In May–August 2016, a preliminary excavation was carried out southwest of Ḥorbat Ḥanot Qira,in the southeastern part of Yoqneʽam ʽIllit (Permit No. A-7717; map ref. 208987–9403/727364–587; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of a new neighborhood. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of R. Kapul, M. Kahlon and E. Bisharat (area supervisors), Y. Yaʽaqobi (administration), M. Kahan (field plans), I. Brin (final plans) and Griffin Aerial Photography (aerial photography). Pupils from Ort Qiryat Bialik High School and from Ramat Hadassah and Neve ‘Amiel Youth Villages participated in the excavation.
The excavation took place in three areas (A–C; Fig. 2), comprising 26 squares, in the western part of the area designated for construction, where archaeological remains were suspected in a development survey carried out in 2011 (Tepper 2012
). Area A yielded stone heaps and simple agricultural terraces; Area B yielded a segment of a paved road dated to the Roman period; and Area C—limited evidence of limestone quarrying.
Ḥorbat Ḥanot Qira is located in the Menashe (Manasseh) Hills, on the gently sloping banks of Naḥal Sanin, a seasonal tributary that flows eastwards into Naḥal Ha-Shofeṭ and thence down into Naḥal Qishon in the Jezreel valley (Figs. 1, 3). The eastern Menashe Hills are characterized by gradual slopes cut by several small wadis with eastward-flowing seasonal streams, permitting regional or local passageways from the Sharon coastal plain into the Jezreel valley. The local Eocene-period chalk rock, containing flint, is overlain by a thin layer of rendzina soil suited for subsistence crops and pasturing. The bedrock breaks naturally into regular geometric-shaped stones, well-suited for dry construction and paving.
Several archaeological sites are located in the vicinity of the excavation (see Fig. 1). Two kilometers to the north lies the multi-period site, Tel Yoqneʽam, strategically controlling the access from the northern Mediterranean coast and the Carmel range into the Jezreel valley (Ben-Tor 1993a). In the Roman period, the imperial artery from Ptolemais-Akko to Legio-Megiddo, passed along the foot of Tel Yoqneʽam (Roll 1994: Map 2). Adjacent to Tel Yoqneʽam, remains of a Roman farmhouse were exposed on the Jebel Ḥussein el-Qasim hill (HA 1964; Raban 1999: Site 11). At ʽEn Ḥofez, west of the present excavation, settlements from the Middle Bronze and Iron II were excavated, as well as a large administrative building from the Late Persian and Hellenistic periods (Alexandre 2008). To the southwest, lies Khirbat Rujm es-Sakhina, an elongated stone tumulus exhibiting Middle Bronze II, Roman and Byzantine pottery (Olami 1981: Site 56). Tel Qira (Tell Qiri), a multi-period site with remains of Bronze Age, Iron Age, Persian and Roman settlements lies to the east (Ben-Tor 1993b; Raban 1999: Site 26). To the northeast, Ḥorbat Ḥanot Qira is an Ottoman-period khan, as well as earlier tombs, cisterns and potsherds from the Iron II, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Crusader periods (Olami 1981: Site 45; Raban 1999: Site 19).
Small salvage excavations carried out north of the excavation area exposed some segments of paved paths or roads with various orientations (Bezal’el Jaffe and Hanna 2011; Fig. 2: A-5549, A-5608, A-5799). Despite some Roman potsherds retrieved in the road fills, these road segments were understood as part of an Ottoman road linking the Menashe Hills with the Jezreel valley. In another small salvage excavation, part of a Roman villa with a colorful mosaic floor and some Byzantine agricultural installations were uncovered (Tepper 2014; Fig. 2: A-6218). In the Archaeological Survey of Israel, no archaeological remains were recorded within the area designated for the new neighborhood (Olami 1981), but the 2011 development survey registered agricultural terraces, stone walls, stone heaps, concentrations of flintand quarry cuttings (Tepper 2012).
Area A (Sqs 1–12). At the outset of the excavation, a few long, approximately parallel, rows of small and medium-sized field stone concentrations were visible running along the fairly gentle slope. Sections cut through the stone rows in several of the squares exposed stone piles, devoid of potsherds or flint items, overlying natural rock steps (Sq. 2—Figs. 4, 5; Sq. 4—Figs. 6, 7). Subsequently, a long trench was mechanically dug down the entire slope, exposing several natural rock steps at intervals, again without potsherds. The stone rows were consequently understood as the result of stone clearance activities for simple agricultural terracing, possibly carried out in the Ottoman period or in recent times.
