In November 2012, a small trial excavation was conducted along the security fence, southeast of Majdal Shams (Permit No. A-6657; map ref. 273118–681/795743–6436; Fig. 1), after an antiquities site was damaged while fixing the fence. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Defense, was directed by H. Bron (field photography, surveying and drafting), with the assistance of M. Hartal (ceramics), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and A. Berger.
The site, previously unknown, is located along the route of the security fence, in an area that was until recently inaccessible and therefore never surveyed. Remains of two stone walls that belonged to a building, the nature of which is unknown, and a complete Hellenistic jar could be discerned. It seems that the building remains were part of a settlement that was situated on a hill and was damaged in the past when the security road was paved. Most of the site is located east of the fence, in an area that is mined.
A section was cleaned east of the road (height c. 10 m, width 6.4 m; Fig. 2). Two parallel walls (W1, W2; width 1.1 m, height of each wall c. 1.5 m; Fig. 3) running in an east–west direction were exposed in the upper part of the section, c. 0.5 m below the surface. In the area between the walls (L100; 3 sq m) were pottery sherds dating to the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman period (second half of the second century–early first century BCE). These included a complete store jar (Fig. 4:1), a bowl base adorned with a floral decoration on the inside (Fig. 4:2) and rim fragments of jars (Fig. 4:3–5). It seems that the walls belonged to a building, of which only a small section of its eastern part survived. Soil fill (L101; Fig. 5) was excavated at the bottom of the section, at the elevation of the modern road. It contained numerous pottery sherds dating to the same period as those in L100, including bowl fragments (Fig. 5:1, 2) and jar rims (Fig. 5:3, 4) that probably originated from the site that was damaged when the road was paved. The fill was excavated down to a layer of soil that was devoid of finds.
The excavation revealed part of a building from the Hellenistic period. During this period, the northern Golan was inhabited by Ituraeans, a people of Aramean or Arab origin who lived in the Beqa‘a Valley in Lebanon and on the mountains flanking it. Numerous sites ascribed to the Ituraeans were located in the northern Golan and at the foot of Mount H
ermon (Hartal 2005
). These small, open-air sites are dispersed in the area in a pattern of nomadic settlements. The settlements are characterized by coarse pottery vessels, particularly large handmade jars, used to store grain and water. The complete jar that was found at the site is typical of the Hellenistic period. Parallel vessels were found in the excavations of a similar settlement near Buq‘ata, but this is the first time that such a jar was found almost completely exposed on the surface. The limitations of the excavation—bounded on one side by a mine field and on the other by the security road—made it impossible to uncover the entire site, or even the entire building. Nevertheless, the site, which was previously unknown, adds to our knowledge about the Ituraean settlements in the Hellenistic period.