A single square was opened in the only lot slated for construction that had not been damaged during the construction and demolition of the old buildings. After removing mixed fill (thickness 2–3 m) with the aid of mechanical equipment, the sides of the square were trimmed in a stepped fashion, thereby reducing the excavation area to 2.5×3.1 m. The foundations of two walls from the Iron Age, a ritual bath (miqwe) and a wall from the Early Roman period, as well as a wall from the Byzantine period were exposed (Fig. 1).
A layer of stones containing several potsherds from the Iron Age was exposed on the bedrock, c. 4 m below the surface level. The foundations of two perpendicular walls (W112, W113) that belonged to a structure ascribed to the Iron Age were built inside this layer. The walls were haphazardly constructed of fieldstones, most of which were basalt (Fig. 2). Wall 112 was aligned east–west and crossed through the middle of the square; only the western side of W113, which passed through the eastern part of the square, was exposed. A thick layer of dark soil that contained large amounts of soot and organic matter, as well as potsherds from Iron Age I (1150–1000 BCE) abutted the two walls.
A plastered pool (L105; length 1.75 m; Figs. 3, 4) of a miqwe was exposed in the step left in the western balk of the square. It was lined on the east and north with walls (W103, W104) that were built of one row of roughly hewn stones; the western wall was not exposed. A wider wall (W102) enclosed the pool on the south; only its foundation survived. The opening of the miqwe was evidently set in this wall because five steps descended from it into the pool. The walls and the steps were coated with gray plaster of poor quality. The ritual pool was dug into layers of fill, containing a scant amount of potsherds that were placed on a layer of stones and potsherds which was only visible in the western section of the square. Cooking vessels and jars dating to 90–320 CE, two pared lamps and glass vessels from the late first or early second centuries CE were found inside the miqwe. It seems that the lamps and the glass vessels date the final use of the miqwe. After the installation went out of use, a wall (W106) that adjoined its lateral walls was built in the western part of the miqwe; the date of its construction is unknown. The non-plastered wall was built of roughly hewn stones.
The foundation of another wall (W101) was exposed in the east of the square; two courses of square lime stones survived and were set on the foundations of W113 from the Iron Age (see Fig. 2). The foundation of W101 should probably be ascribed to the Roman period. Above the foundation was a sloping layer of rocky fragments, the likes of which were discovered in other excavations at the site and which is indicative of a landslide and boulders at the foot of the slope (see for example, HA-ESI 118
The upper part of a well-built wall was exposed in the southeastern corner of the square; it was built of ashlars bonded with plaster (W111; Fig. 5) and survived to at least three courses high. The wall abutted the southern end of W101 and the corner of the Iron Age building (W112, W113). The wall’s foundation was built inside a broad foundation trench that had cut through the layers of the Iron Age. Light color material mixed with numerous potsherds from the fifth–sixth centuries CE had accumulated inside the trench. These dated the wall to the Byzantine period.
These meager finds are of significant importance in reconstructing the history of the settlement at Gush H
alav. For the first time, remains from the Iron Age were exposed within the village precincts; the miqwe
indicates that the inhabitants of the Jewish settlement there also continued to practice purification rituals after the destruction of the Second Temple; and the wall from the Byzantine period joins the meager finds from this period that are known so far and aid in reconstructing the Byzantine settlement at the site. In addition, the excavation findings make it possible to locate the western boundary of the landslide that occurred at the site and exposed the bedrock, as was determined by the findings of previously conducted excavations (HA-ESI 118
, HA-ESI 118
, HA-ESI 118
). The location of the landslide can be seen today on the surface, which descends precipitously from the east toward the excavation area. In addition, the location is also indicated by two other elements. The miqwe
that is preserved in the western part of the square even though the eastern continuation of the building to which it belonged has disappeared, save the foundation of W101, which was set on top of a wall from the Iron Age, and the inclined layer of rock fragments that covered the foundation. It seems that W111 of the Byzantine period survived thanks to its foundation having been founded on the bedrock, because all the other remains we know of from this period were only discovered west of the excavation area. The fragmentary remains from the Iron Age and absence of remains from this period east of the excavation indicate that the Iron Age stratum also slid down the slope.
Aviam M. 2004. Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Galilee: 25 Years of Archaeological Excavations and Surveys. Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods (Land of Galilee 1). Rochester.
Makholy N. 1938. Rock-Cut Tombs at El-Jish. QDAP 8:45–50.
Vitto F. and Edelstein G. 1974. The Mausoleum at Gush-Halav. Qadmoniot 7:49–55 (Hebrew).
Wolff S. 2009. A Sounding near the Summit of Gush Halav. ‘Atiqot 61:41–50.