During May 2011, a small trial excavation was conducted on the western margins of the Golani Junction–Road 65 (Permit No. A-6168; map ref. 238412/742770), in the wake of discovering ancient remains in mechanically-dug trench probes. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel National Road Company, was directed by Y. Alexandre (field photography), with the assistance of R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting) and A. Shapiro (GPS).
The excavation (c. 50 sq m), c. 500 m north of the Golani junction, was one of several archaeological excavations carried out prior to the construction of an overpass at the Golani junction.
The Golani junction region has a basalt outcrop layer of large slabs and boulders that originated from the volcanic activity of the Golan Heights. The soils of the eastern part of the alluvial plain are brown grumusol with some red terra rossa pockets. Adjacent to the excavated site is a seasonal pool, Birket Maskana, which retains water until the mid- or late summer to this day. In July 1187, the Crusader army drank from this pool en route to their fateful encounter with the Ayyubid troops of Salah el-Din at the nearby Horns of Hattin.
On a low hill, c. 300 m northeast of the present excavation lies Maskana or Horbat Mishkena—a Jewish village from the Roman period, known from surveys and from the rabbinic literature. In the Early Roman period, a concentration of Jewish settlements was in and around the Bet Netofa and Bet Rimon-Tur'an valleys, with Horbat Bet Netofa, Horbat Ammudim, Bu'eina, Nimrin, Maskana and Lubya at the eastern edge of the valley. The imperial Roman road from Ptolemais-‘Akko via Sepphoris to Tiberias, paved by Hadrian in 120 CE, ran very close to the present excavation and c. 60 m to its east, a 400 m long basalt-slab paved segment of the ancient road was exposed (HA-ESI 114:22*–23*).
The site of H. Mishkena – Es-Sira, today located within the Golani-museum precinct, is c. 300 m southeast of the present excavation. The es-Sirah ‘animal pen’ or ‘compound’ consists basically of a large circular ring, dry-built of natural basalt boulders. Surveys in the vicinity documented flint implements and some potsherds from Iron II, and the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods. No archaeological excavation has been carried out to date within the Sirat Maskana complex.
Two and one half squares were opened in the excavation area after the removal of an alluvial soil layer (thickness c. 1 m) from the surface with a backhoe. A layer of natural un-worked large basalt stones that formed a slightly east–west sloping down living surface was exposed in Sq 2, c. 1.5 m below the surface (L103–L105; Fig. 1). A large round limestone basin (diam. 0.7 m, height 0.4 m) with a round central depression (depth 0.2 m) stood, in situ, on the stone surface (Fig. 2). The limited potsherds on the living surface and in the overlying accumulation consisted of some Middle Bronze IIA storage jars and a few tiny scattered Roman and Byzantine fragments.
No continuation of the stone living surface was discerned in Sq 3, to the west, nor in Sq 1 to the south. Square 3 yielded no archaeological data and in Sq. 1, a thick layer of smooth, heavy, red terra rossa soil (L108), and above it a layer of brown soil with stones (L107), at the same level as the stone living surface in Sq 2 (Fig. 3), were exposed.
From the limited data it is possible to suggest that the Middle Bronze IIA (around the eighteenth century BCE) occupants of the basalt stone living surface were carrying out some quarrying activities of the red terra rossa material, possibly to use it in the production of pottery, for which it was well-suited.