Early Bronze Age IB Settlement Remains (Fig. 2). Ten squares were opened adjacent and to the south of an earlier excavation (Eisenberg and Sklar 2000). Meager architectural remains were discovered in half of the squares, and only bedrock was revealed in the rest. Remains of a wall (W107; length 1.7 m; Fig. 3) built of one row of medium-sized and large fieldstones preserved to a height of only one course (0.3 m) were discovered in the western part of the excavation. The eastern part of the wall was founded on bedrock, and its western part was set on a fill of soil and small stones that served to level the bedrock. A single stone found beside the eastern part of the wall is believed to have survived from a second row of stones that belonged to the wall, as the walls of the buildings of the same period discovered in an earlier excavation at the site were constructed of two rows of stones (Eisenberg and Sklar 2000:103, Fig. 152). It is also feasible that this stone either remained from a wall that formed a corner with W107 or collapsed from a course in that wall. A surface of small and medium-sized fieldstones (L113; 0.6 × 1.1 m) that served to level a depression in the bedrock was uncovered northwest of the wall. Although this stone surface did not reach the wall, it was probably contemporary with it. Several surfaces (L117, L118, L123, L132; Fig. 4) made of various-sized stones and meant to level the bedrock were discovered in other squares in the excavation area; of these, Surface 113 is the only one that was found in an architectural context. Numerous pottery sherds dating to the EB IB were discovered above Surface 123, some of which could be restored (below, Fig. 6). Just north of Surface 123 was a pit in the bedrock (L120), apparently natural, which was entirely filled with stones, up to the elevation of Surface 123. A tapering, rock-hewn pit (L121; upper diam. 0.55 m, lower diam. 0.25, depth 0.75 m; Fig. 5), possibly used to store liquids, was discovered southwest of Surface 123. The pit contained alluvium almost devoid of finds. A cluster of medium-sized fieldstones (L124; 0.55 × 0.85 m; see Fig. 4) south of Surface 123 was founded on a fill of brown soil. The cluster was detached from any architectural context, but the dimensions of the stones and the manner in which they were arranged resemble the floors discovered in a previous excavation at the site (Eisenberg and Sklar 2000:103: Fig. 152). Stone Surface 118 was the largest revealed in the excavation (c. 2 × 3 m); it was built of small and medium-sized stones. Surfaces 117 and 132 were less substantial.
The ceramic finds recovered from all of the excavation squares were homogenous and date to the EB IB. They consisted of plain, everyday ware, including bowls (Figs. 6:1; 7:1, 2), an amphoriskos (Fig. 6:2), jars decorated with a rope ornamentation and with ledge handles (Figs. 6:3, 4; 7:3–8) and hole-mouths (Figs. 6:5, 6; 7:9, 10). Most of the vessel types comprising the assemblage were used over a long period of time, but the hole-mouths that have a folded-in rim and are sometimes decorated with a rope ornamentation below the rim (Fig. 6:5) date this repertoire to the EB IB. The ceramic assemblage also includes a small fragment (Fig. 7:11), possibly of a churn, which some researchers date to the EB IB1, the ‘Erani C Phase (e.g., Yekutieli 2006:230, Fig. 4:19), whereas others ascribe to the EB IB2 (e.g., Braun and van den Brink 1998).
Kiln 1 (Figs. 8, 9) was c. 60 m west of the Early Bronze settlement remains. The kiln included an elliptical firing chamber (L152; 3.0 × 3.3 m) comprising a lower, rock-hewn part and an upper, built part (W150); only the northern half of the installation was excavated. Wall 150, which delimited the firebox, was built of small and medium-sized fieldstones (0.4 × 0.5 m) bonded with mortar composed primarily of reddish-brown soil. The northern part of W150 was preserved ten courses high (1.5 m), while its southern part survived only one course high (0.2 m). The opening of the kiln's ventilation channel (width 0.41 m, height 0.5 m; Fig. 10) was set at the bottom of the northern part of W150. A large flat stone (length 0.5 m, thickness 0.2 m), possibly part of the ventilation channel’s covering stones, was discovered above the opening. The ventilation channel was only partially excavated due to safety concerns. Two stone-built Shelfs (L153, L158) were set adjacent to W150, on either side of the opening; stones slated for burning were placed on them. The fuel was placed below them, on the floor of the firebox. Shelf 153 may have also served as a step into the firebox. A layer of ash and soot lay on the bedrock at the bottom of the firebox. This layer was overlain with layers of lime, stone and soil, almost up to the surface elevation. Apparently, the kiln was not cleaned out following its final use. A wall (W139) surrounding the kiln at about 0.5 m from its edge supported the installation’s dome. Wall 139 was constructed of a single row of large fieldstones (0.5 × 0.6 m) or two rows of medium-sized fieldstones, and was preserved to a height of one or two courses (0.7 m). The eastern and southern parts of the wall were founded on bedrock, whereas its western part was set on a fill of reddish-brown soil and small stones. Its northern side was not exposed, since an agricultural filed wall (W136) was built over it, thus annulling it. Field Wall 136 (width 0.8 m) was built of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones (0.2 × 0.2 m) and a core of small stones; it was preserved five courses high (0.65 m). The wall continued in a southeasterly direction for a distance of c. 45 m, up to Kiln 2 (Fig. 11).
Five rifle cartridges from the 1930s that were produced by the German army in the Second World War were found in the surface layer; these items indicate the kiln no longer operated at that time. A scant amount of pottery sherds was discovered in the vicinity of the kiln, and only three could be dated: one from the Persian period and the other two from the Byzantine period. These, however, do not date the use of the kiln. Similar kilns, which have been dated to the Ottoman period, were unearthed in the immediate vicinity of the site (Storchan 2012a; Storchan 2012b), and it is thus likely that this installation is of the same time. Nevertheless, since shape of kilns did not change significantly throughout the different periods (Spanier and Sasson 2001), this dating remains uncertain.
