In April 2018, a trial excavation was conducted in the northwest of Kibbutz Gesher Ha-ziv (Permit No. A-8266; map ref. 210532–627/772214–30; Fig. 1), prior to construction work. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the kibbutz, was directed by A. Abu Hamid (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi and B. Zidan (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS, surveying and field drawing), M. Kahan (surveying), K. Covello-Paran (scientific guidance), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), C. Hersch (glass drawing), C. Amit (glass photography) and M. Artzy (Late Bronze Age pottery).
Four excavation squares were opened (Fig. 2) about 10 m from the foot of a kurkar ridge to the west, roughly 650 m east of Tel Akhziv. The excavation uncovered nine tombs dating from the Late Bronze Age and possibly also from the Roman period.
Previous excavations on the kurkar ridge and at its foot uncovered a cemetery (Akhziv Eastern Cemetery) containing tombs from several periods (Dayagi-Mendels 2002:163–164): pit graves hewn in the Late Bronze Age (late thirteenth century BCE) that yielded local pottery and Cypriot imports, including bowls containing 73 lead fishing-net weights used as grave goods (Abu ‘Uqsa 2013; Sharvit 2013; Fig.1: A-2267, A-4055); dozens of shaft tombs hewn between the eleventh–sixth centuries BCE, which continued to be used until the fourth century BCE; and cist tombs aligned east–west from the Roman period (second–third centuries CE) that were dug into the ground, lined with fieldstones or roughly dressed stones and covered with stone slabs (Mazar 1994:77–93).
In the two eastern excavation squares, the surface layer consists of orange hamra soil rich in iron oxides; in the two western squares the soil is a gray clay. The excavation encountered eight tombs dug into the ground (1–8) and a sarcophagus (9). Only Tombs 1–3 were excavated; they contained lining courses of small and medium-sized fieldstones. These tombs yielded a few pottery fragments dated to the Late Bronze Age. Only the cover stones of Tombs 4–8 were exposed. A surface find of an intact Roman glass bottle (Gorin-Rosen, below) probably indicates the presence of tombs from this period as well.
Tomb 1. An elliptical tomb lined with eight courses of stones (W112; Fig. 3). In the southeast of the tomb, covered with a layer of orange hamra soil, a jar handle and base were found (L113; Fig. 4:6, 7), dating from the thirteenth century BCE.
Tomb 2. An elliptical tomb lined with nine stone courses (W115; Fig. 5). The tomb yielded fragments of Base Ring II Ware bowls (Fig. 4:1, 2), a fragment of a milk bowl (Fig. 4:3) and a jar rim (Fig. 4:4) decorated with vertical lines; the vessels date from the thirteenth century BCE. The finds were covered with an accumulation of orange hamra (L120).
Tomb 3. An elliptical tomb in which two courses of stones were preserved (Fig. 6). The tomb yielded the base of a Plain White Wheel-Made Ware jar (Fig. 4:5) dating from to LB II.
Tomb 4. The tomb was dug on an east–west axis and roofed with covering slabs made of beachrock (L108; Fig. 7).
Tombs 5–8. Four tombs aligned east–west, covered with dressed and partially dressed medium-sized stones (Fig. 8).
Sarcophagus 9. The kurkar sarcophagus (L107; Fig. 9) was found without a cover, probably the result of robbery, and contained modern construction debris.
An almost intact bottle (L100, Basket 1001; Fig. 10), in an excellent state of preservation, was found on the surface near Tomb 8; only a small piece of the edge of its rim is missing. Since some of the tombs were not excavated, the bottle may indicate the date and material culture of those interred in them. The bottle is made of greenish glass; it is covered with silvery, iridescent weathering and has calcareous encrustation on the inside. Marks of blowing spirals are visible on the neck, and the rim and body bear signs of polishing. The bottle has a twice-folded rim, folded out and down and then up again to create a kind of wide outer fold around the top of the neck. The neck is wide, the body is spherical, and the base is slightly concave, without a scar. The thick walls are decorated with four deep, broad horizontal engraved lines interspersed with shallow narrow lines to form a pattern on the body of the vessel. Two narrow horizontal lines are engraved on the neck.
Bottles of this type are familiar finds in assemblages from the late first and early second centuries CE. A bottle belonging to the same type and with a very similar rim, a narrower long neck and a body decorated with pairs of narrow horizontally engraved lines was found near Kabri, in Tomb 3, together with other vessels dated to the late first and early second centuries CE (Stern and Gorin-Rosen 1998:5, 8, Fig. 22:12, and see references therein to other bottles from Nahsholim, Turkish sites and collections). Similar bottles have been recovered from unpublished tombs in the region of Castra, the southern Carmel coast and the Sharon. The bottle is contemporaneous with vessels found in cist tombs in Akhziv’s Eastern Cemetery (Abu ‘Usqa 2013), where some of the tombs had been robbed.
Summary. The excavation shows that Tel Akhziv’s Eastern Cemetery is located not only on the kurkar ridge, but extended also westward. Tombs 1–3 were covered with a layer of hamra rich in iron oxide, which probably caused the disintegration of the bones and the poor preservation of the pottery. The fact that most of the tombs were not excavated prevents us from obtaining a complete picture of the nature and date of the remains. Nevertheless, based on the LB II pottery found in Tombs 1–3 and the Roman glass bottle, the tombs should probably be attributed to these two periods. The local and imported LB II ware attests to strong Cypriot links. Similar pottery was found in the nearby ‘Fisherman’s Grave’ excavation (Abu ‘Uqsa 2013) and it is also common at many other sites, such as the Persian Garden near ‘Akko, Tel Abu-Hawam, Hazor and Megiddo, and it is dated to the end of the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century CE).
Abu ‘Uqsa H. 2013. The Late Bronze Age II ‘Fisherman’s Grave’ from Akhziv. ‘Atiqot 74:1*–7* (Hebrew; English summary, p. 241).
Dayagi-Mendels M. 2002. The Akhziv Cemeteries: The Ben-Dor Excavations, 1941–1944 (IAA Reports 15). Jerusalem.
Mazar E. 1994. A Burial Ground of the Roman Period at Gesher Haziv. ‘Atiqot 25:77–93.
Sharvit J. 2013. Lead Fishing-Net Weights from the ‘Fisherman’s Grave’, Akhziv. ‘Atiqot 74:9*–17* (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 242–243).
Stern E. and Gorin-Rosen Y. 1998. Burial Caves Near Kabri. ‘Atiqot 33:1–22 (Hebrew; English summary, pp. 7*–8*).