The excavation was located along the northern margins of the Jezreel Valley. The valley’s floor is dominated by alluvial soil, while its edges feature outcrops of sedimentary rocks, calcareous conglomerates, and volcanic basalt rocks. Two excavation areas (A, B) were opened in an almond grove. Area A (250 sq m), to the west, comprised ten excavation squares (A1–A10), revealing four strata (4–1) of alluvial soil and stones, containing potsherds from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, flint items of prehistoric periods (Yarosevich, below), and two stone vessel fragments (Zin, below). Area B (150 sq m), to the east, contained a stone concentration and pottery of the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.
The excavation area is included in the map of Nazareth survey (Raban and Shemesh 2016) and was surveyed again prior to development (Tepper 2013; Tepper 2014; Areas XI, XIII). The current excavation is the first to be carried out in this area.
Area A (Fig. 2)
Square A1 (Figs. 3, 4). Stratum 4 (L116) consisted of pale soil and numerous small- to medium-sized chalk stones. These stones lay directly on bedrock, probably attesting to an ancient stream that flowed in the area. A few Hellenistic pottery sherds and flint artifacts were found in this stratum, including Levallois cores.
Stratum 3 (L115) consisted of few small- to medium-sized stones and pale brown soil. It contained a small number of worn and eroded potsherds of the Hellenistic period, primary flint tools, and cortical flint items.
Stratum 2 (L113) consisted of brown soil with numerous small- to medium-sized stones. It contained potsherds of Hellenistic and Early–Middle Roman dates. The sherds and stones may have served to improve the soil’s quality, a common Early Roman farming practice.
Stratum 1 (L100) is the topsoil layer. It contained dark brown soil and a few potsherds, some of which date from the Byzantine period.
Square A4 (Figs. 5, 6). Stratum 4 (L122) consisted of pale brown soil and stones devoid of finds.
Stratum 3 (L118) contained an accumulation of small fieldstones, along with a few larger ones. It contained pottery sherds of the Hellenistic period and flint tools.
Stratum 2 (L114) consisted of reddish brown soil with few small stones and sherds of locally produced Early–Middle Roman ceramic vessels. It seems to have constituted a layer of improved agricultural soil like that found in Square A1.
Stratum 1 (L109), the topsoil layer, consisted of small stones, pale soil and a few Byzantine-period potsherds, including an imported bowl.
Squares A2, A3, A5–A10 (Fig. 2). The level of the bedrock varied between a few centimeters to one meter below the surface. Over the years, pebbles, stones and soft friable rocks adhered to it, producing a hard cemented conglomerate that is difficult to cut into. This may explain the absence of rock-hewn installations.
Area B (Fig. 7)
Area B yielded a long stone concentration, oriented east–west (L307; length 25 m, height c. 0.3 m; Fig. 8), possibly the base of a stone-clearance heap or the foundations of a field wall. Among its stones were medium-sized flint and chalk stones, as well as clusters of numerous tiny limestones (L310, L317). Pottery recovered from these contexts included small potsherds of locally produced vessels dated to the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.
The Pottery (Fig. 9)
All pottery sherds from the excavation were collected and sorted. Most of them date from the Hellenistic (second–first centuries BCE) and Early Roman periods (mid-first century BCE–mid-first century CE), while a minority dates from the Middle Roman (mid-first century CE–mid-second century CE) and late Byzantine periods (sixth–seventh centuries CE). The ceramic finds were found mixed, and thus are presented here in chronological-typological order.
The Hellenistic Period. The Hellenistic assemblage is comprised of mortaria, an unguentarium and jars. The mortaria fragments include an outwardly thickened and rounded rim (Fig. 9:1) and a high and rounded trumpet base (Fig. 9:2); similar vessels were recorded at Tel Anafa, where they were dated to the Hellenistic period (Strata 1–A1; 300–250 BCE; Berlin 1997:127–128, PW341). The unguentarium is represented by an elongated cylindrical base with a flat bottom (Fig. 9:3); similar vessels for perfume storage are well-known in pottery assemblages of the third–second centuries BCE (Berlin 2015:639, Pl. 618:16–21), and comparable examples were reported from Tel Bet She’an (Johnson 2006:536–537, Fig. 15.1:104–109). The jar fragments include outwardly thickened and rounded rims (Fig. 9:4–7). Such rims usually derive from jars with an elongated body, drooping shoulders and two loop handles, and are made of white fabric with multiple tiny inclusions. These vessels date from the third–second centuries BCE, and are widely distributed in the north of the country and along the coast (Berlin 2015:636–637, Pl. 6.1.12, 13).
The Early Roman Period. Casseroles, cooking pots and storage jars were found. The casseroles (Fig. 9:8) have a flat, everted rim and rounded shoulders; similar vessels were found the workshop at Kefar Hananya, where they were dated to the early second–late fourth centuries CE (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:111–119, Form 3A). The cooking pots (Fig. 9:9) have a simple rim with an internal groove, a long neck, rounded shoulders with two loop handles, a ribbed body and usually a rounded base; similar vessels are known from the Kefar Ḥananya workshop and are dated to the mid-first century BCE–mid-first century CE (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:124–126, Form 4A). Among the jars, two fragments are noteworthy. One consists of a simple rim and a long, moderately everted and ribbed neck (Fig. 9:10). Apparently, it was produced in the workshop at Yodefat early in the Roman period (Aviam 2014: Fig. 5). The second jar fragment (Fig. 9:11) has an internally stepped rim and a low, arched neck with a ridge at its base. This jar type—having a barrel-shaped body, a ridged shoulder with two loop handles, and a rounded base—is known from Kefar Naḥum (Loffreda 1974: Fig. 1:1, Tipo. A1 P.27), where it was dated to the Early Roman period. Both jars should be dated to the second half of the first century BCE to the first half of the first century CE (Avshalom-Gorni and Getzov 2002).
