During November 2004 a salvage excavation was conducted at the site of Ma‘lul (Permit No. A-4283*; map ref. NIG 2220–23/7330–34; OIG 1720–23/2330–34), in the wake of extensive damage to antiquities caused by the laying of a water pipe. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Meqorot Water Company, was directed by H. Bron, with the assistance of Y. Laban (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), H. Smithline (photography) and H. Tahan (ceramic drawing).
The site of Ma‘lul, situated in the Jezre‘el valley between the Nahalal junction and Nazareth, is on the western side of the modern town of Migdal Ha-‘Emeq. It lies on the eastern bank of a deep wadi, whose western slope is marked with numerous caves.
The site had previously been surveyed and excavated by G. Edelstein in 1973 (Permit No. A-399) and by A. Raban in 1980 (Permit No. A-997). The surveys confirmed that the site was occupied during the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, the Iron Age and the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods; it was deserted in 1948.
Large amounts of potsherds and building stones were visible on surface. A large part of the site is nowadays occupied by a military base.
Three excavation areas (A–C; Fig. 1) were opened on the western fringes of the site, where archeological remains were visible during inspection of the trench. A rectangle (3 × 6 m) was excavated in Area A, two squares in Area B and a single square in Area C. The archeological remains were meager. Erosion was responsible for some damage, as can be seen by rocky outcrops on surface, yet a number of water pipes and electricity lines, which had been installed in the 1980s, destroyed most of this site.
Area A. Two parallel walls, c. 0.4 m below surface, were discovered (W105––1 m wide, W103––0.5 m wide; Fig. 2). Both walls have the same orientation and seem to be glued together. They are constructed from medium- and large-sized fieldstones and preserved several centimeters high on their lowest part to one meter high on their highest part. The walls were cut on their eastern side by a water-pipe trench, which also shaved off a number of courses. Adjacent to the walls, a complete oil lamp (Fig. 3:1) that was probably lying on a floor abutting the upper courses of the walls, which did not survive the destruction, was discovered. The oil lamp dates the walls to the Hellenistic period. Wall 105 was the earlier of the two and W103 was glued onto it shortly after W105 was built. Both walls were build on the same level and formed one architectural element that belonged to a large building which, if it was not destroyed, would be underneath the asphalt road. Judging by the construction method of the walls, they were located on the edge of the settlement.
The northern side of W103 was destroyed to its foundations by a pit, dug from surface and intended for the burial of a horse or a donkey. This is a modern intrusion that predates the earlier 1980s water pipe installed across the site. During the cleaning and removal of W103’s upper course a complete bronze fibula was recovered from within the stone layer (Fig. 4).
To the west, no floors that abutted the walls were encountered, indicating that the western side was outside the inhabited area of the site.
The ceramic evidence from the vicinity of the walls includes jars, dating to the Hellenistic period (Fig 3:2–5; third–second centuries BCE).
Area B. Segments of a long wall and sections of plaster floors, associated with Iron Age and Hellenistic pottery, were visible in the section of the new water pipe trench. Architectural remains were not discovered in the squares, probably due to the damage caused by the same pipe line that destroyed Area C.
Pottery from the upper layers in these squares belonged to the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods (bowl; Fig. 5:1). Bedrock was not reached because excavation was suspended after exposing sterile layers without pottery or stones (depth 2 m).
Area C. The soil in the square was a light gray loose matrix that contained an abundance of potsherds. The 1980s water pipe trench on the western side of the square was dug down to bedrock and left no archeological traces, except for potsherds. Bedrock was exposed in a limited area of the square.
The areas excavated were, for the most part, severely damaged or completely destroyed due to modern infrastructures. However, the recovered potsherds belonged to a wide range of periods, pointing to a prolonged occupation of the site, which included the Chalcolithic period (handle; Fig. 5:2), the Early (jar; Fig. 5:3) and Middle Bronze Ages (jar; Fig. 5:4), as well as the Iron Age and the Persian and Hellenistic periods.