Kiln 2 (Figs. 12–14) was c. 45 m southeast of Kiln 1. Two phases were discerned in the installation, but the purpose of its early phase is unclear. In the early phase, a pit (L162; c. 3.5 × 3.5 m, depth c. 2.5 m) was hewn in bedrock; its northern wall was breached. A rectangular niche was cut in the pit’s eastern wall (Fig. 15), and a cavity (L161; 1.6 × 2.7 m; Fig. 16) was hewn in the pit’s southwestern wall. A cluster of stones (Fig. 17) found inside the cavity, 0.34 m from the opening, blocked the passage to the inner part of the cavity. These included several medium-sized fieldstones and one large, dressed stone (0.3 × 0.4 m). The accumulation of soil that filled the cavity up to its opening was devoid of artifacts, apart from one small glass bowl fragment found near the opening. The glass bowl dates to the Roman period (mid-first century until the mid-second century CE); however, it is difficult to date the cavity solely on the basis of a single vessel fragment. The cavity might have been cleaned prior to converting the pit for use as a kiln, and if any finds did remain in it they were damaged from the extreme heat in the installation.
In the later phase, the pit was converted into a limekiln: the cracks in the pit’s western and southern bedrock wall were filled with small fieldstones bonded with brown soil (L168); a narrow wall (W171) blocked the opening of Cavity 161; a built of medium-sized fieldstones (W145) on the northern side of the pit close it off from the north to create the firebox; and the pit was deepened by quarrying a large semi-circular depression. The excavation at the bottom of the pit uncovered a distinct layer of ash and soot and an overlying layer of burnt stones and lime remains. No datable finds were discovered in either of these layers. Wall 145, which was preserved to a height of three to four courses, adjoined the hewn bedrock on the south, while its northern face abutted the kiln’s ventilation channel (below). Another wall (W146) erected in this phase served as a base for the kiln’s dome; it was constructed on an elevation higher than that of W145. Three courses of the wall were preserved: its bottom course was built of large fieldstones, whereas the two upper courses were constructed of smaller stones. A wall (W142; preserved height 0.5 m) built on the southern, western and eastern sides, above the kiln’s bedrock wall, delimited the firebox, along with W145 on the north. On the southern side of the kiln, W142 was combined with a stone fill (L168) that blocked the cracks in pit’s wall. Another wall (W144; length 11.5 m, width 0.3 m), situated on a higher elevation than W142, was constructed of a single row of medium-sized fieldstones; it served as a base for the kiln’s dome on the southern, western and eastern sides, as did W146 on the installation’s northern side. Walls 142 and 145, which enclosed the kiln, did not meet, nor did Walls 144 and 146, although both carried the dome of the kiln, perhaps a result of the destruction that the kiln sustained over the years. A ventilation channel (L163; width 0.5 m) was constructed on the northern side of the kiln. It was bounded by two walls (W169, W170) built of one row of medium-sized fieldstones set on the bedrock and preserved five courses high (1.3 m). The channel, which followed a slightly curved route, was excavated for only part of its length. A small area opened slightly northwest of the kiln yielded remains of the dome. The wall of the dome, which was apparently built of medium-size fieldstones, was lined on the outside with a layer of small stones and soil. Above the lining of the kiln’s dome were diagonal layers of lime and ash that had been dumped there when the burnt material was removed from the installation (Fig. 18).
The dating of the early phase is unclear, and no datable finds were discovered that can be attributed to the late phase. However, the kiln of the later phase may have been in use during the Ottoman period, as were other kilns discovered in the vicinity. Presumably, Field Wall 136, which annulled Kiln 1 and extends east as far as Kiln 2, is later than Kiln 2 as well.
Flint Items
Zinovi Matskevich
Six flint items were discovered in the excavation squares. One item was knapped on chert; the rest were made of fine quality brown, gray and beige indigenous flint from the Eocene period. The items include two tools—sickle blades—and four debitage items: a flake, a primary flake, a blade and a core trimming element. One sickle blade (Fig. 19:1) is a backed blade that is abruptly retouched and truncated on its proximal end. The distal end of the item is broken. Sickle sheen was noted on the left side of the blade, and there are signs of use along the edge the blade. Sickle blades of this type are characteristic of flint assemblages from the Chalcolithic period. The second sickle blade (Fig. 19:2) is a straight bi-directional blade, broken on both sides. The item has no retouch, other than a fine denticulation on the cutting edge. This item may resemble the sickle blades of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. Nevertheless, judging by the finds in the excavation squares, it is indeed possible that the item dates to the Early Bronze Age.
The flint items discovered in the excavation may indicate that the site was settled during the Chalcolithic period. A large Chalcolithic site was discovered at Khirbat el-‘Alya, c. 1 km from the excavation area (Dagan 2010:155–158, Site 205).
The settlement remains from the EB IB—both the architectural remains and the ceramic finds—point to a simple, rural settlement. The flint items that were discovered in the excavation squares predate the Early Bronze Age, and it is possible that a settlement existed at the site in earlier periods as well. Other EB I sites are known in the northern Judean Shephelah, among them Eshta’ol (Golani 2008) and Hartuv (Mazar, de Miroschedji and Porat 1996). These two settlements, as well as the settlement uncovered at the site, were rural settlements that were abandoned during the EB IB. Unlike these rural settlements, the nearby settlement of Tel Yarmut increased in size and continued into the EB II and III. This evidence seems to reflect the process of urbanization that occurred during these periods (de Miroschedji 1995).
The two kilns discovered in the excavation is one of several kilns excavated in the vicinity, which together tell of the lime industry that existed in the region, probably during the Ottoman period.