History of the Research.
Guérin visited the region in the nineteenth century CE and described villages and ruins, among them Khirbat Te’ena, Qas
r es Sitt and Majdal Yaba (Guérin 1982
). Members of the British survey (SWP
) also described the major ruins in the region (Conder and Kitchener 1882
). Surveys of the Lod and Rosh Ha-‘Ayin maps were conducted in the 1970s and 1980s; these provided an extensive picture of the region (Gophna and Beit-Arieh 1997
; Kochavi and Beit-Arieh 1994
). Extensive studies of the farms in western Samaria were conducted (Finkelstein 1981
); c. 25 farms were discovered in a survey of the region between Nah
al Qana in the north and Nah
al Natuf in the south. In the 1990s, studies and excavations were published about Mazor, located south of the investigated area (Zilberbod and Amit 2002
). Another study was carried out of the settlement distribution in the foothills during the Byzantine period (‘Ad 2000
). A wide-ranging development survey that revealed hundreds of sites was performed prior to the expansion of Rosh Ha-‘Ayin to the south and east (License No. S-202/2010). Previous archaeological excavations on behalf of Tel Aviv University (License No. B-372/2011) had been conducted near the current excavation.
History of the Settlement. The region was already inhabited in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. The number of sites in the region began to grow in the Early Bronze Age, and increased significantly during Iron Age II, and the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
According to Finkelstein, the settlement activity in the region was dependent upon two conditions: (1) A period of relative regional security that allowed settlers to leave the permanent settlements for isolated buildings, such as farmhouses, and (2) The search for new farmland, possibly by an ‘offshoot’ of a surplus population from elsewhere that resulted in having to contend with rugged regions that are difficult to cultivate. The number of sites in the Byzantine period increased considerably. Dozens of settlements, estates, farms and hundreds of field installations, such as winepresses, olive presses, field towers, agricultural roads, dams and farming terraces were built. In the western part of the investigated area—the region of Migdal Afeq (also known as Mirabel; Migdal Zedek and Majdal Yaba), a settlement existed during Iron Age II and a large settlement was present in the Byzantine period. The fortress at Migdal Afeq (Fig. 2) was an independent rural administrative center. At the time of the Ottoman conquest in 1516 CE, the region was included within the domain of Damascus and the fortress was owned by families from Nablus.
Surveys and Excavations at Rosh Ha-‘Ayin (South). A preliminary survey, prior to development, documented some six hundred sites or points of archaeological interest (License No. S-202/2010). The region, comprising approximately 2,000 dunams, was divided into eight areas (A–H; Fig. 3) based on the topography and the project’s requirements. Prior to the excavation, numerous finds were discerned on the surface, including field walls, field towers and limekilns. Uniform farming terraces were visible inside the wadis; these were also clearly apparent in aerial photographs. Development work carried out in recent years in the middle and western parts of the area has caused extensive damage to the antiquities. As mentioned above, an army base was originally located in the area, as well as numerous training grounds. To illustrate the recent activity in the region and its implications, we shall cite the case of Qarnat Haramiya, a site located north of Area F. Remains of an ancient camp were visible there, possibly an Ayyubid army camp, which was founded at the time of Saladin’s campaign. The surveyors described an extensive compound and several installations. Today, there is no trace of the site that had been seen in the surveys and its destruction is most likely a consequence of the aforementioned development work.
Most of the finds unearthed in the excavation were in an agricultural context. Other than agricultural installations, several architectural complexes were excavated; the largest and most magnificent was a building discovered in Area G (below).
Area G – Site F510 (Figs. 4, 5)
The site, located atop a plateau west of a tributary that descends toward Nah
al Susi, was discerned in a study of farmsteads (25 farms) in the Samarian Shephelah (Finkelstein 1981
:332). Finkelstein identified three stone clearance heaps (Fig. 4) that appeared to be the remains of three buildings, which included several ‘rooms’ and courtyards between them. Numerous potsherds that dated to Iron Age II (?), and the Persian and Hellenistic periods were found in the clearance heaps.