The Middle Roman Period. The excavation yielded an open bowl (Fig. 9:12) whose rim is inwardly thickened and rectangular in section; it resembles bowls produced at the Kefar Hananya workshop (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:103–109, Form 1E), where they were dated to the mid-third–fifth centuries CE.
The Late Byzantine Period. The excavation yielded Cypriot casseroles of Type CRS.1 (Fig. 9:13, 14). They have red fabric and are red slipped. Their rim is flat, embellished with two grooves, and the body bears an incised wavy decoration (Fig. 9:14). These vessels are dated to the second half of the sixth–mid-seventh centuries CE (Hayes 1972: Fig. 81, Form 7.1).
The pottery finds of the Hellenistic and Roman periods are familiar, locally produced Galilean types—none are imported. The imported Cypriot casseroles are typical of the Byzantine period.
The Flint Finds
During the excavation, knapped flint items were collected from the alluvial deposits in Area A. Most of the items are debitage and ad hoc tools (Figs. 10–12) that cannot be attributed to any specific prehistoric period or culture. These include a range of flake cores, some of which are only moderately reduced, while others are exhausted. The items are variably weathered, and some are patinated. The fresher items are made of light brown, relatively homogeneous flint with a few pale streaks. Many of the items, including the cores, retain some of their natural cortex. Their small to medium size range indicates that this was also the scale of the natural flint nodules.
Only a few flint items are diagnostic; they are dated to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age periods. Most of finds were produced using Levallois technology and are thus attributed to the Middle Paleolithic period (245,000–45,000 BCE). These include cores (Figs. 13–15), core debitage, flakes and tools, such as retouched flakes and scrapers (Fig. 16). The tools are variably weathered and some are patinated, but relatively unworn cores were also found. Only one item could be attributed to the Upper Paleolithic (45,000–24,000 BCE) or the early Epipaleolithic period (23,000–18,000 BCE): a patinated and slightly eroded bladelet core (Fig. 17). The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (8,000–6,500 BCE) is better represented, with the middle segment of a sickle blade with a trapezoidal cross section and gloss (Fig. 18:1), and a fragment of a pressure-retouched tool prepared on a blade, possibly a knife or a weapon (Fig. 18:2). Both tools are made of good-quality, homogeneous and smooth dark-brown flint. Lastly, a Canaanean blade was found. It is backed, truncated at both ends (Fig. 18:3), and it is made of relatively homogeneous beige flint with orange streaks. It is mainly characteristic of the Early Bronze Age and/or the end of the Chalcolithic period (4,500–2,500 BCE). The blades were found in the excavation’s upper layers, whereas Levallois items, characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic period, were recovered mainly from the lower strata.
The flint items from the excavation date from a wide range of prehistoric periods and, therefore, may have reached the site via alluvial processes, perhaps a stream that flowed in the vicinity. However, the large number of cortical items and cores, including cores at the beginning of the reduction process, suggests that flint knapping was practiced at the site, beginning with the early stages of reduction. Some of the Levallois specimens seem to have been found not far from their original knapping site, which was probably in the northwestern part of the area.
The closest excavated Middle Palaeolithic sites are Giv‘at Rabbi and ‘Illuṭ, but they are rather distant, and their raw material differs from that found in the current excavation (Barzilai and Milevski 2010; Yaroshevich et al. 2018). In contrast, late prehistoric farming sites and protohistoric sites have been recorded in the vicinity. A prominent PPNB site in the area is Kefar Ha-Ḥoresh (Barzilai and Goring-Morris 2010). Another nearby site is Yafi‘a, where a large concentration of knapped flint items which includes typical PPNB cores and debitage, was uncovered (Shatil and Yaroshevich 2019). Another possible sources for the latest flint artifacts from the excavation may be found in the protohistoric settlements at Tel Shimron and along its outskirts, which include Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age remains (Alexandre 2015).
The Stone Vessels
Two fragments of stone vessels were discovered in Area A. The first, unearthed just below the surface, is a small bowl fashioned from a hard limestone river pebble (Fig. 19:1). Its exterior is smoothed, its base is slightly flattened and smooth, and its interior bears several striking marks where it has been struck with a pestle or hammerstone, attesting to the manner of its use. Small stone bowls of this sort are common in Neolithic assemblages (Wright 1992:66; Gopher and Orrelle 1995:72; Rosenberg and Garfinkel 2014:90–114). The second stone vessel was found on the surface: a base of a shallow, soft limestone bowl with a flat and smoothed base. Unfortunately, this item is typologically undiagnostic and, therefore, cannot be attributed to any particular period.
Both stone-vessel fragments are worn and, thus, probably reached the site via alluvial processes; the small bowl may have originated from an ancient site similar to the Neolithic site at Kefar Ha-Ḥoresh (Gorin-Morris et al. 1995).
Both the excavation and the development survey that preceded it suggest a nearby prehistoric settlement. The Upper Paleolithic flint finds probably reached Area A via alluvial processes, perhaps driven by an ancient stream that flowed nearby. On the other hand, analysis of the flint finds suggests that there may have been a raw material source in the vicinity and possibly also an original knapping site. Notwithstanding, these finds may also derive from other prehistoric sites in the region.
The pottery attests to activity at the site during the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. These periods are represented strictly by locally produced vessel fragments, and no imported wares were observed. A similar pattern was noted for Jewish site of this period (e.g., Migdal), possibly suggesting a Jewish settlement in the area. The excavation seems to have unearthed the agricultural hinterland of this settlement, bearing evidence of stone clearance or the construction of a field wall, as well as of land improvement. The finds from the Middle Roman and late Byzantine periods are scattered, and thus provide no evidence of a settlement in the vicinity.
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