In August–September 2015, a trial excavation was carried out on the eastern edges of Khirbat Ibreika (Permit No. A-7497; map ref. 196504–974/678584–9253), prior to installing a gas pipeline. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Nagorsky, with the assistance of E. Bachar and Y. Amrani (administration), E. Jakoel and Y. Agmon (area supervision), V. Essman, Y. Shmidov, R. Mishayev and R. Liran (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), O. Ackermann (geomorphology), C. Ben-Ari and A. Dagot (GPS), A. Yaroshevich (prehistory), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing), D.T. Ariel (numismatics), C. Amit (studio photography), N. Zak (plans) and E. Ayalon and Y. Dray (discussion and consultation on ancient winemaking technologies). J. Marcus conducted preliminary inspections of the site.
The ruin is situated east of Highway 6, c. 400 m south of the Eyal Interchange and about 0.5 km west of Qalqilya (Fig. 1); it covers a small tell, 54 m asl and 6–8 m above its surroundings. Nahal Qana bounds the site to the south and east. A sheikh’s tomb at the top of the tell was apparently built in the Middle Ages and identified in Jewish tradition as the tomb of Shime‘on ben Ya‘aqov (Simeon son of Jacob). The site was described by Guérin (1875:355–356) as a ruined village. It was marked and surveyed by the Palestine Exploration Fund committee (Conder and Kitchener 1880: Sheet XI; 1882:196) and appears on Schumacher’s (1918) survey maps. The site was also documented in a survey prior to the construction of Highway 6 (Dagan 2010:14*–15*). Several excavations were conducted at the site and in its vicinity, mostly in relation to the construction of Highway 6; these yielded settlement remains from prehistoric periods (Ronen and Winter 1997; Ronen 2008; Khalaily and Marder 2010), as well as remains of structures and industrial installations from the Roman and Byzantine periods, including a pottery kiln (‘Ad 2006; Taxel and Feldstein 2006; Yannai 2006; Masarwa 2009). The site was settled continuously until the end of the Mamluk period (Yannai 2006:46*).
A total of 32 squares were opened in four excavation areas (A–D; Fig. 1). Areas B and C, adjacent to the eastern edges of Khirbat Ibreika, yielded remains from the Late Roman period (Stratum II; third–fourth centuries CE) and the Byzantine period (Stratum I; fifth–sixth centuries CE). In Area C, a few sherds were found from the Early Islamic period. In Areas A and D, located at a distance from the ruin, remains were discovered of Early Bronze Age I structures as well as pottery and flint objects. As there is no connection between the earlier site and Khirbat Ibreika, the results of the excavation in those areas will be published separately.
On the edge of an agricultural field covered with alluvium soil ten excavation squares were opened apart from one another (D4, D7, D9, D12, D13, D19, D21, G30, G38, G40; Fig. 2). They revealed a large winepress within an enclosure, and near it — the corner of a structure, a refuse pit and layers of soil containing a rich variety of artifacts. The winepress compound was excavated during two seasons and will be published separately. Most of the area was damaged by modern-day activity, especially Sqs D4, D9 and G30, in which a fill layer extending from the surface down to the natural clayey soil contained a mixture of finds from antiquity to the present day.
Stratum II. In Sq G38 thick deposit of potsherds of irregular outline and varying elevations (L219, L221; thickness 0.35–0.40; Fig. 3) contained fragments of cooking pots (Fig. 4:5, 6), ribbed jars (Fig. 4:8, 11), roof tiles (Fig. 4:13, 14) and bricks from the third–fourth centuries CE, as well as tesserae, fragments of glass vessels and animal bones. Based on the large quantity of sherds and the nature of the finds, this deposit seems to have been the contents of a refuse pit.
Stratum I. The clayey alluvial soil found in Sqs D13 (L206), G40 (L208), D7 (L210), D9 (L211), G30 (L212), G38 (L213), D4 (L215) and D19 (L218) was rich in fragments of pottery vessels, most of which were worn. They include mostly bowls (Fig. 5:1–7), cooking pots (Fig. 5:8–12) and jars (Fig. 5:13–15). Two vessel types stand out in this assemblage, which is otherwise typical of sites in the vicinity: two bowl fragments with a triangular rim with an undercut and angled wall (Fig. 5:2, 3) and two cooking pots with a high neck and grooved rim (Fig. 5:9, 10) that are Egyptian-made Terra Sigillata vessels. In Egypt vessels of this type are dated to the fifth–seventh centuries CE (Konstantinidou 2012:141, 143, Fig. 3.39:327–329; Danys-Lazek 2014:552, Fig.10 F:11.100). Other finds are a lamp fragment bearing remains of pseudo-script (Fig. 6:1), a ceramic stopper made of a fragment of a large bowl (Fig. 6:2), wasters (Fig 6:3, 4), sherds bonded with plaster and fragments of clay tiles (Fig. 6:5). A particularly large quantity of tesserae in a variety of sizes was also unearthed. These finds indicate the presence of industrial installations in the vicinity of the excavation area. The discovery of small white, black and red tesserae hints that the settlement was a wealthy one.
A southwest–northeast wall (W224; Fig. 7) in the northern part of Sq D7, probably a partition wall, was built of one row of large fieldstones (in its northeastern part) and one row of medium-sized fieldstones (in its southwestern part). It was set on a fill of light-brown soft soil (L217, L225; thickness 1.2 m) and preserved to a height of three courses. The earthen fills that abutted W224 contained worn potsherds and brick pieces. Fragments of glass vessels were also found, as well as flint objects and three coins (IAA 156898–156900): one of Ptolemy I and two others dated to the first quarter of the fourth century CE.
