The excavation was conducted on a ridge (c. 260 m asl), bounded by a streambed on the north and commanding a view of the Bet Rimmon valleys to the south. Previous excavations exposed Iron Age architectural remains (Shalem and Gal 2000). An aerial photograph from 1961 shows a massive wall enclosing an area of c. 25 dunams; this is probably the fortification wall of the Iron Age settlement (Shalem and Gal 2000). Remains of Iron Age walls were found c. 20 m southwest of the current excavation (Massarwa 2010); an adjacent rock-hewn installation was also dated to the Iron Age (Feig 2016).
The excavation yielded architectural remains and finds from the Iron Age, and pottery from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Four excavation squares were opened, revealing a massive wall (Fig. 2) that was probably part of the fortification wall visible on the aerial photograph. The wall (W51; exposed length 13.5 m, width c. 2.4 m; maximum preservation two courses), founded on the partially leveled bedrock, had an external face of extremely large stones (max length of stones 2 m), and an internal face of medium-sized stones (Figs. 3, 4). The wall’s inner and outer faces were abutted by packed earth surfaces (L56, L61; Fig. 5), and a stone-paved floor (L50) abutted the wall’s inner face (Fig. 6). A basalt pounding stone and a few charcoal pieces were found on Surface 56. A wall (W58), adjoining the inner face of W51 at right angles, and built above Surface 56, may be a foundation wall. Both walls are abutted by a surface of earth mixed with small stones (L55). Above Surface 55, soil accumulations (L54, L59) abut another wall (W62; width 0.8 m) built on top of W51. At a later stage in Iron IIA, the outer side of W51 was thickened with debesh construction; its eastern part was damaged and only partially preserved.
The soil surface, soil accumulations, paved surface and the soil between the stones of W51 yielded pottery dated to Iron IIA (ninth century BCE; Figs. 7, 8; see below). Consequently, the fortification wall and all the associated architectural remains are dated to Iron IIA. The brown soil accumulations (L53) that overlay and sealed the architectural remains contained a few body sherds of Roman and Byzantine pottery vessels.
Pottery and Stone Vessels
Pottery and stone vessels were retrieved on the packed earth surfaces, the soil accumulations and the habitation levels around Fortification Wall 51. The vessels are similar to finds from excavated Iron IIA sites (tenth–latter half of ninth century BCE) in the region.
The site yielded a rich variety of pottery, although several sherds are worn. Parallels to the vessels are cited from nearby sites, including from the Stratum IIa–b fort at Horbat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000), Yoqne‘am Strata XVI–XV (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005:90–168), Ḥaẓor, Strata X–VIII (Yadin et al. 1960) and Horbat Malṭa, near Nazareth (Covello-Paran 2008). There are three bowl types: a rounded bowl with a cut rim (Fig. 7:1), a well-levigated rounded bowl with a ledged rim (Fig. 7:2) and a carinated bowl with a ‘cyma’ profile (Fig. 7:3). Bowls with a ‘cyma’ profile were found in Fort Stratum IIb at Horbat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000: Fig. III.74:11). Three kraters (Fig. 7:4–6), including two with a thickened rim (Fig. 7:4, 5) usually have a carinated body, a thickened rim and two handles; this type is common at northern sites, including Horbat Malṭa (Covello-Paran 2008: Figs. 31:9–11; 33:18), Ḥaẓor Stratum VIII (Yadin et al. 1960: Pl. LVI:1) and Tel Qiri Stratum VI (Ben-Tor and Portugali 1987: Fig. 22:10). The cooking pots comprise the commonest vessel in the assemblage, and include pots with a triangular profile (Fig. 7:7, 8)—a common type in Iron IIA northern sites, such as at Tel Yoqne‘am, disappearing in the transition to Iron IIB (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Fig. I.38:2)—and pinched pots with a ridge at the base of the rim (Fig. 7:9–11), the common type throughout Iron IIA–IIB. The assemblage contains no cooking pots with a ribbed rim, a type that appears in the final phase of the Iron Age, for example in Stratum VII at Ḥaẓor VII (Yadin et al. 1960: Pl. LXIV:9). The most common jars in the assemblage have a thick, everted rim and a ribbed or ridged neck, sometimes also with a prominent ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 8:1–4); similar jars were found in a nearby excavation in Tur‘an (Massarwa 2010) and at Horbat Malta (Covello-Paran 2008: Figs. 34:1, 3). A single fragment of a jar with a tall straight neck was recovered (Fig. 8:5). These two types of jars appear together at northern Iron Age sites, for example in Strata IX–VI at Ḥaẓor (Yadin et al. 1960: Pl. LXXI:5, 12–13). A jar handle stamped with a potter’s mark (Fig. 8:6) was found in a cavity in W51; based on the design and the fabric, this was probably a ‘hippo’ storage jar, a hippo jar with a similar potter’s mark coming from Fort Stratum IIa at Horbat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000: Fig. III.93). The pottery assemblage also includes a few jug and juglet fragments (Fig. 8:7, 8).
The basalt stone vessels include a roughly finished bowl whose interior is smoothed from crushing (Fig. 8:9), and some lower quern-stone fragments (Fig. 8:10).
The earliest settlement at the site dates from Iron IIA (late tenth–ninth centuries BCE), when a settlement with a fortification wall was built on the leveled bedrock surface on the ridge. The fortified settlement, commanding a view of the Bet Rimmon Valley, was probably one of a network of Iron IIA settlements located along the main road between Tel Ḥannaton and Tel Qarnei Ḥittin. The Iron IIA architectural remains were not preserved to a height, and they were overlain by accumulations and fills dated by the pottery sherds to the Roman and Byzantine periods, when leveling operations may have been carried out. Extensive modern construction work has removed any traces of settlements from these later periods.