In July 2017, a trial excavation was undertaken in el-Makr in the Western Galilee (Permit No. A-8051; map ref. 213250–75/759615–40; Fig. 1), following the discovery of ancient remains in trial trenches prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Tenos family, was directed by A. Efron (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), E. Dalali-Amos (drafting), M. Peleg (3D photography), D. Syon (numismatics), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), N. Feig and Y. Alexandre (consultation on pottery), A. Shapira (maps), D.T. Ariel (Rhodian handle) and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass).
El-Makr is situated on a low limestone hill, with fertile valleys to the west and soft limestone hills to the east. On a map from 1940 (Fig. 2) the excavation area can be seen, devoid of construction, except for the ancient core of the village. Several past excavations in el-Makr uncovered remains of churches from the Byzantine period, quarries and structures from the Byzantine and Umayyad periods and burial caves from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods (Aboud-Abu ‘Uqsa 2020, and see references therein). A Phoenician-Hellenistic enclosure on a hill c. 1.5 km south of the current excavation was interpreted as a temple (Atrash et al. 2018). An excavation at Ḥorbat ‘Uẓa, southwest of el-Makr, uncovered remains and artifacts from prehistoric times and from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods (Getzov et al. 2009).
One excavation square was opened (25 sq m; Fig. 3) in an asphalt-paved courtyard near a modern structure built on bedrock. Three settlement strata were revealed, dated to the Hellenistic period (Stratum III), the Byzantine period (Stratum II) and modern times (Stratum I). Four construction phases were documented in Stratum III (D–A).
Phase D. A round pit (L24; diam. c. 1.5–2.0 m, depth 1.5 m; Fig. 4), the use of which is unclear, was exposed. It was hewn into semihard limestone. A layer of hard brown-red terra-rossa soil (L23; thickness c. 0.3 m) accumulated above the rock was dug in order to reach the rock and hew the pit. Its floor was flat, but the rock surface was left unsmoothed.
Phase C comprised the remains of a wall (W15) that was set directly on the terra-rossa soil, c. 0.5 m south of the edge of Pit 24 of the previous phase. In this phase the pit was filled with gray friable soil and stones (L22) up to the level of the bedrock.
Phase B. A burnt layer (L13; 2 × 2 m, thickness 0.3 m; Fig. 5) above the area of Pit 24 and W15 contained burnt black organic materials, burnt orange-colored muddy material, numerous fragments of imported pottery and three bronze coins, fused together (IAA 159109–159111; Fig. 6). The coins, hemiobols of Ptolemy I (292–282 BCE), were struck in the Alexandria mint. The burnt layer was sealed by a plaster floor (L20; not on plan), which abutted a wall from which only one stone survived.
Phase A. Remains of two perpendicular walls (W6, W21) seem to have enclosed two rooms. A plaster floor (L17; thickness 0.1 m) was laid in the northern room over a bedding of medium-sized stones (L18). No paving was found in the southern room, but chunks of plaster were discovered there, including a fragment of red-painted plaster, and a strip of black soil containing small chips of plaster (L11) was identified in a section at the level of the floor. Also uncovered in this room were a simple bronze bow fibula (Fig. 7) and a stamped Rhodian amphora handle from the last fourth of the third century BCE (Fig. 8; Ariel, below).
This stratum yielded the remains of a structure with two walls (W2, W8; Fig. 9) which were built over the remains of Walls 6 and 21 from Stratum III; they were preserved to a height of three–four courses. Walls 2 and 8 delimited two rooms, though no floors abutted them. A soil fill to the east of W2 (L5) contained large stones bearing remnants of plaster, a possible indication of the size of the structure. In soil fills east and west of W2 (L3, L5; thickness 1 m) were two fragments of glass vessels from the Byzantine period.
The construction of a modern-day storage building had penetrated the archaeological strata down to bedrock. The outer wall of the building delimited the excavation area on the east. A deep pit (L9), which cut into Stratum III, is also attributed to this stratum. It contained modern-day metal objects (Fig. 10) along with a fragment of a lamp from the Hellenistic period (Fig. 11).
Stratum III revealed pottery which was common in the third–second centuries BCE, including serving, cooking, storage and small vessels. The finds include a krater (Fig. 12:1), mortaria with high ring bases (Fig. 12:2, 3), a mortarium with a ledge rim and a pinched decoration (Fig. 12:4) identical to a bowl found at ‘Akko (Smithline 2013:78) and cooking pots (Fig. 12:5, 6). The storage vessel assemblage is characterized by neckless jars (Fig. 12:7–10), jars with a plain rim (Fig. 12:11, 12), a jar with a triangular rim (Fig. 12:13) and the base of an imported amphora (Fig. 12:14). The base of a Galilean Coarse Ware jar (Fig. 12:15) is unique here. It was found above the fill of soil and stones inside Pit 24. The small vessels include an unguentarium (Fig. 12:16) and the base of a juglet (Fig. 12:17).
