Between August and October 2016, two brief excavation seasons took place at Horbat Nahat (Khirbat al-Manhata; License No. G-62/2016; map ref. 222022–190/771513–734),as part of a research project on the rural settlement in the Crusader period. The excavation, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa, and underwritten by the excavator’s research funding, was directed by R. Khamisy, with the assistance of S. Khamisy (surveying), E. Gerstein (photogrammetry and finds photography), A. Iermolin (metal laboratory), S. Shalev (metallurgical research), G. Bar-Oz (fauna), A. J. Boas (pottery), R. Lin (glass cleaning), and A. Regev-Gisis (graphics).
Horbat Nahat is situated on a ridge (c. 400 m above sea level) extending approximately north–south, about 800 m southeast of Montfort Castle, in the Nahal Kziv Nature Reserve. The settlement (c. 40 dunams) is located on the southern part of the Horbat Nahat site, while on its northern part, a large stone quarry that was exploited for the construction of the Montfort Castle keep, and for several structures in the settlement, was discovered. The Upper Galilee Archaeological Survey documented remains at the site from the Roman, Byzantine and Crusader/Mamluk periods (Frankel et al. 2001:28). It is not known when exactly the medieval village was established, but the Frankish sources indicate a period sometime between 1160 and 1220, and it was probably founded when the region was controlled by Joscelin III de Courtenay, between 1181 and 1187 (Khamisy 2017). In an archaeological survey carried out in 2013 (License No. S-390/2013), several building remains and installations were identified at the site, including structures from the Crusader period, some of whose plans could be reconstructed.
The current small excavation was carried out subsequent to the survey, with the aim of expanding our knowledge on the site in the Crusader period. Remains of a building with two building phases dating to the Crusader period, were exposed. The upper layers in the excavation area, produced sherds and finds from all the periods identified in the Upper Galilee Survey, whilst the finds retrieved close to the floors dated predominantly to the Crusader period.
An accumulation layer was excavated in a room delineated by three walls (W1, W2 and W3; Figs. 1, 2), producing mixed pottery sherds, the latest dating to the Crusader period. This accumulation layer extended down to the walls’ foundations that were constructed on the bedrock. Most of the finds on the bedrock dated to the Crusader period, attesting to the construction of these walls in this period. To the east of W3, the remains of a massive gateway into the building were exposed. The gateway was accessed from a street, perhaps the main street of the village, paved with huge paving stones that ran up to the walls (see Fig. 1). The foundations of the walls were built on the bedrock that slopes downwards from east to west. Most of the finds, including those on the bedrock, date to the Crusader period, thus dating the entire building to this period. Based on the quality of the construction, it is reasonable to assume that this was a public building.
At a later stage, additional walls were built, including some on the paved street, and entrances were blocked, including part of the gateway itself. These changes, which took place within the Crusader period, changed the function of the structure. To the north of the gate, two walls (W5, W6) built on the pavements, reflect a change in the function of the structure. South of the gateway, building remains and a floor made of small stones, blocked part of thestreet and gateway, likewise indicating a change in its function. Here too, the finds point to a Crusader date.
The examination of some points around the excavation area led to the understanding that the excavated building was built on the bedrock, or on a levelled surface on the bedrock (Figs. 2–4). The principal stone employed by the builders was dolomite and hard limestone, that are not easily eroded. Many stones exhibited diagonal tooling, and on some there were some mason’s marks.
According to the survey, some of the buildings still standing at the site date to the Crusader period. The Crusader village was planned as a ‘street village’, and its inhabitants were Franks (Khamisy 2017). The present, albeit small, excavation exposed parts of buildings that were not previously visible, including the remains of a massive building that reflects a Frankish presence at the site. The building was apparently ruined by the 1202 earthquake (Khamisy 2018)
, part of the gateway was blocked, and some walls of another building were built. The later building phase was of a poorer quality than the original phase, possibly reflecting a reduced standard of living of the inhabitants. The final destruction phase should be attributed to July 1271, when Montfort Castle and the village were captured by Baybars.
Frankel R., Getzov N., Aviam M. and Dagani A. 2001. Settlement Dynamics and Regional Diversity in Ancient Upper Galilee: Archaeological Survey of Upper Galilee
(IAA Reports 14). Jerusalem.
Khamisy R.G. 2017. History and Archaeology of the Frankish Village of Tarphile. In A.J. Boas and R.G. Khamisy eds. Montfort: History, Early Research and Recent Studies. Leiden and Boston. Pp. 128–136.
Khamisy R.G. 2018. Archaeological Remains of the 1202 Earthquake in the Frankish Village of Tarphile/Khirbat al-Manḥata. Levant 49:333–341.