The excavation area lies on the northern bank of Nahal Soreq, c. 20 m north of the current river course and c. 1 km southwest of Kibbutz Zor‘a. Following the discovery of potsherds and flint items in trial excavations, it was decided to open three excavation areas. The excavation unearthed four sedimentary strata (4–1). Only Stratum 2 yielded occupation remains and finds, most of which are dated to Pottery Neolithic A (PNA, Jericho IX; second part of the seventh millennium BCE).
The excavation area was previously surveyed by Greenhut, Weiss and Ben-Nun (2002), who documented two sites: Site A, located c. 2 km west of the current excavation and containing finds from the Jericho IX culture (PNA), and Site B, located c. 160 m east of the excavation, with finds from the Chalcolithic period and the Early Bronze Age. Remains dated to the PNA and ascribed to the Jericho IX culture were uncovered at Teluliyot Batashi, a site situated c. 4.5 km west of the excavation (Kaplan 1958; Gopher and Eyal 2017), at Eshta’ol (Golani et al. 2016), c. 5 km to the northeast of the excavation, and at Yesodot, c. 11 km to the northwest of the excavation (Nativ, Iserlis and Paz 2012).
The lowest excavation layer (Stratum 4) consisted of sterile soil featuring a thin-grained brown to orange sediment. Stratum 3 contained alluvium composed of a dark brown sediment including small, round riverbed pebbles, attesting to an ancient course of Nahal Soreq. Stratum 2 (Fig. 2) contained a clayey, red to light-orange sediment, as well as three habitation surfaces (1–3), two hearths (L102, L125), two installations (L105, L115), a tabun (L127) and a jar burial, as well as pottery sherds and flint artifacts dating mostly from the PNA (Jericho IX). The western part of Stratum 2 lay over Stratum 3, and its eastern part overlaid sterile soil. Stratum 1 is the surface layer, characterized by a brown to light red sediment containing a few potsherds and flint artifacts. This report presents the remains and finds discovered in Stratum 2.
Habitation Surface 1 (L120, L122; 2 × 4 m) was made of small pebbles and medium-sized fieldstones that were laid over a layer of pebbles—probably the remains of an ancient streambed of Nahal Soreq (Stratum 3). The surface was overlain by a soil accumulation (thickness 0.2 m) that contained several ground-stone objects and potsherds dated to the PNA, attributed to the Jericho IX culture.
Habitation Surface 2 (L109, L110; 1.0 × 3.7 m; Fig. 3) comprised pebbles and medium-sized fieldstones founded on a natural layer of small riverbed pebbles (Stratum 3). The accumulation (L100) above the surface yielded flint items, including an arrowhead of the Ha-Parsa type, as well as pottery sherds and animal bones bearing burn marks. The two hearths (L102, L125) were discovered in this surface. This surface is probably a continuation of Surface 1.
Habitation Surface 3 (L104, L128; Fig. 4), characterized by a compact, leveled orange-brown sediment, lay to the east of Surfaces 1 and 2 at 0.2–0.3 m lower than them. The accumulation (L101) above the surface yielded several horizontally deposited flint items and potsherds. In its northern part, Tabun 127, charred remains of organic material and ash stains were uncovered. Installation 105 was located in the southern part of the surface.
Hearth 102 (diam. 0.7, depth 0.2 m; Fig. 5) is a pit dug into Surface 2, which contained black sediment and was found sealed with orange burnt clay. It was evident that the hearth was used over a prolonged period of time: a thin layer of black ash found to its north attested to the successive clearing and cleaning of its contents before its final use, after which the hearth was abandoned without being cleaned.
Hearth 125 (diam. 0.2 m) was only partially preserved to the southeast of Hearth 102 on Surface 2. Its remains comprise orange burnt clay surrounded by a layer of ash.
Installation 105 (1.2 × 1.5 m; Fig. 6) was built of small fieldstones on Surface 3. The installation was poorly preserved, and thus it was impossible to reconstruct its shape or interpret its function. Traces of burnt clay on the installation’s southern and eastern walls were probably the remains of a mud-brick lining or a wall that had collapsed.
