Stratum VI (Early Bronze Age IB)
In Sqs A2 and B2, a habitation level of dark brown-gray ash (L829b, L841; Fig. 3) was found directly on virgin soil. A rich assortment of pottery vessels from the EB IB was revealed on this level and in the overlying accumulated soil (thickness c. 0.8 m); most of the artifacts were uncovered in L829b. Pottery sherds from this period were found in the lower levels in each of the excavation squares. Later archaeological strata penetrated the EB IB habitation layers and damaged them. The pottery vessels that characterize Stratum VI include gray burnished vessels that are typical of the Jezreel Valley, as well as an abundance of large vessels. A similar assemblage was discovered in two nearby excavations: 30–40 m southeast of the current excavation (Gal and Covello-Paran 1996:27–38) and c. 50 m west of the excavation, at the corner of Ussishkin and Varda Lerner Streets (Permit No. A-4425).
Stratum V (Early Bronze Age III)
This stratum penetrated Stratum VI, making it very difficult to distinguish between the two. Distinct remains from this stratum were revealed in three places in the excavation area.
(1) In Sq B2, a layer of small stones, pottery sherds and crushed bones (L829a) sloped from north to south (Fig. 2: Section 1–1) and sealed Stratum VI. Well-burnished Khirbet Kerak Ware was found on the layer of stones and in the overlying accumulation. Above this layer were remains of a circular clay-made installation that was set on a foundation of small stones in the eastern section of Sq B2 (Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 3). The installation was poorly preserved, and its purpose remains unclear.
(2) In Sq A2, a poorly preserved layer, similar to Layer 829a, was discovered above L841 of Stratum VI. A fragment of red-painted platter decorated with a reticulated pattern and Khirbet Kerak Ware were found above this layer. Part of what was probably another circular installation was exposed above L841. The installation was built of earth mixed with clay and was covered with a layer of crushed chalk (Fig. 4); here too, it was impossible to determine the purpose of the installation.
(3) In Sq A2, a habitation level consisting of crushed pottery sherds and small- and medium-sized stones (L828; Fig. 5) was found; it was damaged by Stratum III and the wall foundations of Stratum I. In addition to these three places, a concentration of sherds dating to the Early Bronze Age III was found at the base of a wall (W846) in Sq A7.
Stratum IV (Intermediate Bronze Age)
Remains of a building and a habitation level were exposed in the four southern squares. Squares A1 and A2 yielded remains of three walls (W818, W822, W855; Fig. 6) belonging to one building. It seems that W818 and W822 formed a corner, and that W855 was perpendicular to W822. Wall 822 (length 5.5 m) was built of two rows of small- and medium-sized fieldstones; they were founded on a layer of soil (thickness 7 cm) that was deposited atop a row of small stones, probably a foundation course. Apparently, only the lower course of small stones was preserved in the southern part of W822. The walls of the building were abutted by a habitation level (L814, L832) consisting of a thin layer of light-colored earth mixed with crushed chalk; this level extended as far as the southern boundary of Sq A1 (L806). The habitation level was damaged by a cesspit and a building constructed during the Early Islamic period in the northern part of Sq A2. Several jar fragments ascribed to the Intermediate Bronze Age were discovered on the habitation level. Remains of this habitation level were found in Sqs B1 and B2 as well. A jar and a pithos from the Intermediate Bronze Age were discovered in Sq B2, below the base of a Stratum II wall (W821), and fragments of similarly dated decorated bowls and jars were found in Sq B1 (L812, L831; Fig. 7). Square A7, in the north of the excavation area, yielded additional pottery sherds of this date; the square sustained damage due early twentieth century construction.
Stratum III (Middle Bronze Age II)
Phase IIIb (MB IIA). A few pottery sherds were found near the surface in the two southernmost squares. These included jars, cooking pots and a lamp. One of the jars was dug into the Intermediate Bronze Age habitation level (L812).
Phase IIIa (the end of the MB IIA). A tomb (L842) was exposed c. 0.6 m below the pottery of Stratum IIIb in Sq A1; the boundaries of the burial were not discovered. The tomb was dug into Stratum IV and penetrated Stratum V as well. The bones discovered in the tomb belonged to a single individual and were in a poor state of preservation; it was thus impossible to determine the position of burial. Funerary offerings consisting of a jar without a neck and a decorated juglet were uncovered next to the deceased. A carinated bowl that was probably also part of the offerings was found at a slightly higher elevation; it had been moved as a result of later construction. The three vessels date to the end of the MB IIA (Fig. 9).
