In the present excavation, a long non-consecutive row of squares running parallel to Road 65, to its southwest, was opened between two deep modern cable-line trenches along the northeast margins of the mound (Figs. 1, 2). The southwestern end of this row (Area A), located approximately 200 m north of the Arnon-Amiran excavations, consisted of 13 squares at the edge of the southern terrace. Seven excavation squares (Area B) were opened to the northeast of Area A, on a gentle slope descending northward. Three probes (Areas C–E) were excavated further to the northeast, beyond the edges of the northern terrace, along Road 65.
Area A (Fig. 3)
Most of the squares excavated in this area were devoid of any significant finds, suggesting either that they were located outside of the site’s boundaries or that the remains had been removed by modern construction activity. Nevertheless, the northernmost part of Area A provided a small exposure of Pottery Neolithic remains (Stratum III)—the only in situ remains of this period, although ceramic and lithic artifacts of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods were found throughout nearly all the excavated areas. The southernmost part of Area A, which apparently was within the confines of the site and not removed by modern construction (see Fig. 1), produced architectural remains of two strata (II, I), both dated to the late EB I. Two building phases were identified in Stratum I: a large multi-room structure (Phase IB), which was later (Phase IA) partially dismantled and rebuilt. After an extended period of abandonment, the area was reused as a burial ground during the MB II period, as evidenced by the scant remains of at least two burials and their associated grave goods.
Stratum III consisted of a rounded, cup-shaped pit that cut into a white chalky rock interspersed with patches of sterile dark brown earth (Fig. 4). Within the pit and above the white layer were mud-brick fragments along with ceramic and lithic debris that may be ascribed to the Yarmukian culture of the Pottery Neolithic period.
Stratum II (Fig. 5, 6) comprised several disjointed walls founded directly upon a layer of packed and sterile dark brown alluvium that apparently formed the basal level of habitation during the Early Bronze Age. The walls formed a very sketchy plan, which includes part of a rectangular structure with a rounded outer corner (W159, W194). Such structures were common throughout the southern Levant at the end of the EB I and into the early EB II period (Golani 1999). A crushed holemouth jar was found on a beaten-earth surface (L164; Fig. 7) to the northeast of the structure. Several additional walls of unclear plan yet similar in orientation (W166, W186, W610, W617) seem to have belonged to two structures separated by an alleyway paved with packed small stones (Fig. 8).
Phase IB (Figs. 6, 9) appears to have been built in complete disregard of the architectural remains of Stratum II, which were either covered or removed at this time to make way for new construction. The plan of the main building (estimated inner area: 4 × 8 m) erected in this phase can be deduced by tracing the remnants of four walls (W154, W176, W622, W624). A large, flat-topped stone found within the southern half of this structure was presumably the base of a pillar that supported the roof (Fig. 10). Its counterpart in the north was not found, but it would have been located where the excavation area is cut by a modern cable trench. A complete V-shaped basalt bowl and a large fragment of a late EB I pithos were found on the floor. The structure may have had at least one entrance, possibly in the eastern wall. Partially exposed remains to the south and east of the structure appear to belong to adjacent rooms or courtyards. Adjacent to the western wall of the structure (W624) was an installation made of fired mud-bricks (W614; Fig. 11) and preserved to a height of two courses. The installation consisted of two adjacent chambers and was apparently used for firing at a high temperature: some of the bricks retained a thick coating of vitrified material, and numerous fragments of fired mud-bricks were found strewn upon the floor level within the building.
Phase IA (Figs. 6, 9) was a direct continuation of Phase IB. Renovations of the building included the construction of a new wall (W625), which blocked the original entrance and created a new one, as well as the raising of some floors. A large portion of a wall on the west side of the structure (W624) was dismantled, possibly to accommodate a working platform built of large to medium-sized stones.
Burials. The remains of two MB II burials (T1, T2) were uncovered.
Burial T1 (L178) lay immediately to the west of W176 (Phase IB). It included two socketed metal spearheads, a metal sword and a scabbard associated with a crescent-shaped ivory pommel (Figs. 12, 13), all typical of the MB II period. A few stones may have partially outlined the burial, but no other burial goods or any human remains were recovered.
Burial T2 (L604) was installed by removing several of the stones of W154. It included a badly preserved human skull, a few teeth and rib bones, indicating a primary burial of an individual of unknown sex, 18–25 years old. The interred was oriented east–west, with the head in the west. The burial offerings included a socketed spearhead identical to the ones in Burial T1, a metal sword with the remains of a metal scabbard below the skull, and an animal bone located near the skull. A complete and painted MB II storage jar (L199) with affinities to Syrian jar types of that period that was found near the burial may also have been associated with it.
The worn basalt (Hizriyya) bedrock in this area, along the margins of the site, at the edge of the southern terrace, was visible on the surface in several places, and the archaeological remains were badly damaged due to modern intrusions. These remains included an accumulation of stone debris originating upslope, on the mound, as well as a few habitational surfaces and segments of eroded walls on the exposed bedrock. The finds associated with these remains may be only generally dated to the EB I–III periods.
These probes were opened at the western edge of the northern terrace, after Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery sherds were identified in a surface survey. The probes yielded eroded, ex situ ceramics and flints, indicating that these excavation areas lay beyond the site boundaries.
The present excavation at Tel Qishyon allowed for the first time to establish with precision the northwestern boundary of the Early Bronze Age settlement at the site. While in situ remains of this period were uncovered in the southwestern end of Area A, these were lacking in the rest of Area A and were scant in Area B. Areas C–E produced no in situ remains of any period. The northwestern boundary of the settlement during the Early Bronze Age thus winded its way through Areas A and B and to the east of Areas C–E (see Fig. 1). However, the lack of Early Bronze remains in the northeastern portion of Area A may also have been due to their total removal by modern construction activities.
Remains of the Pottery Neolithic period, which were found only in one part of Area A, attest to a limited occupation during this period. Though badly disturbed and fragmentary, the remains associated with Stratum II in Area A appear to represent a densely built settlement, which may have extended further east. Most of the architectural remains of this stratum shared the same orientation, and at least two of the buildings were separated by an alleyway. The remains of Stratum I also indicate a dense settlement, which extended further to the east. The absence of in situ remains of the EB II–III in Area A indicates that the settlement during this period, previously identified in the Arnon-Amiran excavations to the south, did not reach this area, which was inhabited primarily during the EB I period.