During January–February 2006, trial excavations were conducted in a low-lying area of agricultural fields, c. 150 m southeast of Tel Malot (Permit No. A-4689*; map ref. NIG 187876/641019; OIG 137876/141019; c. 78 m above sea level), prior to setting a gas pipeline. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Netivē Gaz Company, was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov–Jam and E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), E. Belashov (drafting), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery drawing), H. Khalaily (flints), H.K. Mienis (archaeomalacology) and F. Volynsky and M. Ajami.
Two archaeological deposits, c. 15 m from each other and 2 m below surface, were noted in a probe trench, inspected by A. Kohn-Tavor. The trial excavation was aimed at establishing the nature and extent of these two spots.
Prior to the excavation, 1.5 m topsoil over an area (5 × 15 m) parallel to and adjoining the probe trench was removed with the aid of mechanical equipment. Two 4 × 4 m soundings (Squares A and C) were opened at both extremes of the probe trench.
Square A (Fig. 1)
Three strata were recognized (Fig. 2). Topsoil (L100; thickness c. 1.5 m) consisted of a sterile dark, clayey alluvial soil layer (Stratum 1). It sealed the remains of two pits (L107, L108), in close proximity to each other (Stratum 2). The pits were cut into an archaeologically sterile layer of husmas (hamra sand soil with lime aggregates; L109; Stratum 3) that consisted of a brown-reddish, clayey soil, rich in calcium carbonate that crystallized through capillary interaction with the subsoil water table, thus giving the soil its mottled appearance. The complete outline of Pit 107 (max. depth 1.8 m; exposed area 0.8 × 1.7 m) and Pit 108 (depth 1.4 m; 0.7 × 3.1 m) remains unknown, since large parts of both extend beyond the square limits.
The top of both pits was initially excavated as a single unit (L103), since the dark grayish soil fill, although contrasting with the surrounding brown-reddish husmas, was homogeneous all over the excavated area and assumed to be a ditch. While excavating the last c. 0.7 m of this fill it became clear that there were two separate pits. About halfway through the fill of both pits a single layer of small to medium-sized limestone pebbles was observed (Fig. 3). The pebble layer gave the impression of a floor or a living surface, although a deposition by natural agents during a single event, e.g., heavy rains, seems more likely.
Sparse finds were retrieved from the fill and the pits, mainly potsherds, few basalt vessel fragments and some flints. Animal bones were notably absent, yet a few shell fragments were found. The pottery included small V-shaped bowls (Fig. 4:1, 8), medium- and large-sized V-shaped bowls (Fig. 4:2–4), a fenestrated bowl (not illustrated), a holemouth jar (Fig. 4:7), short-necked jars (Fig. 4:5, 6) and bases of medium to large-sized bowls or jars (Fig. 4:9–12).
The assemblage fits within a late phase of the late Chalcolithic period. It is too small for any certain statement, yet the presence of a few large bowls, tempered with gray grits and having a typical grayish-creamy color of the interior and exterior walls (Fig. 4:2, 4, 12), is very reminiscent of bowls from a similar fabric that derived from Strata 5 and 6 at Modi‘in, Buchman Compound, dated by 14C analyses to the last quarter of the fifth millennium BCE. The apparent absence of combed pottery at Tel Malot, which is typical of a rather late phase within the Late Chalcolithic period, e.g., at Shoham (IAA Reports 27:55, 169–170), seems to corroborate the late fifth millennium date for the material deposited in the two pits.
Fragments of two basalt bowls, including a rim (Fig. 4:13) and a base (Fig. 4:14) are sufficiently diagnostic to be dated to the late Chalcolithic period.
The flint assemblage consists of 68 items, mostly waste products, as well as three tools and only three cores. Flakes are predominant in the waste (71%) and blades comprise 8% of the waste. Two types of flints were used for this industry. A dark-gray flint of the Senonian formation was the most commonly knapped and a few objects were knapped from a gray and brown flint of pebble origin. The latter group is distinguished by semi-translucent gray or brown color, which probably derived from small pebbles available in Nahal Shaham, a tributary of Nahal Ha-Ela (personal observation).
The three ad hoc tools in the assemblage are two retouched flakes and a single perforator. The absence of formal and diagnostic types makes it difficult to establish their chrono-cultural horizon.
Two shell fragments were discovered in Sq A, L103. One was a part of the ventral margin of Glycymeris insubrica (Brocchi 1814), a common bivalve from the Mediterranean Sea. The second fragment was the completely disintegrated part of the ventral margin of Chambardia rubens arcuata (Cailliaud 1823), a common freshwater mussel from the Nile river in Egypt. Both are well known from other Chalcolithic sites in Israel.
A lens of grayish soil (thickness 0.3 m), not unlike the fill in the pits of Sq A, was exposed down to the underlying, sterile husmas soil. It contained no specific features, but a handful of diagnostic potsherds, dating to Iron Age II and the Byzantine period. Chalcolithic material was conspicuously absent.
Although no architectural remains were found in the current excavation, the material recovered from the fill of the two pits in Sq A points to nearby settlement activities and contributes, in a modest way, to the general framework of Chalcolithic settlement built-up around Tel Malot in particular, and to the list of Chalcolithic sites where the Nilotic shell Chambardia rubens arcuata had been discerned, in general. Earlier excavations in the same area of Tel Malot (HA-ESI 112:70*–71*; A-3585; A-3641) have yielded a stratum with three superimposed occupational levels and pits, similar to the ones found in our excavation, all dating to the Chalcolithic period. It seems likely that the two partially excavated pits belonged to the same settlement horizon.