Stratum II (Early Islamic period)
Building remains were discovered at a depth of 0.25 m below the surface following the removal of a residential building from the early twentieth century. Two architectural complexes were discerned, one in the south of the area and the other in the north. The southern complex was discovered in Sqs A1 and A2. Two walls (W813, W819, W808) were preserved to a height of only one course. Wall 813 was broad (width c. 1 m) and perpendicular to W819. The walls delimited four spaces; the two northern spaces were damaged when modern cesspits were constructed. The wall foundations penetrated Stratum IV. Floors made of layers of tamped earth mixed with crushed chalk found inside the buildings were laid over the habitation level of Stratum IV. Several jars and cooking pots dating to the Early Islamic period were found in the northwestern space (L814). A few fragments of open cooking vessels dating from the beginning of the Early Islamic period were found on the floor of the southwestern space. The southeastern space was not excavated. Remains of additional walls in Sq B2 (W820, W821) may have belonged to the same structure. Two walls in Qq A5 (W836, W845) were constructed in the same orientation as those of the southern complex, and hence may be related to that structure. These walls went out of use with the construction of the northern building complex.
The northern building complex was discovered in Sq A5. Three wide walls (W816, W827, W848; max. width 1.8 m; Fig. 10) that survived to a height of three–four courses (1 m) were exposed. A floor made of earth and crushed chalk discovered in the northwestern corner of the building abutted the top of the first course of Walls 816 and 827, which form the corner. Closed cooking pots dating from the beginning of the Early Islamic period were found on the floor. A small square installation (W826, W849, W851, W852; Fig. 11) built of fieldstones of various sizes was found north of the building (Sq A7). It may have been connected to the building complex to its south. The northern wall of the installation was abutted by a crushed chalk surface (L850; Fig. 12). A similar chalk surface was exposed in the western part of the square (L825), but that area was disturbed in the modern era, and several fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic and Roman periods and a few sherds from the Early Islamic period were found there. Both Surfaces 850 and 825 may have been part of the same floor level. Fragments of bowls and amphorae dating from the seventh century CE were found on another tamped surface (L839), in the northeastern corner of Sq A7. Remains of two walls (W844, W853) belonging to one building were uncovered on Surface 839. The building postdates the surface, but since no finds were discovered within the structure, its date remains unknown. Numerous fragments of pottery vessels, including cooking pots and amphorae, were exposed throughout Sq A7.
A well (W833; diam. c. 4 m; Fig. 13) discovered in the western part of Sq B2 was assigned to this stratum as well. Only the outer, eastern face of the well was discovered (exposed depth 2.7 m), but it was not exposed down to its base. The well was built of medium-sized stones and was treated with plaster containing pottery sherds, some of which are from the beginning of the Early Islamic period.
Stratum I (Mamluk period)
Two round pits were ascribed to this stratum. One was uncovered in Sq A5 (L854; diam. 1.1 m; see Fig. 10), near the Stratum II building; it penetrated from the top of the walls of the building to down below their base. In Sq A7, the pit (L847) was dug into Surface 850 (Stratum II). . The purpose of these pits is unclear. They contained fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period. Sherds ascribed to this period were found on the surface in Sq A7 as well. Dozens of similar pits that contained pottery sherds from the Mamluk period were discovered in previously conducted excavations on Tel ‘Afula (Permit Nos. A-4425, A-6515, A-6716).
Early Bronze Age IB. A rich assortment of pottery vessels was discovered, including gray-burnished bowls (Fig. 14:1, 2), red-burnished bowls (Fig. 14:3, 4), burnished kraters with a gutter rim (Fig. 14:5, 6) and an abundance of large storage vessels, some of which were burnished, including jars (Fig. 14:7, 8), holemouths (Fig. 14:9, 10) and pithoi with rims adorned with plastic decorations (Fig. 14:11). Similar ceramic assemblages were unearthed in other excavations at Tel ‘Afula (Sukenik 1948: Pls. X, XI; Gal and Covello-Paran 1996: Figs. 4–7, Stratum VI), as well as in excavations at Tel Qashish (Zuckerman 2003) and ‘En Shaddud (Braun 1985).
