During August 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Khirbat Birkat Umm el-‘Idham antiquities site in Kefar Yona (Permit No. A-6261; map ref. 194713–29/691739–52), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Elisha, with the assistance of Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), M. Kunin (surveying), A. Peretz (field photography), C. Amit (studio photography), P. Gendelman (ceramics), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing) and G. Bijovsky (numismatics).
Dressed masonry stones and pottery from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods had been found on a hamra
hill and tombs were discovered in the vicinity (Fig. 1; Porath, Dar and Appelbaum 1985
: Site 58). To the north of the current excavation, a pavement of worn stones and a section of a wall dating to the end of the Byzantine and beginning of the Umayyad periods were excavated (HA-ESI 121
); architectural remains and part of a collecting vat of a winepress from the Byzantine period were exposed (HA-ESI 119
Remains of a building from the Byzantine period and a structure above it, dating to the Abbasid period, were revealed in the current excavation.
Five squares were opened and three occupation strata were exposed: Stratum III of the Byzantine period, Stratum II of the Umayyad period and Stratum I of the Abbasid period.
Stratum III. Two construction phases were discerned in this stratum (Fig. 2). Remains of a building were ascribed to the early phase; all that survived of it was a room built of three walls whose foundations were preserved. The southern wall (W120; length 6.8 m, width 0.85 m, preserved height 1 m) was coated with gray plaster on its southern side (Fig. 3); the eastern (W124) and northern (W106) walls were built of pebbles and preserved four–five courses high. A wall (W115) of dressed stones in the center of the building had probably served as partition. Two walls (W114, W134) built of dressed stones belong to the second phase. These were probably abutted by a floor (L109; Fig. 4) of light gray soil and small tamped stones.
Stratum II. A burnt layer (L105; Fig. 5) that extended across the southern part of the excavation area, above the Byzantine layer, was exposed.
Stratum I (see Fig. 2). Part of a building, whose southern (W112) and western (W125) walls were built of dressed stones, was exposed. Another wall (W113) was located in the northern balk of the excavation and the corner between it and W125 was not excavated because of safety considerations. A stone floor (L126), set above W106 from Stratum III (Figs. 2, 6) and postdating it, was discovered in the east of the building.
Jars (Fig. 7) that dated to the first half of the seventh century CE were found in Stratum III. The finds from Stratum II included a casserole (Fig. 8:1), jars (Fig. 8:2–4) dating to the end of the Byzantine–beginning of the Umayyad periods, a body fragment of a jar (Fig. 8:5) dating to the Umayyad period and a fragment of a steatite vessel (Fig. 8:6) that was brought to the region during the Early Islamic period. The pottery in Stratum I included a bowl (Fig. 9:1), a cooking pot (Fig. 9:2), a jug (Fig. 9:3), a juglet (Fig. 9:4), a stopper (Fig. 9:5) and oil lamps (Fig. 9:6–9), dating to the Abbasid period (eighth–ninth centuries CE). Other artifacts include a Byzanto-Arabic coin (647–670 CE; IAA 140901) that was discovered on W125, a bronze spatula (Fig. 10:1) and a fragment of a bronze plaque (Fig. 10:2).
Three distinct strata were found. Part of a building, whose foundations were mainly preserved, was exposed in the earliest stratum. Numerous ashlars that probably belonged to the building were found in the area. A colorful mosaic fragment (5 × 5 cm) was found on the surface. These finds reinforce the supposition that the building was part of a monastery. A wall aligned north–south, which probably closed the compound, was found in trial trenches dug west of the excavation. A burnt layer was all that remained of Stratum II. The building was most likely destroyed in the Umayyad period (mid seventh century CE). A building paved with stones and dating to the Abbasid period was exposed in Stratum I. It was constructed on the northern part of the building from Stratum III and to its north, and the nature of this later structure is unclear. It might have been related to the olive press that had been discovered c. 100 m northeast of the excavation (HA-ESI 121
Porath Y., Dar S, and Applebaum S. eds. 1985. Qadmoniyot ‘Emeq Hefer. Tel Aviv (Hebrew).