In June 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted on the southern slope of Tel Hefer (Permit No. A-6826; map ref. 191571–622/697547–57; Fig. 1), in the wake of damage caused to antiquities during work at a nearby cemetery. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the ‘Emeq Hefer Religious Council, was directed by A. Glick, with the assistance of Y. Amrani, Y. Lavan and E. Bachar (administration), A Dagot (GPS), M. Kunin (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), Y. Porath (scientific consultation), E. Marcus (pottery reading) ,M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), N. Zak (plans) and C. Amit (studio photography).
Tel Hefer (Tell el-Ifshar) is located at the northern end of the breach where Nah
al Alexander passes through the eastern kurkar
ridge on the Plain of Sharon, c. 4 km from the Mediterranean coast. The site lay along an ancient trade route on the coastal plain, near springs and fertile alluvium land. Boats could apparently navigate Nah
al Alexander from the sea to as far inland as the tell. All these contributed in making Tel H
efer a large and important site (over 40 dunam, c. 15 m high) in the lower drainage basin of Nah
al Alexander (Marcus, Porath and Paley 2008
Tell el-Ifshar was first surveyed by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1872 (Conder and Kitchener 1882
:143). In 1979–1992, four areas (A–D; Fig. 2; Porat and Paley 1994
) were excavated, yielding settlement remains ranging in date from the Chalcolithic period to the Byzantine period. These included a large public structure consisting of several building phases ascribed to the Middle Bronze Age IIA. The building was destroyed in a fire at the beginning of the MB IIB. In 1993, a wine press and buildings from the Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered in an excavation (Permit No. A-2084) carried out in the vicinity of the mound.
In the current excavation, a trial trench was opened with a backhoe along the slope and later three half squares (A, B, C; Fig. 3) were excavated along the south side of the trench. Remains of three strata were revealed: Stratum I—soil fills with Roman- and Byzantine-periods pottery sherds; Stratum II—mostly soil fills with Iron Age and Late Bronze Age pottery sherds; and Stratum III—scant architectural remains from the MB IIA–IIB.
Stratum I is characterized by black soil (L108; thickness c. 0.3 m). The stratum was thicker in several places, where it probably covered depressions in Stratum II. It contained pottery sherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods. It seems that this area was not built up during those periods.
Stratum II comprised light colored soil (L109; thickness c. 0.5 m) with pottery dating to the Late Bronze and Iron Age. Two burnt bricks (L110) and evidence of a fire were discovered in the section of Sq A. This stratum was probably created when the tell was cleaned and made level prior to construction in the Roman period. The ceramic finds included a bowl (Fig. 4:1) and cooking pots (Fig. 4:5, 7, 8) dating from the Iron Age, a body fragment of a collar-rim jar of the early Iron Age (Israelite settlement) and an Early Bronze Age bowl (Fig. 4:4). Although the bowl was ex situ, it is indicative of an Early Bronze Age settlement on the tell.
Stratum III. Light colored soil, similar to that revealed in Stratum II, was exposed in all three squares. Floors (L111–L113; Fig. 5) made of fieldstones or coarsely dressed stones, some of which were thin slabs. A single course of a poorly preserved mud-brick wall (L114), constructed of gray bricks (c. 0.25 × 0.25 m), was exposed in Sq C. The wall was apparently aligned in an east–west direction. The ceramic finds included bowls (Fig. 4:2, 3), a krater (Fig. 4:6), cooking pots (Fig. 4:9–11), jars (Fig. 4:12–16) and a pithos (Fig. 4:17) dating from the MB II; several vessels can be definitely attributed to the end of the MB IIA. The type of mud-bricks, the floors and the pottery assemblage date the stratum to the late phases of the MB IIA and perhaps to the beginning of the MB IIB, corresponding to Stratum E in Porath and Paley’s excavations (E. Marcus, personal communication). As seen in the section in Sq A, the MB IIA settlement was founded on the bedrock.
This was the first excavation on the southern slope of Tel Hefer, and it indicated that the settlement on the tell reached its greatest extent during the MB IIA, when it covered the southern slope. In later periods, the size of the settlement diminished and the southern slope was left uninhabited.
Conder C. and Kitchener H. 1882. The Survey of Western Palestine II. London.
Marcus E., Porath Y. and Paley S. 2008. The Early Middle Bronze Age IIa Phases at Tel Ifshar and Their External Relations. Egypt and the Levant 18:221–244.
Porath Y. and Paley S. 1994. Tel Hefer – 1990. ESI 12:32–34.