Twelve excavation squares were opened (J43, J47, J48, J55, K44, K46, K47, K50, K54, M50, M52, M54; Fig. 8).
Stratum II. Remains from this stratum were uncovered in Sqs J43, K44 and K47, revealing two activity areas. In Sqs J43 and K44 a layer of well-arranged medium and small fieldstones (L321; thickness 0.15 m) was set on clayey alluvial soil. Sherds found among the stones included a jar (Fig. 4:10) and a bowl (Fig. 5:1) as well as patches of plaster. It seems that this layer was used as a work surface. A thick deposit of potsherds of irregular outline (L331; thickness 0.6 m; Fig. 9) discovered in Sq K47 contained fragments of cooking pots (Fig. 4:3, 4), jars (Fig. 4:9, 12) and jugs dating to the third–fourth centuries CE. Three coins were also found (IAA 156907–156910), one of Ptolemy I and two others dating to the end of the third–early fourth centuries CE. Fragments of glass vessels were also found (not drawn), as well as a ceramic stopper (Fig. 4:15), a bronze bowl handle (Fig. 4:16) and animal bones.
Based on the large quantity of pottery sherds and the distribution of the finds, this feature seems to be a refuse pit. There was a layer of alluvial soil (thickness 0.5–1.2 m) above the Stratum II remains, and above it, in the northern part of the area (Sqs J43, K44), a layer of brown soil (thickness c. 0.2 m) and sandy soil (thickness c. 0.1 m).
Stratum I. Remains from this stratum were discovered in several squares (J47, J48, J55, K50, M54), comprising four aeras with evidence of activity. The foundation of a northeast–southwest wall (W317), likely a partition wall, was uncovered in Sqs J47 and J48; it was built of medium and small limestones without bonding material. A meager amount of worn potsherds uncovered in the earthen fill (L323) abutting the wall on the west belongs mostly to cooking pots (see, e.g., Fig. 5:12) and jars (not drawn; see similar finds in Fig. 5:13–15). The foundations of a northeast–southwest wall (W318) were preserved in Sq K50; this wall too was likely a partition wall. South of W318 was a layer of small fieldstones (L305). The wall appears to have been damaged by modern-day farming and had been shifted from its original course. A northwest–southeast wall (W327) in Sq M54 was built of limestones of various sizes with no bonding material on a broad foundation; it was preserved to a height of two to three courses. A heap of small toppled limestones east of W327 probably came off this wall. The foundation of W327 was built on sandy soil (L334). A dug pit was found northwest of this wall, in the southwestern corner of the square; its outline is unclear because it was not completely exposed. The pit contained small stones, gravel, flint and fragments of jars from the Byzantine period (Fig. 5:13–15) and the Early Islamic period (not drawn). A circular surface of black soil (L308; thickness 0.3 m) set on natural clayey soil in Sq J55, in the southeastern part of the excavation area, contained a large quantity of white plaster. No built remains were unearthed around this layer, which may be industrial waste from an installation situated outside the excavation area.
Flint finds from Areas B and C
The flint assemblages from Areas B and C comprise a total of 71 items (see Appendix), of which c. 50% were heavily abraded. The flint items from Area C included no diagnostic elements, so that the information yielded from them is very limited. The assemblage comprises ten items of which five were defined as chunks, three as flakes, one as a primary element and one as a core trimming element.
The assemblage from Area B (N=61) was the richer of the two, and it included heavily abraded items representing the Late Acheulian technocomplex. Of these, 37 (c. 61%) were defined as artifacts, 22 (c. 36%) as chunks and 2 (c. 3%) as chips. Among the artifacts, flakes were the most common category, comprising c. 62% (N=23). Cores comprised c. 11% of the artifacts (N=4) showing the use of one (N=2) or two (N=1) striking platforms. One core presented similar affinities to the group of cores described by Ronen and Winter as “Levallois preparation mode on cores” (Ronen and Winter 1997:185, Fig. 4:8). These cores, possibly made on small pebbles or primary flakes, are characterized by the use of two hierarchal surfaces, while the rest of the core remained unmodified: one surface was used for the production of predetermined flakes, whereas the other was used as a striking platform (Fig 10:1). As in the Levallois technique, these surfaces are hierarchically related, meaning that their role cannot be reversed during the course of one reduction sequence (Boëda 1995). Unlike the Levallois technique, the angle between the surfaces is smaller than 90 degrees.
The tool assemblage in Area B comprises four handaxes and one chopper (Fig 10:2), all heavily abraded and bearing thick patina. Only one handaxe was complete (length 46.75 mm, width 59.33 mm, thickness 5.28 mm). Two scars located near its proximal edge may indicate a later use for flake production.
The relative abundance of handaxes and the presence of cores displaying some affinities to the Levallois volumetric concept are traits of Late Acheulian assemblages (Sharon 2014:1365–1366 and references within). Sites in the region ascribed to this phase of the Lower Paleolithic Acheulian culture are usually dated c. 500 ka BP or earlier (e.g., Goren-Inbar 1985; Porat et al. 1999; Sharon 2007; Marder et al. 2011). A salvage excavation carried out by A. Ronen and Y. Winter, during July 1996 (Ronen and Winter 1997), west of Kibbutz Eyal, presented similar finds and revealed three archaeological horizons, the uppermost ascribed to the Late Acheulian (Ronen and Winter 1997). The poor preservation state of the items recovered from Area B, however, indicates that, in this case, the artifacts were not in situ, and probably washed away from a nearby site, possibly from Eyal 23, excavated by Ronen and Winter.
The remains in Areas B and C indicate the industrial nature of the area both in the Late Roman and the Byzantine periods. The activity on the edge of the settlement seems to have extended over a number of work areas that were distant from one another.
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