During July 2002 and March 2003, excavations were conducted within Rosh Pinna (Permit Nos. A-3645, A-3836; map ref. NIG 2503/7640; OIG 2003/2640), in the wake of development plans on The Boulevard. The excavations, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the local council, the Government Tourism Corporation and the Jewish National Fund, were directed by Y. Stepansky, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), A. Hajian, V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography, 2002), N. Getzov and Y. Alexandre (stratigraphic and ceramic consultation), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), L. Boaretto (14C analysis), G. Finkielsztejn (Rhodian handle), D. Syon (numismatics), A. Shapiro (plaster analysis), S. Alexander and N. Keler (technical assistance on behalf of the Association for the Restoration of Rosh Pinna), S. Hameiri and M. Schwartz (assistance on behalf of the contractors).
The excavations were carried out in area of c. 100 sq m along The Boulevard, revealing building remains that dated to Iron I, II and the Hellenistic, Early and Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Fig. 1). Several potsherds from Early Bronze IB, Early Bronze II, Middle Bronze II, the Persian period and from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century CE were also found.
A wall (W2; length 2.5 m, height 1.6 m; Fig. 2) was exposed in the western part of the area (Area A). It was founded on natural bedrock and dated to Iron I–Iron IIA. Wall 2, aligned southwest–northeast and built of fieldstones, was connected to the remains of a retaining wall and a pit lined with fieldstones. To their north was part of a burnt layer (thickness 0.5 m) that contained the remains of mud bricks, burnt wood and lumps of painted red plaster (fresco). The analysis of several plaster samples indicated that it was composed of 4–8 layers of paint (thickness 1–9 mm) and was of a high and advanced quality. The 14C analyses on the charcoal from the burnt layer gave a tenth or ninth century BCE date for the destruction of the site (930–800 BCE [93.2%] calibrated age). The ceramic finds included fragments of Galilean and Tyrian pithoi from the beginning of the Iron Age.
The architectural and ceramic finds attest to an established settlement and a high level of construction. The structure, whose walls were coated with red plaster, was apparently built in Iron I and severely damaged during the course of Iron IIA. This picture, which illustrates the continuity from Iron I to Iron II, resembles other settlements in the mountainous Upper Galilee, such as Sasa, Har Adir and Tel Harashim (D. Ben-Ami, 2004, The Casemate Fort at Tel Harashim in Upper Galilee, Tel Aviv 31:194–208).
A few other building remains in Area A should probably be ascribed to Iron II, post the burnt layer.
Two squares (3, 4), 3 m lower than Area A and c. 10 m to its northeast, were excavated. The remains of two rectangular structures (c. 2 × 3 m), built of hard limestone (height 1.5 m; Figs. 3, 4), were exposed. The fieldstone walls of the buildings were constructed within a thick layer of fill that contained fragments of red plaster. These were similar to the plaster fragments from the destruction layer in Area A, at the top of the site. No floors were found in the buildings. The potsherds recovered from them included fragments of jars, kraters, cooking pots, as well as two whole chalices that probably served as incense burners for cultic use and attest to the buildings’ function during Iron IIB (c. ninth century BCE). A relatively rare find of an intact limestone roof-roller came from the building in Square 4 (Fig. 5).
The dating of the two buildings to Iron IIB strengthens the proposed dating of the earlier destruction layer to Iron IIa, c. the tenth century BCE. It should be mentioned that in the eastern Squares 2, 3, and 4, potsherds dating to Iron I were found, but without any building remains that could be ascribed with certainty to this period. Bedrock was not reached and probably more ancient remains lay underneath.
Below the Byzantine wall (W501) in Square 2 was a thick layer of fill (thickness 3 m) that contained numerous fragments of pottery vessels from Iron I, II and the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods. Close to the bottom of the fill layer, part of a three-legged, meticulously shaped basalt bowl was found; it has an almost identical analogy from Rosh Zayit that is dated to the ninth century BCE (IAA Reports 8, 2000, Figs. III.115:8, 9). No architectural finds from the Iron Age were uncovered in this square.
A wall (W1; length 2 m), oriented northwest-southeast, was discovered in Area A. It was built of fieldstones and large ashlar stones set as alternating headers-stretchers in Phoenician style, similar to Tel Dor (BASOR 267:21–41). The wall destroyed ancient remains from the Iron Age and was probably part of a large public building that continued to the west, below the houses of the old village of Rosh Pinna. The building was dated to the second century BCE based on a Rhodian handle that was found at the bottom of its foundation trench. The stamped impression on the handle had a Greek inscription dating to the years 171–169 BCE (Fig. 6). It is probable that this site was important in the Seleucid government of the region during the second half of the second century BCE, which was subjugated by the Hasmoneans during the conquest of the Galilee at the end of the second century or the beginning of the first century BCE, as alluded to by a coin of Alexander Jannaeus (IAA 106110), which was found in the soil fill of Square 2.
A shallow sounding in a small area north of the western strip of Bolvar Street (Area B) exposed remains of a plastered installation that was ascribed to the Early Roman period.
A system of walls in Square 1 was dated to the Late Roman period based on fragments of pottery vessels. Outstanding among these walls was Wall 500 (length 4 m), meticulously built of roughly hewn stones and oriented northwest-southeast. Other parallel or perpendicular walls (W505, W515) abutted this wall at that time or slightly thereafter. Signs of ancient construction were discovered below the wall system. They were possibly from the Early Roman period and included a wall (W509) that was survived by an incomplete row of stones. A wall (W3; length 4 m) that dated to the Late Roman period and covered part of the destruction layer of the Iron Age was exposed in Area A. The architectural finds attest to substantial construction activity in the Roman period, which was only partially exposed. In the absence of any destruction signs in the remains of the Roman buildings, it is feasible that these continued to exist in the Byzantine period.
Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods
Sections of three walls (W501, W503 and W506), found c. 1.0–1.5 m below surface in Squares 2 and 3, were dated to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, based on lamps and a few coins, including a coin of Constantine II (351–361 CE; IAA 106111), a Byzantine coin (351–361; IAA 106112) and another Byzantine coin (367–375 CE; 106113). Wall 501, the longest of the walls (length 4.5 m), had at least two phases of construction: an early Byzantine phase and a later Early Islamic phase.