Eleven excavation areas (A–G, K–N; Fig. 1) were opened on both sides of Highway 79; c. 195 squares were excavated (c. 4 dunams). The remains that were exposed date to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and C, Early and Late Chalcolithic, Early Bronze IB, II, Intermediate Bronze, Middle Bronze, Roman, Byzantine and Crusader periods.
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. A plaster floor and flint tools were unearthed in the eastern part of Area N. Most of the tools were knapped using naviform technology, characteristic of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. They include sickle blades and Jericho and Byblos type arrowheads. Similar remains were discovered nearby in the past (Barzilai and Milevski 2010: Area A), and it seems that an industrial region that was part of a large settlement dating to this period was situated in the area.
Pre-Pottery Neolithic C. Flint tools, most notably deeply denticulated sickle blades and ‘Amuq type arrowheads, were discovered in small sections of Areas A, B and C. An obsidian arrowhead should probably be attributed to this stratum as well. A circular, rock-hewn pit that might be a collapsed cave was exposed in Area A.
Early Chalcolithic Period (second half of the sixth millennium – first half of the fifth millennium BCE). Numerous architectural remains were discovered in most of the excavation areas; three secondary phases were identified. A profusion of building remains from the Wadi Rabah culture was ascribed to the early phase. Rich building remains similar to those in the Jericho VIII stratum were attributed to the middle phase. Architectural remains discovered in Area K and in a small portion of Area C were ascribed to the late phase. These remains are characteristic of Pre-Ghassulian sites dating from the end of the Early Chalcolithic period, such as Bet Sheʽan and the well at Tel Zaf. The numerous building remains were usually set on foundations built of one or two courses of fieldstones; they probably carried mud-brick walls, most of which were not preserved. Concentrations of fired plano-convex bricks were discovered in Areas C and K. Most of the building remains from the period were fragmentary, making it impossible to prepare a clear plan for each of the building phases. Several of the buildings from this stratum are described below. A building with thick walls was exposed in Area C; one of its corners was adjoined by long walls that apparently delimited wide courtyards (Fig. 2). In another corner of the building, a stone bowl was discovered in situ beneath collapsed burnt mud-bricks. A small section of a plaster floor was uncovered inside the building. Remains of two buildings constructed one on top of the other were exposed in Area B (Fig. 3). The remains of the early building included a plaster floor and pieces of plaster that probably covered the building’s walls, which had not survived. Stone foundations, as well as what was probably also part of a plaster floor were preserved from the late building. Area E yielded building remains with foundations constructed of stone (Fig. 4). A small cell was built beside the building’s southwestern wall. Three flat stones that were probably standing stones (mazzevot) were leaning against the cell’s southern wall.
Tombs reflecting various funerary customs were discovered in Areas B, C and E. These included the tomb of two adults laid out in a flexed position, with three gravestones placed above them (Fig. 5). The grave of an infant covered with half a hole-mouth vessel was also discovered (Fig. 6). A small stone bowl and a necklace consisting of a string of more than 200 beads were buried c. 1.5 m from the infant’s grave (Fig. 7). The skeletons of buried animals, including bovine, sheep, pig and rabbit, were discovered in Areas B and E. The bovine skeleton was discovered on a layer of stones, some of which were burnt (Fig. 8), and it is likely that the animal was roasted there. It is also possible that the buried skeletons were part of a ceremony.
The excavation yielded pottery fragments, flint tools, stone objects, hundreds of obsidian items, figurines and a fragment of a stone palette. The pottery from the early phase of the period is ascribed to the Wadi Rabah culture, and includes sherds decorated with incised and perforated patterns (Fig. 9). Noteworthy among the finds from the middle phase are pottery sherds treated with a light-colored slip and adorned with broad red painted stripes (Fig. 10). Fragments of dark-faced burnished ware are prominent among the artifacts recovered from both of these phases. The flint tools include axes prepared from tabular flint (Fig. 11) and numerous backed and truncated sickle blades, in many instances with deep denticulation. Other flints include backed sickle blades that are truncated diagonally and delicately retouched, which are characteristic of the end of the Early Chalcolithic period. The stone artifacts include sling stones (Fig. 12) and basalt chalices that have a solid base (Fig. 13). The hundreds of obsidian items include bladelets, tools, cores and debitage (Fig. 14) and indicate ties with Anatolia. The figurine is made of stone and depicts the schematic image of a person (Fig. 15), and the fragment of the stone palette was incised with two ostriches and what may be the image of a woman (Fig. 16; Getzov 2011: Figure 12).
Late Chalcolithic Period. Although several finds were discovered, it seems that no settlement existed in the excavation area itself during this period. However, nearby, in Nahal Zippori, remains of a contemporary settlement were recently found that probably extended only along the stream’s northern bank (Zidan 2014).
