The current excavation was carried out in a sparse natural grove on the southern margins of the flat limestone hill on which the Hodayot Youth Village is situated, subsequent to the mapping of ancient remains in a development survey carried out in 2017 by Y. Amitzur (Permit No. S-792/2017). Remains of an extensive industrial-agricultural processing area were discovered, including evidence for flint extraction and knapping in the Middle Paleolithic period, winepresses and a shaft of a burial cave from the Bronze Age, a winepress and quarries from the Roman to Byzantine periods, two rock-hewn shafts, two lime kilns, and field walls (W103, W122), as well as remains of recent military posts (Fig. 2). Scattered sherds from the Middle Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods were also retrieved.
The site of Hodayot is located in the vicinity of the ruins of three villages, Nimrin, Horbat Mishkena, and Khirbat Lubiya, all settled in the Roman and Byzantine periods. At Nimrin, c. 2.5 km north of the excavation area, installations and remains of Roman and Byzantine period settlements were identified in a survey (Leibner 2009). At Horbat Mishkena, located 3 km to the west, remains of walls and installations are visible on the low hill surface. At Khirbat Lubiya, c. 1 km southwest of the excavation area, the ‘Inn of Lavi’ that is mentioned in the Talmud may have stood (JT Berakhot 7, 4, 11c). In previous excavations carried out at Khirbat Lubiya, remains of buildings from the Roman period were found (Alexandre 2003), as well as stone quarries from the Roman–Byzantine periods, and settlement remains from the Ottoman period (Hanna 2009). In the Kibbutz Lavi cemetery, just south of the excavation area, an Intermediate Bronze Age copper dagger was found below the surface (Stepansky 2005). To the east of Kibbutz Lavi, a Byzantine period winepress and stone quarries were exposed (Mokary 2009). In a survey of the area of Giv‘at Avni, south of the excavation, flint outcrops and flint extraction surfaces, with numerous flint items, knapping piles, flakes and cores were found (Hanna 2012).
Middle Paleolithic period. A limestone outcrop bore signs of the extraction of flint nodules, from which tools were knapped (L101; Fig. 3); a small cupmark was also found here (L102). In the soil accumulation layer above the outcrop, 18 flint items were found (Table 1), all but one item being well-preserved with sharp edges and bearing no signs of breakage. The raw material was uniform, gray-whitish, semi-transparent flint. All the items were covered with a thick white or orange patina. Three of the items discovered— two Levallois cores and a Mousterian point— date the assemblage to the Middle Paleolithic (c. 250,000–45,000 years BP). One Levallois core was bifacial with a characteristic lens profile, bearing bi-directional scar marks on its worked face. On the other core, the beginning of bifacial knapping is visible, unsuccessful apparently due to natural obstacles encountered in the raw material. The Mousterian point was worked from a Levallois flake that bore bifacial scar marks; on its right side, an upright retouch created a pointed distal end. In contrast to the other items in the assemblage, the Mousterian point exhibited medium signs of wear, its left side slightly blunted, and its right side showing a few signs of breakage. This item may have lain exposed on the surface for some period of time. The flint assemblage resembles assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic that have been discovered at extraction and primary knapping sites, including sites in the Lower Galilee, for example at Sede Ilan (Barkai, Gopher and La Porta 2006), Mt. Pua (Barkai, Gopher and La Porta 2002), and Giv‘at Rabbi (Barzilai and Milevski 2010). The flint finds at these sites reflect primary knapping adjacent to the raw material source; although the artifacts retrieved in our excavation were not found in situ, they may also point to this proximity.
Table 1. Flint items
Percent. of assemblage
Flakes with lime cortex
Primary flakes
Bronze Age. A simple Ta‘anach winepress with an irregularly shaped treading floor cut into the limestone was discovered (L136; Fig. 4). The treading floor sloped down towards an ovoid collecting vat that was hewn into the lowest part of the rock surface. Two large, rock-hewn circular depressions, were cut into the rock surface on either side of the treading floor. At the southeastern edge of the excavation area, another simple Ta‘anach winepress was found (L111; Figs. 5–7). The treading floor was damaged by a later Roman–Byzantine period winepress that cut into it; consequently only the collecting vat of the earlier winepress, and part of one of the channels leading to it, were extant. Further to the west, a vertical shaft (L141) with two cut footholds, led down into an ovoid, rock-cut cave (diam. c. 3 m; Fig. 8). The cave had been robbed in later periods, and was found devoid of finds. This was apparently a shaft tomb of the type attributed to the Intermediate Bronze (Baruch 1997), and the Middle Bronze (Porat 1985) periods.
Roman and Byzantine periods. Several quarries, from which building blocks had been hewn, were uncovered in the excavation area (L104, L105, L134, L144–147; Figs. 9, 10); the stones were presumably quarried for construction in the surrounding settlements. The later winepress, uncovered cutting into the Ta‘anach winepress at the southeastern edge of the area (L111; see Figs. 5, 6), was dated to the Roman to Byzantine periods.
Lime kilns. Two lime kilns, whose date was not established, were unearthed. The feeder channel of the eastern kiln was well preserved (L125; Fig. 11). The western kiln was built into a quarry, thus definitively post-dating it (L137; Figs 12, 13). It consisted of a round pit cutting Quarry 137, a broad wall built around it (W139), and above it, another wall built of larger stones (W138). An opening (L133) was found in W138, through which fuel was inserted or air admitted, to stoke the fire. Rubbish from the time of the establishment of the State was found in the upper part of the kiln, confirming the Kibbutz Lavi veterans’ report that the kilns were used as refuse pits.
Recent remains. Two rock-cut rectangular shafts (L131, L132; depth c. 3 m) and remains of military posts (L142, L143) were found. Veteran kibbutz members and reference to the kibbutz archives disclosed that the area served as a military camp in the years 1948–1949. The shafts were built in preparation for a military shelter, and the posts were built by the Israel Defense Forces at the end of the War of Independence. The shafts were subsequently converted into refuse pits by the kibbutz.
The remains exposed in the excavation revealed that the area served as an industrial and agricultural processing area in the different periods, presumably associated with one of the nearby settlements. During the Middle Paleolithic period, the area was used for flint extraction and knapping; in the Bronze Age winepresses were hewn to produce wine, and at least one shaft tomb was cut. In the Roman and Byzantine periods, large areas of the rock terraces on the hill were quarried for building blocks. The quarrying activities may have erased earlier remains, possibly explaining why additional earlier Ta‘anach winepresses or shaft tombs were not found. Wine was produced in the winepress in the Roman to Byzantine periods. At a later undetermined period, lime was produced at the site. The area is very suitable for this purpose, possessing both the limestone raw material, and the low brush vegetation, mainly thorny burnet, used as fuel. Moreover, the site lay adjacent to the road leading to Tiberias, where there was a demand for lime, as the local stone there is basalt. The agricultural-industrial area may have served one of the nearby settlements – Khirbat Lubiya, Horbat Mishkena or Nimrin. The most probable candidate is Khirbat Lubiya, being the closest to the excavation area. In the 2017 development survey, limited remains of this site were observed c. 300 m south of the excavation area, indicating that the northeastern edges of Khirbat Lubiya and the excavation area were in close proximity. Moreover, the settlement periods at Khirbat Lubiya match the periods exposed in the excavation; and no finds specifically favor an association with the other sites.