In June 2017, a trial excavation was conducted between Ma‘alot-Tarshiha and Moshav ‘En Ya‘aqov (Permit No. A-8031; map ref. 223375–454/767925–58), following plans for the expansion of Kefar Veradim westward. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by H. Bron (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), R. Liran (drafting), M. Peleg (aerial photography and photogrammetry), H. Tahan-Rosen (plans), K. Covello-Paran and W. Atrash (guidance) and workers from Kafr Manda.
The site is situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking Road 89 (Fig. 1). Past surveys and excavations in the area (Lerer 2009
; Tepper 2018
; van den Brink 2020
) revealed agricultural installations, as well as a cemetery dating from the Intermediate Bronze age, approximately 300 m south of the current excavation.
Two areas were opened: Area A on the eastern slope, where a rectangular building was identified, and Area B west of the hill’s summit, where two circular structures were found. Although no datable pottery was found, the structures can be dated to the mid-twentieth century CE.
Area A (Figs. 2, 3) was excavated to examine a large rectangular structure (6 × 12 m), comprising two small compartments on the north and a large courtyard on the south; the northernmost compartment (2 × 3 m) was set within a small courtyard. The entire structure was constructed of medium-sized and smaller fieldstones and incorporated natural boulders (e.g., W104; Fig. 4). Two squares were opened in the structure: in the southeastern corner of the courtyard (L100) and in the southern of the two compartments (L101). The walls were found to lie either on a layer of thin, dark brown compacted earth that covered the bedrock or, as seen in L100, directly on the bedrock (Fig. 5). No datable finds of any kind were found in either locus, but the structure seems to have been used as an animal pen. Information relayed by inhabitants of Tarshiha shows that the small enclosures were used as animal pens for newborn lambs and kids, while the larger area was an overnight pen for cattle. The same sources suggest that the structure is less than a hundred years old.
Area B (Figs. 6, 7). Two circular structures (B1 [L200], B2 [L201]; diam. c. 2.5 m) connected by an array of walls were distinguished, all constructed of large and medium-sized fieldstones. The opening of Structure B1 is in the southeast, while that of B2 — in the northeast. Within both structures a layer of a very compact dark brown soil was excavated, devoid of any finds. In the northern part of Structure B1, adjacent to Wall 202, 11 rifle cartridges were found.
Headstamps on some of the cartridges are dated and marked with a manufacturer number. Several cartridges carry the letters FN 48 (1948; Fig. 8) and others are marked GB VII and a date stamp of 1944. The letters FN stand for Fabrique National de Herstal
, a Belgian arms and ammunition company, which supplied ammunition for, among others, the German Mauser rifle (7.92 mm cal.). “GB VII” is a headstamp that refers to the Greenwood & Batley ammunition factory, which supplied ammunition mainly for the British 2.76 (7.2 mm) Enfield rifle. Both Mauser and Enfield rifles were widely used by Jewish and Arab forces during the war of 1948. Most of the cartridges found are unmarked, and they all seem to be of .303 calibre (7.62 mm), possibly belonging to the French Lebel rifle, used mainly by Arab forces at this time.
During the war of independence in 1948, the area of Tarshiha saw sevearal battles. These included a failed attempt to take over Tarshiha in the early hours of July 9th, known as Operation Dekel. One aspect of the battle that sheds light on the purpose of the excavated structures was recorded through an eyewitness account:
“Company A of the 21st Battalion stayed at the gathering area east of Ahihud Junction, and from there it moved to Yehi’am. At 04:00 [July 9, 1948], the soldiers started moving east toward Tarshiha. When the force was in a topographically inferior position, fire was opened on it from the ridges west of Tarshiha. At the same time, the armored force that had left simultaneously with the infantry force on the Nahariyya–Tarshiha Road, encountered an ambush by the Arab Liberation Army” (IDF site [Hebrew]).
The circular structures in Area B are therefore most likely firing positions, and the field walls are the remains of trenches connecting them. The openings of both structures indicate the firing arc of each (north and northwest for Structure B1; south and west for Structure B2); it seems that only position B1 was used. The positions were used apparently by the Arab Liberation Army, a claim supported by the mixed ammunition and by the eyewitness account that claims that the Israeli troops came under fire from this direction during the first attempt to capture Tarshiha.
Brink E.C.M. Van den 2020. Kefar Veradim. HA-ESI 132