During January 2006, an excavation was conducted immediately southwest of Zavitan Street in Qazrin (Permit No. A-4673; map ref. NIG 2134–9/7665–8; OIG 1634–9/2665–8; Fig. 1), prior to the expansion of the town (Rova 10). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Housing and Construction, was directed by H. Smithline (photography), with the assistance of A. Shapiro and H. Tahan (preliminary surveying and drafting under extremely trying conditions), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), M. Kipnis (drafting) and workers from Hazor Ha-Gelilit.
The expansion area was surveyed in 2005 (HA-ESI 120
), revealing four dolmens and several suspected dolmens, numerous tumuli and low stone walls that served as field dividers. The dolmens are located in an undeveloped rectangular area (c. 25 dunams) that lies on a plateau west and southwest of, and contiguous to Qaz
The designated area is part of a large field of dolmens, five of which were excavated by C. Epstein (HA 61-62:1 [Hebrew]; 'Atiqot 17 [ES]:20–58), who dated them to Middle Bronze I (IBA). The four dolmens and an additional small dolmen at the intersection of three field walls, which was discovered after the survey was completed, were excavated.
Aside from the five dolmens examined in the current excavation, the area is also strewn with many dozens of stone heaps and tumuli of varying sizes (Figs. 2, 3) that were suspected of concealing dolmens. Eighteen of them were cleared either by hand or by mechanical means. None of the stone heaps proved to be of any archaeological significance, as no antiquities in primary deposition were found. Throughout the plateau, a few scattered small and extremely worn Roman and Byzantine potsherds were collected. No skeletal remains were evident in any of the stone heaps or dolmens.
Two dolmens (Nos. 19 and 20) were found c. 42 m apart and closest to Qazrin’s circumference road. Both were oriented northwest-southeast and found to have been disturbed. Dolmen 20 (length 3.1 m, width 0.60–0.75 m, max. depth 1.26 m; Fig. 4) was the better preserved. Its large capstone (c. 0.65 × 1.8 × 2.6 m) was found, ex situ,covering only the southeastern end of the dolmen. The long walls consisted of two parallel rows of large basalt orthostatic boulders, carefully smoothed on their inner face, which were placed into a trench. A second course of basalt stones was laid upon the better worked lower course. Many of the boulders were well fitted but, where necessary, a fill of small stones was deposited (Fig. 5). Small flat basalt stones were placed beneath the orthostats for leveling and the capstone was also leveled by the laying of flat basalt platters beneath it. The northwestern end of the dolmen, which was left open for entry, consisted of small to medium-sized basalt stone walls, contrasting greatly with the adjoining orthostatic construction (Fig. 6). The opposite closed end comprised a single orthostat (0.9 × 1.5 m). Only a remnant of the basalt floor was found in situ.
The dolmen precinct was surrounded by a poorly preserved circle of unworked basalt boulders that probably formed the outer wall of an encompassing tumulus (6.85 × 8.20 m). The dolmen was devoid of finds that could assist in its dating.
Dolmen 19 (Fig. 7) was similar in construction but only partially preserved (length 2.04 m), due to destruction of its northwestern end, possibly by modern activity. On its southwest were accumulations of recently collected small to medium-sized stones but on its northern and northeastern flank were numerous stones, which were apparently the remains of a tumulus that had covered the dolmen. The dolmen cist was relatively wide (width 0.96 m, depth 0.8 m) and its large capstone (c. 0.7 × 1.6 × 2.3 m) had been previously removed. A boulder, possibly from the roof, was found collapsed into the cist. All that survived of the floor were three flat basalt stones (Fig. 8). As in Dolmen 20, this dolmen had a single orthostat (0.85 × 1.05 m) on its closed end and was open on its northwestern end (Fig. 9). No finds were present to assist in dating the dolmen.
Dolmen No. 21, c. 500 m to the west of Dolmens 19 and 20, was similar and also partially destroyed (Fig. 10). This dolmen utilized stones larger than those incorporated in Dolmens 19 and 20. The single course of the western long wall reached a depth of 1.26 m. The capstone was found removed and the floor was completely missing. Basalt boulders were visible below the base of the parallel long walls and the floor.
