In June and July 2020, a salvage excavation was conducted in Kafr Kama (Permit No. A-8781; map ref. 241722–840/735960–6052), prior to the construction of a playground. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Kafr Kama local council in collaboration with the JNF and the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, was directed by N. Feig, assisted by Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), A. Wiegmann (photogrammetry), workmen from Kafr Manda and volunteers.
Kafr Kama is situated 4 km north of Kefar Tabor. The village was founded in 1876 by Circassians, who settled over the ruins of an ancient site, using its stones in their own buildings. South of Road 767, tombs from the Intermediate Bronze Age and the Iron Age were discovered (Covello-Paran 2005; Fig 1: A-3779), and further east tombs from the Intermediate Bronze Age and the Late Roman–Byzantine period (Z. Turgeman-Yaffe, pers. comm.; Fig. 1: A-7988). Under Road 767, Roman graves, a water cistern, and remains of a mosaic pavement were found (Makhouly 1941; Fig. 1: W-6/1941). In the village center, a twin church was excavated, dated to the second quarter of the sixth century CE on evidence of inscriptions found within (Saarisalo and Palva 1964; Fig. 1: C-57/1963). Near the church, tombs from the Talmudic period (the Byzantine period) were uncovered (Zori 1969; Fig. 1: A-179). In the western part of the village, Roman-period tombs were excavated (Ben-Nachum 2007; Fig. 1: A-2663c [Area C]), and south of them Byzantine architectural remains (Fig 1: A-2663b [AreaB]). In some private yards in the village, mosaic tesserae were found mixed with earth (Dalali-Amos 2008; Fig. 1: A-4736). In the past, building remains from the Umayyad period were excavated (Mokary 2004; Syon 2006; Fig. 1: A-2909, A-3644, A-3684), an olive-oil press and stores (O. Zidan, pers. comm.; Fig. 1: A-7809), a road (Dalali-Amos 2014; Fig. 1: A-6282) and potsherd concentrations (Jaffe 2011; Fig. 1: A-5865). Remains of structures from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods were also identified (Mokary 2013; Fig. 1: A-6424).
Remains from a single stratum were uncovered, dating from the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE; Fig. 2): a water cistern, a plastered surface, and south of these a triapsal church.
The cistern (diam. 0.9 m, depth 2 m; Fig. 3) is bell-shaped; it was cut in the local gravelly basalt bedrock (hizriyya) and faced with small stones (at least the top 1.85 m). The cistern was not excavated to its bottom. On the eastern and western side of the opening, two channels were observed, evidence of the use of the cistern for water. No traces of plaster were found on the sides.
Plastered surface (1.3 × 2.2 m; Fig. 4). The surface is surrounded by basalt stones and its use in unclear. Nearby, some tesserae of an industrial mosaic were found.
The church (12 × 36 m) is built on a slope descending westward and is of a basilical plan: a large atrium paved with stone slabs, a narthex paved with white mosaic, a nave and two aisles terminating in three apses, all paved with mosaic. The walls of the church survive one course high, except for the northern apse. The mosaic of the southern aisle is decorated with geometric and vegetal patterns in red, blue and black (Fig. 5) and shows signs of repair with white tesserae. In the northern aisle, traces of a white mosaic were identified. It seems that the mosaic floor was laid directly on the ground, without any foundation or base, and it required maintenance in the course of the Byzantine period: small, colored tesserae were replaced by large, white ones. The apses were paved with mosaic carpets decorated with geometric patterns (Figs. 6, 7). A small reliquary was found embedded in the floor of the northern apse (Fig. 8). Also exposed were a column base from the colonnade that separated the nave from the northern aisle, and the remains of the chancel screen frame in front of the central apse. Under the floor of the nave, close to the entrance, a rectangular grave was found. An additional grave was found outside the church, adjacent to the wall of the northern apse. A basalt threshold in the center of the northern wall led to a room paved with white mosaic (Fig. 9); the room was not fully excavated, but appears to be one of a series of rooms attached to the church on the north. On the floor of the church and the room, potsherds and glass fragments were found, dating from the sixth–seventh centuries CE.
The triapsal church, the adjacent room that is presumably part of a complex, as well as the cistern and the plastered surface to the north, suggest that the compound is part of a rural monastery. Its location in an open area facing Mt. Tabor, which was sacred to Christians already in the Byzantine period, and the twin church discovered in the past, reinforce Bagatti's (1971:94–95) hypothesis that Kafr Kama is the Helenopolis Sharon mentioned in a list of towns from the Byzantine period, near the town of Tabor.
Bagatti B. 1971. The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, History and Archaeology. Jerusalem.
Ben-Nachum C. 2007. Tombs of the Roman Period and Building Remains of the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods at Kaft Kama. ‘Atiqot 56:105–112 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 82*–83*).
Makhouly N. 1941. Kafr Kama 21/6/1941: Discovery of Ancient Remains at Kafr Kama – Tiberias Sub-District. The Israel Antiquities Authority archives, Mandate File No. ATQ_852.
Saarisalo A. and Palva H. 1964. A Byzantine Church at Kfar Kama (Studia Orientalia Edidit Societas Orientalis Fennica 30:1). Helsinki.
Zori N. 1969. Kafr Kama. HA 28–29:8–9 (Hebrew).