In December 2006 a trial excavation was conducted at Gush Halav (Permit No. A-4976; map ref. NIG 2420/7702; OIG 1920/2702), prior to the construction of a retaining wall for the cemetery in the southeastern part of the tell. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and with the financial backing of the local council, was directed by M. Hartal, with the participation of Y. Yaakoby (administration) and A. Shapira (surveying).
The village of Jish (Gush Halav) is situated on the southern slope of an ancient tell where remains were found that date from the Early Bronze Age to the Early Islamic period. Numerous excavations were conducted within the precincts of the village and on the northern and western slopes of the tell where settlement remains and tombs were exposed. The tell, at the top of the village, has not yet been excavated and for the first time a small section of its area has been exposed. In the excavation, which was conducted on a farming terrace south of the cemetery, a half-square was opened where four settlement strata were revealed (Figs. 1, 2).
The most ancient remains were found c. 3 m below the surface (Fig. 1 section). The southern face of a wall section (W520) was exposed that was built of large basalt fieldstones (Fig. 3). A tamped earth floor abutted the wall; on it was an ashy layer (L519) in which pottery vessels of the Middle Bronze Age II were found.
A basalt wall (W511; Fig. 3) that was abutted by a tamped earth floor (L518) was built above the wall of Stratum 4 and perpendicular to it. On the floor was an accumulation of hard soil and stone collapse in which there were potsherds that date to the Iron Age I.
The remains from the Iron Age I were covered by a layer of soil in which fragments of pottery vessels were discovered that date to the Early Roman period (L512), without any building remains. The finds included stone vessels and pottery production debris.
Sections of walls (W501, W502) were exposed beneath the surface. In the western half of the square an installation was uncovered whose walls were treated with gray plaster (L504). Next to this installation a large tabun (L515) that was paved with jar fragments (Fig. 4) was built. Fragments of potsherds that date to the Late Roman period were discovered inside the tabun. After the tabun was no longer in use a fieldstone-constructed installation (L509) in the shape of a quarter-circle was built above the northeastern part of it. In the northeastern part of the square two wall sections (W506, W507) that constitute the corner of a room (L505) were found that dates to the Late Roman period.
In the southeastern corner of the square a deep pit (L510) was exposed that went down to the level of the Iron Age I wall and even below it (Fig. 5). The pit was full of small stones and a large quantity of potsherds that mostly date to the third and fourth centuries CE. When the pit was originally excavated in antiquity the corner of the walls from the Late Roman period in the eastern part of the square were damaged and mixed ceramic material was found in the section which goes down from it to the pit. Close to the southern end of the square another disturbance was found that severed the strata from the Roman period and was connected to the pit. The fill in the pit and the nature of the disturbance, which is similar to the finds that were revealed on the northern slope of the tell, indicate it was almost certainly caused by a land slide that destroyed most of the area of Roman Gush Halav.
The excavation at Tel Gush Halav exposed for the first time remains that predate the Roman period. Due to the limited area of the excavation the picture that was revealed is only partial, but is sufficient to contribute towards a reconstruction of the settlement’s history. The beginning of the settlement at the tell was in the Early Bronze Age. Only a few potsherds from this period were found in the excavation, probably because it did not reach the lowest levels where remains from this period would be expected. The earliest structure that was exposed is dated to the Middle Bronze Age (Stratum 4). All that was found from the Late Bronze Age was isolated potsherds; in the Iron Age I the area was rebuilt (Stratum 3). The foundations of the wall from this period were built on the top of the wall from the Middle Bronze Age. From the later phases of the Iron Age and the Persian period, at which time the tell was inhabited (according to the survey), no artifacts were found. Only a few potsherds were recovered that date to the Hellenistic period and these were not in situ. In the Early Roman period the area was inhabited (Stratum 2) and even though walls were not exposed, a rich assemblage of pottery, glass and stone fragments was found. Based on the finds and the historical evidence the residents of the settlement were Jewish. Gush Halav was one of the settlements that was fortified in the time of the Great Revolt, and John of Giscala was appointed its head. According to Josephus the city capitulated and was therefore not destroyed.
Walls of buildings and a large tabun
were found in the last settlement layer (Stratum 1) which is ascribed to the Late Roman period. At the end of that period the site was damaged, probably by a landslide. With the exception of a few potsherds from the Byzantine period no artifacts that date to later periods were discovered in the excavation. Similar finds were also uncovered in the excavations along the northern slope (HA-ESI 118
) of the tell while remains from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were found in a small excavation in its southwestern part (Permit No. A-3738).