During April–May 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Beisamoun site (Permit No. A-5107; map ref. NIG 25403–8/77682–715; OIG 20403–8/27682–715). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Department of Public Works, was directed by H. Khalaily, with the assistance of O. Barzilai, E. Bron and G. Jaffe (area supervision), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), A. Shapiro (GPS), and also D. Avshalom-Gorni and N. Bornstein.
The site is located in the western part of the Hula Valley, c. 5 km north of Yesod Ha-Ma‘ale and c. 2 km west of the new Hula Preservation. It is situated alongside numerous sources of water, including Nahal ‘Ayoun, which conveys water from the ‘Eynan springs to the Hula Preservation and the spring of ‘En Agmon, to the south of the site. A broad alluvium-covered plain that was formed as a result of draining the original Hula Lake in the 1950s extends east of the site. Several prehistoric sites in the vicinity include ‘Eynan—a settlement that is dated to the Natufian culture (Perrot, J. 1966. Les gisement natufien de Mallaha (Eynan), Israel. L'Anthropologie 70/5-6:437–483) and Tel Teo (IAA Reports 13)—a site that begins in the Neolithic period. Beisamoun is one of the largest sites in the southern Levant, dating to the late phase of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. It is considered an especially large site as its remains extend across an estimated area of c. 100 dunams. The Beisamoun site comprises three secondary sites: Tel al-Mallaha in the south, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site that extends across the foot of the tell to the west and north and the site of Beisamoun West, which extends across a gentle slope that continues westward to the foot of the Hills of Naftali. The site was discovered at the end of the 1950s when Qibbuz Manara had constructed fish ponds in the area. A French expedition that excavated at ‘Eynan at the time, investigated the site during two long seasons, 1965 and 1969. The site was further explored in 1971–1972 (Lechevallier M. 1978. Abu Gosh et Beisamoun, deux gisements du VIIème millenaire avant l'ere Chretiénne en Israël [Mémoirs et Travaux du Centre de Recherches Préhistoriques Français du Jérusalem 2]. Paris). Four probe trenches were dug at Beisamoun West in November 2006, exposing a level of archaeological remains on sterile terra rossa soil at a depth of 0.4 m below surface. The level tapered toward the west and it therefore appeared that the area was located on the western fringes of the site.
Two excavation areas (A, B; Figs. 1, 2), 11 m apart, were opened in a narrow strip along Highway 90, in the section between Rosh Pinna and Qiryat Shemona. Four squares were excavated in Area A, the southern of the two and five squares were opened in Area B. Building remains and numerous artifacts that dated to the Yarmukian culture were discovered.
Three sediment layers were discerned in the excavation areas. The surface top soil formed the upper layer (thickness 0.5 m), which was characterized by dark brown clayey soil that had been prepared for farming and disturbed by deep plowing over many years. This horizontal layer contained only a few archaeological finds. The middle layer (thickness over 0.6 m) was a gray-brown clayey soil, rich in organic material and ash, which yielded most of the remains and artifacts in the excavation. Two stratified levels composed the layer. The upper level (thickness 0.2 m) was small, mostly angular limestone gravel (length 2–5 cm), as well as many basalt fragments, mostly burnt and therefore dark in color. This level was exposed in all excavation squares and it sealed the settlement level at the site. The lower level (thickness 0.4 m) was light colored friable clayey soil mixed with small stones. All the building remains at the site were exposed in this level. The bottom layer (thickness 0.7 m) was reddish brown terra rossa soil (heavy clay soil), without any inclusions. This was a sterile layer set above the bedrock.
Area A. Upon removal of top soil, two parallel walls (W1, W2), 1.5 m apart, were exposed in Squares X11 and X12. Wall 1 was built of different sized fieldstones to a height of three courses; the upper course was partly disturbed and several of its stones were removed. Wall 2 was constructed from large rectangular stones to a height of a single course. The walls, which probably extended eastward, delimited a long narrow area that was oriented east–west (path? small room? L102; length 4 m, width 1.5 m). This area was paved with small stones that were set on a surface of densely packed stones. Another wall (W4), which was aligned north–south and extended southward to Square X10, abutted Wall 2. It seems that W4 enclosed the eastern side of a square building. A round hearth (L108), built of small stones, was discovered in the corner between the two walls. A wall (W3) built of two rows of stones was exposed in Square X13. To its north and close to the western end of the wall was a round installation (L105) that probably served as a column base.
Area B. Several building complexes that were of similar construction to those exposed in Area A were excavated. A square building (L202; c. 10 sq m) was uncovered in Square X17. Two of its walls (W14, W15) were built of medium-sized fieldstones and preserved 0.3 m high, whereas the other two walls (W13, W17) consisted of large dressed stones and were preserved two courses high (c. 0.5 m). It seems that the entrance to the building was fixed in the southern part of W15. Stones that had collapsed from the upper course of the walls were discovered inside the building, which was paved with small tamped stones (thickness 5 cm). A circle of small burnt stones (diam. c. 0.3 m) that were probably the remains of a built hearth was exposed next to W14. Column bases were preserved in two of the room’s corners and it is reasonable to assume that originally, four column bases were in the building. The finds in the building included numerous flint tools, grinding stones and animal bones—the remains of everyday activity. Noteworthy among the flint tools were the axes in various stages of knapping, which were discarded in the wake of mistakes during the knapping process or because the axe broke. South of the building, in Square X16, another building (L203) that was apparently disturbed by deep plowing and only its northern and eastern walls had survived, was exposed. The building was paved with densely packed small stones and in its center was a large flat stone, probably a work station. A shallow depression near the northern wall (W11) contained eleven flint nodules together, surrounded by a high concentration of debitage and a few tools. The knapping debitage is especially interesting since it includes numerous extra thin flakes, which are characteristic of axe preparation. Three axes were found in the debitage; two were in the initial stages of shaping and the third was complete. A shallow depression at the fore part of the building contained a large quantity of debitage. It seems that Building 203 was a knapping spot for producing bifacial tools.
Despite the fact that the excavation area was located the along the western fringes of the site, the building remains and artifacts were well preserved. It seems that a central settlement, which extended across an extensive area (c. 20 dunams), was situated at the site whose plan, which included buildings and built complexes, is similar to that excavated at Sha‘ar Ha-Golan. The finds consist of a homogenous flint assemblage that dates the site, as well as numerous poorly preserved potsherds and animal bones. The flint assemblage is dated to the beginning of the Pottery Neolithic period (Yarmukian culture; the second part of the seventh millennium BCE, cal.) and it comprises deeply denticulated and truncated sickle blades (Fig. 3), large ‘Amuq-type arrowheads and many axes, some have a polished cutting edge and others are shaped by a technique known as ‘the Hula blow’ (Fig. 4). The economy of the residents at the site was based on the hunting and herding of domesticated animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle and pigs, as well as agriculture that is evidenced by the large numbers of sickle blades and axes.