Tel ‘Agol lies at the eastern end of a small ridge (1.0 × 1.5 sq km) formed by basalt from the Miocene epoch. This is evident from soil samples taken at the base of the mound, on its northeastern side. The basalt is an alkali-olivine basalt characteristic of the Miocene period, displaying replacement of olivine with idigenite.
An excavation conducted near the summit of the tell in 2014 uncovered remains of two fortification systems overlain by a casemate wall dated to Iron Age II, as well as settlement remains from the Persian period (Feig 2021a
, and see research history therein; Feig 2021b:255).
The current excavation was conducted 20 m north of the casemate wall and parallel to it (Figs. 2–4). Two squares were opened (50 sq m), uncovering the remains of fortifications from the Iron Age IIA (Stratum II) and a building from the Persian period (Stratum I). Pottery from the Iron Age I or early Iron Age IIA (below) predating Stratum II was also discovered, in the western part of the excavation area on bedrock (L403; see Fig 10).
Stratum II—Iron Age II A
In the western part of the area, a wall (W407; length 6.75 m, width 1.2 m; Fig. 5) built of very large stones on a southeast–northwest alignment was exposed; several stones were missing on the wall’s southern side. The excavation uncovered a single course of the wall (height 0.65 m), which was built of square stones. The lowest course was abutted on the south by a surface of small stones (L412). Pottery sherds found on this surface consist mainly of cooking pots (see Fig. 12:1, 6, 7) and jars (see Fig. 12:9) dated to Iron Age IIA, as well as a few mortaria from the Persian period (see Fig. 13:3–5) that derive from the penetration of Stratum I walls (W404, W409; below) into Stratum II. Another wall was preserved in the east of the area (W419; excavated length 2 m, width 1.6 m, preserved height 0.75 m) that was built on the same alignment as W407, but was wider. Two courses of the wall’s stones were revealed (0.50 × 0.85 m), as was a surface of small stones at its base (L418). A habitation level of light-colored soil (L423) to the south of W419 contained a concentration of Iron Age IIA kraters (see Fig. 11:7–9). It is not clear if the two wall sections uncovered belong to one wall with different widths, or if these are two different walls. Such massive walls were probably part of some kind of a fortification. Also attributed to Stratum II is a surface of small stones (L420, L422) found beneath a structure from Stratum I; this surface abutted a wall (not numbered) that was partially excavated in the eastern section beneath a wall from Stratum I (W404). The surface yielded Iron Age IIA pottery (see Fig. 11:6, 12) and fragments of a large jar from the Persian period (see Fig. 14:3) that derives from the penetration of foundations belonging to the Stratum I building. On Surface 420 an irregularly shaped pounding stone bearing signs of wear and a thumb hole to improve its grip (Fig. 6:1), as well as a grinding stone (Fig. 6:3) were found. Another pounding stone (Fig. 6:2) was found when W410 was dismantled.
Stratum I—Persian Period
A square structure was excavated (4.0 × 4.5 m; Fig. 7); its walls (W404, W405, W409, W410) penetrated the levels of Stratum II and canceled Walls 407 and 419 (Fig. 8). Walls 404 and 405 were preserved in their entirety, but W409 was only partially preserved and continued westward. Wall 410 was built on top of the fortification wall from Stratum II and abutted by a stone paving (L402; Fig. 9). Numerous pottery vessels recovered from Paving 402 and the level beneath it (L408) date from the Persian period, including a bowl (see Fig. 13:2), mortaria (see Fig. 13:7, 8), a krater (see Fig. 13:9), a cooking pot (see Fig. 13:10) and jars (see Fig. 14:1, 4–7).
