A Roman structure on the Acropolis (Area D4g3/4)
Remains of the Roman period (first–second centuries CE) were detected throughout the crest of the upper mound and were excavated in several areas during recent seasons (IEJ 60:28). During the season of 2009, two parallel walls, oriented southwest-northeast, were discovered. The walls (width c. 1 m), set on bedrock, were built of large fieldstones (average size 0.4 m). The pottery associated with the walls may be dated to the first century CE, a period when a Jewish settlement flourished at Tel Rekhesh. Many grinding stones were unearthed in this structure, including the upper part of an Olynthian grinding stone (Fig. 2).
Stone debris was spread across most of the upper mound’s crest and could represent another Roman-period structure (first–second centuries CE). A GIS survey of the exposed stone walls indicates that the structure was large (30×50 m; Fig. 3). Relations between this structure and the newly-excavated one should be investigated in the following seasons.
The Site Defenses (Areas E3f6/7—gate; Area C6i3–j3—southern slope)
The eastern flank of a gate system served as the entrance to the upper mound and was excavated during the 2007–2008 seasons at the northeastern point of the higher mound (IEJ 60:25–28). This season, two squares were opened south of the gate to find a possible fortification wall that may be associated with the gate. The excavation exposed the remains of a large structure, in which at least three phases of usage were discerned. This building postdated the gate system and all its phases should be dated to Iron Age IIA, based on the pottery found in it (Fig. 4). The fortification line that may have been associated with the gate system was not found in these squares and the GIS survey detected its traces southeast of the gate, along the eastern edge of the upper mound; it may have reached the gate from the east.
A segment of a fortification wall in the western margin of the site (W837; length 4.5 m; Fig. 5) was found. It was built of large basalt boulders (length up to 0.55 m, width c. 2 m) and oriented north–south. A perpendicular wall (W836) abutted it and was built in the same manner (width 1.5–1.7 m.). It probably formed part of a defense system that may be defined as a casemate-wall system. The pottery assigned to the walls should be dated to the late Middle Bronze Age (MB IIB)–beginning of Late Bronze Age (LB I).
A Late Iron Age Citadel (Areas D4j10–D5j1)
The crest of Tel Rekhesh was surrounded by a monumental compound area (c. 70 × 80 m). During this season, the southeastern corner of the compound was exposed. Three excavation squares yielded two well-built parallel walls (W925, W930; Fig. 6), oriented east–west. The space between these walls probably served as rooms or halls of the compound. A wide entrance (width 2.1 m) with a stone threshold was installed in the northern W925; it opened to the north unto a stone pavement (F199; 2.0 × 3.3 m). The shallow accumulation above this pavement up to the surface made it difficult to date the pavement and the related compound. Pottery recovered from deep probes below the pavement was dated to Iron Age I. Yet, the potsherds found on top of the pavement and in the intervening layer, separating top soil from the pavement, between Walls 925 and 930, were dated to Late Iron Age II and the Persian period. Based upon the presence of many ‘torpedo’ jars and mortaria of orange clay, one may prefer a late Iron II date for the whole compound, whose nature is not yet clear. The following finds may hint at the builders and the date of this compound: a large round stone element, identified by D. Eitam as a column drum found in other Assyrian structures in Eretz-Israel; an Assyrian bowl that was a surface find and is now in the ‘En Dor museum and a Mesopotamian-type bronze fibula, dated by H. Tsumoto to the seventh–sixth centuries BCE, found within a stone wall (W841; see Fig. 5) in the western fortification system.
The eastern mound – the Western Rooms (Area D6)
The large structure discovered in the eastern side of the mound and excavated in 2007–2008 (IEJ 60:32–36), was probably used during the LB–Iron I periods. During the current season, the western flank of the building was excavated, right south of W486 (Fig. 7). Below the Iron Age I remains, earlier walls, preserved c. 2 m high, were found. The pottery collected from these rooms contained numerous LBA potsherds, which may reflect the early usage stages of the building. It seems that the construction of the building was adapted to the topography of the eastern side of the mound. In that way, Iron I floors on the western flank of the building were in excess of 1 m higher than the same period’s floors east of W486. It should be noted that no clear LB floors were reached in the area excavated west of W486.
A deep probe in the northernmost point of the excavated area yielded Early Bronze Age strata with subsequent walls from all main phases, namely EB IB, EB II and EB III.
LBA Compound on the Lower Terrace (Area C2)
An Iron I compound, which contained cultic vessels, was partly excavated on the northern lower terrace (IEJ 60:29–32). The northern side of the area (Squares C2j8–D2a8; Fig. 8) was excavated this season, with the aim to understand the history of occupation in this area. Right below an Iron I stone floor, the remains of a large room or hall were discerned. It was defined by the following walls: the northern W693, in which large standing stones and pillars composed of several round stones one atop the other, were incorporated; a possible eastern enclosing wall (W775); and a western enclosing wall (W609), which had two usage phases (LBA to Iron I); Wall 692 divided the room into two parts. One should note the continuation in material culture between both periods in this area: The walls of the LB and Iron I compounds generally retained the same orientation, northwest–southeast, and no destruction layer was found between the remains of the two periods. Typical LBA pottery was found above the floors connected to the LBA hall, including numerous potsherds that may be dated to the later stage of this period.
An oil-press installation
During the first season of excavations in 2006, an oil-press installation was excavated at the tip of the southern lower terrace of the site (Orient 2007). Another oil press, located right east of it, was excavated this season. It turned out to have been built in the same way, with upright stones at the perimeter, flat stones as a pavement and a basalt bowl to collect the olive oil (Fig. 9). The existence of two adjacent installations in this location, and the one excavated in the 2008 season in Area D6 (IEJ 60:34), may hint at the significant economic importance of olive oil production during the late second millennium BCE.
The 2009 season of excavations at Tel Rekhesh helped us to clarify some of the issues that arose during the former seasons. First, it seems that the crest of the mound was occupied during the late Iron Age (seventh–sixth centuries BCE) by a massive enclosure, possibly a citadel or a fortress that might be related to the Assyrian rule in the Lower Galilee. Second, the LBA structure found below Iron I remains on the lower terrace may point to the continuity of material culture between both periods on the one hand, and the unique method of construction of LBA structures on the other.
Third, the oil-press installation may imply an extensive olive oil production at Tel Rekhesh during the Iron I period.