The excavation was conducted in the center of Moshav Zippori, on a hill south of ancient Zippori; the local geology is characterized by a layer of hard nari rock cut into by karstic cavities. Ancient Zippori, c. 400 m from the site, can be seen from the top of the hill. A few excavations previously carried out nearby revealed quarries, buildings, rock-hewn underground installations—including a water reservoir and a columbarium—and other installations dating mainly from the Early Roman period (Porat 2010 [Fig. 1: A-5362]; Gur 2014 [Fig. 1: A-6894]; Permit No. A-5030; Fig. 2).
Two excavation squares were opened (Fig. 3), revealing the remains of a building, a pottery kiln and rock-hewn installations; three phases were identified in them (III–I). The excavation material was sieved through a 1 sq. cm mesh and all the diagnostic pottery was collected, most of which dates from the Early Roman period. The surface layer (depth 0.25–0.35 m), which was removed with a backhoe, comprised an accumulation of brown clayey soil with very few worn potsherds and modern debris.
Phase III. A quarry for building stones (L25) in the southeast of the area comprised several shallow rock-cuttings (max. depth 0.35 m), which were not fully excavated since they extended beyond the boundaries of the excavation. A partially hewn building block (0.25 × 0.45 m) that was not fully detached from the quarry was also unearthed, as well as several other stones of a similar size, some of them broken, show that the quarry was abandoned. The bedrock was apparently of poor quality and the stones cracked during quarrying.
Phase II. A circular pottery kiln (diam. c. 3.1 m) uncovered within the quarry probably belonged to a larger workshop complex located beyond the excavation areas. The main element that was preserved was the firebox, while the firing chamber (pottery chamber) and the dome of the kiln were not preserved. The firebox (L23; min. depth 3 m; Fig. 4) was hewn to a considerable depth and exploited the northern quarrying face of the earlier quarry. It was lined with medium and small fieldstones and plastered with a thick layer of mud that was baked and blackened from the fire (W19; Fig. 5); at least 20 courses of lining were uncovered, although the lower part was not excavated. The mud was probably applied to insulate the wall from the fire and prevent it from disintegrating as a result of the high temperature inside the firebox. A groove around the perimeter of the upper lining stones would have supported the floor of the pottery chamber, but this was not preserved. No central supporting pillar was found, either because it was not preserved, or because the floor was supported by arches that were not found because the firing chamber was not fully excavated (for comparison, see Levi and Be’eri 2011: Fig. 7). The opening to the pottery chamber was hewn as a narrow corridor (length 1.1 m) in the western part of the installation. The kiln yielded long stones (broken) that may have fallen from the pottery chamber, as well as two accumulated layers of small burnt stones (L18, L25; Fig. 6), numerous chunks of plaster and several fragments of bricks. Accumulation L24 contained large, flat stones that may be the remains of a central supporting pillar. Beneath these stones was another stone fill that was not excavated, suggesting that the firebox had several phases. To the west of the kiln was a channel hewn in a north–south direction (L22; see Fig. 3: Section 1–1), which was covered with stones and curved toward an irregularly shaped rock-hewn pool (L16; 1.50 × 2.05 m, depth 1.6 m; Fig. 7) with a small, shallow step on its northern side. The pool was probably a quarry in an earlier phase and may subsequently have been used as a levigation pool to settle the clay as part of the pottery-manufacturing process (Levi and Be’eri 2011: Fig. 5). A leveled bedrock surface (L26) that was possibly used to dry the levigated clay was found to the west of the pool.
Phase I. Pool 16 went out of use and was filled with fieldstones, building blocks and broken stones (L17). Channel 22 was blocked by a wall (W21; Fig. 8) preserved up to three courses at its highest point. Surface 26 also fell into disuse and Fill 17 apparently covered it as well; modern pipe laying had damaged most of the fill on top of the surface. The opening in the earliest phase of the kiln appears to have been blocked by a wall (W20); however, heavy burning marks that are evident on the wall but not on the surrounding bedrock, indicate that the opening continued to function in the later phase.
Pottery. The excavation yielded three sherds of Hellenistic vessels, indicating that there was presence on the hilltop in this period: two jars (Fig. 9:1, 2) and a juglet (Fig. 9:3). Vessels from the Early Roman period include Kefar Hananya Ware: a Type 1B bowl (Fig. 9:4; see Adan-Bayewitz 1993:92–95), Type 3A casseroles (Fig. 9:5, 6; Adan-Bayewitz 1993:112–113) and a Type 4A cooking pot (Fig. 9:7; Adan-Bayewitz 1993:125–126). The commonest finds from within and around the kiln are jars of types usually found at Shihin. The jars from the current excavation are of the following types: T1.3 (Fig. 9:8–10; Díez Fernández 1983:135), T1.2 (Fig. 9:11; Díez Fernández 1983:134), T1.5 (Fig. 9:12–15; Díez Fernández 1983:137) and T1.6 (Fig. 9:16; Díez Fernández 1983:138). The excavation also yielded fragments of jar handles (Fig. 10:1–4) and jar bases (Fig. 10:5, 6). Petrographic samples were taken from the jars listed in the tables (see Appendix – Petrography Report). A juglet fragment (Fig. 10:7), a lid (Fig. 10:8) and a fragment of a Herodian oil lamp (Fig. 10:9) were also recovered. Based on the pottery, the finds can be dated to the Early Roman period (first century BCE–first century CE).
The results of the current excavation provide a new perspective in the research of Zippori, because for the first time, a pottery-production kiln from the Early Roman period was found. Petrographic analysis of nine of the jars from the kiln—evidently jars that were manufacturing rejects—shows that most are made of raw material from Shihin, some 2 km north of Zippori. The results indicate that raw materials rather than finished products were brought to Zippori. The kiln’s unusual depth probably attests to a type of kiln that has no known parallels in the region. It was apparently part of a local industry that operated alongside the main production centers in Lower Galilee, such as those at Kafr Kanna (Alexandre and Shapiro 2016) and Shihin (Riley-Strange and Aviam 2017). The presence of the kiln implies that alongside villages that specialized in pottery production, such as Shihin, local workshops were also in operation near the main settlements in Lower Galilee. The kiln’s phases and the fact that the pool system went out of use, suggest that the production from local raw material in the first phase was abandoned in favor of reliance on imported raw material (from Shihin). Furthermore, the close proximity between the current excavation site and Porat’s excavation (2010) show that Zippori had an extensive industrial area that probably included many different workshops; the reservoir found in Porat’s excavations shows that water was used on an industrial scale. It can be assumed that this is not the only kiln on the hill since most workshops had several kilns, as at Binyene Ha-Umma (Be’eri and Levi 2017), at Yodefat (Aviam 2004: Fig. 22), at Nahf (Vitto 1981) and at Ahihud (Avshalom-Gorni and Shapiro 2015).
The siting of the kiln, at some distance from the city, indicates that Zippori’s industrial zone was pre-planned carefully, since a kiln can pose a serious nuisance to anyone living nearby. Municipal regulations in the Second Temple period state that tanners, kilns and polluting industries should be kept away from the city (for discussion and parallels, see Be’eri and Levi 2017:28–29).
The kiln excavated at Zippori shows that an industrial area was located on the hill to the southwest of the city where pottery vessels were made, among other products. Further analysis of finds from excavations at Zippori, Shihin and the surrounding region will present a better picture of the distribution of the ancient pottery industry in the vicinity of the city of Zippori.