This dolmen is differentiated from Dolmens 19 and 20 by the location of its closed end in the northwest and its open end in the southeast. This would appear to indicate that no special importance was attributed to the direction of the final position of the deceased. The encircling wall of significantly large boulders and the tumulus (5.2 × 6.5 m) that reached the height of the dolmen’s top were unusually well-preserved. Once again, no finds that could be assigned to this dolmen were revealed.
The largest and best preserved dolmen was No. 11 (Fig. 11), located c. 400 m southwest of Dolmens 19 and 20 and 450 m southeast of Dolmen 21. It was situated on a low rise on the western edge of the tumulus-strewn plateau where it begins to gradually descend westward (Fig. 12). This was the only dolmen and its precinct excavated in this dolmen field that exhibited the intricate nature of an entire dolmen and tumulus complex. The complex included the large dolmen with the in situ capstone, three concentric walls and circular lines of stones and apparently, a paved strip. The entire complex was later incorporated into a series of undatable field walls that radiated from it in several directions, thereby damaging the eastern side and the southwestern corner of the tumulus.
Dolmen 11, unlike the other excavated dolmens, was built on a north–south axis with the entry in the north. Its construction was similar to the previous dolmens, although it is a more massive and impressive structure. The large in situ capstone (1.5 × 2.8 m), covered the entire cist and was necessarily removed by mechanical means (Fig. 13). It was placed on the long walls (length 2.30–2.45 m) and on an elongated basalt lintel that bridged the gap between the two long walls above the entrance in the north. A more ordered and formal entrance was thereby created. It was built of smaller stones, as has been seen in the other dolmens, while the parallel long walls were constructed from basalt orthostats. The floor consisted of packed earth with small embedded basalt stones with no remains of flat basalt pavers.
It appears that this dolmen was covered with a tumulus that left the dolmen’s top and its capstone exposed in a sort of crater. The tumulus exhibited careful planning rather than being a random pile of stones. The three concentric walls and partial circular rows of stones were technical elements that served to support and strengthen the structure of the tumulus. Wall 1103, the innermost circumference wall (diam. c. 3.5 m) was visible, although not all the walls were intended to be seen. Wall 1114 and W1115 in the south had no exposed superstructure and were buried in the earth, creating a terrace-like construction upon which stones were heaped. Wall 1104 (north–south diam. 5.4 m) was the highest of the walls that perhaps represented the maximum height of the tumulus. It consisted of a jumble of large and medium-sized basalt stones in random courses. It also functioned as a terrace wall that supported the northern flank of the dolmen by being constructed on the only bedrock exposed in Dolmen 11. None of the other walls stood to any significant height and were mostly one–two courses high. The space between the concentric walls was occupied either by medium to large-sized stone fills or by stone and earth fills. Between the northernmost outer walls, W1104 and W1105 (max. diam. east–west 8.5 m, north–south 10.5 m), the space was filled with tightly packed small stones (L1113) that are reminiscent of paving and possibly served as a draining channel, since the area sloped down westward. Between W1103 and the cist in the northeast of the tumulus was relatively leveled earth surface (L1108) that was perhaps intentionally created to enable convenient entrance to the dolmen (Figs. 14, 15).
Many of the stones missing from the tumulus were probably removed to be used in the numerous field walls that meander across the plateau. Three of these walls that linked with the northeast, the southwest and the southeast sections of the tumulus damaged them. Wall 1116 ran in a general southeast direction for c. 80–85 m, at which point it intersected with two additional field walls. The intersection of these walls was the location of a small dolmen (No. 25; Fig. 16), which was a variant of the trilithon dolmens. Dolmen 25 was aligned east–west with the entrance in the east. It was freestanding on bedrock (interior width 0.4–0.5 m), with walls of two–three courses high (1 m; Fig. 17), reaching up to the capstone (length 1.1 m). This is in contrast with most trilithon dolmens whose walls consist of a single large stone course. No further elements adjoining or relating to the dolmen, such as a circumference wall or tumulus, were identified. The clearing of the dolmen revealed no archaeologically significant material. A single Ottoman-period tobacco pipe fragment was found on the west side of the dolmen.
It should be mentioned that an outstanding dolmen (No. 18; Fig. 18) of extremely large dimensions was discovered during the survey on a small hillock overlooking the plateau, but it was located outside of the present designated development area and thus beyond the mandate of the present excavation. This dolmen was completely subsumed within an immense tumulus (diam. 22 m), leaving its capstone partially exposed.