Installation 115 (Figs. 3, 7), uncovered near immediately to the north of Habitation Surface 2, included the corner of two walls (length 0.5 m and 0.8 m) built of small and medium-sized chunks of crushed limestone bonded with a plaster matrix. These remains seem to be part of a rectangular installation that was only partly preserved. It was probably contemporaneous with Surface 2.
Tabun 127 (diam. 0.5 m; Fig. 8), in the northern part of Habitation Surface 3, was poorly preserved. The tabun was made of a thick, friable fabric containing abundant organic material.
An infant jar-burial (L129; Figs. 9, 10) was found to the east of the hearths and to Surface 2. Burials of this type are known from the Pottery Neolithic period and have been discovered at sites of this period, including in strata attributed to the Jericho IX culture (Gopher 1996; Kahila Bar-Gal and Smith 2001; Orrelle 2008; Gopher and Eshed 2012). The raw material and the quality of the jar’s firing are poor. The jar has a rounded rim, a wide mouth and a thick round handle extending from below the rim to the body of the vessel. The body of the jar is globular, and it has a straight, thick base. The jar was placed with its mouth facing northeast. Inside it, an infant was placed on its back in a flexed position, its body tilted toward the east with the skull facing westward. A flat stone was found on the infant’s chest; it is not clear whether the stone was deliberately placed there or had infiltrated the jar at a later stage. The jar was apparently not complete, as several large potsherds appeared to have been placed on it as a covering. Burial customs in this period are not entirely clear; most of the burials appear to have been performed in dwelling areas (e.g., Gopher and Eshed 2012; Bocquentin et al. 2014; Eshed and Nadel 2015), although there is also evidence of burial outside settlement (e.g., Galili et al. 2010; Eshed and Nadel 2015), as is the case here.
The Finds. Stratum 2 yielded numerous potsherds, several flint items and a few fragments of ground-stone artifacts. Some of the stone objects and flints bear evidence of heating and burning.
The potsherds are well-preserved and were found in situ. The pottery assemblage includes a variety of characteristic PN types, such as open bowls (Figs. 11:1–7, 12:1–5), some with knob handles (Fig. 11:3–5, 7); kraters (Fig. 13:1–6), including a small krater with a handle (Fig. 13:1); closed (Fig. 14:1) and open (Fig. 14:2–5) holemouth jars; and storage jars (Fig. 14:6–9). Several broken handles (Fig. 15:2–4) and bases (Fig. 15:5–10) that were recovered are also typical of this period. The vessels are decorated mostly with red geometric patterns on the rim and body (Fig. 15:1). The quality of the firing is poor, and the clay contains abundant organic material.
The flint items are neither worn nor patinated and have sharp edges, suggesting that they were produced nearby and were not swept into the site. They include several bladelet cores (Fig. 16), as well as bladelets and flakes. The tools include quadrangular, deeply denticulated sickle blades with pressure retouching (Fig. 17:3, 4), and small arrowheads of the Ha-Parsa and Nizzanim types (Fig. 17:5), all dated to the Pottery Neolithic A, as well as awls (Fig. 17:6). Other flint tools are a sickle blade with bidirectional scars a (Fig. 17:1) and a Byblos-type arrowhead (Fig. 17:2) dated to PPNB.
The excavation yielded a limited number of ground-stone tools, comprising mainly hammerstones and a few fragments that cannot be identified, although they bear signs of wear suggesting food-processing activities.
The remains and finds from the current excavation were mostly well-preserved, indicating that the site was not greatly affected by post-depositional processes. It represents a single-layer site dating from the Pottery Neolithic period A (Jericho IX), contained evidence of daily activities associated with farming, hunting, food production and burial. Three habitation surfaces were discovered in the excavation; the western two (Surfaces 1 and 2) were made of stones and were founded on ancient deposits of Nahal Soreq, whereas the eastern one (Surface 3) was made of compact sediment laid directly on sterile soil. It can be assumed that the gradient of the stream in the western part of the area required the construction of the two western habitation surfaces, while in the flatter, eastern part of the area, a single surface of compacted soil was sufficient. The three habitation surfaces formed a terraced area, on which several activities took place. The terrace contained hearths, installations, a tabun and various finds. Hearth 102, dug into Habitation Surface 2, was evidently used for a prolonged period of time.