During the summer of 2006, a salvage excavation was conducted in ‘Afula (Permit No. A-4789; map ref. 227422/723819), prior to the construction of a multi-storey building. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Dalai-Amos (photography) and N. Getzov, with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), N. Raban and N. Agha (archaeozoology), L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing) and M. Smilansky (drawing of flints).
Ancient remains were discovered in previous excavations in ‘Afula in two separate areas, situated c. 250 m apart: a low tell in the east and a small, low mound, on which a modern water tower was erected, in the west (Sukenik 1948; Dothan 1955; Bron 2013). The tell yielded remains ascribed to the Early, Intermediate and Middle Bronze Ages, Iron Age and Byzantine and Mamluk periods. Settlement strata dating to the Chalcolithic period and EB I, as well as tombs ascribed to many periods, were exposed on the mound. Eight excavation squares were opened, 25–30 m east of the water tower on the eastern side of Knesset Street, near Pit D in Sukenik’s excavations. Three settlement strata from the Early Chalcolithic period (Stratum IV), EB IA (Stratum III) and EB IB (Stratum II) were exposed, in addition to an upper layer (Stratum I) of graves, mostly from the EB II until the Roman period, installations and surface accumulations.
Soil accumulations, most likely the remains of the mud-brick buildings that were not preserved, were discovered mainly in Strata IV–II. No stone foundations of buildings were found. Remains of floors, baking ovens, stoves and pits were also discovered in these strata. An interesting find that was discovered in Stratum III is the skeleton of a cow whose severed head was placed next to its back (Fig. 1). The complete preservation of the skeleton indicates the animal was buried. The finds in Stratum IV include several punctured pottery sherds and strap handles belonging to the Wadi Rabah culture and dating to the beginning of the Early Chalcolithic period, and churns that are typical of the end of the Early Chalcolithic period. The finds in Stratum III include holemouth vessels with a trapezoidal-like rim and gray-burnished kraters that have flaring walls and knob handles, dating to the EB IA. The finds in Stratum II include gray burnished bowls with carinated and inverted walls, bow-rimmed pithoi, fragments of pottery vessels adorned with band-slip painting and many other vessels characteristic of EB IB assemblages in the Jezreel Valley.
More than 26 graves that penetrated the earlier layers were discovered in Stratum I. With the exception of one grave that was excavated in its entirety, none of the graves were unearthed. Most of the graves are dated to the Roman period on the basis of cooking pots that were placed alongside some of them. A Middle Bronze I (MB IIA) tomb, in which pottery vessels were arranged around the perimeter of the burial pit close to the wall, was exposed; the remains of a young boy were discovered in the center of the pit (Fig. 2). Another tomb that is dated to the Hellenistic period on the basis of a spindle-shaped juglet placed next to the head of the deceased, was exposed.
The excavation finds are further evidence of the large settlement that was located in the western part of the site in ‘Afula. In this excavation, a settlement layer dating to the Early Chalcolithic period was exposed for the first time. Apparently, no settlement occupied the site after the Early Bronze Age, and the area was used mainly for burying the inhabitants of the settlement that was located east of the site.
Bron H. 2013. ‘Afula. HA-ESI 125.
Dothan M. 1955. Excavations at ‘Afula. ‘Atiqot 1:19–70.
Sukenik E.L. 1948. Archaeological Investigations at ‘Affula. JPOS 21:1–78.