and that Quarry 506 was contemporary with Winepress 507.
Four burial-cave shafts (102, 110 in Area A; 502 in Area B; 504 in Area C), remains of two other caves whose ceiling had collapsed (in A1 and in A3) and cist graves (111 in Area A3 and 116 and 117 in Area A2) were also exposed. Similar burial caves were found in the Lower Galilee and date from the late first to the third centuries CE. The numerous tombs on the slope northeast of the village indicate that the area was used as a cemetery for the settlement at Nein during the Roman period.
The tombs hewn in a cave that collapsed in Area A1 differ in shape and resemble those that were found in Transjordan and in the south and center of the country, which in the past excavators tried to ascribe to ethnic groups in the south of Israel and in Transjordan. Their appearance at Nein in the northern Jezreel Valley reinforces Gorzalczany’s claim (2010
:117*–123*) that the digging of such tombs was widespread among various populations during the Roman period in Israel, and for the time being these tombs are the northernmost examples of this style.
The excavation finds indicate that prior to the Roman period the slope on the outskirts of the village served as an agricultural and industrial hinterland to produce wine and to quarry building stones for the ancient settlement at Nein. During the Roman period or even at the beginning of it, they stopped quarrying building stones in this area, but continued producing wine and lime was probably manufactured. The area at that time was primarily used for interring the dead in burial caves and cist graves that were hewn in the bedrock, some of which were in place of the earlier quarries.