In previous surveys, a ruin exhibiting basalt walls and an oil press crushing stone, and finds dating from the Neolithic to the Byzantine periods, were documented at ‘En Shehor (Khirbet ‘Ein es-Sauda; c. 2 dunams), near the ‘En Shehor spring and the eastern bank of Nahal Qeshet (Zori 1977:136–138; Gal 1998:34*, Site 47). A previous excavation at the site in 2014 exposed a habitation level with Intermediate and Middle Bronze Age pottery sherds (Fig. 1: A-6994). Two excavations were carried out at Horbat Kaduran, c. 800 m south of the site, one exposing MB IIB burials (Fig. 1: A-6964), the other uncovering a building and a burial dated to MB IIB (Fig. 1: A-8364; Feig 2020).
Three excavation areas, comprising 50 squares, were opened along a long strip on the eastern side of Road No. 65 (Areas A–C; length 100 m, width 7–12 m; Fig. 2). The excavation area was constrained by a gas pipeline on the east and the drainage ditch of the road on the west. Four settlement layers were uncovered, dating from the Intermediate Bronze Age (Stratum IV) and MB IIB (Strata III–I). The excavation reached down to the bedrock.
Area A (Fig. 3)
Stratum IV. Stone working surfaces set in an earth layer above the virgin soil yielded potsherds, many flint tools and a few animal bones.
Stratum III. The Stratum IV working surfaces continued in use, and to their north, part of a building containing rooms or spaces and installations was exposed. The southern wall of the building was probably the southern limit of the Stratum III settlement, the working surfaces probably lying beyond the settlement’s boundaries.
Stratum II. A thick wall (W139; length 15 m, width 1.25 m; Fig. 3) was built north of the southern wall of the Stratum III building, and both these walls were abutted by a floor that extended between them; a working surface and a granary were also excavated.
Stratum I. A narrow wall (W112), built on top of W139, was probably the southern limit of the Stratum I settlement.
Stratum IV. Habitation levels, composed of light-colored soil (L347) mixed with concentrations of stones and large sherds of Intermediate Bronze storage vessels, such as pithoi and jars, were found in the northern part of Area B (Fig. 4). The southern part of the area exhibited a tabun (L330) and an adjacent in situ large jar. The Stratum IV remains were cut by the Stratum III elements.
Stratum III. The main Stratum III remains were granaries, tombs, tabuns and installations, as well as remains of walls and floors. Most of the installations were circular; a fully excavated granary with a circular opening was bell-shaped (diam. 0.65–0.80 m, depth 1.1–1.5 m). In the eastern part of the area, an elongated stone installation (1.1–1.3 × 7.2 m) comprised four cells (L352, L356, L383, L384; preserved height of partitions 0.3 m; Fig. 5). A light-colored soil surface containing tabun material (L374), on which lay a characteristic MB IIB straight-sided cooking pot (Fig. 6), extended to the west of this installation. Two types of Stratum III burials cut into the Stratum IV layer. In one type, with at least four examples, the deceased was lain on the ground surface or in a depression hewn in the rock and was overlain by basalt stones and grave goods, including jars and small vessels, such as jugs, juglets and ceremonial vessels resembling jars, juglets and small bowls (Fig. 7). The other type was a burial in a bedrock-hewn cave. One burial cave near the northern balk of Area B had a square rock-cut shaft (depth 1.5–1.8 m) at the bottom of which were found fourteen in situ finds, some intact, others broken, including jars, jugs, juglets and a dagger (L395; Figs. 8, 9). As a result of the Stratum III elements cutting into Stratum IV, Intermediate Bronze Age potsherds, mainly jars and pithoi, were discovered throughout the area.
Stratum II. The remains of rooms mostly had light-colored earth floors, whilst a few floors were paved with small basalt stones. A well-preserved granary (L388; diam. 1.3–1.8 m, depth 0.9–1.1 m) was built of medium-sized basalt stones, its walls cutting through the earlier layer down to the bedrock (Fig. 10). The remains of another granary (depth 0.4 m) were found to its southwest, and a rock-hewn storage installation (L398; depth c. 1.8 m) lay to its west. Many in situ milling and grinding stones were retrieved.
Area C (Fig. 11)
Stratum IV. Remains of buildings exposed in the center and southwestern part of Area C included a row of rooms alongside a courtyard or open space. The walls (preserved height c. 0.3 m) were founded on the bedrock and were built on a southwest–northeast alignment, differing from the alignment of the earlier walls. Characteristic Intermediate Bronze jars and pithoi were found on the bedrock surfaces and next to the walls. The Stratum IV layer was cut by later Stratum III elements.
Stratum III. Remains of the walls of two buildings built on an east–west alignment, were exposed; there is some evidence for the reuse of Stratum IV habitation levels. The northern building (length c. 11 m) was divided into two rooms, containing the remains of floors and installations. Floor remains only were preserved in the southern building that was damaged by construction in Stratum II.
Stratum II. The remains of buildings with rooms and courtyards overlay the Stratum III buildings throughout Area C, changing the general layout of the settlement (Figs. 12, 13). The walls were preserved for a maximum of three or four courses, some exhibiting thresholds. The floors were made of packed earth or carefully laid stone surfaces, some incorporating grinding stones. Stratum II yielded dozens of grinding and pounding stones, as well as tabuns; it also exhibited installations, mostly circular, built against the walls of the buildings (Fig. 14). Many in situ broken pottery vessels were found on the floors (Fig. 15).
Stratum I. An exceptionally wide wall (W505; Fig. 16) was excavated in the west of Area C. The northern part of the wall (length c. 20 m, width 1.4 m, preserved height 0.6 m) was built of large basalt blocks on the bedrock, and it curved eastwards at the northern edge of the excavation. The southern part of the wall was narrower (length c. 15 m, width 0.5–0.8 m) and was built of fieldstones. The wall, or at least its northern part, was probably the settlement’s western boundary wall, although its context was not clear as the area was damaged by the modern roadworks. MB IIB pottery retrieved on top of the wall and between its stones supports a MB IIB date for the wall. The wall was rendered obsolete by a granary containing MB IIB pottery, that was built into it.
Settlement remains from the Intermediate Bronze Age and the MB IIB were exposed throughout the excavation area. The Intermediate Bronze Age settlement joins a series of settlements excavated along Road No. 65, including Tel Qishron, c. 7 km north of ‘En Shehor. The substantial MB IIB settlement remains were relatively well-preserved and yielded many finds. The settlement exhibited initial planning and division into distinct areas for dwelling, working, installations and burial.