Area J lies near the Nahal Soreq streambed and its alluvial plain. Surveys and excavations were conducted at the tell and in its vicinity (for a comprehensive review of research, surveys and excavations at the tell, see Taxel 2005; Fischer and Taxel 2007; Kletter and Nagar 2015). From 2019 onwards, large-scale salvage excavations were conducted to the east and southeast of the tell in dozens of excavation squares, one of which is Area J (Haddad et al. 2021; Nadav-Ziv et al. 2021; Varga, Betzer and Weingarten 2022).
Area J was opened at a depth of c. 3 m below the surface, following data from preliminary inspections identifying an archaeological layer at this depth. Four excavation squares were opened (excavation depth 0.2–0.6 m; Fig. 2), uncovering a layer of accumulated soil that yielded abundant Chalcolithic finds as well as pits dug into the ground that contained Middle Bronze IIA finds. All the excavated soil was dry-sifted and samples were wet-sifted. In the west of the excavation area (square Q12), a limited 6 m deep probe was also dug to investigate the presence of additional remains.
Chalcolithic Period
A layer of heavy, dark accumulation soil devoid of architectural remains (thickness c. 0.5 m) was found yielding potsherds, flints, a basalt vessel and animal bones. Most of the finds were discovered in squares S12 and T13 and only a few from squares R13 and S13, where the soil layer was mixed with sand. One locus, in square S12, yielded a particularly dense concentration of finds (L15013; Fig. 3). The flints from the excavation are sharp and not worn, indicating that they were not subjected to dispersal and abrasion processes before being covered over; the items thus show that the Chalcolithic layer is an in situ stratum.
The Pottery. The excavation uncovered 55 sherds dated to the Chalcolithic period representing a variety of characteristic Ghassulian types, including cornets (Fig. 4:1, 2) and small V-shaped bowls (Fig. 4:3) that are diagnostic types for this period, as well as holemouth jars (Fig. 4:4) and jars (Fig. 4:5). The raw material used for the pottery is characteristic of the Chalcolithic period and two groups were identified: Most of the pottery is made of an orangish clay with gravel inclusions and fired at low temperature, while a few examples are made of white clay with coarse grits fired at low temperature. Like the Chalcolithic pottery discovered at other sites near the coast (e.g., Agamim East; Abadi-Reiss and Varga 2019), the pottery of this period from the current excavation was also poorly preserved and some of the finds crumbled during the excavation. Other Chalcolithic remains were found in Area A, to the west of Area J (Haddad et al. 2021).
Flint Finds. The excavation uncovered 224 flints (Table 1) that are also characteristic of the Chalcolithic Ghassulian culture; most are debitage (91%), with a few cores (4.5%) and tools (4.5%; Fig. 5, below). The dominant industry at the site was flake production, with approximately four times as many flakes as blades.
The large amount of debitage compared with the small number of tools shows that this was a flint-knapping site. The condition of the items, which are neither worn nor damaged, suggests that Area J was the actual production area. All stages of the knapping sequence are represented in the assemblage, including the initial core-shaping stages—represented by primary items—and core maintenance and renewal, represented by typical debitage.
Table 1. The flint finds
Primary flakes
Primary blades
Core debitage
Total debitage
Total chunks and chips
Most of the flint originates from the Mishash formation, which can be found farther up Nahal Soreq near the place where the coastal plain meets the inland plain and the Judean Hills. Although flint pebbles are found in nearby Nahal Soreq, they were not used as a raw material; however, the cortex on several items (Fig. 5:4) shows that primary flint was knapped.
Ten cores and five core-trimming elements were identified in the flint assemblage. All the cores were used to manufacture blades; three were also used to produce flakes and seven were used to produce mostly bladelets. The majority have a single striking platform. The cores are small (average length 2.6 cm, max. width 2.4 cm, thickness 1.8 cm) and are thoroughly exploited. Most of the cores have at least one chalk lens and half retain traces of the cortex, attesting to the scarcity of the raw material—which was exploited to the full—and to its poor quality.