Rows of rooms, oriented east–west, belonged to a meticulously planned rectangular building (31.0 × 64.5 m; Fig. 5) that was exposed beneath the clearance heaps. Inside the building were three complexes – a northern complex consisting of a row of rooms; a central complex with a double and possibly a triple row of rooms; and a southern complex with a single row of rooms. An open courtyard (below, the northern courtyard; 14 × 17 m) partitioned the northern complex from the central complex and another open courtyard (below, the southern courtyard; 25.5 × 26.5 m) separated the central complex from the southern one. The rooms and the courtyards shared a common wall in the west. The poorly preserved remains of a wall that enclosed the building along its eastern side were identified. Since no openings were located in the building’s western wall, it seems that the entrances to the courtyards were from the east. The building, including its rooms, consisted of massive walls (thickness 1.1–1.3 m) that comprised two rows of roughly hewn stones with a core of fieldstones and soil fill. The building was probably two stories high. It was ascertained that each courtyard was a separate unit, adjoined by a row of rooms. The rooms could only be entered by way of the courtyard and not from outside the building. From the northern courtyard one could enter via wide openings into the northern and middle rooms, whereas from the southern courtyard, two openings led only to the southern rooms. No openings were found at all from the southern courtyard to the central complex, even though they shared a common wall. The reason for this might have been that the southern courtyard, the larger of the two, was used for animals. The excavation in the building revealed that the structure’s openings, including those of the rooms, had been intentionally blocked. It seems that the building was abandoned with the thought of returning to it. The floor of the building was clearly identified in one of the rooms in the central complex where it consisted of a rather lovely pavement of small and medium fieldstones (see Fig. 5; central complex). A bath with a plastered bathtub was exposed in a room in the southeastern corner of the central complex. Remains of plaster were also discovered on the walls of the room and it seems that it had been entirely coated with plaster that did not survive. Potsherds that dated to the Persian and Early Hellenistic periods were discovered inside the bathtub. Apparently, the tub was no longer used for bathing during the Hellenistic period and it became a rubbish pit where potsherds were discarded.
The impressive architectural finds in the building, together with the pottery and a ‘domestic altar’ made of limestone, which was discovered in one of the rooms of the central complex (Fig. 6), indicate that this is a building from the Persian period (fifth–fourth centuries BCE) that existed until the beginning of the Hellenistic period (third century BCE). The structure was built according to a precise plan and all of the construction in it was thought out beforehand. It should be remembered that the area is rugged and there are pits in the surface. The builders managed to overcome this by incorporating the natural bedrock surface in the the floors of the building; the holes in the ground were used as foundation trenches for the walls.
The greatness of the ancient engineers is apparent in their ability to build a complex as large as this and take into account each and every room, how it would look and what it would be used for. Most of the buildings in the Persian period were constructed according to a uniform plan known as ‘the open courtyard house’, which included an open courtyard surrounded on all or some of its sides by rows of rooms. This type of building is of Assyrian origin and entered the Land of Israel with the increasing influence of Assyria. The basic plan was mainly preserved, but it was not standard. This building shows a clear and precise division of the area into two halves, the southern wall of the central complex completely separated the northern unit from the southern one. It can be stated that the northern complex was probably used for storerooms and the central complex was residential, as it had a stone-paved room for guests and a bathroom equipped with a tub.
Area B – Farmhouse (Site F572; Fig. 7)
A building that had three casemate rooms was exposed on a prominent hilltop (Spot Height 136). The walls of circular courtyards were built up against the walls of the rooms. On the southern side of the building were two casemate rooms and at the eastern end was a third casemate that was perpendicular to the other rooms. The walls of the building (width c. 1 m, max. preserved height 2 m) were constructed from two rows of large fieldstones (max. length 1.5 m) with a core of different size stones. In each of the rooms were similar floors of tamped earth with traces of ash. The floor (thickness 0.2–0.5 m) was created by leveling an extremely rugged area of pits. Potsherds dating only to the Hellenistic period were found on the floor. Flat stones (length c. 1.5 m), probably used for the roof, were discovered in the building collapse.
Area C – Circular Building (Site F140; Fig. 8)
A circular building and a corridor that led to it from the north was exposed in the eastern part of the area, at the bottom of a farming terrace. The corridor led to another room, possibly a storeroom. A wall aligned east–west and built of small fieldstones was uncovered in the middle of the building. It is unclear what the complex was used for, but these may probably be the remains of a columbarium.
Eighteen field towers were identified in the preliminary survey and excavated (in Areas A–C, E, G; Fig. 9); twelve towers were square and six were round. The towers were probably used for storing agricultural produce, particularly wine. Generally speaking, the field towers were discovered close to winepresses and in areas with cultivation plots, as well as in areas where farming terraces were visible.
