During October–November 2003, an excavation was conducted at Nahal Bezet II (Permit No. A-4010; map ref. NIG 213952–214091/774458–575; OIG 163952–164091/274458–575). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by O. Marder, with the assistance of A. Dadoush and Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS), H. Smithline (field photography), N. Getzov (pottery), I. Milevski (groundstones), O. Barzilai (flints), L. Zeiger and M. Smilansky (flint drawing), N. Marom (archaeozoology) and workmen from Kafr Manda and Nazareth. Further assistance was provided by Y. Lerer, E. Stern and D. Barshad of the IAA northern region.
Nahal Bezet II is located on a small hill, on the southern bank of Nahal Bezet, c. 300 m south of Shelomi and c. 41 m above sea level (Fig. 1). Geomorphologically, the Nahal Bezet valley is composed of dark gray alluvium vertisol, overlying an Eocene formation (Fig 2). The site was discovered during a survey conducted by R. Frankel and N. Getzov (Map of Akhziv  Map of Hanita , Jerusalem 1997).
Five areas (A–E) were excavated and 19 probe trenches were dug by mechanical equipment to estimate the size of the site and to clarify the stratigraphic sequence (Fig. 3).
Squares of 2 × 4 m were opened in Areas A, B, C and E, while a deep sounding of 1 × 2 m was cut in the center of the site (Area D). All areas were subject to random sieving, except for Area D whose sediments were completely sieved.
The stratigraphic sequence was based on the profile of the deep sounding in Area D (c. 1.8 m; Fig. 4). All other areas and features were correlated to this profile, pending the objects they contained (see below).
Three layers were identified in Area D. The lowermost Layer 3 (thickness 0.8 m) consisted of yellow to light gray sediment. A thin horizon of small angular stones, including cobbles and pebbles, was possibly an anthropogenic surface found at the base of this layer. Possible remains of walls, built of flat medium-sized undressed stones (0.25 × 0.30 m), were visible 0.2–0.4 m above the cobble surface. These remains were sealed by another thin cobble surface, 0.10–0.15 m above (Fig. 5). Flint artifacts and animal bones were evident throughout the entire layer, while a few potsherds, probably from Layer 2, were found only above the upper cobble surface.
Layer 2, subdivided into two phases on the basis of diagnostic pottery, was characterized by a thick horizon (thickness 0.6–0.7 m) of light gray soil with a high density of burnt angular stones. The lower phase (2b; c. 0.4 m) included Pottery Neolithic potsherds and was rich in Yarmukian lithics (PN) and a few animal bones. The upper phase (2a; c. 0.2 m) contained numerous Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah) potsherds.
The top Layer 1 (0.2–0.3 m) was plowed dark gray loose sediment that contained angular stones and sporadic finds.
A thin archaeological horizon that consisted of random features was exposed in the other excavated areas. The features include pits (Fig. 6) and hearths, mainly within the trenches that were dug into the lower phase of the vertisol. Most of the artifacts that derived from this horizon included flint tools, a few ground-stone tools, poorly preserved ceramics and animal bones that mostly dated to the PN period. Areas A, B and C corresponded to the PN occupational phase (Layer 2b), while Area E was attributed, in all likelihood, to the PPN (Layer 3).
Within the probe trenches (TR 1–19; L150–L172; see Fig. 3), numerous oval or circular pits that consisted of pebbles and cobbles, were found (L153, L162–L164, L167, L168). In addition, fieldstones (L156–L161, L169), patches of burnt clay (L166) and possible remains of walls (L155; Fig. 7) were discovered. The features within the probe trenches were not excavated yet were systematically recorded with the aid of GPS. Their dating was complicated, as in some of them only worn potsherds were uncovered. The site was estimated to extend over an area of c. 1.5 hectares, based on the distribution of finds within the probe trenches and the excavated areas.
A shallow hearth (L102), delimited by two fieldstones, was revealed c. 0.2 m below top soil in Area A. Several charcoal pieces and burnt clay were noted in its center. A single 14C date, retrieved from a large piece of charcoal, was dated to the Medieval Age (1,240 ± 100 cal. BC). This hearth should be considered intrusive within the PN layer, since all the finds (lithic and small potsherds) in its vicinity undoubtedly dated to the PN.
A small rounded feature (L111; diam. 2.0–2.4 m), built of undressed globular hard limestone (0.2–0.6 m), was revealed in Area B (Figs. 8, 9). Although the overall plan was not clear it appears the entrance was from the north. The presence of a large grinding stone (Fig. 10) and some worn potsherds suggests that the feature was used for domestic activities.
The small PPN assemblage (Layer 3) comprises 474 artifacts, dominated by flakes and blades. Represented in the assemblage and characteristic of the PPNB are blades produced by bidirectional technology. The projectile points are fashioned by bifacial-pressured flaking that is typical to the final stage of the PPNB or the PPNC (Fig. 11:1, 2). The sickle blades also display characteristics typical to the Late PPNB or PPNC, as their glossed edges are nibbled by fine retouch on both ventral and dorsal surfaces; their backs are modified by semi-abrupt retouch and are distally truncated (Fig. 11:3). It should be noted that during the survey of R. Frankel and N. Getzov at the site, some tools, including a Helwan arrowhead (Map of Akhziv  Map of Hanita :121, Fig. 2.80.4:3) made on a blade purple in color, were found. It might indicate a Middle PPNB occupation.
