Finds from the Chalcolithic Period
Flint artifacts and fragments of pottery vessels, which dated to the Chalcolithic period (end of the fourth millennium BCE) and are characteristic of the Ghassulian culture, were found on the surface and down to bedrock throughout the excavated area. The finds were concentrated in the east, in Squares D4/E5 and especially in Square E4. The finds from the current and the previous excavation (HA-ESI 120
) are presented hereafter as a single assemblage.
The pottery vessels included bowls (Fig.3:1–4), cornets (Fig. 3:5–7), hole-mouth jars (Fig. 3:8, 9) and jars (Fig. 3:10–13), as well as body fragments decorated with rope ornamentations (Fig. 3:14) and painted red with lug handles (Fig. 4:15). The flint artifacts represent all the knapping phases of tool production, including cores (Fig. 4), core debitage (Fig. 5), flakes, blades and bladelets. Ad hoc artifacts among the tools include a side scraper (Fig. 6:1), a burin (Fig. 6:2) and a scraper (Fig. 6:3), sickle blades (Fig. 6:4) and retouched blades (Fig. 6:5–9). In addition, fragments of pounders and debitage of bifacial tools were found. Flint nodules that constituted one of the sources of raw material were discovered in the limestone bedrock, c. 50 m north of the excavation. The stone objects included millstones (Fig. 7:1) and basalt bowls adorned with typical decorations (Fig. 7:2).
Several animal bones were recovered from the loci that contained the highest amounts of Chalcolithic finds. The species of approximately half of the bones could be identified—most belonged to sheep/goat and cattle. A broken pig bone and a tooth belonging to the equine family were also identified.
The Byzantine Period
Part of a winepress from the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE) was discovered and excavated in the northwestern part of the excavation area (Squares C/D3, C4; Fig. 8). A treading floor paved with a white industrial mosaic (L213, L215) was revealed. Niches for beams were discovered north of the treading floor and three rock-hewn installations and two walls (W4, W6) were uncovered to its west and southwest respectively. Potsherds dating to the fifth–sixth centuries CE were recovered from the fill in the winepress and above the treading floor, including fragments of bowls (Fig. 9:1–6) and jars (Fig. 9:7–9). Several of the vessels are decorated with characteristic wavy combing on part of the body. Some of the potsherds bore traced of plaster, indicating they were probably incorporated in the plaster that was applied to the sides of the winepress.
A room (W2, W8; Fig. 10) whose northern side is delimited by the hewn bedrock was discovered east of the winepress. The room probably consisted of two phases. The bedrock was utilized as a floor in the early phase and a hearth (L235; Fig. 11) that contained ash and in-situ Byzantine potsherds was discovered; the later phase included a floor of crushed marl inside (L105; Fig. 2: Section 2-2) and outside (L220, L226)the room. This crushed marl layer was also exposed above the winepress’ treading floor (L236).
The Ottoman Period
A terrace wall (W1; see Fig. 2), oriented northeast-southwest, was partially built above the building corner from the Byzantine period and partially founded on the bedrock, retaining soil fill (thickness c. 2 m). The wall severed the treading floor and W4 of the winepress (Square C4). Wall 1 was adjoined by another terrace wall (W7; Square D4). The fill in the terraces and above the winepress yielded several potsherds (Fig. 9:10, 11) from the Ottoman period (sixteenth–eighteenth centuries CE) and it appears that the terraces’ construction should be ascribed to this period.
The importance of the Chalcolithic finds in the excavations lies in their indication of a contemporary settlement nearby. It is feasible thatother Chalcolithic settlements were situated along the Refa’im Valley; a Chalcolithic site was recently discovered in the Holyland Park (Permit Nos. A-5776, A-5870), c. 2.5 km further up the valley. The winepress and room from the Byzantine period attest to the industrial activity in the area. The region of Nahal Refa’im, from ‘En Ya‘el westward, is known to have been settled in the Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, and the current excavation adds another tier to our knowledge about the habitation in the stream valley during these periods. During the Ottoman period, farming terraces were built in the area, as was done in many other places along the stream.