The excavation was conducted in the northwestern part of the site, uncovering three settlement strata (1,000 sq m). Five sarcophagi of the Roman period (second–third century CE) were found in the upper, Stratum I; Stratum II consisted of a cemetery from the Persian period, with nineteen tombs; remains of a rural settlement, two tombs and twelve jar-burials of the MB IIB were identified in Stratum III.
Middle Bronze Age IIB (Stratum III)
A rural settlement was established during this period. The remains of six buildings (1–6; Fig. 2) comprising rooms and courtyards were exposed. The walls of the buildings were constructed of local travertine and sun-dried mud-bricks. They were founded on virgin soil, sometimes slightly embedded in it.
Building 1 (c. 190 sq m; Fig. 3). Almost the entire building was exposed. Two wings, one in the south (Rooms 1A–1D; Fig. 4) and the other in the north (Rooms 1E, 1F), flanked an open courtyard (I). The entrance to the building was in the south, through a narrow alley that formed an entranceway to the southern wing and the courtyard. Room 1A was rectangular and particularly large, with two openings in the northern wall facing Rooms 1B and 1C, just to the north. A work surface of travertine slabs was exposed in the western part of the room. The southern façades of the trapezoid Room 1B and the rectangular Room 1C, open to the alley. Next to the western Room 1A, the rectangular Room 1D had three openings: two in the southern wall and one in the western wall. The central courtyard in the middle of the complex connected the rooms in the southern and northern wings; the southern part of the courtyard was enclosed by a wall that did not survive. A stone work surface was discovered in the middle of the courtyard, and above the floor in its southern part, next to the opening of Room 1D, was a tabun. The walls of the tabun (preserved height 0.2 m; Fig. 5) were made of two layers of mud-brick material and fragments of jars dating to the MB IIB, with soil fill between them. An infant-jar burial (T27) was discovered below the courtyard floor. The rooms in the northern wing were rectangular and narrow. The entrance to Room 1E was from the west. Room 1F had two openings, one in the east and another in the west. The building had beaten-earth floors made of a thin layer of mortar, gray soil, crushed travertine and small pieces of mud-brick. Several sections of the floors were made of travertine slabs that may have served as a work surface. The floors were laid over a fill that contained basalt grinding stones and MB IIB pottery. A light gray layer of soil accumulated above the floors. It contained pottery, a mace head and basalt objects, which included a bowl, grinding stones and fragments of a quern. Underneath the floors in Rooms 1E and 1F were four infant jar-burials (T28–T31), and two graves (T25, T26), all dating to the MB IIB. A dipper juglet was found in T28, but no bone remains were identified. In the other three jars were fragments of bones, two more dipper juglets, a small bowl and two intact jugs that were grave offerings. Tomb T25, oriented northwest–southeast, was dug in the ground and covered with travertine slabs; the bones of an adult individual were found inside. Tomb T26 was circular and hewn in the travertine; the skeleton in this pit was placed on its side (Fig. 6).
Building 2. Remains of two rooms were excavated (2A, 2B). The entrance to the building was through the same alley that led to Building 1. Two openings in its eastern wall led to Room 2B. There was apparently an opening connecting the two rooms.
Building 3. Remains of a room (3A) and part of an open courtyard (II) were exposed. The floors of the room and the courtyard were made of tamped, light gray soil and mud-brick material. A layer of gray soil containing a fragment of a basalt grinding stone, flint tools and MB IIB pottery sherds accumulated above the floors. In front of the room to the north, a work surface built of small and medium travertine stones was exposed (Fig. 7). Another work surface consisting of travertine slabs was exposed in the northwestern part of the courtyard. Two fragments of basalt vessels, a clay loom-weight and pottery sherds from the MB IIB and the Roman period were found between the slabs of the work surface and above them. MB IIB jars containing infant burials (T32, T33) were discovered below the courtyard floor. One of the burials comprised two jars, one inside the other, placed on their side, and inside them small bone fragmentsof an infant, and a dipper juglet, which was a funerary offering (Fig. 8).
