The site of Karm er-Ras is situated on a low hill in the western part of the village of Kafr Kanna. A single excavation square was opened (Figs. 2, 3) in the southeastern part of the site, in a level plain where the limestone bedrock is exposed in several places. The excavation revealed architectural remains, a pottery production-waste dump and a built installation, all dating from early in the Early Roman period.
Previous excavations conducted at Karm er-Ras and Kafr Kanna uncovered multiple settlement remains, dating from the Chalcolithic to the Ottoman periods (A–Z|; for references and a partial overview, see Alexandre 2008; Be’eri 2015; Alexandre 2017; Alexandre 2018; Bron 2020; Efron 2021). Prominent remains from the Early Roman period (first century BCE–first century CE; Stratum IV in Alexandre’s excavations, Alexandre 2008) include buildings, a miqveh and traces of a pottery workshop (Alexandre and Shapiro 2016).
Architectural remains. After removing the surface layer with mechanical equipment, two wall tops were uncovered (W102, W103). Wall 102 (Figs. 4, 6) was rock-cut in its lower part, and ashlar-built in its upper part. Its eastern side was founded on a layer of variously sized limestones bonded in grayish mortar (L113). The wall was preserved to the height of a single course. A fourth-century CE coin (Bijovsky, below) was found on top of the wall, at surface level. The lower part of W103 (Fig. 5) was built of fieldstones, and its upper part was built of dressed stones; it was set directly on top of the bedrock and preserved to a height of five courses. The wall had clearly been damaged by plant roots. The fieldstones may belong to the wall’s earlier phase, and the courses of dressed stones in its upper part may have been added in a later phase. The wall was abutted by a tamped earthen floor (L109), which leveled the slope of the bedrock (L110). A pottery dump and an installation (L114) were found on the floor.
Pottery production-waste dump. Floor 109 in the southern half of the excavation square contained an accumulation of loose grayish soil mixed with debris from a pottery workshop (length 2 m, max. height c. 0.5 m; Fig. 7). The debris comprised abundant pottery sherds of various sizes (below), several small and medium-sized stones burned to the point of calcification, numerous pieces of plaster, parts of the floor of a pottery-kiln firing chamber, brick fragments, stone items, a bronze Herodian coin (Bijovsky, below) and a few poorly preserved animal bones. The pottery dump was delimited to the south by W103; it extended eastward beyond the excavation limits. The top of the dump had evidently been scattered slightly northward (L111) as a result of modern plowing.
Two main phases were identified in the dump: in the earlier phase (L115), the debris consisted mainly of potsherds, and in the later phase (L106) it included mostly sherds, plaster, bricks and burnt stones. In the early phase, the debris was probably discarded when the kiln was in use, whereas the later refuse was discarded after the kiln was destroyed and no longer in use. There may have been additional piles of debris from other phases of the workshop’s use in the compound, beyond the limits of the current excavation (for further examples of pottery dumps, see Yekutieli and Akus 2014: Fig. 14).
Installation 114 (diam. c. 1.5 m; Fig. 8). About 1 m north of the dump, an oval installation built of medium and small stones was discovered next to the base of the northern face of W103; the installation was poorly preserved. The center of the installation contained a built elliptical plinth (L116; Fig. 9) overlain with collapsed stones, evidently the remains of a tall built element; the bottom of the installation contained calcified stones that were partially covered with burnt plaster, implying that the installation was subjected to intense heat. Few finds were recovered from inside the installation and on top of it, yet its proximity to the pottery dump suggests a link between the two features. The feature may be a pottery kiln, from which only remains of the firing chamber floor and a central supporting pillar were preserved.
The pottery. The excavation yielded a few Iron Age II potsherds with no stratigraphic context, including red-slipped kraters (Fig. 10:1, 2) and cooking pots (Fig. 10:3, 4), as well as fragments of Persian and Hellenistic jars (Fig. 10:5–7). The sherds were probably swept into the site from the summit of the hill to the north.
The assemblage from the pottery dump is dated to the Early Roman period; it was collected with a 1 cm mesh sieve. In the pottery analysis below, only the vessel rims and fragments of the juglet necks were counted, to give some indication of the amount of vessels produced in the workshop, in the absence of pottery restoration. The pottery classification follows the typology of Adan-Bayewitz and Díez Fernández (Table 1).
Table 1. Early Roman Pottery Typology
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:88–91
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:92–95
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:98–103
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:112–113
Cooking pot
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:125–126
Cooking pot
Adan-Bayewitz 1993:126–127
Díez Fernández 1983:135
Díez Fernández 1983:137
Díez Fernández 1983:177
Díez Fernández 1983:148
Díez Fernández 1983:149
Díez Fernández 1983:149
Much of the pottery in the assemblage was either underbaked or overbaked to the point where it had acquired a glazed greenish tinge. Several vessels have production defects, such as surface air bubbles, dents and large cracks. Most of the ware is made of local raw material, but some vessels were made of clay that may have come from Kefar Hananya (A. Shapiro, pers. comm. after examination of the potsherds).
