Excavations at Horbat Nevallat (Beit Nabala; Permit No. A-3041; map ref. NIG 196456–558/653805–924; OIG 146456–558/153805–924) were conducted from April to July 1999, as part of the archaeological work in Section 13 of the Trans-Israel Highway. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Department of Public Works, was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink and D. Lazar, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), R. Abu Khalaf (administration), Y. Nagar and D.A. Sklar-Parnes (physical anthropology), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Barzilay (geology), M. Ben-Gal (pottery restoration in the field), M. Rappaport (pottery drawings), L. Horwitz (archeozoology), G. Bonani (AMS) and N. Liphschitz (wood identification).
A 120 m wide stretch of land, encompassing parts of the northern and southern slopes of Nahal Nevallat wadi bed, was initially explored by mechanical trenching, supervised by Y. Elisha on behalf of the Antiquities Authority. This work resulted in a basic map that contained 19 potential archaeological sites. Area A, Sites 11–20 was on the northern slope and Area B, Sites 1–8 on the southern slope (Fig. 1). Since Area A had already been published in a preliminary manner (IEJ 51, 2001:36–43), the following report deals only with Area B.
The sites in this area (Fig. 1, Sites 1–8) have a wider chronological range than those in Area A.
Site 1. A bell-shaped pit (depth 3 m) with a circular opening (diam. c. 1 m), which was carefully cut into bedrock until it gave way to an underlying cavity. The top half meter of soil inside the pit consisted of fine, washed-in soil that overlaid a man-made stone fill, extending down to the bottom of the pit. The reason for the stone fill in the pit remains unclear, as is the very nature of the pit itself. Other than a few pottery fragments, no finds were discovered. It is assumed that the pit was originally cut to serve as a water cistern. The people who quarried it were apparently unaware of the natural cavity below this very spot. During the cutting process, when they realized the bedrock was not massive and unsuitable for holding water, the quarrying was abandoned.
Site 2. A circular cupmark cut into the roof of a cave (see below). Its date is uncertain in the absence of datable finds.
Site 3. A natural karstic cave used for different purposes during the Byzantine period, as indicated by a stone pavement inside the cave and various steps cut out into the exterior of the cave’s roof, leading down into the direction of a winepress (below, Site 4). During the late Early Bronze I period, the cave probably served for burial, as can be deduced from several complete, small pottery vessels retrieved from its southern part. The Chalcolithic period was the earliest phase of use in this cave. Based on the presence of several large, ceramic storage jars on the bedrock floor of the cave, this seems to have been a domestic phase. The storage jars are of a type that is characteristic of several Chalcolithic caves in nearby Shoham, excavated during 1994–1995 (ESI 16:84–85; 18:71). Due to a danger of roof collapse the cave’s roof was removed by mechanical equipment before continuing the excavations inside the cave.
Site 4. A rock-cut winepress located outside and to the northeast of the cave (above). It consisted of a plastered treading floor and a collecting vat. Although direct evidence was missing, the excavators assumed that the winepress was contemporary with and related to the Byzantine remains found in the cave.
Site 5. A circular rock-cut limekiln lined with various courses of unhewn stone blocks. Its date is uncertain due to lack of datable finds.
Site 6. A rock-cut, two-chambered tomb dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age. The ‘antechamber’ contained two restorable, medium-sized storage jars, but no human bones. The entrance to the main burial room was found sealed off with a stone wall (Fig. 2). The room contained the remains of two individuals and a single, intact amphoriskos. It is noteworthy that a nearby settlement from the Intermediate Bronze Age was recently excavated by Y. Yekutieli on behalf of Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Site 7. A dry-stone built terrace wall preserved four–five courses high. Pottery fragments above and around the wall dated it to the Byzantine period.
Site 8. A natural shallow cave with two small openings; its roof was removed by mechanical equipment. Manual excavation of the cave yielded only a few Byzantine-period sherds, which could have easily been washed into the cave. Given the natural fill in the cave down to bedrock, it is assumed that this natural cavity had not been used by man.