In February–April 2007, a trial excavation was carried out at the site of Ṭahunat al-Malaha (Permit No. A-5050; map ref. 253989–4026/776433–500; Fig. 1), prior to the widening of Road 90. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was funded by the National Road Company, and was directed by M. Cohen, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘akobi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
The excavation took place on level ground alongside Road 90, near the ‘Enan Springs and the adjacent Mekorot Water Company Installation. A development survey carried out prior to the excavation yielded pottery vessels used in the production of sugar, and an imported Frankish bowl dating from the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE (Shaked 1999:41). North of the excavation area, beyond the streambed that drains the ‘Enan Springs to the east, stands an Ottoman-period flour mill, called Ṭaḥunat al-Malaḥa.
Two excavation squares were opened in the north, and two squares were opened further south (total c. 70 sq m; Fig. 2). The entire excavation area was extremely disturbed by trenches dug for water pipes and electricity and communication lines. On the surface, a few modern remains were found in accumulations of brown alluvial soil. A dirham coin of the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay, from the al-Qahira mint, was also retrieved (1482/3 CE; IAA 115832).
In the two northern squares, three strata were discerned. The lowest stratum comprised small stones arranged and embedded in the brown soil (L21; Fig. 3). The intermediate stratum consisted of alluvial soil and gray sediment containing numerous snail shells, several flint flakes and sherds (L20). The upper stratum contained the remains of a dry-masonry terrace wall (W11; Fig. 4) built of large fieldstones without mortar; the stones survived to a height of two courses and were leaning to the north. On the surfaces (L15, L17, L19) that abutted W11, lay sporadic sherds dating from the Roman to the Ottoman periods (not drawn), which must have been washed onto the surfaces. Also found on these surfaces were flint flakes and a bronze Seleucid coin from the Tyre mint (142/3–162/3 CE; IAA 115831), as well as a large quantity of Melanopsis shells, indicating deposition in a fresh-water environment. This deposition may be associated with a dam discovered in the past c. 10 m to the northwest.
A layer of brown soil devoid of archaeological finds or fresh-water mollusk shells lay below the stone layer of the lowest stratum. It thus seems that the stratified accumulated soil and alluvium layers (L20) overlying the stone layers, may possibly have constituted the bottom of a fresh-water reservoir that may have functioned until the nineteenth or twentieth century; subsequently the reservoir dried up, and Wall 11 was built, its function unclear, although it was not part of a dwelling.
In the two southern squares, two fieldstone walls, extant for two to three courses, were unearthed, running parallel and forming a rounded corner (W14, W18; Figs. 5, 6).
Shaked I. 1999. The Settlement Pattern and the Road System in the Ḥula Valley in the 10th–13th Centuries CE. MA Thesis, Bar-Ilan University. Ramat Gan (Hebrew).