In November 2019, a trial excavation was conducted at the southwestern foot of a basalt hill near the village of Tuba-Zangariyye in Upper Galilee (Permit No. A-8617; map ref. 256596/762696; Fig. 1), following severe damage caused by heavy mechanical equipment at an antiquities site. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Peleg Hagalil Water Corporation, was directed by U. Berger and M. Bekker-Shamir, with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), R. Liran (surveying), I. Jonish (drafting), Y. Stepansky (archive materials and pers. comm.), A. Kleiner (aerial photography), A. Shapiro (map) and a team of laborers from Kafr Manda.
The excavation focused on the remains of a basalt dolmen (No. 43), one of 43 dolmens identified on the hill (Stepansky 2012: Site 228; Fig. 2) that are part of an extensive dolmen field in the northeastern Korazim plateau (Stepansky 2005; Stepansky 2012: Sites 229 ,231, 261, 262, 263, 265). Such a large concentration of dolmens in such a limited area is unique in the landscape of the Korazim plateau and it is almost unparalleled at other dolmen sites in Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights (Freikman 2014; Berger and Sharon 2018). Several archaeological surveys were conducted on the Korazim plateau to document and study the dolmens, beginning with the discovery of the region’s megaliths by Kitchener and the Palestine Exploration Fund’s surveyors in the late nineteenth century (Kitchener 1877) and continuing with Karge (1917) and Turville-Petre (1931), who excavated some of them. Several trial and salvage excavations were also conducted at dolmens in the Korazim plateau in the past three decades (Damati and Abu ‘Uqsa 1991; Getzov 2005; Alexandre 2017). The findings of the excavations and surveys date the earliest dolmens and the period of their use to the Middle Bronze Age (Fraser 2018). However, the identity of the builders of the Korazim plateau dolmens remains enigmatic.
The currently excavated dolmen was damaged and destroyed several times in recent years: its capstone was removed, it was driven into by heavy mechanical equipment, its stones were displaced and disturbed, and finally large amounts of building debris and waste were dumped on top of it. The damage to the dolmen is part of the criminal destruction of antiquities and nature that is unfortunately a widespread phenomenon in Galilee (Amar and Kohlberg 2010; Spector-Ben-Ari 2016).
Meager remains were uncovered of a rectangular burial chamber (L4302; min. length 1.7 m, width c. 0.9 m) built of large basalt rocks on a general east–west alignment (W4031; Figs. 3, 4) with relatively flat inward facing sides that formed straight, uniform walls. A single capstone was found (0.6 × 1.5 × 2.2 m; Fig. 5) and there were probably additional capstones. The excavation revealed parts of the stone circles of the cairn that surrounded and covered the burial chamber (L4300). Old aerial photographs (IDF 1978) and measurements in the Rosh Pina map survey show that its diameter was c. 10 m. Twelve mancala-like gameboard depressions were cut into the capstone (Figs. 5, 6); often found on dolmens in Galilee and the Golan, these games apparently postdate the dolmens’ construction and are unrelated to their original use (Hartal 1987; Shaked 1993; 1994; 1999; for more on these games, see Tepper 1986a, 1986b). No diagnostic archaeological finds were retrieved from the dolmen. Its location, relatively isolated from the other dolmens on the hill, may indicate some special treatment of the interred individual(s), or the importance of the dolmen itself.
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