Area B (Sqs 13–22) revealed a long segment (c. 29 m) of a narrow road, running northwest–southeast, following the very gradual slope (Figs. 8, 9). The road comprised two low, parallel retaining walls (W143/W156 and W136/W138/W152) set directly on the bedrock that gradually sloped down from west to east. The walls were carefully constructed of a few courses of small to medium-sized fieldstones (Fig. 10). A fill containing numerous small stones was packed between the two walls and was covered by a denser surface layer of small stones (L145/L153/L163/L166). A small probe (L147) that was cut through the road in Sqs 13 and 19 exposed the stone fill for a depth of 0.5 m, almost down to the bedrock (Figs. 8: Section 1–1; 11), whilst in Sq 22, the fill was only 0.2 m deep above the bedrock (Fig. 8: Section 3–3). It seems that an effort was made to achieve a fairly level, or gradually sloping surface. The road did not have a constant width, ranging 2.0–4.5 m, and the construction techniques varied, sometimes incorporating an additional row of stones within the road make-up. In one segment, the southern wall (W138/W152) may have been part of a drainage channel (L139) that ran on the bedrock alongside the wall (Fig. 12). However, some of these irregularities may be due to periodic road repairs.
Sporadic potsherds were retrieved on the road’s stone surface layer, among the stones of the underlying fill and on the bedrock. The earliest sherd is a late Hellenistic buff storage jar (Fig. 13:1). Similar storage jars from Dor are attributed a date range from the late second to the early first century BCE (Guz-Zilberstein 1995:311, Fig. 6.37, Type JR 1c). Most of the pottery sherds date to the Middle to Late Roman periods (second–fourth centuries CE). They include several cooking-ware sherds similar to Kefar Ḥananya cooking pots, and jar sherds similar to Shikḥin jar forms, although manufactured of different, presumably more local, fabrics. A cooking-ware bowl (Fig. 13:2) is similar to the Kefar Ḥananya bowl Form KH 1B (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:91–97), and a krater (Fig. 13:3) is a ‘Sepphoris krater’ common at Ẓippori (Balouka 2013:46, Fig. 23:1–7). The open cooking pots, or casseroles, with a ledge rim (Fig. 13:4, 5) are similar to cooking pots from Ḥorbat ʽAleq, Ramat Ha-Nadiv in the northern Sharon (Silberstein 2000:435, Pl. 6:15). The casserole, or cooking bowl, with heavy horizontal handles (Fig. 13:6) has parallels at Tel Yoqneʽam, where it is attributed to the Middle Roman period (Avissar 1996:73, Fig. XII.6:11–13). The globular cooking pots (Fig. 13:7–9) are similar to Kefar Ḥananya cooking pots Form KH 4B (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:126–128), and the cooking pot in Fig. 13:10 is similar to Kefar Ḥananya Form 4E (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:132–135). Only one small jar was found (Fig. 13:11). The storage jars (Fig. 13:12–14) are bag-shaped jars with a ridge at the base of the neck—the common Roman-period storage jar in the Galilee. The pottery assemblage points to a date in the Middle and Late Roman periods (second–fourth centuries CE) for the construction and the use of the road. The repertoire, comprising both characteristic Galilean and more coastal forms, reflects the location of the area of Yoqneʽam between the Galilee and the coastal region.
It is proposed that these remains belonged to a simple Roman-period road. The construction techniques are similar to those of the road segments exposed in previous excavations c. 300 m to the north (Bezal’el Jaffe and Hanna 2011; See Fig. 2: A-5549, A-5608, A-5799). There too, the Roman-period sherds retrieved from the fill seem to support a Roman-period date for the construction of the road segments, rather than an Ottoman date, as was suggested by the excavators. Neither the origin not the destination of the road were clarified, but it may have been a regional road leading from the Mediterranean coast to the Jezreel valley, possibly connecting contemporaneous farmsteads, such as the road excavated in a previous excavation (Tepper 2014; See Fig. 2: A-6218), providing an alternative local route to the major imperial Roman roads located in the adjacent main valleys.
Area C (Sqs 23–26). In Area C, the negative cutting marks of two rectangular ashlar blocks were cleaned on the bedrock that was exposed just below the ground surface (Fig. 14), but no associated potsherds were found. These finds are too limited to be designated as a quarry site, but it is probable that there were additional quarrying areas, which have not been identified.
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