In November–December 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted on Har Yona (Nazerat ‘Illit; Permit No. A-7577; map ref. 2320–6/7360–8), prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in Nof Ha-Galil. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and funded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by Y. Amitzur (photography), with the assistance of A. Shapiro (area supervision and GPS), E. Bisharat, M. Shemer and R. Kapul (area supervision), Y. Ya‘akobi (administration), G. Cinamon (education program), R. Liran and R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), Sky View (aerial photography), M. Peleg (photogrammetry), I. Berin (final plans) and O. Barzilai (flint tools).
Four excavation areas were opened (Areas A–D; Fig. 1) on the southeastern slope of Har Yona that descends towards the village of ‘Ein Mahil. Natural caves, agricultural installations, terrace walls and limekilns were revealed, as well as a few flint items from the Middle Paleolithic and the Early Bronze Age, and scattered sherds from the Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk periods. The pottery sherds and flint items were not drawn as they were very worn.
Har Yona (Jabal es-Sih) is named after the prophet Jonah who was born in Gat Hefer, traditionally identified with the nearby village of Mashhad. In the past, the nature of human activity on the mountain was determined by the geographical-topographical conditions. On the rocky summit, composed of hard limestone and chalk covered with Mediterranean brush vegetation, limestone was quarried for the production of lime in kilns. On the slopes, the land was prepared for irrigated agriculture and orchards, exploiting local springs, such as ‘En Avino‘am. Caves and pits were hewn in the chalk outcrops. The area of Har Yona was surveyed in the Mount Tabor Survey (Gal 1998:29*–31*, Sites 28–34). A development survey was carried out in this area by Y. Tepper (Permit No. S–311/2011), revealing agricultural terrace walls, agricultural installations, caves, limekilns and scattered sherds and flint. The excavation was carried out following the development survey.
Area A (Fig. 2)
Eight squares were excavated, revealing two caves, agricultural terrace walls associated with some Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk sherds, and a winepress.
Caves. Two karstic caves, which had collapsed due to erosion, were uncovered. A few unidentifiable sherds were found. The meager finds reflect only sporadic use of the caves, perhaps by shepherds and farmers.
Agricultural terrace walls. Two walls (W100, W119), built on the bedrock across the slope, were uncovered. Wall 100 was constructed of two rows of roughly worked stones, and was extant for three courses (length c. 40 m; Figs. 3, 4). A few Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk sherds were found alongside it. Wall 119 was mostly built of a row of stones, and was extant for a single course (Figs. 5, 6); again, Roman and Byzantine sherds were found alongside it. A soil layer accumulated between the walls showed that the walls served to prevent soil erosion down the slope, creating a cultivation terrace. The pottery sherds suggest that the walls were built in the Roman period, and it is probable that they continued in use until modern times.
Winepress (Fig. 7, 8). A winepress hewn in the bedrock was uprooted by mechanical works. It comprised a rounded treading floor (L120; 1.5 × 2.0 m), a rounded collecting vat (L121; 0.5 × 0.8 m) and two cupmarks (diam. 0.2–0.3 m). The press bears a resemblance to winepresses found in Migdal Ha-‘Emeq, of a type known as Ta‘anach winepresses and dated to the Bronze Age, or possibly the Iron Age (Getzov, Avshalom-Gorni and Mokary 1998:197).
Four squares were excavated near the ‘En Avino‘am spring, revealing three elongated heaps of fieldstones (5 × 7 m; Fig. 9) set across the seasonal streambed. Rich agricultural soil had accumulated in the stone heaps, indicating that the agricultural activities had utilized the stream water and the spring, and that the stones heaps had served to dam or divert the water flow. A few broken flint items dating to the Middle Paleolithic and the Early Bronze Age, and a few Roman and Byzantine sherds were found on the surface and in the soil accumulation between the stones. The flint finds may suggest that human activity may have begun at the site in the Middle Paleolithic.
Two limekilns, located c. 500 m apart, were discovered here, as well as a cave entrance.
Limekiln C1. The kiln was built on rocky terrain sloping down southwards, utilizing the natural bedrock step on its northern side (ext. diam. 6.1 m, int. diam. 3.4 m, depth 3 m; Figs. 10, 11). Two rounded walls, built of three courses of various-sized fieldstones (W302, W306; inner face extant height 3 m), abutted the rock step and enclosed the firing chamber (L321). The firing chamber floor was hewn into the limestone bedrock to a depth of 0.5 m. A corridor (L318; length 3.5 m; max. width 3 m) leading into the firing chamber, had an opening at its end (width 0.6 m), whereby fuel was inserted into the chamber. Burnt limestones found in the chamber, along with kiln debris and ash, show that the kiln’s roof had collapsed into it. A small enclave (L307) fashioned in the eastern kiln wall, may have been for the storage of fuel or work tools. A similar space was found in a kiln uncovered in Jerusalem (Avner 2008). This type of limekiln, designated by Sasson as the ‘traditional limekiln’, was common throughout the country from the Hellenistic to the Ottoman period (Sasson 2001, Spanier and Sasson 2001; Sasson 2002; Sion and Sasson 2003). A similar limekiln was excavated on Har Avihu, near Har Yona (Alexandre 2016). Near Kiln C1, the entrance of a cave (L317) was discovered but not excavated. The cave may have been quarried in order to extract raw material for the limekiln.