Early Bronze Age IB. Many building remains were discovered in most of the excavation areas, and three construction phases were discerned in some of them. In most of the buildings the only remains were stone foundations that probably supported mud-brick walls, which did not survive. Only in Area G, part of a building’s mud-brick wall was preserved (Fig. 17). Sometimes, the buildings’ foundations were placed on leveled bedrock and thus were higher than the floors. In many structures the ceilings were supported by columns, as indicated by the stone bases that were discovered along the central axes of these buildings. Three building models were discerned: capsule-shaped buildings that had two straight, parallel walls and two curved-end walls (Fig. 18), circular buildings (granaries? towers?) and rectangular buildings that had rounded corners. The rounded corners characterize the buildings of the period. The construction in the three phases created densely built-up blocks, whereby all of the space in them was utilized (Fig. 19).
A narrow city wall (exposed length 75 m, width 1.9 m; Fig. 20) that rested on a foundation of three fieldstone-built courses was discovered in Areas D and N, along the eastern boundary of the remains from this period. It seems that the foundation was surmounted by a mud-brick wall that had not survived. A narrow passage (width 0.8 m) was exposed in the wall, similar to many passages that were discovered in city walls from the later phases of the Early Bronze Age. This is the first instance in the country in which a passage was revealed in a city wall from this phase of the period. Part of a building that had a rounded corner (Fig. 20, in the upper part), which is an architectural feature of the period’s structures, was exposed adjacent and parallel to the wall. Architectural remains northwest of the city wall and a building line that turns sharply toward the west were identified in magnetometric tests that were conducted north of Area D. Among the more noteworthy pottery exposed in the stratum are vessels that are common in assemblages from the Kinneret basin, including crackled ware bowls and pithoi that have a thickened and rounded rim with an incised decoration (Fig. 21). Many of the storage vessels that were recovered from the stratum are adorned with a band-slipped decoration. Vessels that are common in assemblages from the Jezreel Valley, such as bow-necked pithoi and gray burnished bowls, were also exposed in the stratum. Two seal impressions stamped on pottery sherds were also discovered. The impressions are geometric patterns typical of the EB II, but the pottery is characteristic of the EB IB. The stone vessels that were discovered in the stratum include fragments of four-handled basalt bowls; an almost intact bowl was discovered on the floor of a building in Area L (Fig. 22). The flint tools that were found in the stratum include Canaanean sickle blades which constitute a small percentage of the assembly. Clay figurines, mainly of animals—the most common of which is a bull—were also exposed in the stratum.
Early Bronze Age II (early third millennium BCE). Meager remains of buildings with straight-angled corners were discovered in Areas B, C, E and K (Fig. 23). It seems that the settlement was greatly reduced during this period. Pottery sherds exposed in many of the excavation squares include mainly platters and jars made of metallic ware and cooking pots with flaring necks. A corner of what seems to be a work area with dozens of in-situ pounding implements was discovered in Area C (Fig. 24). An infant buried in a hole-mouth was discovered in Area A; the vessel’s opening was sealed with clay. The hole-mouth was placed near a wall, probably as a foundation offering (Fig. 25). An interesting find is a fragment of a donkey figurine that was affixed to a vessel made of metallic ware.
Intermediate Bronze Age. The remains of a building’s stone walls, a stone base of what might have been an installation and several pottery sherds and flint tools were exposed at the eastern end of Area N.
Middle Bronze Age. A soil accumulation that contained several pottery sherds from a late phase of the period was exposed in a small section of Area D. Part of a wall and several pits that damaged the EB IB city wall and a nearby building were also discovered.
Roman and Byzantine Periods. Large amounts of pottery sherds, mainly abraded and small, were exposed in most of the excavation areas, as well as several fragments of glass vessels and glass industrial waste; it seems that these finds were brought to the site with habitation debris that were used for fertilizing the fields. Evidence of building-stone quarries and a few architectural remains were also exposed. In Area F, a complex Byzantine-period winepress (Fig. 26) was discovered. It included a coarse mosaic floor decorated with a geometric pattern made of black tesserae. Three stone rollers and a capital of a small column were found in the winepress’ collecting vat (Fig. 27).
Crusader Period. Many metal objects were discovered. These included mostly nails used to shoe horses, several arrowheads (Fig. 28) and two coins that were minted in Jerusalem in the Crusader period (twelfth century CE). A tomb of an adult interred in a supine position with its arms crossed was also discovered. We know from historical sources that the site at ‘En Zippori was a marshalling base for armies in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries CE, and that battles took place there. Most notably, the site served as the Crusader army encampment on the eve of the Battle of Hattin. This is corroborated by the many horseshoe nails and arrowheads discovered.