The excavation was carried out c. 300 m east of Tel Azor, the tell-site identified with Azor in the territory allocated to the tribe of Dan. Several excavations carried out at Azor over the past century have revealed settlements at the site from the Chalcolithic to the Ottoman periods (‘Ad, Golani and Segal 2014, including discussion and further references; Radashkovsky 2019).
The excavation uncovered remains of a house dated to the late Byzantine–Early Islamic periods (seventh–eighth centuries CE; Figs. 2, 3), a short segment of a wall that may have been part of the house, and part of a later water channel. Pottery, glass finds (Gorin-Rosen, see below), a coin and animal bones (Turgeman-Yaffe, see below) were retrieved in the excavation.
The house. Two rooms of a building were exposed (Fig. 4). The walls (W12, W17, W38, W41) of the better-preserved eastern room were built of two rows of various-sized stones bonded with small stones and sand. The walls were preserved for up to two courses, apart from W12 that was preserved for up to four courses. A packed earth floor (L24) abutted the lowest, slightly protruding course of W12 that may have served as a foundation course. There may have been an entrance in the northern part of the building between Walls 17 and 38, but the poor preservation of the structure precluded verifying this issue. A second room, to the west of W12 was poorly preserved, its remains comprising short segments of two walls (W42, W43) and a floor (L28). Animal bones, and a sixth-century CE copper dodecanummium (Alexandria mint, IAA 165637), were found on the floor. Glass artifacts were retrieved in a fallen debris layer (L18) that overlay the floor.
To the east of the house, a floor paved with large dressed stones (L19; Fig. 5) may have been the floor of the courtyard, whose dimensions are not known. Pottery sherds, glass fragments and animal bones, some possibly originating in the building, were found on the courtyard floor and in the overlying debris layer (L13). A few smaller paving stones to the northwest (L15), on which glass vessels were found, may either have been the continuation of Floor 19 or fallen debris from the building. South of the building, a stone layer (L30), probably debris from the building, contained pottery sherds, glass vessels and animal bones.
Wall 33. A short segment of a wall was exposed northwest of the house. The east–west wall (W33) was built similarly to the house walls, of two rows of various-sized stones, bonded with soil and small stones; it was preserved for up to two courses. The wall was cut and partially overlain by a lime layer (L14) that may have been part of a recent structure that had damaged the earlier building. The location and construction style of the wall indicate that it was probably part of the house.
Water channel. Part of a water channel (L21; Fig. 6), built of small stones and preserved for a single course, was exposed to the west of the building. The channel was also covered by the modern lime layer (L14), which rendered it obsolete. Although the channel could not be dated, it appears to postdate the structure.
Pottery. Pottery sherds from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (seventh to eighth centuries CE) were found on the floor of the structure, in the paved courtyard and in the collapsed debris. The pottery retrieved from the Byzantine period (seventh century CE) comprises various-sized bowls (Fig. 7:1–3), including a LRRW Phocean Form 3 bowl (Fig. 7:2), a casserole (Fig. 7:4), a casserole lid (Fig. 7:5), a cooking pot (Fig. 7:6), jars (Fig. 7:7–10), a jug (Fig. 7:11), a juglet or flask (Fig. 7:12) and a lamp (Fig. 7:13). Whilst these vessel types first appeared in the Byzantine period, they continued in use in the Early Islamic period. The pottery from the Early Islamic period (early eighth century CE) includes a deep bowl (Fig. 7:14), a casserole (Fig. 7:15), a casserole lid (Fig. 7:16), a cooking pot (Fig. 7:17), a jar (Fig. 7:18) and a jug (Fig. 7:19).
Nineteen diagnostic and datable glass fragments were found in the building. They represent common and well-known vessel types from the Byzantine and Umayyad periods, including wineglasses, bottles and lamps of various types. Glass industry waste was also discovered.
Wineglasses. A hollow ring base of a wineglass attached to a beaded stem (L19; Fig. 8:1) is made of light-bluish glass with silvery and multicolored pitting and weathering; in the center of the base is a coarse pontil scar. The nature and quality of the glass and workmanship indicate local production. Another wineglass (L13) also features a hollow ring base, but its stem is narrow and cylindrical. A fragment of the base of a third wineglass was also found (L18). These wineglasses were common throughout the Byzantine period.
