During June 2012, a small salvage excavation was conducted in a privately-owned building plot in the center of Kafr Kanna (Permit No. A-6536; map ref. 231842/738554), in the wake of discovering archaeological remains in trial trenches. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by K. Covello-Paran (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying), Y. Shmidov (drafting) and H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing).
Many archaeological excavations have been carried out since 1990 in Kafr Kanna (Fig. 1), primarily at private plots throughout the village; settlement remains dating from the Neolithic until the Mamluk periods were uncovered (HA-ESI 121; HA-ESI 121; HA-ESI 123; HA-ESI 124).
Evidence for a large settlement dating from the Early Bronze Age was excavated adjacent to the perennial Kanna spring (Fig. 1: Permit Nos. A-4695, A-4977, A-4972), overlaying an earlier occupation dating to the Early Chalcolithic Period. Most important are the excavations of a fortification wall (Fig. 1: Permit Nos. A-5346, A-5566; H. Smithline, pers. comm.), dating to EB IA and indicating that the settlement was fortified.
A single square (2.5×6.0 m) was excavated to a maximum depth of 0.6 m (Fig. 2). Prior to the excavation, an overburden of sterile soil was removed to the wall tops of the in situ archaeological layer. The excavations exposed building remains from a single stratum dating to Early Bronze Age IA.
The fragmentary remains of a building included a curvilinear exterior wall (W102), an interior dividing wall (W105), a living surface (L103) and an installation (L106; Fig. 3).
The segment of W102 (preserved length 3 m, width 0.7 m), directly overlaying the limestone bedrock, was preserved two courses high. The wall's stone foundation was two courses high and constructed from two large stone faces with a core of medium-sized filler stones. This wall presumably had a mud-brick superstructure noted by the mud-brick collapse in the sections of the square. The fragmentary and slightly curvilinear W105 (width 0.7 m) is an internal dividing wall that probably abutted W102 in the east, beyond the excavated area. Wall 105 (exposed length 1 m), damaged by the roots of modern olive trees, was preserved two courses high and traced for an additional 1 m. Wall 105 enclosed a small area at one end of the building and the excavation concentrated primarily in this room.
The hard packed earthen floor of the small room (L103) was overlain with a large storage vessel, smashed in situ (Fig. 4) and additional potsherd scatters. Incorporated into the floor was a large flat limestone slab—most likely a column base. Living Surface 103 directly overlay bedrock and a small stone layer in patches where the bedrock was uneven.
A circular stone-lined basin (L106) was found south of W105, almost abutting W102. The basin (diam. 0.8 m) comprised a slightly sunken central flat stone with six flat stones surrounding it.
A sounding (L104) west of the building was devoid of architectural remains, yet exposed a buildup of habitation debris above the limestone bedrock.
The limited exposure of the building resulted in a small ceramic assemblage that included a typical repertoire with many parallels to contemporary assemblages from sites in the Jezre’el Valley. Most of the pottery vessels are slipped on the exterior and interior rim in shades of red to reddish brown. There is a high frequency of rope decoration that appears at or near the rims, or alternately on thick coils of clay placed winding up the exterior of large storage vessels. In almost every excavated basket were potsherds from vessels of Gray Burnished Ware (GBW). The diagnostic potsherds (Fig. 5) were recovered from the accumulation in Room 103 and the modern debris piles.
The pottery vessels included a small red-slipped hemispherical bowl (Fig. 5:1), GBW carinated bowls with flattened knobs (Fig. 5:2, 3), a krater with rope-like decoration (Fig. 5:4), holemouth jars with a simple rim and indented decoration (Fig. 5:5), holemouths with a squared-off thickened rim (Fig. 5:6–8) and with rope decoration below the rim (Fig. 5:6, 7), two store jars (Fig. 5:9, 10) and pithoi (Fig. 5:11, 12). The pithos found smashed on the floor has a reddish brown slipped surface and an attached rope decoration encircling the lower part of the body near the base. (Fig. 5:13). Noteworthy is the red-slipped ledge handle (Fig. 5:14) that has two perforations, spaced 1.5 cm apart.
A single basalt stone bowl or mortar (Fig. 5:15) has a flat base and rounded walls; it was found in the pile of debris from the modern destruction north of the excavated area.
The current excavations at Kafr Kanna exposed the closed off southern apse of an elongated oval-shaped dwelling. The curvilinear plan of the minimally exposed building belongs to an architectural tradition, well-known from contemporary sites. At nearby Yiftah
’el, numerous similar structures were exposed, having parallel features such as a stone column base, the curvilinear interior wall that enclosed an area at one end of the building, where there too a stone-lined basin was placed opposite the gap of the interior dividing wall (Braun E. 1997
). Very fragmentary curvilinear walls of EB IA dwellings were also exposed in two other excavations at Kafr Kanna (Fig. 1: Permit Nos. A-4972, A-4977; H. Smithline, pers. comm.).
The pottery assemblage retrieved from the excavated building consists of vessel types and wares that place it within the chronological framework of the EB IA period. Together with the curvilinear architecture at the site, we can easily place Kafr Kanna within the cultural milieu of the Early Northern EB I culture, previously known from the western Lower Galilee at Yiftah’el and in the Jezre’el Valley.
Albeit the small scale of the excavations, they provide new valuable data regarding the size and character of the EB IA settlement at Kafr Kanna. Moreover, excavated evidence from the present excavation, combined with the results from previous excavations enables us to reconstruct aspects of the EB IA settlement at Kafr Kanna in addition to providing information for study of diachronic regional settlement patterns in this ecological niche.
The EB IA settlement was very large and extended over an area of c. 200 dunams. It was built up around the perennial Kanna spring (Fig. 1: Permit No. A-4695) and extended eastward in the Nahal Kanna streambed to the fortification line (Fig. 1: Permit Nos. A-5346, A-5566); then further south up the slopes of the hill bordering the streambed to the current excavation and west of the spring in Nahal Kanna toward, but not reaching, the ancient mound of Karm er- Ras (Fig. 1: Permit No. A-4977). The burial grounds (Fig. 1: Permit No. A-5971) and areas with agricultural installations (Fig. 1: Permit No. A-5877) are found on the hill slopes north of the fortification wall, overlooking the streambed and the ancient settlement. The settlement pattern in the post-EB I period shifted toward the mound of Karm er-Ras, northwest of the spring.