Early Bronze Age III. A rich assemblage of pottery vessels was found. It includes red-burnished bowls (Fig. 15:1, 2), a platter decorated with a reticulated pattern (Fig. 15:10), a cooking pot (Fig 15:11), jar handles (Fig. 15:12, 13) and a variety of well-burnished red, brown and black Khirbet Kerak Ware, including rounded bowls (Fig. 15:3–6), carinated bowls with plastic decorations (Fig. 15:7, 8), a krater (Fig. 15:9) and a finely burnished jug handle (Fig. 15:14). Identical assemblages were uncovered at Tel Bet Yerah (Greenberg and Eisenberg 2006: Figs. 5.85, 5.86, 5.90). Tel ‘Afula is known to have been one of the centers of the Khirbet Kerak Ware culture, and whole vessels have also been revealed there (Sukenik 1948: Pls. X, XI, XXI).
Intermediate Bronze Age. The ceramic artifacts from the habitation level of Stratum IV included small open bowls, decorated with red-painted patterns (Fig. 16:1, 2); a ledge handle of a hand-made, thin-walled bowl (Fig. 16:3); cooking pots (Fig. 16:4, 5) characteristic of the north of the country that have a round body and an out-splaying rim and are at times decorated with a plastic ornamentation; an amphoriskos (Fig. 16:6) and jars (Fig. 16:7–10) with a prominent neck that is at times decorated with incisions characteristic of the period. A similar assemblage was previously found at Tel ‘Afula (Gal and Covello-Paran 1996: Figs. 10, 11, Stratum V).
Middle Bronze Age IIA. The ceramic finds from Phase IIIb lacked a clear architectural context. They consist of cooking vessels, containers and storage vessels, including kraters that have a barrel-shaped or carinated body (Fig. 17:1–3); two types of cooking pots that are characteristic of the period—wheel-made cooking pots with a gutter rim (Fig 17:4), which were common and continued to be produced at the beginning of the MB IIB, and hand-made cooking pots that have a thick straight wall and are decorated with a rope ornamentation on the upper third of their body (Fig. 17:5, 6); a pithos (Fig. 17:7); a variety of jars with thickened rims and an elliptical body, usually without handles (Fig. 17:8–13), which date mainly from the first phase of the MB II and are rare in the second phase of the period; a thin-walled jug with a decorated rim (Fig. 17:14); and remains of a lamp bearing soot stains on its body (not drawn). Identical ceramic assemblages were uncovered at Afek (Yadin 2009: Figs. 7.18–7.21) and at other excavations at Tel ‘Afula (Gal and Covello-Paran 1996: Figs. 21–23, Stratum IV).
A decorated juglet and a jar without a neck were found Tomb 842 of Stratum III; a carinated bowl was found above the tomb. The juglet (Fig. 18:3), which is made of whitish clay and is well-fired, has a wide ridge below the rim and is meticulously burnished. The middle part of the body is decorated on both sides with purple-brown circles flanked by two horizontal stripes. A similar juglet, albeit decorated with animals, was uncovered in Tomb 4 at Ginnosar (Epstien 1974: Fig. 14:5). Judging by the form of the juglet and the decorations it bears, it should be dated to the end of MBIIA. The jar that had its neck removed (Fig. 18:2) is a typical Canaanite jar that was probably used for an infant burial, a custom that was common during this period, as in Tomb 1025 at Tel Dan (Ilan 1996: Fig. 4.90:5) and at Tel Bira (Permit No. A-5148). This jar is typical of the MB IIA, and it continued to appear in the early part of MB IIB. The carinated bowl (Fig. 18:1) is made of thin clay and is angled in the middle of the body. Similar bowls were exposed in Tomb 498 at Kabri (Scheftelowitz, Kempinski and Gershuny 2002: Fig. 5/32:2–5). Based on these three vessels, the tomb should be dated to the latter part of the MB IIA.
Late Bronze Age. A fragment of a mold-made clay figurine plaque depicting a female is the only ceramic artifact found from this period in the excavation (Fig. 19). The fragment is missing its head and legs. The woman is holding her breasts with her hands, with the thumb of each hand separated from the other fingers. A narrow line is engraved along the length of the chest, and there is an incised pubic triangle with another line at the bottom. The back side depicts two crudely fashioned arms, and the curves of the body, which emphasizes the pelvic area. Also seen on the back is a ridge-like protuberance that runs from the neck to the hips, and is probably meant to depict a braid, although not separated into three strands of hair. Similar mold-made figurine plaques from this period were found in the Jezreel Valley. Approximately 85% of these figurines were discovered at Megiddo (15) and Ta‘anach (8), and are therefore dubbed ‘Megiddo-Ta‘anach’ figurines. The rest of the Late Bronze Age figurine plaques were discovered at ‘Ein el-Hilu, Tel Qishyon, Tel Yizre‘el and Tel Qashish (Kletter, Covello-Paran and Saarelainen 2010).
