During September 2005 a brief salvage excavation was conducted in the heart of the modern village of Peqi‘in in the Upper Galilee (Permit No. A-4607*; map ref. NIG 23150–53/76445–48; OIG 18150–53/26445–48; Fig. 1). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by S. Wolff, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqoby and Y. Lerer (administration), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory), D. Adan-Bayewitz (pottery identification), I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing), I. Milevski (stone vessels), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and N. Getzov, who graciously put the finds from the survey at my disposal (HA-ESI
The site is located in the immediate vicinity of the tomb of Rabbi Yossi (Fig. 2), a pilgrimage site. The area is planned for development to accommodate Jewish pilgrims who still come to worship at this tomb, which is situated c. 100 m below (west of) ‘Ein el-Balad, the most plentiful of the many springs of Peqi‘in. The remains of several nearby ruined flour mills indicate a significant stream of water that once flowed from the spring to our site. Such a situation would have been conducive for occupation throughout the millennia, as the pottery and other objects from our excavation demonstrate, dating from the Paleolithic (Mousterian), Chalcolithic, Early Bronze II, Iron Age, Early Roman, Late Byzantine and Islamic periods. Architectural remains from the Byzantine period were exposed in the excavation, but earlier remains lie below, as seen in the section visible below Rabbi Yossi’s tomb. Unfortunately, the suspension of fieldwork precluded the exposure of these earlier remains.
Three squares, one on a higher terrace and two on a lower one, were opened; all three were set above the tomb of Rabbi Yossi. A cement floor (width c. 0.9 m), whose both sides lipped up, ran the length of Square 1 (Fig. 3), immediately under the modern surface and outside of a modern sewer pipe. If this was a walkway, as the current residents claim, it was a narrow one. Below a modern fill layer was a wall (W103) that ran diagonally across the square and was abutted on the east by a well-preserved tabun (L108). The date of these features was not determined, but it seems reasonable to suggest that they, like those described below, should be ascribed to the Byzantine period.
Remains of walls in Squares 2 and 3 (Fig. 4), located northwest of the tomb, were also revealed immediately below a fill layer whose latest pottery dated to the Islamic period. The walls were oriented northeast–southwest and northwest–southeast. Walls discerned in the section, cut prior to the excavation, just to the north of Squares 2 and 3, probably connected with the excavated walls, but time prevented us from making the link. If this is so, one can project at least a single room (width c. 3.5 m). Only the initial stages of these walls were revealed; further excavation is necessary to determine their details and associations. Pottery associated with a cobble floor that related to Walls 1 and 2 in Square 3 dated to the Late Byzantine period (sixth century CE).
Two fragments of threshold stones were found ex situ in a pile of debris between Square 2 and Rabbi Yossi's tomb (Fig. 5).
The earliest pottery from the excavations included an EB II platter rim (Fig. 6:1) and several kraters from Iron IIA (Fig. 6:2–4). The majority of the pottery dated to the Roman period and included much Kefar Hananya Ware. The earliest was a cooking pot of Form 4B, dating to the late first–second centuries CE (Fig. 6:11). Pottery from the third and fourth centuries CE included bowls of Form 1D (Fig. 6:5, 6) and 1E (Fig. 6:7–10), cooking pot Forms 1B (Fig. 6:12), 3B (Fig. 6:13) and 4C (Fig. 6:14, 15) and storage jars (Fig. 6:16–18). The Byzantine period was well-represented, especially imported bowls LRC 3 and a stamped LRC base (Fig. 7:1–4), CRS 2 (Fig. 7:5, 6) and CRS 9 (Fig. 7:7), a cooking pot lid (Fig. 7:8) and storage jars (Fig. 7:9, 10). Similar pottery was revealed at nearby Horbat ‘Eved. A Turkish pipe fragment (Fig. 7:11) represents Ottoman-period occupation in the area. Non-ceramic finds from the excavation included two basalt stone fragments, an open bowl (Fig. 7:12) and a small mortar (Fig. 7:13), both should probably be dated to the Chalcolithic period. For the glass finds, see Gorin-Rosen below.
Finds from the survey that preceded the excavation included a nicely fashioned basalt bowl fragment dating to the Chalcolithic period (Fig. 8:1); rim of a platter, a jar, a storage jar base and an almost complete juglet, all of metallic ware from EB II (Fig. 8:2–5), as well as bowls, cooking pots and storage jars of Kefar Hananya Ware from the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 8:6–9).
Despite the limited excavation, several important results were achieved. First, pottery and stone vessels from the Chalcolithic, Early Bronze II, Iron II, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods were found, as well as a significant accumulation of occupational debris, suggesting that the excavated site be identified as the ancient hub or tell of Peqi‘in, not far from the main water source. Second, domestic architecture, most likely dating to the Byzantine period (sixth century CE), was revealed. Third, evidence for substantial public architecture, probably also Byzantine in date, was found, ex situ (two threshold stones). This structure probably stood not far from our excavation area. Fourth, a significant amount of raw glass debris testifies to the existence of a Late Roman/Byzantine glass workshop in the general vicinity. Should the opportunity arise to continue this excavation, which was unmercifully cut off almost as soon as it had begun, it will allow us to better understand and date the exposed architecture and to characterize the remains from earlier unexcavated periods.
The Glass Finds
The glass finds from this excavation included glass production debris (Fig. 9) and a few vessel fragments, including a small bowl dated to the Late Roman or Byzantine periods and a conical hollow stem of a bowl-shaped oil lamp, characteristic of the Byzantine period.
The glass production debris included fifty-five chunks and three drops of hot glass. Among the chunks were flakes or chunks of clean raw glass with no debris, probably intended for melting in the glass-blower's furnace. In addition, a rather large amount of debris from glass furnaces, identified by layers of glass on top of a limestone layer, was found. The chunks of stone with glass layers may have originated in furnace walls, where melted hot glass flowed into the stone cracks.
The fabric and quality of the glass and the debris probably suggest that they originated from a glass furnace of the secondary stage, where chunks of raw glass were melted for the production of vessels, rather than in a primary stage furnace used for making raw glass. Nevertheless, the most characteristic evidence of glass vessel making—the blowing debris—is missing. It is possible that the waste found in this excavation was dumped after being dismantled from a glass furnace located farther away. Hence, the waste does not necessarily indicate the location of the furnace itself.
Peqi‘in thus joins numerous sites where glass vessels were produced in antiquity; this salvage excavation contributes to the study of the history of glass production in Israel during the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.