Courtyard (III). A courtyard was exposed west of Building 4. Sections of floors made of mortar, mud-brick material and travertine slabs were preserved. Debris found on the floor included heaps of travertine stones, remains of ash, and an accumulation of gray soil. A large quern, basalt grinding stones, flint tools and MB IIB pottery sherds were recovered from the accumulated soil. On the floor were two tabuns: one in the northern part, next to the southern wall of Building 5, and the other in the southwestern corner. The walls of the tabuns were made of clay (thickness 1.5 cm; Fig. 9), and they were lined on the outside with pottery sherds. MB IIB pottery was found next to the tabuns and inside them. Three jars with infant burials (T34–T36) were discovered below the floor. A complete dipper juglet was found in one of the jars, and fragments of a dipper juglet in another. These vessels apparently served as funerary offerings.
Building 4. Remains of two rooms (4A, 4B; Fig. 10) were exposed. The front of Room 4A was open, facing a courtyard that was not excavated. Room 4B was partially excavated, and entrance to it was apparently from the east. The floor of the rooms in this structure was made of tamped travertine, laid over dark gray alluvial deposit devoid of any artifacts. One of the walls of Room 4B collapsed over the floor, sealing an accumulation of gray soil that contained a fragment of a basalt vessel and MB IIB pottery. An infant-burial jar (T37) was placed on its side under the floor of Room 4A. The jar contained a bone fragment of a small child, and next to the jar was a dipper juglet that served as a funerary offering. Another infant burial-jar (T38) was placed on its side below the floor of Room 4B. Two funerary-offering dipper juglets were found above the jar.
Building 5. Remains of a room (5A), and an open courtyard (V) to its north, were exposed. The building delimited Courtyard III to its south, and another courtyard (IV) to its east. An opening in the northeastern corner of Courtyard III led to Courtyard IV, and through it to an alley that separated Building 5 from Building 6 and gave access to both. The floors of Room 5A and Courtyard V were made of tamped, pale yellow soil, with crushed travertine and several MB IIB pottery sherds. A large jar, dating to the same period, was embedded in the center of the courtyard’s floor. The jar was placed upside down and was probably used as a cooking installation or tabun (Fig. 11).
Building 6. Two rooms (6A, 6B) on either side of an open courtyard (VI) were exposed. The western corner of Room 6A was only partially excavated; it may have belonged to another structure. Room 6B had two entrances: one from Courtyard VI and another from the alley. Courtyard VI was rectangular and had two openings: one to Courtyard IV in the south, and the other to Room 6B in the north. The floors of the rooms and the courtyard resembled those of the other buildings. A layer of gray soil accumulated over the floors; it contained a ceramic loom weight, a basalt grinding stone and a concentration of pottery, most of it MB IIB jar fragments. A tabun was discovered in the northwestern corner of Courtyard VI, its lower part embedded in the floor. It was made of a clay jar turned upside down, with its base removed (Fig. 12).
The Persian Period (Stratum II)
After an extended period of abandonment, the site was used as a cemetery, dated by ceramics to the Persian period. Nineteen rectangular pit graves (T6–T24; depth c. 0.5–1.0 m) were excavated. Most of them were oriented east–west; the two exceptions (T15, T18) were aligned north–south. The graves were dug into the MB IIB stratum. Most were marked by a row of fieldstones, and some were covered with stones. Several of human skeletons found in the graves were complete and in anatomical articulation, indicating primary burial of single individuals, mainly adults. Next to the graves were funerary offerings such as a one-handled torpedo-type jar that was used for maritime transportation of goods, and juglets (Fig. 13). Other offerings such as jugs, juglets and a copper alloy, were found in some of the graves.
The Roman Period (Stratum I)
After another long hiatus (c. 800 years), the area again functioned as a cemetery in the Roman period. Remains of five sarcophagi (T1–T5; 1.80–2.20 × 0.75 m, wall thickness 0.1 m; Fig. 14) made of local limestone, were discovered in the southern part of the excavation. Their floor was leveled, leaving a semblance of a pillow at one end, to support the head of the deceased. Inside the sarcophagi were human bones, some of them burnt. Among them were a cranium, postcranial bones and teeth. Other finds included beads, a ring and several fragments of jars, cooking pots and jugs that date to the Roman period (second–third centuries CE).
The importance of the present excavation lies in finding an undisturbed and coherent assemblage that characterizes a rural settlement of the MB IIB in this region, without any prior or later settlement remains. Extensive exposure of a rural settlement is exceptional, and in this case offers an outstanding picture of their spatial distribution. The pottery, stone vessels and flint tools are typical of domestic use, and there are no cultic objects, delicate and special vessels, or imports, which are familiar from tombs and excavations in urban centers.