During July–August 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted north of Tel Shor, in the western Jezre’el Valley (Permit No. A-5208; map ref. NIG 21552–691/72850–932; OIG 16552–691/22850–932), prior to laying a railroad track. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Railway Authority, was directed by E. Yannai, with the assistance of V. Shlomi and A. Najar (area supervision), Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), R. Mishayev and T. Meltsen (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS) , H. Smithline (field photography), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan (pottery drawing), A. Golani (beads, jewelry and bone artifacts) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics and seal impressions).
Tel Shor is surrounded by alluvial soil and a small spring flows to its west. The tell had been surveyed in the past (Map of Mishmar Ha-Emeq , Site 17) and potsherds that dated from the Late Bronze Age until the end of the nineteenth century CE were gathered there. A mausoleum that contained a stone sarcophagus from the Roman period was damaged during the course of drainage work conducted at the beginning of the 1960s along the western fringes of the tell (HA 3:20 [Hebrew]). The current excavation is the first one carried out next to the tell. Some 50 m west of the tell, an east–west oriented probe trench (length 100 m, with a 1 m) was dug by mechanical equipment and thirty excavation squares, aligned east–west, were opened in the flat area c. 5 m north of the tell.
The probe trench was mostly devoid of archaeological artifacts; however, in a small section of its western part, close to the tell, an occupation level that contained a few fragments of pottery vessels from Early Bronze II was exposed at a depth of 1.5 m below the surface.
Two refuse heaps, 30 m apart, were discovered in the western part of the excavation area, north of the tell. The western heap was ascribed to the Persian period and contained fragments of imported vessels from Athens and Cyprus, along with locally produced pottery that included bowls, cooking pots, jars and lamps. The eastern heap was piled up during the Hellenistic period (Fig. 1) and included fragments of stamped amphorae from Rhodes and Kos and numerous potsherds of locally produced vessels.
The refuse heaps covered a cemetery that comprised dozens of pit graves, which were all oriented east–west and each one contained a single interment. A small flask (Fig. 2) was placed in one of the tombs; based on its form and quality of fabric, it should be dated to the Early Iron Age or the latter part of the Late Bronze Age. The rest of the tombs were ascribed to the Persian period: in three of the tombs were jars with a pointed base, a carinated shoulder, a pair of shoulder handles and a flat ring rim—features characteristic of the period; one of them was placed near the head of the deceased (Fig. 3). A single clay juglet was found in one tomb; a clay juglet and an amphoriskos were discovered in another tomb. A rich assemblage of jewelry was uncovered in three tombs in the eastern part of the cemetery. This included bronze earrings and bracelets, as well as iron rings and another metal that was not identified, possibly some kind of silver. Alongside the deceased in one of these tombs was a conical-shaped cosmetic container of bone, decorated with an engraved geometric pattern; the metal needle inside it was used for applying makeup (Fig. 4).
A pit (2 × 3 m, depth 1.5 m) lined with ashlar stones was exposed at the eastern end of the northern excavation area. A rectangular tomb (length 2.4 m, width c. 0.6 m), oriented east–west and lined and covered with ashlar stones was installed in the bottom of the pit (Fig. 5). The alignment of the tomb and its dimensions were similar to those of the other tombs from the Persian period; however, it was devoid of any artifacts. It seems that the lined pit installed above the tomb was intended to prevent the soil from caving in and covering the tomb. During the Roman period, the lined pit was cleaned and an adult individual, with glass and stone bottles placed alongside him, was interred at the bottom of the pit, atop the tomb’s cover (see Fig. 5).
Although the excavated area was located outside the built settlement on the mound, the recovered finds aid in drawing a clearer picture of the settlement history at Tel Shor. It seems that the first settlement was established near the spring in Early Bronze II, as evidenced by the potsherds from this period found in the probe trench. A few potsherds from the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, discovered in the northern area, point to a presence at the site in these periods. The earliest exposed tomb was dated to the end of the Late Bronze Age or the beginning of the Iron Age and the potsherds recovered from the northern area show that the site was occupied in the latter part of the Iron Age. The large number of tombs from the Persian period clearly indicates that the tell was settled during this period. At some point in the Persian period the cemetery was no longer in use and refuse was discarded there. It continued to be used as a refuse site in the Hellenistic period, which evince the continuation of the settlement on the tell in this period. The tomb and a mausoleum from the Roman period demonstrate that the area around the tell was used as a cemetery at this time.