Hellenistic and Roman Periods. Several fragments of pottery vessels ascribed to the Hellenistic and Roman periods were found above the crushed chalk surface of Stratum III (L825; Sq A7). They are indicative of activity that took place on the tell during these periods.
Early Islamic Period. Most of the pottery vessels from the excavation date to this period; they include bowls, numerous cooking vessels, jars and amphorae. Similar ceramic assemblages were uncovered at Caesarea, where they date to the seventh century CE (Adan-Bayewitz 1986). The bowls include carinated bowls made of well-levigated orange clay (Fig. 20:1, 2), a type known from several sites, among them Stratum 4 at Caesarea, Gerash and Heshbon (mid-seventh century CE; Sauer 1973:50, No. 118), where these bowls are very common, and Jerusalem (Magnes 1993:185–187, No. 11); a multi-handled bowl made of light-colored clay (Fig. 20:3); and a bowl with a grooved rim made of coarse clay (Fig. 20:4), which is characteristic of the Bet She’an area, but is also found at sites in the Western Galilee, such as Horvat ‘Ovesh. and in the Carmel region (Aviam and Getzov 1998: Fig. 9:3; Calderon 2000: Pls. IX:58; XIV:79).
A wide variety of cooking vessels was discovered. They include open casseroles that have thin ribbing and handles on their body (Fig. 20:5–8); closed cooking pots (Fig 20:9–12), some of which have a recess on their rim for a lid; and an assortment of lids (Fig. 20:13–15). Similar cooking vessels from the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period (seventh century CE) were found throughout the country.
The jars include northern and southern types of bag-shaped jars and gray jars. The southern bag-shaped jars (Fig 20:16–18) are made of reddish-brown clay, have a short neck, a broad round base and ribbing that is denser on the shoulder than on the body of the vessel. Oren-Paskal (2008:51) contends that this is the most common jar at Caesarea and that it was used to store wine. Vitto (1987:48) states that in addition to storing wine, these jar were used to hold other liquids, such as water, oil and fish stock, and contained even wheat and dried dates. This jar was widely used in the late sixth century and especially in the seventh century CE. The northern bag-shaped jar (Fig. 20:19–21) is made of gray clay, it has a prominent ridge that marks the transition from the shoulder to the bag-shaped body, and its body is sometimes decorated with white circles. Adan-Bayewitz (1986:100–101) believes that the clay of these jars, their archaeological context and their distribution, all indicate that they contained oil. These jars were used extensively, primarily in the Galilee and the Jordan Valley. They date from the end of the Roman period to the seventh century CE, but occur in some assemblages dating from the beginning of the eighth century CE. The gray jars (Fig 20:22) are made of coarse clay and have a long neck.
The amphorae (Fig. 20:23), probably imported, were made of well-levigated clay. Similar amphorae were found in Caesarea (Oren-Paskal 2008: Fig. 6:24).
Crusader Period. A few potsherds that postdate the Early Islamic period were discovered throughout the site. Among these was a Crusader-period fragment of an olive-green glazed carinated bowl, decorated with light green circles (Fig. 21:1). The bowl originated in Cyprus, and is dated to the thirteenth century CE.
Mamluk Period. A variety of glazed and painted vessels was discovered. These included a deep green-glazed bowl that has a high base, atypical of this type of vessel (Fig. 21:2); a glazed bowl painted with yellow slip on a brown background (Slip-Painted; Fig. 21:3); a carinated, yellow-glazed monochrome bowl (Fig. 21:4), which dates from the mid-thirteenth to the fifteenth century CE; and two hand-made bowls bearing red-brown painted decorations (Fig. 21:5, 6), which can date anywhere between the twelfth century and the sixteenth century CE. A petrographic study of Mamluk-period hand-made painted bowls uncovered in 2005–2006 at Tel ‘Afula indicated that they belong to two distinct petrographic groups, most probably produced in two different workshops: one in the eastern Galilee and the other in either the southern part of the Upper Galilee, the Jordan Valley or Transjordan. About two thirds of the Mamluk-period vessels examined from sites in northern Israel come from these two production centers (Gabrieli, Ben Shlomo and Walker 2014:204–208).
