The Early Chalcolithic Period
Remains of a settlement postdating the Wadi Rabah culture were discovered wherever the excavation descended below the Late Chalcolithic or Early Bronze strata. Traces of this settlement were encountered in the other excavation areas as well. The excavation did not reach sterile soil in this area. At least two settlement strata were discovered, including segments of straight walls and floors belonging to dwellings and installations. The walls were built of a single course of foundation stones that carried sun-dried mud-bricks, but these did not survive. Some of the floors were made of small stones, potsherds and tamped soil, and others consisted of stone slabs (Fig. 4). Various installations were found, most of which were stone built (Fig. 5); potsherds were incorporated in the construction of some of the installations. The excavation uncovered fragments of burnt mud-bricks, probably attesting to installations that were brick-built, but did not survive. As in other areas, infant burials were found ‘wrapped’ with large pottery fragments (Fig. 6).
The pottery included a variety of bowls (Fig. 7:1–7), bow-rimmed jars (Fig. 7:8–11), flared-rim jars (Fig. 7:12, 13), holemouth jars (Fig. 7:14–21), pithoi and wide strap handles (Fig. 7:22, 23). This pottery indicates that the settlement remains in Area O belonged to the same phase as the Early Chalcolithic remains found in other excavation areas at the site.
The Late Chalcolithic Period
Two settlement strata, which include numerous remains of residential buildings and installations (Fig. 8), were uncovered. Their walls were constructed of stone foundations that carried mud-brick walls, but these were not preserved. Their floors were made of tamped earth or small stones and potsherds. The installations were built of stone or potsherds (Fig. 9). A striking difference could be discerned between these rich architectural remains in Area O and the meager architectural remains from this period unearthed in Area M (Section 3).
The pottery is characteristic of the Ghassulian culture and includes bowls (Fig. 10:1–3), basins (Fig. 10:4), jars (Fig. 10:5–7), holemouth jars (Fig. 10:8–12), cornets (Fig. 10:13–15), handles that are triangular in section (Fig. 10:16) and spoons (Fig. 10:17, 18). Only a few differences could be identified between the pottery types of the two strata belonging to in this period. Sub-area O6 yielded a large group of vessels that had been deliberately buried, including six churns placed in pairs, jars, V-shaped bowls, fenestrated incense burners made of clay and a basalt incense burner that had probably been intentionally broken (Fig. 11).
Early Bronze Age IA
During this period, Area O continued to be inhabited, although no remains from this period were discovered in the other excavation areas at the site. Based on the remains unearthed in Area O, the settlement probably 10–20 dunams. The architectural remains, belonging to approximately 20 structures, were of two main types: dwellings and small, circular structures, which probably served as storage installations. Most of the remains are fragmentary and poorly preserved due to the dismantling of buildings, later activity and natural disasters, making it impossible to identify the plan of many of the buildings. However, some of the structures were well preserved, and their architecture can therefore be reconstructed.
As the remains from this period were best preserved in Sub-area O2, these will be described in detail. Three superimposed settlement phases were identified (1–3; Fig. 12), indicating a that the settlement continuum throughout EB IA. The building remains from the earliest phase (Phase 3) were rather fragmentary, making it impossible to identify any clear building pattern. The two later phases (Phases 2 and 1) yielded mostly rectangular dwellings with rounded corners or elliptical buildings that were built along a roughly east–west alignment. These structures are small (c. 3 × 5 m) and have narrow walls (max. width 0.5 m). Circular installations constructed next to the buildings were probably used as silos or as storage and service buildings. In the open spaces between the structures, floors and habitation levels were made of tamped earth that in some cases were mixed with small stones. The following is a description of the remains discovered in the three phases of Sub-area O2, from earliest to latest.
