From November 2002 to January 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted within the Early Bronze Age site of Ashqelon Afridar (Permit No. A-3767; map ref. NIG 158375/620640; OIG 108375/120640), prior to the construction of a new housing complex. The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by Peretz Negev Constructors Ltd, were directed by A. Golani, with the assistance of S. Navon (administration), D. Porotzki (surveying), I. Berin (drafting), O. Shorr (pottery conservation and restoration), C. Hersch (artifact drawing) and Y. Huster, P. Nahshoni and D. Nahlieli of the IAA southern archaeological district.
The extensive Early Bronze I settlement of Ashqelon Afridar is found adjacent to the coast, less than 2 km northeast of Tel Ashqelon. The site, covering an area of over 0.5 sq km, includes the modern neighborhood of Afridar and the immediate region to the south. Previous excavations had been labeled alphabetically as areas within the site (Areas A–K: ‘Atiqot 45:121–159). Consequentially, the present excavation is designated as Area L.
The excavated area was 50 m north–northwest of Area F and 25 m northeast of Area J (‘Atiqot 45:161–184; Fig. 1). Prior to the excavations, between 2–4 m of an overlying sand dune were removed, exposing the top of a dark brown layer that contained habitation debris of the EB I period. The dune itself was found to consist of scattered deposits dating to the Roman–Byzantine period, one of which was a covered cist tomb built of kurkar ashlars that was not excavated. Two EB I habitation strata were identified in the present excavation. The earliest occupation (Stratum I) was founded upon a sterile sand dune. The Stratum II remains were restricted to the southwestern portion of the excavated area.
Remains of this occupation consisted of several disjointed architectural features of unclear plan, along with associated floors and pits. The most prominent feature was a large segment of a curving wall built of large kurkar stones, which were laid in an upright position, creating deep recesses between the rows that were filled with debris. A gap in the wall may indicate an entrance, yet no other remains of this building were identified. A large amount of debris upon the floor to the southwest of the wall included flint tools, some of which appear to have been Egyptian imports.
Remains of the last EB occupation phase consisted of an oval-shaped building and several curving mud-brick walls of unclear plan. Both these elements were found associated with copper smelting installations. A large portion of the oval house, which was exposed less than 0.5 m below the base of the overlying dune, was built of mud bricks preserved to a maximum of two courses (Fig. 2). With an entrance to the southeast, this structure was a broad room that had a short wall attached to it from the outside, screening off the entrance from the south. In its northern portion, three short mud-brick walls, radiating from the inner curve of the apse, delineated two small rooms that may have been used for storage. A small circular stone-lined installation in the northern end and a shallow pit full of mud-brick material in the southern end of the building indicate perhaps the position of postholes for support of the roof. Copper smelting installations, such as a cup-shaped shallow depression in the floor lined with burned clay, into which a crucible could fit under a bed of hot coals, were found within the building and just outside its entrance. At a somewhat later stage, a semicircular mud-brick platform was added near the entrance within the structure and a small square-shaped installation of small stones was attached outside the southern apse.
An open area to the south of this structure had a habitation level of small stones and a few copper smelting installations. A concentration of four such installations was associated with two segments of a curving wall of unclear plan (Fig. 3). An infant burial covered with a large store jar fragment, which was slightly sunken into the floor (Fig. 4), was found in this area.
A limited number of probes to the north and northeast of the main excavated area did not reveal any significant remains. The present excavation appears to be located at the very edge of a larger settlement excavated in Areas F and J to the south.