Farming terraces were identified in the preliminary surveys and in aerial photographs and were usually located in the wadis and on the slopes of mountains (width 0.8–1.0 m, height 0.3–0.5 m; see for example, Fig. 10). Trial trenches were excavated in several of the farming terraces and it was ascertained that they were built of medium and large fieldstones. The length of the terraces varied according to the width of the wadis.
Roads between Cultivation Plots and Field Walls
The area was divided by an ancient road (F513; width c. 2.5 m; Fig. 11); it was c. 400 m long in Area G and its northern continuation was identified in Area A. Two parallel side walls were built along the shoulders of the road. The western shoulder was better preserved. The walls were built intermittently of two rows of medium and large fieldstones with soil core. The road descended gently from the south to the north. A junction was discerned in the southern part of the road where it turned west. The roadbed consisted of small fieldstones and soil level. The road did not have curbstones. The side walls were preserved one–two courses high. The ceramic finds indicate that the road was used in the Roman and Byzantine periods and it may first have been used in the Hellenistic period or even earlier, in the Persian period (fifth century BCE). Narrower and shorter roads (width 1–2 m) were noted between the walls that divided the cultivation plots. The plots were usually marked by one or two rows of fieldstones, preserved one–two courses high.
Remains of fifteen cisterns were documented, some of which were excavated; most of the cisterns were bell-shaped and plastered. Based on the finds discovered in the vicinity of the cisterns, it can be assumed that they were used in the Byzantine period and later.
Limekilns in the area were noted already in the preliminary surveys. Seven limekilns were excavated, most of which were partially hewn in the limestone bedrock and their construction was completed with small and medium fieldstones. All of the kilns were dated to the Ottoman period on the basis of their construction method (Fig. 5).
Stone Clearance Heaps
Twenty-three clearance heaps were excavated, some were square and others round (Fig. 12). The heaps had an enclosure wall built of medium–large stones, usually one to two courses high. After completing the construction of the enclosure wall, stone clearance, usually consisting of small stones, was gathered up and piled against the inside of the wall. Generally speaking, the stone-clearance heaps were located in rocky regions that were unsuitable for cultivation.
Eighteen winepresses were excavated, most of which were simple rock-cut installations. The winepresses had a hewn treading floor and collecting vat. A somewhat more complex winepress was exposed in Area H. It had a large treading floor, a settling pit and a plastered collecting vat located to its east (Fig. 13). A pipe of mortar, which was used to convey the must, was installed between the settling pit and the collecting vat. The multitude of winepresses in the region indicates that most of the agricultural activity was related to wine production.
A burial complex from the Late Islamic period, which contained twenty-eight cist graves (Fig. 14) generally aligned east–west, was documented on a hilltop in Area F1. The construction method was uniform, consisting of a dug rectangular pit that was lined with vertical stone slabs. After interment the pit was covered with horizontal stone slabs. The pits were dug to a depth of c. 1 m below the surface. The location of the grave was marked on the surface by a narrow rectangular gravestone built of upright limestone slabs. All of the graves, save one, contained the bones of one individual. The bones were preserved in an anatomic position characteristic of the period—the head in the west and the face and body usually turned toward the south. Jewelry (Fig. 15), cloth, buttons and beads were among the finds recovered from the graves.
With the rapid demographic development in recent years, an approach to archaeological research that can deal with large areas has been required. Surveys prior to development and archaeological excavations examine extremely large tracts of land that are diverse, both from the standpoint of geographic landscape and that of landscape archaeology. This research approach will examine all of the archaeological and environmental components of a settlement (often several settlements), such as public buildings, installations and roads, and will treat it as part of a complex of settlements in the entire region. Previous studies that dealt with analyzing regions of the country presented extra-settlement complexes that were not sufficiently investigated, such as field towers, agricultural systems and farm installations. The studies conducted on the Menashe spur and in H
orbat Anusha and H
orbat Leved are examples of comprehensive studies in extensive areas, the likes of which are seen more frequently in recent years (Gorzalcany 2007
; Sion et al. 2007
). The survey and excavation project at Rosh Ha-‘Ayin was carried out in a large area, and their results join earlier studies conducted in the region. Hundreds of sites that are ascribed to a variety of periods ranging from prehistoric times up until the British Mandate era were excavated and documented. Most of the ceramic finds were discovered in the Persian building, exposed in Area G.