Phase 3. A few fragmentary remains, mostly in the northeast of the area, were attributed to the earliest EB IA settlement in Sub-area O2. In Sq EO116, a round structure was unearthed (diam. c. 2 m.; wall width 0.4 m) with a tamped-earth floor. In the adjacent square, Sq EO115, another round structure with a tamped-earth floor was uncovered (diam c. 2 m.; wall width 0.3 m). A narrow wall (width 0.4 m), oriented south–north and extending to Sq EO114, was discovered to the east of the building. In the area to the west of the wall was a layer of soil containing thousands of charred seeds with a marked preponderance of legumes (Fig. 13; seed-identification research pending). The wall may have enclosed an area of silos. A wall stump was discovered in Sq EO117. Square EO119 yielded a tamped-earth floor and a pit that penetrated into the remains from the Chalcolithic period; it contained sizable fragments of gray-burnished bowls.
Phase 2. Remains from this phase were discovered throughout Sub-area O2. An elliptical structure (width c. 4 m; wall width c. 0.5 m), built along an east–west axis, was unearthed in Sqs EO117–116. A semicircular installation built of small stones was discovered in the eastern part of the building. Remains of a circular building with a partially preserved wall (width 0.3 m) were discovered in Sq EO115. In Sqs EP118–119, a round granary was discovered (diam c. 2 m.; wall width 0.5 m) with a tamped-earth floor in its southern part. A section of a tamped-earth floor uncovered immediately to its south may have served in some activity related to the granary. Walls whose function is unclear abutted the granary wall from the southwest.
Phase 1. Remains of buildings and installations belonging to final phase of the EB IA village were discovered mainly in the southwest part of the area. A large section of an elliptical dwelling (inner width c. 3 m) built along an east–west axis was unearthed in Sqs EP117–118 and EO117. A partition built of two narrow walls, 0.35 m apart, with a floor of small stones between them, divided the building into two rooms, western and eastern; the partition may have also served as an installation inside the building. Sections of two superimposed tamped-earth floors within the building probably indicate two habitation phases. North of the building, in Sq EP117, was a short section of a curved wall, possibly the remains of a small granary. Square EO118 yielded traces of a large circular structure (diam 2.5 m.; wall width 0.6 m). An even larger circular structure was unearthed in Sq EO115 (diam 3.5 m.; wall width 0.5 m; Fig. 14). These structures were probably used as silos or for storage.
Early Bronze Age IB
Fragmentary architectural remains from the EB IB were discovered throughout Area O. They were severely damaged by modern construction and agricultural activity due to their proximity to the surface. As in Area M (Elad, Paz and Shalem 2018), two principle strata from the period were discerned: one from the early phase of the period, and the other from its later phase.
EB IB, Early Phase. This phase saw a significant increase in the site’s intensity of occupation and size (estimated area c. 600 dunams). Two main types of dwellings were encountered. The first type was small and was built directly over structures from the EB IA. A complete building of this type was discovered in Area O2: it is rectangular (3.1 × 5.5 m; wall width 0.6 m), built along a south–north axis and has rounded corners. A single flat stone in the middle of the building served as a base for a wooden pillar that supported the roof. Structures similar in plan and size were discovered in various parts of the site in the past (see Elad, Paz and Shalem 2018: Fig. 8). The orientation of these structures is different from that of the characteristic EB IA buildings, which were aligned east–west. The second type of dwelling was large and rectangular (max. dimensions 3.5 × 10.0 m) with rounded corners. Most of these dwellings were built along either a south–north or an east–west axis, with a few exceptions. Several buildings of this type were unearthed in Sub-area O1, at the eastern end of the excavation area. Two silos were also attributed to the early phase of the period.
EB IB, Late Phase. Modern activity severely damaged the architectural remains from this phase, leaving almost none in this area. Nevertheless, substantial well-built architectural remains (Fig. 15) that included at least three dwellings and one granary were discovered in Sub-area O1. Furthermore, in the southeast part of Area O1, another, impressively constructed building with particularly wide walls was encountered. These imposing architectural remains point to the growth of the settlement and its transformation into a densely populated urban center, as do the remains from this period in the other areas.
