Giv‘at Zaron is located c. 13 km southeast of Arad and c. 6 km west of the Dead Sea. The region is characterized by low limestone and flint hills of the Mishash and Menuha Formations, which are covered with loess soil overlain by a thin flint deposit. The hills are traversed by streambeds containing desert vegetation that drain into Nahal Zohar and then eastward to the Dead Sea. Previous surveys in the excavation’s vicinity documented encampments, watchtowers, dams, stone heaps), and pottery dating from the Chalcolithic to the Ottoman periods (Yekutieli 2009; Beit-Arieh 2011; Haimi 2011).
The excavation focused on 25 findspots identified in the preliminary survey (Fig. 2; License No. S-948/2019). These were scattered over a large area (c. 720 dunams), including at the top of a cliff, a location which dominates the surrounding area. The excavation examined numerous elongated and rounded stone heaps, rock outcrops, shepherds’ shelters, a hearth and a concentration of stones and potsherds. Findspot 25 was manually dug down to bedrock, but no remains or ancient finds were discovered.
Elongated Stone Heaps
(Findspots 1–9, 11–14 Thirteen elongated stone piles were discovered; the majority were aligned northwest–southeast (Findspots 1, 2, 4–9, 13, 14; Fig. 3), and the rest were aligned northeast–southwest (Findspots 3, 11, 12). A rock inscription (wasem
; Fig. 4) found near Findspot 5 resembles one found in the preliminary survey (Fig. 5). Similar examples have been studied in the past (Eisenberg-Degen 2016; Eisenberg-Degen 2021
Rounded Stone Heaps
(Findspots 10, 22–24). Three small rounded stone heaps (Findspots 22–24; diam. 1.0–1.5 m) were discovered in addition to a larger one (Findspot 10; c. 2.0 × 5.5 m; Figs. 6, 7) identified in the past (Beit-Arieh 2011: Site 30
). The latter is a northeast–southwest crescent-shaped heap, with a higher pile of stones in its southern part (height c. 1.5 m) and a small circle of flint and limestones in its northern part (Fig. 8). The small stone circle yielded no finds; it may have been used for short-term storage of food or to keep food out of the reach of animals.
Rock Outcrops (Findspots 16–18). Three small natural rock outcrops with nearby modern finds were probably used by humans, perhaps as herders’ shelters.
(Findspots 19, 21). Two shelters discovered on the crest of one of the spurs (Fig. 9) contained an almost complete man-made stone circle (diam. c. 1.5 m) facing southward. Findspot 19 had previously been documented (Beit-Arieh 2011: Site 28
Hearth (Findspot 20; Figs. 10, 11). The hearth (diam. 1.5 m) comprised a lower part dug into the ground and an upper part built of stone. The hearth contained an ash layer (L107) covered with accumulated soil (L106). The hearth had evidently been reused, as some of the stones along its southern side were laid over the ash layer.
A concentration of stones and potsherds (Point 15; Fig. 12) was found on one of the spurs. The pottery includes fragments of cooking ware dating from the fourth–ninth centuries CE. The sherds do not appear to have been swept into the site, and thus seem to indicate a series of temporary encampments that did not require a permanent structure.
According to local Bedouin living in the Arad region, the excavated area was formerly used for grazing camels and sheep. The stone heaps served as lookout points by day and became temporary encampment bases by night. They may also have directed worshipers to pray southeastward toward Mecca. The area is still used for seasonal grazing, and evidently herders still use the stone heaps, based on the camel herds grazing nearby (Fig. 13); dung remains; and the two wasem
s discovered in the area, attributed to two different clans (D. Eisenberg-Degen, pers. comm.). The findings of a survey conducted nearby (Haimi 2011
) also support this conclusion.