During November–December 2011, two trial excavations were conducted on both sides of Highway 65, northwest of Horbat Mishkena, in the olive groves of Tur‘an village (east of the road—Permit No. A-6325; map ref. 238347/743804; west of the road—Permit No. A-6375; map ref. 238292/743522; Fig. 1), prior to widening the road. The excavations, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Department of Public Works, were directed by U. Berger (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting) and H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing).
orbat Mishkena is mentioned twice in the Jerusalem Talmud (third–fourth centuries CE): JT Berakhot (9, 5, 68:2) and in JT Sanhedrin (3, 1, 14:2): “one said in Tiberias, but the other said in Sepphoris, is about those who live at the same place, from where to [Sepphoris] it is seven mil
, but from there to [Tiberias] it is nine mil
” (Guggenheimer 2010:110). The site, which has maintained its Talmudic name throughout the ages, was not excavated to date and our knowledge about it derived from several surveys carried out in the region, including the Survey of Western Palestine and the Map of Arbel (Libner 2004). A survey preceding the excavations recorded stone clearance heaps, the route of a road from the Roman period, pits, rock-cuttings, a rock-hewn winepress and caves (HA-ESI 121
). Sections of the road were excavated south of the site (HA-ESI
114:22*; HA-ESI 124
; HA-ESI 124
Five squares (A–E; Figs. 2, 3) were excavated east of the road and a modern field wall, a limekiln, a large stone quarry from the Roman and Byzantine periods and burial complexes from the late Second Temple period were exposed. A round rock-hewn pit (diam. 4.4 m) that might have been a limekiln was excavated east of the excavation area. A nari quarry was excavated west of the road (Fig. 4).
The square courtyard of a burial cave was exposed; it was hewn in chalk bedrock (2.8×2.8 m, depth c. 3.8 m; Figs. 5, 6) and had an arched opening in the north (1.4×1.8 m). On the floor of the courtyard (L63) was an accumulation of soil (L61; thickness c. 0.7 m) and numerous potsherds, including a Kefar H
ananya Type 4A cooking pot (Fig. 7:1; Adan-Bayewitz 1993
), a Galilean jar (Fig. 7:2) and a knife-pared oil lamp (Fig. 7:3) from the Early Roman period, as well as a jug (Fig. 7:4) and a jar (Fig. 7:5) that dated to the Middle Roman period. Hence, the burial cave was used in the late Second Temple period (first century BCE–first century CE) and went out of use during the Middle Roman period. A round limekiln (diam. 2.5 m) was built above the layer of soil and potsherds. A thin black burnt layer was on its floor and overlain with ash fill, lime and limestone that was burnt to various degrees. The wall of the kiln (W60) was built of fieldstones and preserved three courses high. When the kiln was constructed the cavities and the openings in the sides of the burial courtyard were sealed with fieldstone-built walls to even out the sides. A wall (W58) closed off the opening of the cave and when it was dismantled, a fragment of a casserole (Fig. 7:6) dating to the Middle Roman period and imported LRRW bowls (Fig. 7:7, 8) of the Byzantine period were found. The kiln might therefore date to the Byzantine period or later.
Square B. A rectangular courtyard (1.4×2.0 m; Figs. 8, 9) of a rock-hewn burial cave was exposed at the bottom of a stepped quarrying area. The arched opening of the cave (L159; 1.40×1.55 m; not excavated) was in the north and similar to the opening of the cave in Square A. A rectangular recess (0.4×0.6×1.3 m) was hewn in the nari bedrock above the opening. Potsherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods were found in the fill on the floor of the courtyard.
Squares C–E. Stone quarries in areas of nari bedrock were exposed in these squares and in the excavation west of Highway 65. Signs of rock-cutting and the detachment of stones (average size 0.4×0.4×0.8 m; Figs. 10, 11) that might have been used in the construction of the nearby settlement Mishkena were discerned in the quarries. Building stones that were not completely detached from the bedrock (Fig. 12) were identified on the quarrying steps; hence it is thought that the quarry was abandoned. The stones were removed by cutting separating channels and utilizing wedges. Signs of quarrying a round stone (diam. 1.4 m including the circumferential separating channel) were also exposed in the excavation area west of the highway. Several potsherds were found inside the quarry, including a Roman cooking pot (not drawn) and jars from the Hellenistic period (Fig. 13:1, 2).
It is deduced from the excavations that the region was utilized for burial in the Early Roman period, while at the same time or slightly thereafter it was used for stone quarries that were abandoned during the Byzantine period. The lime industry began at the site after the burial complexes in the area restricted the residential area of the place. It cannot be determined if the lime industry was contemporary with the quarries or postdated them. Finds dating to the Hellenistic period were identified for the first time in the region.