The PN assemblage (Layer 2b) is relatively large and representative (N=4104).
The debitage is dominated by flakes, whereas blades play a minor role compared to the PPN
assemblage. Sickle blades fashioned by deep denticulation (Fig. 11:4, 5) characterize the assemblage, as well as small elliptical chisels that are distinctive to Yarmukian chipped stone assemblages (Fig. 11:7).
The Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah; Layer 2a) assemblage is small and comprises 357 items. Like the PN, it is dominated by flake technology, evidenced by debitage and core frequencies. Sickle blades are the most diagnostic tool type, backed truncated with plain working edge (Fig. 11:6, 8, 9).
A few potsherds were recovered from all excavated areas. Most of them, dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods, are considered intrusive in the early layers. The pottery finds are significant only in Area D, where two diverse assemblages, PN (Layer 2b) and Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah; Layer 2a), were found.
The PN assemblage is small. Numerous handmade potsherds of rough fabric were found and diagnostic among them are a few bowl rims (Fig. 12:1–3). Hardly any surface treatment is noted on the vessels, which is characteristic of the PN cultures. The lack of sufficient elements at Nahal Bezet II, which could define the ascription of pottery to one of the known repertoires of the period, either Yarmukian or Jericho IX (Lodian), is evident.
The Early Chalcolithic finds are few in comparison to the PN; however, they consist of vessel types that are common to the Early Chalcolithic assemblages (Wadi Rabah). They are handmade and some of them exhibit a burnished red and black slip, as the shallow incurving bowl (Fig. 11:4). A carinated vessel, decorated with wavy lines on the exterior, was found in this layer. Its interior shows an incised pattern of intersecting lines (Fig. 11:5). Two other decorated potsherds with punctuated incisions, which are characteristic of the Wadi Rabah culture, were found (Fig. 11:6, 7). Finally, a clay whorl, probably a spindle, was found in Layer 2a (Fig. 11:8).
The Groundstone Tools
The small stone-tools assemblage comprises 21 items. Almost half of the stone tools were found out of archeological contexts in top soil or in probe trenches. The tools found in clear contexts are attributed to the PPN and PN. They consist of hand stones, grinding stones, a grinding quern, hammer stones and rims of bowls. Noteworthy are a perforated item (a macehead?) and a votive small axe of green stone found on surface. The perforated item should be dated to the Early (Wadi Rabah) or Late (Ghassulian) Chalcolithic, while the type of the votive axe is generally related to PPNB contexts. Of particular note is a point sharpener or a shaft straightener found in the PPNB (Layer 3).
The Nahal Betzet II faunal assemblage (NISP [number of identified specimens]=88) is mainly composed of caprines (Capra hircus and Ovis aries; NISP=40), cattle (Bos sp.; NISP=27) and wild boar (Sus scrofa; NISP=18) remains from PN and Early Chalcolithic contexts. A single Capra bone was the only identifiable specimen from the PPN contexts.
The excavations at Nahal Betzet II revealed three occupational horizons that dated to the PPN, PN and Early Chalcolithic periods. Although the site extends across a relatively large area, the superposition of the different layers was located only in a restricted area (D).
The PPN was revealed in a limited area, which made it difficult to draw any comprehensive conclusions. Yet, it appears that it should be attributed to the latest phases of the PPNB (late PPNB) or to the PPNC. This assumption is based mainly on the pressure flaking production of the arrowheads.
The PN is the main occupation horizon at the site (Layer 2b); it includes one architectural feature and several pits and hearths. Thepottery dating to the PN is not sufficient to define the cultural ascription of the site; however, the flint assemblage consists of sickle blades fashioned by deep denticulation and small elliptical chisels that are characteristic of Yarmukian chipped stone assemblages. In addition, no distinctive sickle blades, made on flakes of rectangular or triangular shape with pressure retouch, were found; the latter are characteristic of the Jericho IX (Lodian) assemblages. Although the pottery of Layer 2b lacked elements that could define it as Yarmukian, the flint assemblage of this layer shows clear features of Yarmukian repertoires; hence, it is assumed that Layer 2b should be defined as belonging to the Yarmukian culture.
The Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah) occupation (Layer 2a) is small, although during the survey most of the collected pottery belonged to this horizon (Map of Akhziv  Map of Hanita : Fig. 2.80.5); it is possible that this layer was damaged by modern activities. The pottery and flint assemblages retrieved from the excavations are small but very homogeneous. Most of the pottery vessels are bowls that exhibit the characteristic decoration of the standard Wadi Rabah culture.
The economy, based on the fauna at the site, indicates some changes in the transition from the PN to the Early Chalcolithic periods. Whether this change indicates different strategies at the site throughout time or environmental changes in the region require further examination.
The excavation at Nahal Bezet II shows that occupation of the site continued from the PPNB, through the PN, probably the Yarmukain, to the Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah) period; thereafter, the site was abandoned. The reconstruction of settlement patterns in the ‘Akko Plain reveals a similar picture. This region shows continuation also from PPNB until the Early Chalcolthic, with a small gap in the Jericho IX (Lodian) horizon, while the Late Chalcolithic settlements are mostly located in the high Galilee, out of the ‘Akko Plain.