End of Iron Age I–beginning of Iron Age IIA. The pottery from this period includes a bowl (Fig. 10:1), a base of a krater (Fig. 10:2), a wide-mouthed krater (Fig. 10:3), cooking pots (Fig. 14:0, 5), a pithos (Fig. 10:6) and jars (Fig. 10:7, 8). Bowl 1 is carinated with a cyma-shaped profile and a simple everted rim. These bowls are common in the Jezreel Valley and were recovered from Stratum IX at Tel Qiri, from Stratum VIA at Megiddo, from Stratum IIIB at Afula and from Stratum XVII at Yoqne‘am, where the type was classified as type BIII AI (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005:243, Fig. I.19:5). In his research, Mazar (2015:9) dates this type to Iron Age I; it disappears during the tenth century BCE. Base 2 is wide and high and is typical of a multi-handled krater, which first appears at the end of the Late Bronze Age and is common in Iron Age I. This type has also been found in early tenth-century BCE assemblages at sites in Upper Galilee (Mazar 2015:12, Pls. 1.1.8, 2.2.4:7, 2.2.6:1). Vessel 3 has a wide mouth and combines the characteristics of a deep bowl with the rim of a pithos and a particularly thick wall. A similar vessel was classified as a ‘pithos-krater’ at Bet She’an and dated to the end of the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age I (Panitz-Cohen 2009: Pl. 2:2). Cooking pots 4 and 5 continue the tradition of the cooking pots from the Late Bronze Age, but have a thicker, inverted rim. The difference is mainly expressed in the body of the vessel, which becomes sharply carinated instead of being rounded. As with the krater types, Iron Age I cooking pots are also found in assemblages from the beginning of Iron Age IIA. Cooking pots resembling those found at Tel ‘Agol were recorded at Yoqne‘am in Stratum XVII (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Fig. I.4:22; Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Figs. I.14:27, 28, I.34:12). Pithos 6 has a thickened, ridged rim. The type appears at the end of Iron Age I, but at Yoqne‘am it is more common at the beginning of Iron Age IIA (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Fig. I.32:26, Type PII). Jar 7 has a ridge at the base of the neck, which is usually more pronounced. Jars of this type were found at sites in the north of Israel at the beginning of Iron Age IIA, as at Horbat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000: Fig. III.94:5, St. IIa), but they sometimes also appear in assemblages from the end of Iron Age I. Jar 8 has a tall, ridged neck, and its body is generally oval-shaped. It is typical of the north of the country, especially at sites in the Jezreel Valley, and is found in twelfth–eleventh century BCE assemblages, as at Tel Bet She’an, Tel Ta‘anakh Stratum IB, Tel Megiddo Strata VIIB, VIA–VIB and Tel Qiri Stratum VIII (Loud 1948: Pl. 82:9; Rast 1978: Figs. 10:5, 11:7–11; Hunt 1987: Fig. 17:6; Panitz-Cohen 2009:231–235, Pl. 34:5–7).
Iron Age IIA. The vessels were found in the lowest level of Stratum II, as well as in an accumulation into which the walls of the Stratum I structure penetrated: the assemblage contains a large variety of vessels, the most prominent of which are kraters (Fig. 11:6–10) and cooking pots (Fig. 12:1–8), but which also include bowls (Fig. 11:1–5), jars (Fig. 12:9, 10), an amphora (Fig. 12:11), a jug (Fig. 12:12) and an oil lamp (Fig. 12:13). Bowl 1 has a simple rim and a straight side. A similar bowl was found in Stratum IV at Tel Rehov and is dated to the ninth century BCE (Mazar 1999:39, Fig. 24:2). Bowl 2 has a round rim and a rounded side. A similar bowl was found on the casement-wall floor at Hazor, where it was dated to the ninth century BCE (Ben-Tor 1997: Fig. I.1:2). Bowls 3 and 4 are carinated They are very common at sites in the Jezreel Valley, such as Tel Ta‘anakh, and in the Bet She’an region, for example at Tel ‘Amal and Tel Rehov, at the beginning of Iron Age IIA (Levy and Edelstein 1972:356, Fig. 15:7 St. III; Rast 1978: Fig. 45, Period IIB; Mazar et al. 2005: Fig. 13.18:4, St. VI). Bowl 5 has a cyma profile, and the body is sharply carinated in its center. Such bowls are rare and were found in Iron Age IIA assemblages at nearby Tel Jezreel and Horbat Rosh Zayit (Zimhoni 1997: Fig. 2.1:12; Gal and Alexandre 2000: Fig. III.121:9).