Ottoman Period. The finds include a glazed casserole (Fig. 21:7) with straight walls and a thumb-indented handle. Its provenance is in the Cyclades Islands, and it dates from the eighteenth–twentieth centuries CE. Black Gaza Ware was also discovered, including a jar (Fig. 21:8) and amphorae (Fig. 21:9, 10) that were common during the Ottoman period in Israel up to the Lebanese coast. These vessels were exposed on the surface in the northeastern part of the excavation area and above the building in Sq A5.
Stone Artifacts
Three characteristic EB I basalt bowls (Fig. 22:1–3) that resemble the V-shaped bowls of the Chalcolithic period were discovered in the excavation. Bowls 1 and 3 were found in Stratum VI, whereas Bowl 2 was exposed in secondary use at the base of W848 (Stratum II). Bowl 1 has an especially thick wall, and is dated to the EB IA. Similar bowls were discovered at sites in northern Israel, such as Tel Te’o, Yiftah‘el and Ha-Zore‘a (Braun 1990: Fig. 2:4, Type Ia). Bowl 2 dates from the EB IB. Bowl 3 has two handles and is common in the Bet She’an area; it is usually identified as Type III (Braun 1990).
A shallow EB III basalt bowl (Fig. 22:4) was discovered in Stratum V. A large spindle whorl (diam. 5 cm; Fig. 22:6) was found in this stratum as well.
A spindle whorl of common size (2.0–2.4 cm; Fig. 22:7) and a small, meticulously crafted basalt bowl (Fig. 22:5) are ascribed to the Intermediate Bronze Age (Stratum IV).
A lower grinding stone (Fig. 22:8) and several pounders (Fig 22:9–12) were discovered near the surface.
The excavation was conducted at the highest point on Tel ‘Afula. The settlement in the various periods extended over different parts of the tell. In the Early Bronze Age IB (Stratum VI), the settlement covered most of the tell. A large assortment of pottery vessels from this period was found. Previous excavations on the tell unearthed only a thin layer from this period; however, the EB IB layer in the current excavation comprises a thick accumulation of soil (thickness c. 0.8 m) devoid of architectural remains. The Early Bronze Age IB ceramic assemblage is identical to contemporary assemblages from Tel Qashish and ‘En Shaddud; these are assemblages that are characteristic of the Jezreel Valley and its surroundings. The three basalt bowls of this period belong to two types that were common throughout the country, but particularly in the north.
Although a wealth of artifacts from the Early Bronze Age III (Stratum V) were exposed, no architectural remains belong to this period. Spectacular whole vessels of Khirbet Kerak Ware were found in previous excavations on the tell. The bowls discovered in Stratum V augment the information we have about this period’s ceramic repertoire.
Remains of a building consisting of four spaces were ascribed to the Intermediate Bronze Age (Stratum IV). Meager remains of walls and floors from this period were revealed in Dothan’s excavations (Dothan 1955:27) and in Gal’s excavations (Stratum V; Gal and Covello-Paran 1996:38–44), both in the western part of ​​the tell.
Since neither architectural remains nor any pottery related to an habitation level of the Middle Bronze Age IIA (Stratum III) were found, it seems that the excavation area was not used for dwelling during this period. However, mud-brick walls of this period, possibly dwelling remains, were discovered in Gal’s excavations on the tell (Gal and Covello-Paran 1996:44–45). A contemporary tomb containing three pottery vessels from the end of the Middle Bronze Age IIA was discovered in the excavation. A tomb discovered in Gal’s excavations yielded a richer repertoire of vessels that dates to the same time (Gal and Covello-Paran 1996:46, Fig. 16).
After the Middle Bronze Age, this portion of the tell remained uninhabited for centuries, but the fragment of a Late Bronze Age figurine that was found indicates there was probably activity that occurred on the tell at this time. Figurines of this type were common in the Jezreel Valley. Several fragments of White Slip II milk bowls dating to the Late Bronze Age were discovered in a nearby excavation (Permit No. A-6716).
The settlement at Tel ‘Afula during the Early Islamic period (seventh century CE; Stratum II) flourished and prospered. Evidence of this was gleaned from excavations that were previously carried out on and around the mound, yielding paved buildings, courtyards and installations that extended over large portions of the tell and beyond. In the current excavation, a square building was exposed at the top of the mound. Judging by its plan, its massive construction and its location, it was apparently a public building. A well discovered near the structure was possibly associated with it. The structure may have been a mosque, although there are no architectural characteristics of such a building to indicate this. Pits attributed to the Mamluk period (Stratum I) discovered in both this excavation and those on the tell indicate a presence at the site during this period.