During August–September 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted along the western fringes of the site of Yiftah’el, northwest of the Shimshit pumping station (Permit No. A-6605; map ref. 221495–2122/739956–40550), prior to the installation of an irrigation pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Mekorot Company, was directed H. Khalaily and R. Lavi, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi and Y. Lavan (administration), L. Porat (area supervision), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying), and A. Shapiro (GPS).
The site of Yiftah
’el extends across the eastern terrace of Nah
’el in the Lower Galilee, c. 0.5 km from Ha-Movil Junction. Numerous excavations were carried out there west of Highway 79. In 2007–2008, extensive archaeological excavations were conducted (Khalaily, Milevski and Getzov 2009
; Fig. 1), in which large parts of a settlement dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (8,000–7,000 BCE), the Pottery Neolithic period (6,400–5,300 BCE) and the latest stratum which dates to the Early Bronze Age I (3,600–3,300 BCE). In 2010 the region east of the highway was examined at which time it ascertained that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlement also extends in that area (Khalaily 2011
Nine squares were opened in a plowed field along the planned route of the irrigation pipeline. The central part of the area was disturbed in the past due to the installation of pipes, leaving only scant in-situ remains along its western margins, very close to the surface, just below the plowed topsoil. The remains date to the Pottery Neolithic period.
At the western end of the excavation area was a concentration of small stones, in which a partial outline of a curved wall could be discerned. The wall was built of small stones preserved one course high (L120; width 0.4 m; Fig. 2), probably the remains of a rounded house aligned along an east–west axis. A pit paved with small stones (L123, diam. 0.7 m; Fig. 3) and the partial remains of a stone-built circular installation (L122; diam. 0.8 m; Fig. 4) were found within the building. Fragments of a large pottery vessel from the end of the Pottery Neolithic period (Wadi Rabah culture) were found inside the installation, probably indicating that the vessel was placed there. Two concentrations of stones (L103, L112), probably remains of refuse pits, were located north of the building. They contained a considerable amount of flint debitage and depleted cores, primary flakes, core debitage and animal bones. Another pit that was dug in the ground was found in the middle of the excavation area (not on the plan). It was filled with flint debitage, sherds and a small amount of animal bones. Most of the flint discovered in the pits was mixed, belonging to a Pre-Pottery Neolithic industry and to industrial debitage characteristic of the Pottery Neolithic phases, such the depleted, amorphous cores. The Pre-Pottery flint artifacts in the pits are probably the result of the deep plowing that took place in the fields over time. The sherds discovered near the building and at the bottom of the pits were from the end of the Pottery Neolithic period (Wadi Rabah culture; Fig. 5) and date the pits to this period. Remains from this period were found in the large settlement at Yiftah’el, east of the current excavation area (Area I; Fig. 1). Flint tools and pottery sherds from other periods, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and from the Roman period to the present were found on the surface; these periods are also represented at the large settlement at Yiftah’el.
The excavation yielded settlement remains that extend as far west as the ancient channel of Nahal Yiftah’el and date to the late Pottery Neolithic period (Wadi Rabah culture). Most of the remains from this period have disappeared over time, probably due to agricultural cultivation, leaving only a few finds near the surface. The material culture discovered in this excavation is consistent with that known from previous excavations at the site.