In December 2020 and January 2021, trial and salvage excavations were conducted in the site of Nahal Shiqma (Permits Nos. A-8854, A-8917; map ref. 177470–90/603430–75; Fig. 1), prior to laying a new gas pipeline. The excavations, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Israel Natural Gas Line Company, were directed by T. Abulafia (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Alamor (administration), E. Aladjem (surveying and plans), V. Lifshits (sub-district archaeologist), S. Ganor (district archaeologist), J. Vardi (consultation) and workers from the West Bank.
The excavation area is within the Nah
al Shiqma designated antiquity site. A prehistoric survey conducted there in the 1970s documented ancient sites dating from the lower Paleolithic to the Epipaleolithic periods (Lamdan et al. 1977). Previous development surveys along the old pipeline mostly documented Byzantine-period potsherds and Epipaleolithic-period flint scatters (Haiman and Barda 2006
; License No. S-580/2015). A salvage excavation conducted near the current one revealed remains from the Epipaleolithic period (the Kebaran culture; Abulafia 2021
[Fig. 1: A-8297]).
The present excavation (48 sq m) was conducted about 200 m east of the streambed of Nahal Shiqma, in a ploughed field in which knapped flint items were found on the surface. The 12 excavated squares (2 sq m each; Fig. 2) extended along the route of the new gas pipeline and were localized according to a preliminary inspection conducted prior to the excavation. Following the excavation of the surface layer (Stratum 1), the squares were reduced to dimensions of 1 × 2 m or 1 × 1 m and all the sediments were sifted through a 2 mm mesh sieve.
Four main strata were identified (4–1; Fig. 3). Flint items were found throughout all strata, but the lowest stratum yielded only a few items.
Stratum 4 (thickness 0.2 m), the earliest of the strata, is characterized by dark brown clayey soil mixed with very dense white chalk concretions. The lowest 10 cm of the stratum did not contain any flint; it therefore seems that the few items found in this stratum filtered down through cracks in the ground.
Stratum 3 (thickness 0.15–0.20 m). The sediment of this stratum resembles that of Stratum 4. It is characterized by very clayey soil, of an almost plastic texture, mixed with white chalk concretions. At the bottom of this stratum were small adjacent installations (L113, L114; Fig. 4), constructed of small stones of chalk, flint and sandstone (5–10 cm). Installation 113 forms a heap (diam. 0.3 m); next to it was a worked basalt item (L107, B1076 [not on plan]; Fig. 5).
Stratum 2 (thickness c. 0.4 m) is mixed with clayey sediment and loess. It yielded debitage, tools and numerous flint cores.
Stratum 1 (thickness 0.2–0.3 m), the latest of the four strata, forms the surface. This stratum is subject to periodical ploughing and is characterized by hard earth clods mixed with loess.
Soil samples were collected from each stratum for XRF analysis, to characterize the deposition process and the shifting of items between strata. All strata, except Stratum 4, yielded numerous, well-preserved knapped flint items.
The flint assemblage exhibits all knapping stages (from chips to cores and tools). It comprises microliths (Fig. 6) with a straight back, micro-points, end scrapers and numerous burins, as well as minute bladelet cores. The raw material is of high quality, homogeneous, in beige-gray hues and with a milky patina; its source is probably in pebbles from the nearby stream. The assemblage dates from the Epipaleolithic period and is attributed to the Kebaran culture (20,000–15,500 YPB; Bar-Yosef 1970; Hovers and Marder 1991; Goring-Morris 1995).
Throughout history, Nahal Shiqma was a lively area, with accessible water sources through most of the year. Sites dating from various periods were identified in its numerous tributaries (Lamdan et al. 1977). The excavated site seems to have extended to the banks of the stream and the excavation exposed its eastern boundary.
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