During December 1952 and January 1953 an excavation was conducted along the western slope of Tel Malot, prior to the construction of the railway line to Be’er Sheva‘. The excavation, on behalf of the Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Education and Culture and with funding provided by the Negev Railway Project, was directed by J. Ory (License No. &-2/1953*; map ref. NIG 187/640; OIG 137/140; Figs. 1, 2).
This report is based on short and preliminary reports written by J. Ory, S. Yeivin and E. Anati (area photograph) in 1952 and 1953 and the report of M. Mann from 1965 (Antiquities Authority Archive). Assistance was provided by M. Salzberger (studio photography), R. Bar-Natan (preparation of the report), N. Feig and A. Rochman-Halprin (archive), H. Bijovsky and Y. Barshak (photographic archive), G. Litani-Nevo (state treasures), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (drawing), A. Dagot (GIS mapping) and E. Yannai (consultation).
Three areas were opened (A–C; Fig. 3; Area C does not appear on the location map since the map of scattered pits was not saved). The pottery vessels from the excavation can not be attributed to a specific architectural complex, due to lack of data.
The ‘main’ area in the excavator’s report (250 sq m) was located at the bottom of the tell’s slope, in a narrow strip atop a low terrace, where the railroad track was later laid. Another strip, aligned east–west, was excavated toward the top of the tell (length 15 m, width 2–3 m; Fig. 4).
Wall foundations of a building (Fig. 5), which were constructed from a single course of fieldstones, placed next to each other, were exposed. It seems they continued beyond the excavated area. Next to the building’s foundation was a lower level of stones that may be the foundation of another building (Fig. 6). Adjacent to the trench excavated on the slope up the tell, in the northeastern part of the area, a stone-paved floor into which an intact jar with a handle was embedded, was exposed (Fig. 7). No ancient finds were recovered from the trench excavated toward the top of the tell. Natural nazaz soil was found at a depth of 0.6 m below surface and therefore the excavator believed that the area between the bottom terrace of the tell and the steep slope was not inhabited in the past. E. Anati, however, noted that this area was located away from the precipitous slope and suggested that perhaps the gate to the city wall was in this area.
The ‘southern’ area in the excavator’s report was located south of the tell, between the slope and the nearby wadi channel. Two spots were examined: a soil mound, rising above the surrounding area, was excavated near the tell and another area (c. 20 sq m) was explored next to the wadi channel. Near the slope of the tell a tomb from the Intermediate Bronze Age was exposed (0.36 m below surface; Fig. 8). It consisted of a few bone remains and pottery vessels, including a jar lying on its side, a broken juglet nearby, a basalt vessel fragment (5 × 10 cm; Fig. 10) and another jar, standing on its base (Fig. 8, top).
The area excavated next to the wadi channel consisted of an upper soil layer (0.3–0.4 m deep) that contained potsherds and a few flint implements, dating to the Chalcolithic period, but no architectural remains. The excavator suggested that the architectural remains were destroyed by plowing or perhaps the site was a temporary settlement.
A series of limited probes in the excavator’s report was excavated along the route of the planned railway track and other probes were conducted north of the tell. Neither plans nor photographs of the probes were preserved. Three probes were excavated along the rail track route near the tell. A settlement layer, dating to the Persian period, was exposed at a depth of 10–20 cm below an alluvium layer and overlaid a pottery layer from Iron Age I.
The probes excavated to the north of the tell were meant to determine the boundaries of the site and locate tombs. Their limited excavation produced no finds.
Pottery (Fig. 9:1–4)
The pottery vessel report is based on that of M. Mann, on field photographs from the excavation and a renewed examination of four vessels. M. Mann wrote in the final report: “The amount of sherds recovered from the excavation was enough to fill three regular- sized carton boxes. For the most part the pottery was Persian and included thickened bowl rims, fragments of jars with a cylindrical neck or a thickened rim and Attic bowls. Attributable to the Late Israelite period are a burnished bowl and two juglets from the end of the Iron Age” (Fig. 9:3, 4). The three carton boxes were lost.
Two vessels from the Intermediate Bronze Age were found, but in the absence of a registry, cannot be ascribed to any specific assemblage. They include a small jar/teapot with a swollen body, angular rim without a neck or handles, an opening for a spout that did not survive and a flat base. Three delicate combed bands adorn the seam between the neck and the body (Fig. 9:1). The second vessel is a jar with a curved body, everted rim, short neck, no handles and a flat base. Two fine combed strips appear on and below the neckline (Fig. 9:2). Two other swollen jars can be discerned in Fig. 8, having an angular rim, ledge handles on the body and no neck; one jar has a flat base. The jar lying on its side probably had a spout.
Two vessels from Middle Bronze Age II cannot be attributed to any architectural complex. A piriform juglet (Fig. 9:3), painted red and burnished, has a flat base but miss its neck and rim. A second piriform juglet (Fig. 9:4) has a pinched rim, tall neck and a handle extending from below the rim to shoulder. The two vessels are characteristic of Middle Bronze Age II and mainly occur in funerary assemblages. It seems these juglets should be dated to Middle Bronze Age II and not to the Iron Age as M. Mann suggested.
Fragments of pottery vessels from the Chalcolithic period and a tomb from the Intermediate Bronze Age were found south of the tell. The two Middle Bronze Age II juglets probably attest to another tomb that was not mentioned in the excavator’s report.
The excavators acknowledged a floor and foundations of a building from Iron Age I and the Persian period in the main excavation area (Area A). A gate in the wall around the tell on the slope above Area A was suggested by E. Anati. The finds from J. Ory’s excavation are congruent with those from the excavation by S. Golan (A-2946; HA-ESI 118), who exposed cist tombs from the Intermediate Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age II, as well as a nearby architectural complex, dating to Iron Age I and the Persian period, which was excavated by A Shavit (ESI 12:49–50).