During January 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted in the southeastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-4340; map ref. NIG 231625/739420; OIG 181625/239420), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the land leaser F. Safuri, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), Y. Laban (administration), H. Smithline (photography), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
The excavation revealed a significant stratigraphical sequence from Iron IIB (Stratum IX), the Hellenistic (Strata VI, V), Early and Middle Roman (Strata IV, III) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods, as well as important architectural remains from the Early Roman period (Fig. 1).
At the beginning of the excavation, the topsoil layer (depth c. 0.4 m), down to the first appearance of walls, was removed with the aid of mechanical equipment.
Stratum IX. Bedrock was reached over an extensive area in the western square, at a depth of c. 1.5–1.7 m below the removed topsoil layer. Several diagnostic Iron IIB potsherds were found on bedrock and in the packed-earth level (L432) directly above it. No walls could be attributed to this period but it may be deduced that some occupation was present here during the Iron Age.
Strata VI, V. Two or three occupation phases were dated to the Hellenistic period. A floor of packed earth with plaster patches (L431) was overlaid with a thick burnt layer (L426), containing considerable quantities of pottery, overwhelmingly bag-shaped jars with rounded rims, dating to the Early Hellenistic period. Many sheep and goat bones that had signs of butchering were found in association with this pottery. A single wall (W416) was associated with Floor L426. It seems that the area to the west of W416 was an open courtyard, which was part of a house that stood to the east of W416. The house was built in the Hellenistic period and continued in use in later periods, undergoing some changes. Another wall (W412), parallel to W416, may have been built in the Hellenistic period; however, as it is isolated from other Hellenistic remains by later building activities, it is impossible to determine its affiliation with certainty. The thick burnt layer was the result of a general destruction rather than local activities. Another floor (L424) that bore Hellenistic potsherds and overlaid the burnt layer L426 indicates that life continued after the destruction without any gap in occupation. A third floor (L414) was also associated with Hellenistic potsherds and the area probably continued in use as an open courtyard into the Early Roman period.
Stratum IV. The picture obtained in the western square is distinct from the one in the eastern square, where evidence of floors from the Hellenistic period is completely lacking and apparently, all earlier remains (Iron Age, Hellenistic) were removed by later Roman building activities. While the western area continued in use as a courtyard, part of a house was found in the eastern square (Fig. 2). Two of the house’s walls were initially constructed in the Hellenistic period (W412, W416) and continued to function in the Early and Middle Roman periods. Other walls of the house (W417, W419, W437) may have been added at different phases in the Early Roman period.
The most significant feature in this area was the discovery of three underground units, each of a different nature. A huge circular rock-cut water cistern (L422) that contained a stone fill was not excavated for safety reasons, but it could be observed that its depth exceeded 4 m. The lower part of the cistern was rock hewn for at least 2 m and its upper part was carefully roofed with a dome, built of small stones. A second unit (L434; 2 × 4 m, max. height 1.5 m) in the north of the square was a rectangular room, entered via a shaft (L421) and carefully built of stone walls with a dressed stone-slab gabled ceiling (Fig. 3). The third unit was a corridor, covered with dressed stone slabs, which was not excavated except for its shaft (L415). The narrow, square stone-built shafts of the two latter units were disguised from view by two flimsy walls (W418, W420). Ceramic finds in the gabled unit, as well as pottery and coin finds in its shaft indicate that these underground units were in use no later than the second half of the first century CE. We interpret these features as an underground hiding complex used by the occupants of the house at the time of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66–70 CE). This discovery is of great importance to the history of the site and the Lower Galilee in the first century CE.
Stratum III. The house continued to be occupied, as evidenced by the superimposed floors (L411), although the underground units were no longer functional. The pottery shows that the site was occupied during the third, but not the fourth century CE.
Stratum I. A packed earth and plaster floor near surface (L410), as well as potsherds and some small fifth century CE minimi, provide evidence for a fifth century CE occupation.
The excavation in Area T revealed several Hellenistic occupation levels and an intensive Early and Middle Roman occupation. The underground hiding complex, which probably belonged to a core or an extended family, provides evidence for the resistance of the village population in the Galilee to the Romans during the Great Revolt of 66–67 CE. This issue, which has many ramifications, leads us to consider the political affiliations of the population in the villages and the neighboring towns (Sepphoris, Tiberias) throughout the first century CE.