The ceramic assemblage from the burnt layer (L13) in Stratum III, Phase C is differs from the rest of the assemblage, and is therefore described herein separately from the other finds from this stratum. It includes imported vessels, a mortarium, jars, an amphora and a pyxis. The imported vessels from the burnt layer belong to two types: incurved-rim bowls (Fig. 13:1–3) and outcurved-rim bowls (Fig. 13:4, 5) bearing black or dark-gray-brown slip. Both types were probably imported from the Aegean region or made locally with Greek influence (Berlin and Stone 2016:133); these were common in the ‘Akko area in the fourth–second centuries BCE (Getzov et al. 2009:142; Berlin and Stone 2016:134). The only mortarium (Fig. 13:6) found in the burnt layer is rather small and has a thickened rim. This type of mortarium does not appear in assemblages from the ‘Akko area that are later than the fourth century BCE. The jars from the burnt layer include neckless jars (Fig. 13:7–9) of a type that was common on the northern coast in the sixth–fourth centuries BCE and continued into the third century BCE (Getzov et al. 2009:146; Berlin and Stone 2016:135). Jar 7 appears to be later, because its shoulder is more rounded, and its rim does not protrude like those of the other two jars. Also discovered were a jar with a grooved rim (Fig. 13:10; Berlin and Stone 2016: Fig. 9.6:13), a jar with an outfolded rim (Fig. 13:11) and a Galilean Coarse Ware jar (Fig. 13:12; Getzov et al. 2009:146, Fig. 4.8:12). These three types of jars are known from the third century BCE; additional parallels may be found at even more distant locales. The amphora sherd (Fig. 13:13) includes a rim and part of a handle. This type is dated to the fourth–third centuries BCE (Berlin and Stone 2016:135, Fig. 9.3:9). The pyxis fragment (Fig. 13:14) includes part of the shoulder and is decorated with brown-red concentric circles over a light slip; it could not be dated.
Stratum II revealed no sealed living surfaces, and therefore the pottery and glass finds came mostly from accumulations and fills inside the rooms. The pottery assemblage from this stratum is dated to the fourth–fifth centuries CE and includes only a bowl (Fig. 14:1), kraters (Fig. 14:2, 3), a cooking pot (Fig. 14:4), numerous jars, most of which had a ridge at the neck (Fig. 14:5–9), a jar with a ledge rim (Fig. 14:10), a jug with a ring base (Fig. 14:11), which was found on the stones of W2, and a jar handle (Fig. 14:12).
Stamped Rhodian Amphora Handle
Donald T. Ariel
The handle of a Rhodian amphora found in the excavation bears a rectangular stamp (Fig. 8) dated to the Hellenistic period. The stamp was found in a curve near the bend in the handle. It seems that the stamping had been fully executed, but due to its location on the bend, the stamp was damaged when the handle broke there. One line of text was identified; it contains five letters: AΓΡΙΑ. There is no doubt that the line should be reconstructed as: ’Aγρια[νίου], which means “in the [Rhodian] month of ’Aγριάνιος”.
Rhodian amphora stamps often indicate the month in the lower line of a two-line rectangular stamp; however, on this handle only the bottom edge of the stamp can be seen, and therefore it is unclear whether there were two lines. If this stamp had an upper line, it would have contained an individual’s name, which may have helped to date the handle more precisely; as the name is absent, the handle may be dated only based on its form and on the letters in the stamp. The form of the handle indicates a general date in the third century BCE. Beginning in 234 BCE, a date was added to stamped Rhodian amphora handles, a custom that became more frequent up to about 205 BCE (Finkielsztejn 2001:190). It therefore seems that the handle under discussion belonged to an amphora produced around the last quarter of the third century BCE.
In an extensive survey of Hellenistic sites carried out in the upper Western Galilee, 45 stamped amphora handles were retrieved from 21 sites out of 393 documented sites (Ariel 2001); in 95 of the sites additional Hellenistic finds were discovered (Frankel et al. 2001). This survey included el-Makr (Frankel et al. 2001:11, No. 18), where no stamped amphora handle was retrieved. The survey also revealed two unstamped amphora handles (Frankel et al. 2001:63, 78). The stamped amphora handle from the Hellenistic period discovered in the current excavation is therefore the first from el-Makr.
Since the publication of the survey, 56 stamped amphora handles were discovered at nearby Tel ‘Emeq, of which 49 belonged to Rhodian amphorae (Finkielsztejn 2012). The excavations at Ḥorbat ‘Amqa, c. 8 km south of el-Makr, revealed five stamped handles, of which four were from Rhodian amphorae (Ariel, forthcoming).
The excavation revealed for the first time architectural remains from the Hellenistic period (late fourth or early third century BCE to the late third century BCE) at el-Makr. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period, the environs of the excavated area seem to have been agricultural or the outskirts of a settlement. A structure built over a burnt layer from the beginning of the third century BCE sealed the phases from the beginning of the Hellenistic period. It is unclear when the structure fell out of use, but as no signs of burning or of intentional destruction were found, it can be concluded that it was abandoned rather than destroyed, and that this happened prior to the Roman period. In the Byzantine period, the settlement extended southward; remains of this settlement were uncovered in previous excavations. A large structure was built in modern times east of the excavated area.
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