The ancient site of Na‘ura had previously been surveyed by Conder and Kitchener (1881:85); Zori (1977:59, Site 90), who found potsherds dating to Iron Age I–II, as well as to the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods; and Gal (1998: Site 36). A number of previous archaeological excavations were carried out in private plots at Na‘ura, primarily at the northeastern area of the village, where rural settlements remains dating to the Byzantine, Late Umayyad, Abassid and Mamluk periods were uncovered (Amos 2007 [Fig. 1:A- 3956]; Amos 2011 [Fig. 1:A- 5786]; Hartal 2010 [Fig. 1:A- 5587]). In addition, two burial caves dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods were excavated on the hill northwest of the village (Barshad 1993).
The current excavation exposed burial remains dating to the Middle Bronze Age I and surface potsherds dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age.
A single square (2.5 × 10.0 m) was excavated to a maximum depth of 2.5 m (Fig. 2). Prior to the excavation, an overburden of sterile soil and a layer of stone collapse were removed down to the top of the in situ archaeological layer. The excavations exposed burial remains in a single stratum dating to the Middle Bronze Age I.
The fragmentary remains of three burials (T102, T104, T105) were exposed, all were infants interred in storage jars that were then placed in pits (Fig. 3). The pits were dug into a thick, hard, packed stone conglomerate that contained many rounded pebbles above basalt bedrock. It is probable that this conglomerate was formed by the seasonal flowing of water in Nahal Na‘ura. The burials were the only archaeological remains that were preserved. It appears that the architectural remains of the structures under which the burial jars were interred were mostly destroyed by the post-MB colluvial deposits and by the flow of the stream.The only remnants of these domestic structures were a few chunks of tabun material in the debris overlying the burials.
Burial 102. This burial consisted of a neckless storage jar placed in an oval-shaped pit (0.4 × 0.6 m) dug into the stone conglomerate (Fig. 4). The opening of the jar, which was partially destroyed by pre-excavation trenching, faced southeast. Inside were friable skeletal remains of an infant aged less than six month.
Burial goods included a closed bowl (Fig. 5:1), a jug base with red burnished slip (Fig. 5:2) and a juglet (not illustrated) of which only small body sherds were retrieved. The storage jar in which the infant was interred (Fig. 5:3) has a narrow ovoid body with a small flat base. An indented band encircles the jar just above the base of the handle.
Burial 104. This burial was poorly preserved, and only the lower contour of the burial pit was discerned. Large, non-restorable sherds of a storage jar found in the pit indicate that it probably contained a storage-jar burial similar to T102.
The only burial goods that were retrieved from this poorly preserved burial were two jugs (Fig. 5:4, 5). A base with red burnished slipped was all that was preserved of one of them.
Burial 105.This burial consisted of a neckless storage jar placed in an oval-shaped pit (1.00 × 1.28 m, depth 1 m) cut into the stone conglomerate (Fig. 6). The opening of the jar faced southeast, and the jar was placed above a rock-hewn ledge in the pit. Inside the jar, which was partially destroyed by pre-excavation trenching, were friable skeletal remains of an infant aged under six months and a juglet. Additional burial goods were placed around the storage jar in the pit. A few medium-sized stones next to the jar may have been the remains of a stone lining of the burial. A whitish material that was found below the jar could be the remains of organic material that was used to wrap it.
Burial 105 was the best preserved, and therefore the largest number of burial goods were retrieved from it. The pottery included three open bowls (Fig. 7:1–3), one with an outer ridge below the rim (Fig. 7:2), and another of which only the ring base with red-burnished slip was preserved (Fig. 7:3); three closed bowls, of which one was sharply carinated (Fig. 7:4) and two have a rounded carination (Fig. 7:5, 6); two storage jars with a folded, elongated rim (Fig. 7:8, 9);the burial jar itself (Fig. 7:7); one wide-mouth jug that probably had a trefoil mouth (Fig. 7:10); two red burnished and slipped narrow-necked jugs (Fig. 7:11, 12), one of them with a funnel rim; and the neck and rim of a juglet (Fig. 7:13). In addition to the pottery burial goods, two basalt handheld grinding stones (Fig. 8) were also placed with the burial.
The type of wide-mouthed jug placed in Burial 105 (Fig. 7:10) was the most prolific burial good placed in the interments at the contemporary extramural cemetery at Tel Yosef (Covello-Paran 2001), 10 km to the southeast of the site.
The three infant burials interred in storage jars and accompanied by burial goods revealed in the excavation can be dated within the Middle Bronze I period on the basis of pottery burial-goods such as the closed, carinated bowl, the unslipped rounded, carinated bowl, the open bowl with red burnished slip, the large wide-mouth jug and the red-burnished jug with a funnel neck. Although the skeletal remains were very fragmentary, they could all be identified as infants and there are no signs of adult interments in the excavated area. The tradition of interring infants below domestic buildings is common in Middle Bronze Age rural sites in the Jezreel Valley and throughout the country. Therefore, in the absence of adult burials which would have been indicative of a cemetery beyond the inhabited area, we suggest that the excavated infant storage-jar burials were placed below the poorly preserved domestic remains.
The excavation exposed remains of a previously unknown rural Middle Bronze Age settlement. In addition, surface finds indicate the existence of an Intermediate Bronze Age settlement at the site. It should be noted that although Zori did not explicitly mention pre Iron Age finds, the pottery he published from the site included two earlier sherds: an Intermediate Bronze Age holemouth vessel (Zori 1977: Fig. 23:1) and a Middle Bronze Age closed holemouth krater (Zori 1977: Fig. 23:2). The reevaluation of the sherds from Zori’s surface reconnaissance taken in conjunction with the results of the present excavation provide new valuable data regarding the date of the early settlements at Na‘ura at the end of the third and the beginning of the second millennia BCE.
It is suggested here that the early settlement at the site was founded on the lower slopes of Na‘ura and then fanned out into the lower valley floor. The wet conditions of this location, which were noted in the sections of the excavated area, may have been the catalyst for the site abandonment. Moreover, the excavation square is located directly along the bank of Nahal Na‘ura. The excavation of Amos and Hartal showed that after the abandonment of the Middle Bronze Age settlement, the post-Bronze Age occupation at Na‘ura was located further eastward up the hill, high above Nahal Na‘ura. This is a typical settlement pattern, known from the Jezreel Valley and surrounding areas. It is possible therefore to add Na‘ura to the growing list of rural sites founded in the Intermediate Bronze Age that continued to be occupied into the Middle Bronze Age I.