During March–April 2005, a salvage excavation was carried out near the access road to Qibbuz Senir (A-4420*; map ref. NIG 26305/79415; OIG 21305/29415; Fig.1) in the wake of ancient remains visible on surface where an electric pylon is due. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the electric company, was directed and photographed by H. Barbé, assisted by Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), N. Zak (drafting) and C. Hersch (find drawing).
The visible remains were at a level of c. 229 m above sea level. A previous excavation conducted in 2000 (HA-ESI 116:1*–2*), 700 m to the northeast, revealed a tomb from the Roman period that consisted of two rectangular cells.
Two areas, c. 5 m distant from each other, were excavated (Areas 10 and 20; Fig. 2). Area 10 (4.5 × 5.0 m) was opened right on the site of the electric pylon. Bushes and brush were cleared in Area 20 (7 × 10 m) to record the alignment of walls visible on surface.
The absence of archaeological remains called for the progressive reduction of the area (Fig. 3). Natural bedrock, undisturbed by human activity, was reached at a depth of 1.0–1.4 m below topsoil (Fig. 4). The scant and eroded pottery finds in the upper soil layers (L1000, L1001) belonged to different periods, namely Byzantine, Crusader, Mamluk and the latest potsherds were Rashaya el-Fukhar from the Ottoman period. The potsherds atop bedrock (L1002) were homogeneous, Byzantine-period ceramics, including a roof tile (tegula).
Two squares were excavated within the rectangular enclosure (6.5 × 9.5 m; Fig. 5); one square was in the northeast (L2000; 3 × 4 m) and the second in the northwest (L2003; 1.0 × 1.5 m). The north (W200) and east (W202) walls of the enclosure were still evident, whereas the west wall (W201) was badly damaged and the south wall (W203) was practically non-existent. The walls, preserved to a maximum of a single course high, had one or two layers of fieldstone foundations and a superstructure of substantial limestone ashlars, lain as stretchers (average 0.55 × 0.70 × 1.20 m). The presence of a profiled angle, a plinth or a cornice (Fig. 6), a door jamb set as a stretcher in W200, a column base, also lain as a stretcher in the corner of W200 and W201 and a column shaft in W201, testify to the secondary use of these architectural elements, deriving most likely, from an ancient building.
Brown organic sediment that evidenced a surface layer of forest humus was excavated in the northeastern square (L2000). Below it and overlaying bedrock was beige sediment with small chunks of chalk (L2001). The two sediment layers were 0.5 m thick. Two more probes (L2002––0.8 × 2.3 m; L2004––1.0 × 1.7 m; Fig. 7) were oriented east–west and did not produce any further remains, except for a few bone fragments in the upper part of L2002.
The brown organic sediment (L2003) excavated in the northwestern square overlaid bedrock, which was quarried into a straight-sided rectilinear shape, whose one corner was exposed (L2005; 0.5 × 1.0).
The form of the bedrock-quarried recesses, their orientation and the few bone fragments in L2002, suggest interpreting them as burials. They are well integrated within the enclosure, which may be viewed as part of a mausoleum. The dating of this structure is ambiguous. Although some potsherds were discovered in the layer covering the burials, such as a Late Roman C bowl (Fig. 8:1) and a Byzantine cooking-pot (Fig. 8:2), they were mixed with more recent material of Medieval times (Slip Painted Ware) and Ottoman-period ceramics, including a glazed bowl (Fig. 8:3), unglazed bowls (Fig. 8:4–10), jars (Fig. 8:11, 12) and a handle with a thumb rest (Fig. 8:13).
The contribution of this salvage excavation is limited. The exposure of Area 10 proved that the electric pylon will not damage archeological remains. The hewn graves discovered in Area 20 were not fully investigated, precluding any conclusions with regard to their function and dating (Fig. 9). The late date offered here is based on the presence of Ottoman potsherds, as well as the ancient architectural elements within the walls of the enclosure. These had apparently originated from a necropolis previously excavated at Senir, a few hundred meters higher on the slope, toward the northeast. The proximity of the ancient site of Banias should also be considered as a likely source.