The open vessels include bowls (N=5), kraters (N=6), casseroles (N=66) and cooking pots (N=62). The bowls are attributed to Forms 1A (N=2; Fig. 10:8, 9), 1B (N=1; not drawn) and 1C/D (N=1; Fig. 10:10). One of the bowls is small and has no typological classification (Fig. 10:11). The great diversity of krater forms (Fig. 11:1–6) indicates a lack of uniformity in their production process. Two of the basins (Fig. 11:1, 2) have a wavy decoration on the outer rim. The mouth and sloping wall of another krater (Fig. 11:6) are slightly different from the rest, possibly because of a production defect, or it may be a unique item. The casseroles (Fig. 11:7–14) are made of local clay and all belong to Form 3A. Another vessel (Fig. 11:15) is typologically similar to Form 3A casseroles, but the body is relatively upright below the shoulder. This may be the result of a production defect, or an attempt to form the vessel into a cooking pot. Most of the cooking pots belong to Form 4A (N=60; Fig. 11:16–20) and only two belong to Form 4B (Fig. 11:21, 22).
The closed vessels include jars (N=115), jugs (N=6) and juglets (N=45). The majority of the jars are Form T1.3 (N=78; Fig. 12:1–10) and the remainder are Form T1.5 (N=37; Fig. 12:11–13). The jug fragments (not drawn) are too small to provide typological data. The juglets are mostly Form T8.1 (N=39; Fig. 12:14–16). Three of the juglets are wasters, since they have dented necks (e.g., Fig. 12:14), possibly caused by pressure from the weight of vessels piled on top of them during firing. The remaining juglets belong to Forms T8.2 (N=2; Fig. 12:17, 18) and T8.3 (N=4; Fig. 12:19–22).
The dump also yielded fragments of Herodian oil lamps (N=3), a rim of a unique vessel (N=1), unusual handles (N=4) and lids (N=3). The Herodian oil-lamp sherds (not drawn) include fragments of spouts with soot marks, an indication that the lamps were used; it is not clear whether they were produced in the workshop. The unique rim probably belongs to a jug, based on its size, but the form is unusual, and it has an interior down-turned protrusion (Fig. 12:23). Three of the unusual handles are flattened, and they bear a plastic decoration of bands (Fig. 12:24–26); they probably belong to jugs, as Alexandre’s excavations in Area AA discovered jugs with similar handles (Alexandre and Shapiro 2016: Fig. 6:1–2, 5). The remaining handle (Fig. 12:27) was part of a luxury vessel of an unknown type, as it is aesthetically very pleasing: the surface is well smoothed, and the handle is coiled. One of the three lids is almost completely preserved (Fig. 12:28).
The assemblage from the pottery dump shows that most of the workshop’s products were jars and cooking ware. Most of the jars belong to Form T1.3, which predates Form T1.5. The Form T1.5 jars in the assemblage may represent an early phase of this type. Most of the juglets also belong to early forms in the Roman period. The jug handles decorated with protruding bands may attest to the style of a local potter, who produced this type early in the Early Roman period. Most of the cooking ware belongs to the initial phase of the Early Roman period; two forms typical of the period’s later phase (first-second centuries CE) are either represented by only two fragments (Form 4B), or almost completely absent from the assemblage.
Stone finds. The excavation yielded four stone finds, comprising a broken basalt pestle and three chalk vessel fragments. The pestle fragment (not drawn) is polished and made of non-porous basalt. Pestles are rare in stone assemblages from the Roman period, and this example may have been used to grind grits for the pottery industry. The chalk vessels were found in the refuse heap. They include a bowl (Fig. 12:29) whose body is decorated with incised diagonal lines, possibly production marks, and two body fragments: one of an elliptical vessel—possibly a bowl—and the other unidentified. In recent years, a flourishing industry of chalk vessel has been identified in caves in Nof Ha-Galil and Reina (Amit 2010:50–52). The vessels may come from one of these workshops, which are about 2.5 km from the current site, or from the larger workshops discovered in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Amit, Seligman and Zilberbrod 2001).
Gabriela Bijovsky
The excavation yielded two bronze coins. The earlier of the two was found in the pottery dump. It is a Herodian coin minted in Jerusalem in 37 BCE (Herod’s third year of reign), belonging to a type depicting a winged caduceus on the obverse and a poppy head on the reverse (IAA 177036; Fig. 13). The later coin was found on the top of W102. It belongs to the SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE type, which was minted in 364–375 CE and depicts Victory holding a date frond and a wreath (IAA 177035).
The limited excavation uncovered part of a built complex that was probably the courtyard of a pottery workshop (cf. Avshalom-Gorni and Shapiro 2015; Be’eri and Levi 2017). The complex included architectural remains, a pottery production wast dump, and remains of an installation that may have been a pottery kiln. Based on the main pottery types, the remains can be dated to the transition between the Late Hellenistic and the Early Roman periods (the transition between Stratum V and Stratum IV at Karm er-Ras; Alexandre 2008). The pottery dump attests to an ancient, hitherto unknown pottery industry at the site. The pottery analysis shows that the workshop produced mostly storage jars and cooking ware. The band-decorated jug handles and the basins with wavy ornamentation are stylistically similar to finds from the pottery dump in Area AA (Alexandre and Shapiro 2016). This may be a local industry of luxury vessels that were traded only within the confines of the settlement, as types with this decoration have not been identified in any other excavation.
The pottery workshop uncovered in the excavation joins several Early Roman kilns that have been excavated in recent years in the Lower Galilee (Strange and Aviam 2017; Tzin and Shapiro 2022), showing that the pottery industry was common in Lower Galilean settlements and was not restricted to a large production center such as Shikhin or Kefar Hananya.