Upper Terrace. The excavation uncovered the remains of a circular watchtower and rock-hewn installations (Fig. 3). The watchtower (external diam. 5 m) was set directly upon the bedrock. Its main enclosure wall (preserved height 1 m) was constructed of an internal face of large flat stone slabs, an external face of smaller stones and a fill of small stones between them. The small oval room inside the tower (diam. 2.5 m) was excavated to the bedrock, which probably served as its floor (L103; Fig. 4). To the north of the watchtower, another round stone enclosure (diam. 3 m) was found. It had a circular pier shaft leading into a water cistern inside it (Fig. 5). The upper part of the cistern was constructed using a similar technique to that of the watchtower, but its lower part (L109), which had a bell-shape section, was hewn into the bedrock (Fig 6). The inner surface of the cistern was coated with grey cement, indicating that it was used and repaired in modern times.
The rock-hewn installations, to the west of the cistern, consisted of a rectangular surface (1.2 × 2.0 m, depth 1 m), and 0.2 m below it, a platform of undetermined dimensions with a circular pit (diam. 0.7 m, depth 0.5 m) hewn into it. Presumably, these features functioned together, and predate the construction of the watchtower. A rectangular hearth (L104) built of large standing stone slabs was excavated to the south of the watchtower (Fig. 7).
Lower Terrace. The excavation uncovered the remains of a monumental burial complex dated to the Second Temple period. The complex comprised a wide entrance, with a stairway leading into a forecourt, a courtyard and a porch with an attached side charnel room and a burial chamber. At the western end of the courtyard, a step leads onto a porch. The remains of a roll-stone blocked the entrance from the southern end of the porch to the charnel room. To the east of the porch, the remains of a hewn burial cave were found. The cave, which was not excavated, contained three rock-cut burial niches, two in the southern part and one along the cave’s western wall.
Areas B and D
A concentration of overlapping installations hewn into a bedrock outcrop was uncovered in Area B. A preliminary analysis of the finds identified three major phases of use, beginning during the Iron Age. In the third phase, the area was used as a quarry that extended to the southwest, into Area D.
Phase 1 (Iron Age). Although some elements of the first phase were completely removed and reused in later phases, the preserved remains allow a general reconstruction of an Iron Age multiplatform winepress. The winepress was composed of three treading surfaces (not preserved), each with an associated collecting vat. The rectangular vats connect by way of three narrow carved channels to a large hewn subterranean fermentation chamber. Excavations conducted at the nearby site of Rogem Ganim, revealed a nearly identical group of winepresses that were dated to the Iron Age (Greenberg and Cinamon 2011).
Phase 2 (Hellenistic period). During this phase, the collecting vats of phase 1 were plastered, blocking and sealing the channels that led to the fermentation chamber. Presumably, the treading floors were still in use while the large fermentation chamber was converted into a ritual bath (mikveh).
Phase 3 (Hellenistic period to modern times). In the last phase, a vast stone quarry cut into the bedrock to the north and west of the three collecting vats. The stone cutting removed the treading floors of Phase 1, but the vats seem to have been intentionally left intact. The fermentation chamber, which had been used as a ritual immersion pool in Phase 2, was now converted into a cistern. The layer of cement that sealed the surface of the cistern indicates that it was still in use in recent time. The quarry extends into Area D, directly to the southwest of Area B. Quarrying activities in Area D were intensive and substantial, leaving behind superimposed negatives of the detached building blocks.
The remains of a round watchtower with a single round room (L301; internal diam. 3 m; Fig. 8) were excavated in Area C. To the east of the tower was a rectangular courtyard (L300; 2.5 × 3.0 m) with a relatively flat bedrock floor. A narrow passage (width 0.7 m) from the northwestern corner of the courtyard leads to the entrance of the watchtower (Fig. 9). The watchtower wall (width 1 m) is built upon a natural ledge in the bedrock. It rises to a height of 3 m and forms a domed roof over the central room. No clearly datable remains were uncovered in Area C, and only modern refuse was found in both the central room and the courtyard. Northeast of the watchtower, a small probe was dug between a simple terrace wall and a natural bedrock ledge (L305 and L308). Below the topsoil, a small rectangular installation (L307) was found, hewn into the flat bedrock surface.
The remains of a hewn winepress were visible on the surface, between two terrace walls. The winepress, which was not excavated, consists of a rectangular treading surface, settling vat and a large collecting vat, all hewn into the bedrock (Fig. 10). Eventually, probably in recent times, the large collecting vat was converted into a cistern, and re-coated with cement similar to that used in the cistern found at the lower terrace of Area A.
Area F was located on a western slope, just below the houses of the ‘Ir Ganim neighborhood. Numerous clusters of rectangular negatives in the bedrock indicate widespread quarrying activity (Fig 11). Three shallow quarrying areas that served to extract only a few stone blocks were uncovered in the southern part of the excavation area (Fig. 12). In the northern part of the area, the hewn depressions in the bedrock were much deeper, attesting to a considerably more intensive quarrying activity (Fig 13). It was impossible to uncover the full extent of the quarry or to date the quarrying activity, since hardly any ceramic remains were found.
The terrace walls
Perhaps the most striking feature of ‘Emeq Lavan are the wonderfully preserved terrace walls (Fig. 14), some of which stand to a height of over 3 m. This system, whose purpose was to create cultivatable agricultural plots from the sloping topography, remained in use until modern times. Routine maintenance of the system is evident by the extensive repairs of collapsed sections throughout. Sporadic cuts were made through the terraces to reveal the methods of their construction. The terrace walls were classified according to the methods of laying the foundation and their construction techniques. Many, usually located at the edge of natural depressions, seem to have their foundations set directly upon the bedrock. Only a few of the examined terraces were found to sit upon a layer of alluvial soil. The walls were either built simply of a single row of fieldstones, or of two parallel rows with a fill of small stones between them. Numerous well-dressed stones, presumably in secondary use, were incorporated sporadically within the terrace walls.
Further exploration located sets of steps that allow pedestrian passage up and down the agricultural platforms. In most cases, the steps were built of well-dressed stone blocks. Three types of steps were identified: (a) “suspended stairs” composed of large stone slabs partially incorporated into the walls during construction, which jut out of the wall at stepped intervals (Fig. 15); (b) two stairways that were built of large rectangular stones set on a wide foundation wall constructed along the face of terrace walls (Fig. 16); (c) steps found in the lower part of the study area, which were set within narrow gaps in the walls (Fig. 17). In addition, four storage niches set into the walls as part of their construction were found during the survey (Fig. 18). The niches may have served to store farming tools and supplies.
The remains found in the ‘Emeq Lavan excavations attest to the intensive agricultural use of the area from ancient times until the present day. The remains are typical of, and relate to, the rural agricultural hinterland of the southern Levant. Dating these agricultural features, installations and quarries is problematic, since terraces walls, winepresses, quarries, and watchtowers have been in continuous use from biblical times and until the modern period. The cluster of stone quarries found in Areas B, D, and F seem to indicate that the quality of the bedrock in the area was suitable for use as building blocks. Furthermore, the widespread and, in some cases, intensive quarrying activity found in ‘Emeq Lavan suggests the presence of an unknown ancient settlement nearby, since stone quarries which would have provided raw marital for building are often found in the periphery of ancient sites.