Bottles. The fire-rounded rim of a bottle (L30; Fig. 8:2) is decorated with trails that protrude slightly from the wall below the rim. The bottle is made of light-greenish-bluish glass containing black impurities and small bubbles, and it is covered with slivery, multicolor, sandy weathering. The trails are turquoise in color, and the upper and lower trails are thicker than the ones in between. This decoration, which begins about 1 cm below the rim, is typical of bottles, but the thin wall and the delicate nature of the vessel permit also identifying it as a wineglass. A very similar vessel was found in a previous excavation at Azor (Gorin-Rosen 2014: Fig. 4:2). The same locus (L30) yielded the funnel-shaped rim of a bottle or juglet, also decorated with thin trails (not drawn). These bottles first appeared in the Byzantine period and continued in use in the Umayyad period. A fairly large fragment of a thick-walled bottle (L15; Fig. 8:3) features a thickened, infolded, flattened rim and thick neck. The glass is greenish-bluish and highly transparent compared with other vessels, and it contains numerous small bubbles and impurities, and is covered with silvery, crumbling weathering. There are signs of flattening on the porous and uneven surface of the rim, or alternatively, these may be signs of the use of a tool with a non-uniform surface area. The vessel wall bears evidence that it was rotated during blowing. Similar bottles, well-known in many assemblages at Ramla and other sites, are dated to the Umayyad period. Two additional fragments are a concave base that may have belonged to a bottle (L30; not drawn), or to a vessel with a thickened join between the base and the side, characteristic of Early Islamic vessels.
Lamps of various types were found. There are two handles (L13, L30) of bowl lamps with everted hollow rims and three handles drawn from the body to the edge of the rim. The complete handle from L30 (Fig. 8:4) is made of light bluish-greenish glass, with numerous small bubbles and black impurities; the glass is not homogenous, but the workmanship is fairly delicate. Several fragments of folded hollow bowl rims (L15, L30; not drawn) may also belong to bowl lamps. One fragment belongs to the wick hole of a bowl lamp (L15; not drawn); some lamps of this type feature a large wick hole in the center of the body. Another fragment is the end of a cylindrical hollow stem, truncated at the bottom (L30; Fig. 8:5), characteristic of polycandela. The fragment is made of light bluish glass covered with pitting and weathering. Two polycandelon bases with hollow stems were found in a previous excavation at Azor (Gorin-Rosen 2014: Fig. 4:3, 4).
Glass industry waste. A small drop (L13) found next to a wineglass base and a bowl lamp handle, is industry waste indicating that glass was worked at the site in the Byzantine or late Byzantine period. The presence of a glass workshop was also attested by waste discovered in previous salvage excavations at Azor (Gorin-Rosen 2014), including one also conducted on Herzl St. (Permit No. A-4945). Byzantine and early Umayyad strata were identified in most of these excavations, and the glass industry remains may be attributed to these periods. The vessels found in the current and previous excavations, particularly on Herzl St., represent very common types, which were probably manufactured in a local workshop that operated in the settlement, alongside pottery production, as indicated by kilns uncovered at the site in past excavations.
Twenty-four bones were identified (see Appendix) in a varied assemblage that includes some domesticated species. The most common species was sheep/goat Ovis aries/Capra hircus; n = 14; 58%). The other species—cattle (Bos taurus), wild pig (Sus scrofa), equine (Equid sp.), chicken (Gallus gallus) and camel (Camelus dromedaries)—were represented by one or two bones each. Three bones were not identified to the level of species, but rather by size—medium-sized or large mammal. Seven bones (29% of the assemblage) represent high-utility skeletal parts and the rest (n = 17; 71%) represent low-utility skeletal remains. Most of the high-utility body parts come from sheep/goat, most of these bones representing adult individuals. Two bones show signs of dismemberment with a metal chopper. The second phalange of a camel exhibiting exostoses/lipping (Fig. 9) belongs to an adult individual. The phalange bears signs of biting by a predator while fresh, but it could not be determined whether the animal was alive when bitten or was preyed on after death.
Although the bone assemblage is too small to reveal selection or preferences of the inhabitants, some observations may be made. Since domestic animals only are represented in the assemblage, and there is no evidence of hunting, we may conclude that the site’s economy was based on domesticated species and their trade. The large number of adults in the assemblage may indicate that the inhabitants exploited the animals for secondary products such as milk (goats), wool (sheep) and labor (cattle and camels), and therefore did not slaughter males at a young age. The large quantity of low-utility skeletal parts may show that the source of the assemblage was butchery waste, that is, that the animals were slaughtered and dismembered at the site itself; the low-utility parts were left at the slaughtering site, while the high-utility parts were taken elsewhere at the site, or outside it. Another possibility is that the small quantity of high-utility parts indicates that the population at the site was poor. Some of the assemblage may come from a midden, which would explain the predominance of the less desirable parts; the camel phalange with the bite mark may support this assumption.
The pathology observed on the camel bone is similar to that often discerned on cattle phalanges, being characteristic of beasts of burden. The lower limb bone of cattle may develop a pathology when the beast continuously bears a heavy burden, such as in plowing or carrying, whereby the bone expands, and another bone forms where there is usually no phalange.
Although the bone assemblage is small, some conclusions may be drawn regarding the economy of the site, which was probably based mainly on domesticated animals, with an emphasis on secondary products such as milk, wool and trade. The camel, with a pathology on the phalange attributed to bearing heavy burdens, may have been used to carry the traded products.