During January 2003 a trial excavation was conducted at Horbat Darkemon (Permit No. A-3766*; map ref. NIG 19370–75/72400–05; OIG 14370–75/22400–05) after mechanical equipment exposed ancient remains. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by Moshav Dor, was directed by S. Mahajna, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), A. Glick (GPS), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (drawing), J. Sharvit (identification of seashells) and E. Yannai (pottery reading).
The site is located along the eastern fringes of the kurkar ridge (Fig. 1; ESI 19:24*–25*; 103*–104*). Dressed kurkar masonry stones were found in probe trenches dug prior to the excavation. The surface layer was removed by mechanical equipment down to the top of stones and subsequently, seven squares of various sizes were opened (Fig. 2).
Twelve rectangular cist graves hewn in the kurkar bedrock were exposed. Two graves (Nos. 8, 10; depth 0.6–1.0 m; Figs. 3, 4), devoid of any archaeological artifacts, were excavated. Some of the graves were oriented east–west, while others were aligned north–south (max. length 2.3 m, width 0.59–1.32 m). The graves were covered with long dressed kurkar slabs, set widthwise across the grave. Along the edge of the grave natural bedrock was quarried in a straight line to facilitate the placement of the covering stones.
A few fragments of pottery vessels were found around and above the graves. These potsherds included Eastern Terra Sigilatta bowls from the Late Roman period (Fig. 5:1, 2), baggy-shaped jars from the Byzantine period (Fig. 5:3–5), Gaza jars (Fig. 5:6, 7), Rhodian amphorae without seal impressions (Fig. 5:8, 9) and an amphora rim (Fig. 5:10) that cannot be identified with certainty. Fragments of glass vessels and metal were also discovered. The nature of the vessels is incongruent with that of funerary offerings and therefore the date of the graves is unclear. No burial remains or human bones were found and in all likelihood, the graves were never used.
A heap of seashells was discovered near Grave 5. One hundred ninety five thick, curved bivalves with a smooth face and of equal size were counted in a single mass. They are Glycymeris violacescens (Lamarck 1819), which is a very common bivalve along the Israeli coastline that washes up onto the beach during a storm. The large concentration of shells may be related to the ancient remains because the site is not located along the shoreline.
It is difficult to date the rock-hewn remains; however, similar ones were discovered along the northern coastal plain in the past. Similar kurkar-hewn tombs dating to the Persian and Roman periods were dug in the vicinity of Tel el-Ras (near Qibbuz Lohamey Ha-Geta’ot; ‘Atiqot 37, 1999:141–163 [Hebrew]) and a group of tombs that more closely resembled tombs at Tel Dor was excavated in ‘Akko, dating to the Hellenistic period (‘Atiqot 50:153–159). Fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period were found at the site and may substantiate the quarrying date to this period.