Limekiln C2. The kiln was built at the bottom of a slope descending southwards (ext. diam. 5 m, int. diam. 3.8 m, depth 3 m; Figs, 12, 13). It was bounded by a circular wall, built of two rows of roughly worked stones (W310; extant height 3 m) and had a round firing chamber (L309), whose floor had been hewn in the bedrock to a depth of 0.5 m. A corridor (L311; length 4.5 m; max. width 3 m) led into the firing chamber, and at its end, there was an opening whereby fuel was inserted into the firing chamber. Signs of intense fire were visible in the kiln, specifically in the center of the firing chamber, showing that liquid fuel was burned here (Sasson 1996). Near the kiln, a small pool (L312; 2 × 3 m), lined with a row of stones on the exterior, and coated with concrete on the interior, was unearthed. The pool may have been used to store diesel fuel for the kiln (Sasson 2001). No datable finds were discovered in or around the kiln; however, the type of kiln, the use of diesel fuel and the storage pool indicate that it was later than Kiln C1, and that it should be dated to the twentieth century.
Area D (Fig. 14)
Ten squares were excavated, exposing two pairs of limekilns, next to which were two pools and cupmarks.
Limekilns D1 and D2. The kilns had circular walls built of roughly worked stones (D1: ext. diam. 5.5 m, int. diam. 3.5 m; D2: ext. diam. 5 m, int. diam. 3.2 m; maximum extant height 3 m) enclosing round firing chambers whose floors were hewn to a maximum depth of 0.4 m (Figs 15, 16). The firing chambers were accessed by corridors (L403, L404; length 4.5 m, max. width 3 m), at the end of which were openings whereby fuel was inserted into the firing chamber. As in Kiln C2, signs of intensive fire and ash in the center of the firing chambers indicate that liquid fuel was used. Near the kilns, a pool lined with a row on stones on the outer face and coated with concrete on the inner face, was exposed.
Limekilns D3 and D4.The kilns stood about ten meters east of Kilns D1 and D2 (Fig. 17). Kiln D3 had a two-row rounded wall, built of roughly worked stones (ext. diam. 4 m, int. diam. 3 m, max. height 2 m). The round firing chamber floor was hewn to a maximum depth of 0.3 m, and it was accessed by a corridor (L408), at the end of which was an opening, whereby fuel was inserted into the firing chamber. Kiln D4 had a three-row wall, built of roughly worked stones (ext. diam. 6.5 m, int. diam. 4.5 m, max. height 3 m), encompassing an ovoid-shaped firing chamber, whose floor was hewn to a maximum depth of 0.4 m. The corridor leading to the firing chamber was not extant, but in the southwestern part of the chamber, remains of the opening for inserting the fuel was visible. Kiln D4 was the largest kiln discovered in the excavation. Near the kiln, a pool was unearthed (L409; 2 × 3 m; Fig. 18) whose external walls were lined with stones and internal walls were coated with concrete. This pool was larger than those discovered near Kilns C2, and Kilns D1 and D2.
Cupmarks. About 12 m north of Kilns D3 and D4, a bedrock surface, into which cupmarks had been cut, was uncovered (D6; Fig. 19). The cupmarks may have been carved out to anchor wooden beams supporting a temporary structure used in the lime-production process (Avitsur 1976).
The installations and the pottery sherds exposed in Areas A and B, reflect the exploitation of the amenable conditions in this area—fertile soil, relatively soft rock, rainfall and climate—for agricultural activities in the Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk periods. The flint finds reveal a limited human presence in the area in the Middle Paleolithic and Early Bronze Age. The limekilns discovered in Areas C and D, show the existence of an extensive lime-production industry. In Kilns C2 and D1–D4, evidence of the use of modern fuel (diesel and mazut), and pools to contain it, were found. Sasson defined kilns of this type as ‘complex built kilns’, and he dated them to the time of the British Mandate (Sasson 2001). Thus, it may be concluded that the kilns were used during Nazareth’s accelerated development in the beginning of the twentieth century. Kiln C1 differs in form from the other kilns; no evidence for its use in modern times was discovered, and it therefore apparently only functioned in antiquity.
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