The site of Naḥal Paṭṭish is situated at the edge of the northern Negev, on the outskirts of the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley (Fig. 1), on a wide terrace delimited on the south by the northern bank of Naḥal Paṭṭish and on the north by a line of low hills descending towards the wadi bed. The area is characterized by loess soil and contains Eocene rock of the Adulam Formation (Sneh, Avi and Zilberman 2015). Adjacent and to the west of the current excavation, remains of a settlement from the Chalcolithic period (the Ghassulian culture) were uncovered, including underground complexes, as well as a habitation layer from the Byzantine period (Nahshoni 2010). In a survey conducted in the area of the excavation (Shemesh 2018), numerous finds from the Chalcolithic period (the Ghassulian culture) were documented, extending over a large area along Naḥal Paṭṭish, from the current excavation to the west and southwest.
A row of 20 squares, flanked by fuel pipes, was excavated (Area D; Fig. 2), precluding the expansion of the excavation. In six squares, settlement remains comprising three phases, were discerned: The two earlier phases (1 and 2) included remains of underground complexes and pits that were dated to the Chalcolithic period (Ghassulian culture), and the later phase (3), including remains of a structure, was dated to the Early Bronze IA. The poorly preserved remains were exposed in horizontal stratigraphy.
The Chalcolithic period (Ghassulian culture). At least two underground complexes (L179, L227; Sqs D12–13 and D8–10 respectively; Figs. 3, 4) were attributed to the earliest phase of settlement (Phase 3). The complexes were dug into the hard loess soil mixed with lime conglomerate. These complexes were found full of soft loess, which had accumulated in them after they fell out of use. In the middle phase (Phase 2), pits were dug into the soft loess accumulations that had filled in the underground complexes (Figs. 5, 6). The finds in the accumulations in the complexes and in the pits included mainly pottery, flint tools and stone utensils, dating both phases (Phases 3 and 2) to the Chalcolithic period. A preliminary analysis of the pottery from the two phases indicates that it is characteristic of the material culture of Nahal Be’er Sheva‘ sites, attributed to the late phase of the Ghassulian culture in the northern Negev (Gilead 2011). Common vessel types in the assemblage were V-shaped bowls, holemouth jars, low necked jars and a few churns. No basins or cornets were found. A few rim fragments featured a thumb-indented decoration common in this period.
Meager remains of what was probably another underground complex were uncovered below a structure from Phase 1 (below; Sqs D15–16); an underground space, only partially excavated due to safety considerations, yielded sherds from the Ghassulian culture only.
The Early Bronze Age IA. Remains of a structure were attributed to the latest phase of settlement (Phase 1). The structure had a rounded corner (L228; Sqs. D15–16; Fig. 7), and probably an adjacent open courtyard. The courtyard revealed occupation levels, including two to three small round installations, incorporating stone construction and mud-bricks. In and around the structure, a small pottery assemblage typical of EB IA in southwestern Canaan, were unearthed (Yekutieli 2000), as well as typical flint tools (Ben-Ari and Shemer 2020). The pottery assemblage includes small open vessels made of coarse clay containing straw temper. Similar vessels were found at Tel Ḥalif (Silo Site and Site 101; Alon and Yekutieli 1995; Dessel 2009), and in the northwestern settlement at Lachish (Tufnell 1958). According to Yekutieli, these vessels are a fossil directeur for the early phase of the EB IA (Yekutieli 2000).
The excavation revealed evidence of settlement from the Chalcolithic period and the Early EB IA on the edge of the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley. The Chalcolithic-period settlement, partially uncovered in earlier excavations (Nahshoni 2010), was located in the northern part of the Ghassulian culture settlement complex that extended along Naḥal Be’er Sheva‘, and continued northwards to the northern edge of the Negev and to the southern Shephelah. This settlement complex is attributed to the late phase of the Chalcolithic period. The EB IA settlement remains join a few settlements discovered from this period in the northern Negev. These EB IA remains shed new light on the history of settlement in this region, after the collapse of the Ghassulian settlements in the northern Negev at the end of the Chalcolithic period, thus contributing to our understanding of the material culture at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age I.