The site of Nahal Zippori 3 East is located on the southern bank of Nahal Zippori in the Zippori alluvial valley, at the foot of the eastern hill of Mizpe Zevulun (Fig. 1; Barzilai et al. 2013: Fig. 1). This open-air settlement was discovered in 2009 by O. Marder and H. Khalaily during a walking survey (License No. S-93/2009). A salvage excavation, carried out at the site in 2011, uncovered early Pottery Neolithic layers over an area of c. 200 sq m, yielding exceptionally well-preserved architectural and material remains (Barzilai et al. 2013; 2016).
The specific location of the current excavation in a cultivated field was determined following a survey and a series of trial trenches (Fig. 1). One area was opened (4 × 6 m), within which five 2 × 2 m squares were excavated, subdivided into 1 × 1 m squares (Fig. 2). All the sediments from in situ layers were sieved using a 5 mm mesh. The excavation was carried out according to the principles of the palaeo-ethnographic approach, which involves the identification of the different occupation phases by distinguishing the different sedimentary layers. A Stratigraphic Unit (US) recording system was chosen to document the chrono-stratigraphic sequence at the site, as it enables the analysis of stratigraphic sequences at sites with a complex taphonomic history. The stratigraphic sequence uncovered at the site consists of five main layers (5–1), three from the Pottery Neolithic period (5–3) and two mixed layers above them (2, 1), with Early Bronze Age finds (see Appendix).
Layer 5: Early Pottery Neolithic Occupation
This layer was exposed only in the central part of excavation. The main element in this layer was a concentration of storage-vessel fragments (US37) laying on what seems to have been a stone floor (US36; Fig. 3); the concentration of potsherds was sealed by a coating of white plaster. Two additional elements were identified in a small probe (2 sq m) below the floor—a possible abandonment layer (US38) and what may have been an in situ occupation layer (US39)—but neither can be interpretated with certainty due to the limited excavation area. Sterile soil (US23; Fig. 4) was reached beneath this archaeological sequence. Layer 5 was covered by an abandonment layer (US33).
Layer 4: Transitional Early Pottery Neolithic–Late Pottery Neolithic Occupation
Layer 4 yielded the remains of an irregularly shaped structure (US26; diam. 0.8 m; Fig. 5), built of large fieldstones (diam. over 0.2 m) mixed with a very dark brown clayey sediment. This structure was laid over two layers of medium-sized stones (US28, US29; 5–10 m cm; Figs. 4, 5)—set in a light brown silty clay sediment containing horizontally and obliquely lying burnt daub and charcoal inclusions, indicating the anthropogenic nature of the layers. Covering Layer 4 was an abandonment layer (US19, US21).
Layer 3: Late Pottery Neolithic Wadi Rabah Occupation
The architectural remains of Layer 3 consisted of a wall (US4) and two associated occupation phases (3b, 3a). Wall US4 (width 0.8 m) was oriented southeast–northwest and sloped down slightly from south to north. The wall was built of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones (0.3–0.5 m) with a core of small stones (5–10 cm). The stones were imbedded in a very compact dark brown clay sediment that was distinct from the contemporary, more loosely structured archaeological layers—an observation that raises the possibility that a ‘raw-earth concrete’ may have been prepared for the construction of the stone wall foundation. A concentration of stones (US16), located along Wall US4, was probably the result of the collapse of part of the wall.
Phase 3b (Figs. 6, 7). The remains of Phase 3b—a living surface (US12) and three installations (US15, US17, US18)—were associated with Wall US4. Living Surface US12, extending mostly in the southern part of the excavation, consisted of a dense concentration of stones. A clear-cut line in running across the northeast of the surface indicated where a wall once existed, probably dividing this architectural space into two, although it has since been robbed or—if it was built of mud bricks—has disintegrated.
Three installations—an oval concentration of stones (US17), a rectangular concentration of stones with numerous animal bones (US18) and a single large gray-blue marl stone (US15)—were uncovered on this living surface. These remains were covered by a thin layer (US11, US34; thickness 5 cm) of brown-orange silty clay sediment, which was located mainly in the southern part of the excavation. This layer was identified as a phase of abandonment separating the two occupation phases of Layer 3.