A large building complex from the EB IB was discovered in Area O3 (c. 4 × 24 m; Fig. 16), but it is not yet clear to which phase it should be attributed. The complex was built along a roughly south–north axis and probably included several architectural units. Four parallel lateral walls built of a single row of medium-sized stones delineated stone levels that formed a paved surface throughout the excavation area. A long, narrow space (0.5 × 6.0 m) bounded by walls but unpaved was discovered in the north of the area. It may have served as a water-drainage channel. The function of the complex is unclear, but it appears to be facing the ‘En Esur spring.
EB IA Pottery
Since the study of the pottery from this period is in its early stages, it is still impossible to point to clear typological differences between the early settlement phase and the later one. Following are the most prominent pottery types discovered in the architectural complexes. They are attributed mainly to the material culture that characterizes Israel’s coastal plain during this period (Gophna 1974).
Gray-burnished bowls (Fig. 17:1–4). The common, Type 1, gray-burnished bowls are flat, and are characterized by a tapering rim. They are burnished in gray, black or yellow with a lustrous sheen, and have plastic protrusions on the lower part of the vessel. These bowls may have reached the site through trade with the Jezreel Valley, their main production area (Goren and Zuckerman 2000). Similar bowls have been found further south along Israel’s coastal plain, for example in the region of Tel Aviv (Gophna and Paz 2017).
Hemispherical bowls (Fig. 17:5). The bowls are characterized by a simple, tapering rim and red slip. During this period, they were common throughout Israel, and they continued to be used throughout the Early Bronze Age.
Holemouth jars decorated with a plastic rope design (Fig. 18:1). This type is not common at the site. Vessel 1 is made of light brown-gray clay and is decorated below the rim with a rope-like strip. Similar vessels have been discovered in the Yarqon-Ayalon region (Gophna and Paz 2017: Fig. 13.4:10).
Ridged holemouth jars (Fig. 18:2–9). Most of the holemouth jars from the site belong to this type, which is divided into two sub-types: holemouths with a narrow ridge and a downward-curving rim (Nos. 2–5), and holemouths with a wide ridge and a rounded or cut rim (Nos. 6–9). The characteristic ornamentation of the ridged holemouths includes a combination of red slip and incised or thumb-indented decoration along the edge of the ridge. Such vessels are common during this period throughout the country and are found in the Jordan Valley, the Galilee and northern Israel, the coastal plain and the Yarqon-Ayalon basin (Braun 1997: Figs. 9.10:6, 9.12:3; Eisenberg 2001: Fig. 7.5:11; Greenberg and Paz 2004: Fig. 7:2–5, 9, 10; Gophna and Paz 2017: Fig. 13.4:11–13).
Jars with a sharp everted rim (Fig. 19:1) are Medium-sized vessels, usually characterized by a light brown or gray fabric and a gray core. Similar vessels has been retrieved from the Afridar excavations in Ashkelon (Golani 2004: Fig. 28:9).
Long-necked pithoi with an everted rim (Fig. 19:2–4). This type is also made of a light brown or gray fabric and has a gray core, and it is decorated at times with red wash and a plastic band at the base of the neck. It was common throughout Israel during this period, from Tel Te’o in the Hula Valley to the environs of Ashkelon (Afridar) on the coastal plain (Braun 1997: Fig. 9.24:1; Golani and van den Brink 1999: Fig. 5:2, 3; Eisenberg 2001: Fig. 7.7:2; Golani 2004: Fig. 27:1; Khalaily 2004: Fig. 9:8).
Holemouth Pithoi (Fig. 19:5, 6). These vessels with a thickened triangular rim are usually made of buff fabric and have a gray core. Sometimes they are decorated with red wash. Similar vessels have been discovered at Azor (Golani and van den Brink 1999: Fig. 8).