Krater 6 resembles a particularly large bowl and is rare in assemblages of the period, although an identical bowl was found in Stratum VB at Megiddo (Lamon and Shipton 1939: Pl. 31:158), where it was dated to the tenth century BCE. Krater 7 has a thickened rim, and it is typical of the tenth–ninth centuries BCE at sites in the Jezreel and Bet She’an Valleys, such as Tel Qiri and Bet She’an (Ben Tor and Portugali 1987: Fig. 29:8; Mazar 2006:336–337, Pl. 12:2 Type KR52). The profile of Krater 8 resembles that of a cooking pot, but the vessel is made of coarse, light-colored fabric that is unsuitable for a cooking pot. This type of krater was found at Tel Ta‘anakh and Tel ‘Amal (Levy and Edelstein 1972:351, Fig. 10:4 St. III; Rast 1978: Fig. 42:4, Period IIB) and is dated to the tenth century BCE. Kraters 9 and 10 are unknown in the north. Krater 9 has a wide neck and a simple rim; it has been found at sites in the region of Jerusalem and Judah including, for example, in Iron Age IIA at Tel en-Nasbeh (Wampler 1947: Pl. 68:1531). Krater 10 has handles and a concave rim; it belongs to a large group of kraters, some of which are burnished, that are common in the region of the Judahite Kingdom (Herzog and Singer-Avitz 2015: Fig. 2.4.11:2–5). Krater 11 is closed and has a thickened rim. It is an uncommon type, although a similar krater was found sealed in Stratum VB at Hazor (Bonfil 1997:110, Fig. II.33:15). The base of Krater 12 is characteristic of the deep barrel-shaped kraters common at the beginning of Iron Age IIA.
Cooking Pots 1–4 share common characteristics despite their different sizes. All four have a triangular rim in a variety of styles—simple, ridged and concave—and they are made of a coarse reddish fabric and have a rounded body. Such types are common throughout the northern sites—Yoqne‘am in the Jezreel Valley, Horbat Rosh Zayit in Western Galilee and Hazor in Upper Galilee—and they date from the tenth–ninth centuries BCE. Cooking Pots 5–8 are grooved and have a thickened rim; the deep groove forms a kind of ledge on the rim of the vessel. They differ from the group of grooved cooking pots from Iron Age IIB. Such cooking pots first appear in Strata XII–XI at Hazor in Iron Age I (Ben Ami and Ben Tor 2012: Fig. 14:1.8). They are uncommon, and similar examples were found in Stratum XIV at Tel Yoqne‘am (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Fig. I.58:31), and at Tel es-Sa’idiyeh in assemblages dated to Iron Age IIA (Tubb 1988:43, Fig. 20:5).
Jars 9 and 10 are neckless holemouth jars with a thickened rim; they are the only type of vessel from the excavation that begins to appear in Iron Age IIA and continues into Iron Age IIB. In the Jezreel Valley, they were found in large numbers in Stratum XIV at Yoqne‘am (Zarzecki-Peleg 2005: Fig. I.33:1).
Base 11 probably belongs to an amphora (Yadin et al. 1961: Pl. CCXXVIII:25). The fragment of Jug 12 is the only one of its kind in the assemblage, and it apparently had a trefoil-shaped rim. This type is common in Iron Age IIA. Similar examples were found in Stratum IIa at Horbat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000: Fig. III.91:8, 9).
