During the end of June and the beginning of July 2007, a trial excavation was conducted in an agricultural plot, east of Tel Qana (Tell el-Mukhmar; Permit No. A-5160; map ref. NIG 189793–961/670624–749; OIG 139793–961/170624–749). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Yarqon Park Authority, was directed by E.C.M. van den Brink (photography), with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam and E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian, T. Melzin, R. Mishayev and N. Zak (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography) and Y. Nagar (anthropology).
Prior to the excavation, the area (c. 50 × 120 m) was trenched by mechanical equipment under the inspection of D. Masarwa and eleven potential archaeological probes were discovered. Seven of them situated in the northern half of the field and located immediately east of Tel Qana, were examined in the excavation (Fig. 1).
The seven probes were divided between four in the west, closest to the tell and three in the east, further away from the tell. A distinct difference was noted between the east and west probes, which can be ascribed to structural differences in the paleo-landscape, that is an alluvial natural depression, possibly created by an ancient river to the east of the tell and the presence of a hamra hillock farther away from the depression.
The western probes
Four probes, less than 5–25 m east of Tel Qana’s eastern edge, which is submerged under the alluvium, were cut into light brown alluvial/colluvial soils. The initial assumption was that the actual tell continued eastward below the present-day alluvium. However, apart from a continuous living surface that was indicated by the horizontal deposition of many Middle Bronze II potsherds mixed with a few pottery fragments from the Iron Age and the Persian–Hellenistic periods at a level of c. 0.6–0.8 m below the present surface (at c. 16 m asl) and encountered in all four probes, as well as the presence of a single pit dug from the same general level as the living surface, no other features, either above or below this living surface, were found in the four probes. The sole exception was an isolated tabun in one of the probes, c. 0.5 m below the living surface. The accumulated soils sealing the level of this continuous living surface were archeologically sterile, as were all soils below the living surface, excavated down to a maximum depth of c. 3 m below the present surface, notwithstanding occasional potsherds, mainly of MB II date. It would seem that this living surface indicated the original surface east of the tell at the time of MB II occupation at the site. Since no datable materials were found in association with the tabun, its date remains unclear. Yet, its very presence points to an occupational episode that possibly pre-dated MB II at this spot.
The eastern probes
These probes were excavated within a hamra hillock that was covered with a top layer of light brown alluvial/colluvial sterile soil (thickness 0.2 m in the east; c. 1 m in the west), similar to the one that filled up the apparent depression between the tell and the hamra hillock in the west.
A cist tomb that contained an apparent warrior burial, dating to Late Bronze II, was exposed in one of the probes (Fig. 2). The stone-lined pit (c. 1 × 3 m), whose interior walls and floor had been plastered, was cut into the hamra soil. The remains of a single, primary male burial were deposited in the cist, extended in a supine position, head in the west and feet to the east and accompanied by a number of burial offerings that were placed to the right side of the deceased, resting against the inner south wall of the tomb. The funerary gifts included two shaft spearheads and a single arrowhead, all made of bronze, as well as three ceramic oil lamps with diagnostic pinched lip, three bowls, two flasks and a juglet, all apparently of local production. The morphologies of the bronze weapons and the pottery vessels point to a date within Late Bronze II. The relatively large size of the tomb in comparison to the actual human interment and the carefully stone-lined, plastered walls and floor demonstrate perhaps a special status of the deceased, whose east–west orientation could reflect Egyptian influence on the mortuary behavior in this part of the Coastal Plain at this time.
Remains of two plastered pits were uncovered (Figs. 3, 4) in two separate probes, c. 5 m apart from each other. The pits are assumed to be winepress installations and each had a depression in the floor. The roughly circular pits (diam. c. 2 m, depth c. 0.5 m) were cut into the hamra soil. Their walls were entirely lined with smooth, fist-sized wadi pebbles, coated with several superimposed layers of non-hydraulic white plaster that was also applied to their bottom, presumably used as a treading floor, as well as to the depression that functioned as a sump. Winepress 105 had as many as eleven separate layers of plaster (thickness c. 1 cm) applied to its interior. The sump in Winepress L105 was situated in the center of the floor (Fig. 3), while in Winepress L108 it was off-center (Fig. 4). The multiple replastering of both installations seems to indicate either their intensity and prolonged usage or the low quality of the untempered, non-hydraulic plaster that was not waterproof. A macroscopic examination of the plaster showed it was very similar to the plaster used in the Late Bronze Age tomb. Petrographic analyses of the various plaster samples should provide further clues to this matter.
The date of the two installations is difficult, since no pottery or other datable finds were retrieved from their fills, except for two EB I potsherds and a fragmentary Canaanite flint sickle blade that should undoubtedly be considered intrusive. The lower parts of two medium-sized storage jars were found in situ c. 1 m east of one of the winepresses. Installations similar in construction, style and size had previously been discovered at Tell Qasile (HA-ESI 113:44*) and Rishon Le-Ziyyon (ESI 20:66*–67*, dating to Iron II.
Archaeological excavations had never been undertaken at Tel Qana or at its margins prior to the present fieldwork. The tell was surveyed in the late 1970s by R. Gophna and E. Ayalon (Map of Herzliyya , 1998, Site 97). Surface finds collected during that survey included potsherds from the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages, Iron I–II, as well as the Persian, Roman and Byzantine periods. The current excavation revealed for the first time in situ findings from Middle Bronze II (the continuous living surface), Late Bronze II (‘warrior’ burial) and the Iron II (?; winepresses).
Deposits of alluvial/colluvial soil sediments become thicker toward the eastern margin of Tel Qana. These sediments were most likely deposited in the past by the meandering Nahal Qana and its tributary Nahal Hadar, which is still flowing today to the east and south of the site. Farther away from the eastern fringe of the tell, these alluvial deposits/sediments become thinner and the underlying hamra soils become more prominent. Apparently, a depression once existed between the eastern fringes of the tell and the hamra hillock in the east, which was gradually covered with an alluvial layer.