During March 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted in the eastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. 3839; map ref. NIG 23163/73943; OIG 18163/23943), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowner F. Safuri, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), Y. Ya‘aqoby and A. Dadush (administration), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
The excavation, despite its limited area (24 sq m), revealed a significant stratigraphical sequence with limited architectural remains from Iron IIB (Stratum IX), as well as walls from the Hellenistic (Strata VI, V) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods (Fig. 1). At the beginning of the excavation, the topsoil layer (depth 0.2–0.5 m), down to the first appearance of walls, was removed with mechanical equipment.
Stratum IX. The excavation reached bedrock in two small areas (total 6 sq m) at a depth of 1.4 m below the removed topsoil layer. A packed earth layer (depth 0.3 m) leveled out the bedrock and, combined with small stones, formed a stone floor (L963, L964) in a small area. Diagnostic potsherds of late Iron IIB were found on the floor. No walls from this period were revealed, possibly due to the limited exposure area of this level. The nature of the floor suggests that it may have been a living floor, associated with a building.
Strata VI, V. The main architectural remains in this area were from two stages of the Hellenistic period. A stone wall (W144b; 0.8 m high) in the earlier stage (Stratum VI) was built directly on bedrock, partially cutting through the Iron Age layer. Together with this wall was an unusual rounded pillar base or podium (W142b) that consisted of large rough field stones (Fig. 2). It probably served as a base for a pillar, although its location adjacent to W144b makes this uncertain. This structure seems to have continued in use in later periods. Wall 141b was added in the second stage. Its base was at a higher level than W144b, with which it formed a corner. Thick burnt layers (thickness c. 0.5 m) clearly testified to the destruction of this occupation stage. A lower burnt layer (L961, L962) was a gray ashy and fine earth, whereas an upper layer (L959, L960) comprised dark brownish black soil. Both layers contained considerable quantities of potsherds dating to the Hellenistic period. It has yet to be determined, on the basis of pottery analysis, whether these were two chronologically distinct destruction layers.
Strata IV, III. It is noteworthy that almost no pottery datable to the Roman period was revealed in this excavation. It thus seems that this particular area was deserted following the destruction by fire. This is in clear contrast to the overall material from the site, where the Roman periods show the most intensive occupation.
Stratum I. Several well-dressed nari stone walls can be dated to this period (Fig. 3). Wall 141a was raised directly over W141b and a new wall (W140) was built, both abutting the Hellenistic W144b, which was overlaid with an additional nari course (W144a). Wall 143 may also have been built in this period. These walls, some characterized by the use of the nari stone, were associated with carefully laid stone (L956) and packed earth (L955) floors. The podium (W142b), first built in the Hellenistic period, still seems to have been in use and there is some indication of a shallow stone-lined channel in W144a. The potsherds in this stratum are dated to the Byzantine period.
The small-scale excavation in Area N has exposed significant architectural strata from the Hellenistic and the Byzantine periods. Of singular interest is the absence of a stratum that can be dated to the Roman period.
Although the evidence from most of the excavated areas at the site shows that the Roman building plans had an overall tendency to follow the basic village plan of the earlier Hellenistic population, the missing Roman-period walls in Area N indicates that this was not always the case.