Phase 3a (Fig. 8). The later of the two phases included the remains of a living surface, probably the bedding of a floor (US9), and contemporary in situ occupation layers (US6, US7). Floor bedding US9 was a layer of stones preserved in the southern part of the excavation (10 sq m). It was composed of eroded round stones, possibly river pebbles, and angular stones from a different geological context, clearly indicating the surface’s anthropogenic origin. Floor Bedding US9 exhibited ‘negative marks’ of two walls that enclosed the floor and separated it from two adjacent spaces with no definable layout, where in situ Occupation Layers US6 and US7 were found. Diagnostic pottery sherds of the Wadi Rabah culture were found on the floor, dating the structure to the Late Pottery Neolithic period.
Floor Bedding US9 covered a burial pit. The upper part of the burial pit was not extant, but the layout of its lower part was traced as it cut Floor US12 of Phase 3b. The pit contained the partially preserved skeleton of a child, seven years old at most, in a primary burial (Fig. 9). It lay in articulation on its left side, oriented southwest–northeast, slightly inclining to the south. A flat limestone slab was laid under the skull, and the child’s pelvis rested against another stone. The skeleton was covered with large sherds of an upside-down cooking vessel and a sherd of a large, thick-walled storage jar. Similar burials are known from other Wadi Rabah settlements, such as Nahal Zehora II (Gopher and Eshed 2012).
Layer 2: Early Bronze Age Mixed Finds
Layer 2 (Fig. 10) covered the entire excavation area and generally followed the same slope as the present-day ground surface. It consisted of scattered stones embedded in a very compact dark brown clay sediment, and included many Early Bronze Age pottery sherds and Neolithic flint tools, confirming the mixed character of the remains. This layer, attributed to the Early Bronze Age, was probably formed as a result of the downhill erosion of the archaeological layers from Horbat Mizpe Zevulun North, the tell on the hillslope just above the current excavation area.
Layer 1: Topsoil
The upper part of this layer (US1) was removed mechanically. The layer (thickness 0.6 m) was characterized by a fairly compact dark brown clay sediment, and it yielded mixed archaeological remains from prehistoric, proto-historic and historic periods. An oval pit (US10; diam. 0.8 m) in the topsoil layer cut down into the underlying Early Bronze Age layer. Pit 10 contained a homogeneous fill and only a few eroded and patinated archaeological items; it probably was filled in within a short time and should be attributed to a recent period.
The excavation at Nahal Zippori 3 East uncovered the remains of an Early Pottery Neolithic layer (Layer 5) and of two well-preserved occupation layers: the transition phase between the Early Pottery Neolithic and the Late Pottery Neolithic (Layer 4), probably corresponding with the Nahal Zippori Horizon (Getzov, Milevski and Khalaily 2019); and the Late Pottery Neolithic-period Wadi Rabah culture (Layer 3). As the two Late Pottery Neolithic occupation phases (Phases 3b, 3a) were not identified in any of the previous excavations at the site, this is an important addition to our understanding of the prehistoric occupation sequence at the site.
Barzilai O., Vardi J., Liran R., Yegorov D., Covello-Paran K., Brink E.C.M van den, Yaroshevich A. and Berger U. 2013. Nahal Zippori, the Eshkol Reservoir–Somekh Reservoir Pipeline. HA–ESI 125.
Barzilai O., Brink E.C.M. van den, Vardi J., and Liran R. 2016. The Yarmukian site at Tel Mitzpe Zevulun north (Nahal Zippori 3) Lower Galilee, Israel. In S. Ganor, I. Kreimerman, K. Streit and M.K. Mumcuoglu eds. From Sha‘ar Hagolan to Sha‘araim: Essays in Honor of Prof. Yosef Garfinkel. Jerusalem. Pp. 19–40.
Getzov N., Milevski I., and Khalaily H. 2019. The “Nahal Zippori Horizon”: A New Entity between the Lodian and Wadi Rabah Cultures. Neo-lithics 19:46–51.
Gopher A. and Eshed V. 2012. Burials and Human Skeletal Remains from Nahal Zehora II in Pottery Neolithic Perspective. In A. Gopher ed. Village Communities of the Pottery Neolithic Period in the Menashe Hills, Israel: Archaeological Investigations at the Sites of Nahal Zehora. Tel Aviv. Pp. 1389–1412.