Two fragments were retrieved of Oil Lamp 13. These oil lamps cover a long chronological period, from the tenth to the eighth century BCE. The type was found at sites in the northern valleys (Mazar 2006:374, Pl. 11:2, Type LP51).
Persian Period. Most of the pottery was collected from two main loci: the habitation level (L408) of the building in Stratum I, and the accumulation to the west of this building (L412). A wide variety of vessels was collected, the most frequent of which are mortaria (Fig. 13:2–8) and jars (Fig. 14:1–7), although bowls (Fig. 13:1), a krater (Fig. 13:9) and a cooking pot (Fig. 13:10) were also retrieved.
Bowl 1 has a concave rim and turned downside; it is dated to the fifth–fourth centuries BCE, and similar examples were found at Dor (Stern 1995: Fig. 2.1:4). Mortarium 2 is made of reddish-orange clay, and a similar one was discovered in Stratum VII at Tel Michal (Singer-Avitz 1989: Fig. 9.9:1). Mortaria 3–7 are typical of the Persian period and are the most common vessel in this period; they are made of coarse clay with a ridged side and a high base. Mortarium 8 belongs to another type, which has a wider mouth and a flat base, like the bowls found at Tel Michal (Singer-Avitz 1989: Fig. 9.11:1). Mortaria are found throughout the country in the Persian period, and they date from the end of the fifth century to the latter part of the fourth century BCE (Stern 1995:53); they served as a prototype for similar bowls that continued into the Hellenistic period. Krater 9 dates from the sixth–fourth centuries BCE and resembles one recovered in a Persian stratum at Tel Qiri (Avissar 1987: Fig. 3:14). Cooking Pot 10 dates from the fifth–fourth centuries BCE (Stern 1995:55, Fig. 2.4:5).
Jars 1–7 belong to four types: Jars 1 and 2 have a long neck, resembling jars discovered at Dor (Stern 1995: Fig. 2.32:10); Jar 3 has a short neck and a barrel-shaped body and is uncommon in assemblages from this period; a similar example was found at Tel en-Nasbeh (Wampler 1947: Pl. 24:240); Jars 4 and 5 have a thickened rim and a short neck and resemble examples from Tel Qiri (Avissar 1987: Fig. 4:8) and are dated to the fifth–fourth centuries BCE; and Jars 6 and 7 have no neck and are the commonest type of jar in the Persian period, found in all the northern sites, as at Tel Dor (Stern 1995:55, Figs. 2.8:19; 2.26:7); they are dated to the fifth–fourth centuries BCE.
Based on the meager pottery dating from the end of Iron Age I, the date of the settlement’s establishment on the tell should be pushed back to this period. Most of the pottery from the early fortification in Stratum II dates from Iron Age IIA; this fortification is therefore contemporary with the entire wall from Stratum IV and earlier than the Iron Age IIB casement wall from Stratum IIIA that was discovered in the 2014 excavation (Feig 2021a
; Feig 2021b:257–258, 266–267, Fig. 16). The Iron Age IIA line of fortifications on the tell was moved c. 20 m farther down the slope in Iron Age IIB to a line that would enable the construction of a massive casement wall; this probably followed an alliance between local city kings in the face of the Assyrian threat, attested to by the inscription on the black obelisk, which depicts the victory of Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE (Figs. 15, 16). The fortification found to the north of the casement wall attests to the importance of the tell and augments our understanding of settlement on the tell at the end of Iron Age I and the settlement pattern in the Jezreel Valley during Iron Age IIB. In light of this data, Kallai’s identification of the tell with the biblical ‘En Dor appears plausible (Kallai 1982:169–170). The excavation uncovered architectural remains from the Persian period; the 2014 excavation yielded only pottery from this period. There is a settlement gap of about three centuries, from the Assyrian occupation in 732 BCE until the renewal of settlement at Tel ‘Agol in the Persian period. Resettlement of the tell began in the latter part of the fifth century BCE, when the area was part of the province of Megiddo.