Ten of the items were classified as tools after retouching was detected on them; they comprise seven retouched blades, three with a glossed working edge (Fig. 5:1), a drill (Fig. 5:2), a scraper (Fig. 5:3) and a retouched flake with the cortex (Fig. 5:4).
Other Finds. A few stone artifacts, shells and animal bones were also discovered in the Chalcolithic stratum. The stone artifacts include a basalt bowl with a rounded rim (Fig. 5:5) and an elongated limestone pebble that is square in section (Fig. 5:6) and that may have been used as an ad hoc pestle or hammerstone, based on a few scars on the end and three pounding scars on the working edge. The shells belong to two types of mollusks found in the Mediterranean Sea (Glycymeris nummaria, Acanthocardia tuberculata); one of the shells has a hole punched through it. The animal-bone assemblage contains bones of four species: sheep/goat, cattle, domestic pig, and dog or wolf.
Middle Bronze Age IIA
The Chalcolithic stratum was overlain by a layer of activity dating from the Middle Bronze IIA. The layer contained three pits dug into soil that was devoid of finds, and they slightly penetrated the Chalcolithic stratum. A pit in the south of the excavation area (L15019) contained a burial of an adult individual aged 40–60 years placed in a flexed position with the head in the east and the face toward the south; on top of the deceased, three pottery vessels were placed (Fig. 6): a bowl (Fig. 7:1) and two jars (Fig. 7:2, 4). Approximately 6 m northeast of L15019, a small pit containing a jar (B150046; Fig. 7:3) was dug into the earlier layer. About 6 m northeast of the jar, another pit was found containing a jug with a pinched rim (B150038; Fig. 7:5) along with poorly preserved bones that could not be identified. All the pottery from this layer dates from the MB IIA and is typical of burials from this period. Burials of this period were also found in Area A, to the west of the current excavation (Haddad et al. 2021).
By comparing the elevations of the archaeological strata discovered in the excavation with geomorphological/sedimentological data from a section in the 6 m-deep probe dug in square Q12, in the west of the excavation area (L15020), it is possible to identify a link between human activity and the geomorphological processes at the site. Dark brwon clay soil at the bottom of the section (19.5 m asl) was heavy and dense and contained no archaeological finds. From 20.4–20.7 m asl (from north to south respectively) to a maximum elevation of 20.55 m asl, alternate thin layers of sand and dark clay sediment were identified; they were also identified in square Q13 (Fig. 8). There were no finds in the layers of sand, whereas the layers of clay soil yielded a few Chalcolithic finds. The Chalcolithic horizon was found mostly toward the top of the sequence of thin sand and soil, as well as in the clay soil layer above them (thickness c. 0.2 m). The Chalcolithic stratum (elevation 22.5 m asl) was overlain by an accumulation of sediment resembling the one identified at the bottom of the section, i.e., brown clay sediment with lime concretions (thickness c. 1.5 m). A layer of dark clay soil devoid of lime concretions (thickness c. 1.5 m) was discerned above this soil accumulation and up to the surface level (25.5 m asl). The pits and Middle Bronze Age finds were discovered in this upper layer of sediment, although it is impossible to determine the surface elevation during this period.
The settlement from the Chalcolithic period, which first appears in the later deposition phase of the alternate thin layers of sand and soil, was probably connected to a change in the surface deposition. This change is examined in a geomorphological study to be published in future.
The Chalcolithic finds attest to various human activities at the site in this period. They include pottery used for storage and serving; flint tools, including sickle blades used to harvest grain and flint cores for blade production; a basalt bowl; bones of domestic animals; and a worked shell. The finds show that the excavation area covers the fringes of a settlement belonging to the Chalcolithic Ghassulian culture stretching along the Nahal Soreq streambed. The remains discovered nearby, in Area A, evidently belong to the same village. This is a new, previously unknown Chalcolithic site. Middle Bronze Age IIA pits dug into the ground contained pottery and at least one of the pits was identified as a tomb. The finds are consistent with the broad picture emerging from excavations at the site, attesting to a Middle Bronze cemetery of unknown extent in the vicinity.