During April 2002 and July 2004, two seasons of salvage excavations were conducted along the northwestern fringes of Moshav Ahihud, on a chalk hill at the edge of the ‘AkkoValley (Permit Nos. A-3613, A-4217; map ref. NIG 2110/7572; OIG 1610/2572). The excavations, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Moshav Ahihud council, were directed by D. Avshalom-Gorni, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Pirsky and A. Hajian (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS), H. Smithline (field photography), D. Syon (numismatics) and workmen on behalf the Ministry of Labor and from Project 500.
Remains of buildings and large clusters of potsherds were observed in a trench (height c. 4 m, length c. 60 m) that was dug by a bulldozer and damaged the southern end of the site. Three areas (A–C; 64 sq m in first season, 25 sq m in second season; Fig. 1) were excavated and two strata were identified. A corner of a building and a wall stump, ascribed to the early stratum, were exposed. The earlier walls were reused and pottery kilns were built in the late stratum. After the kilns were no longer in use, they were converted into refuse dumps for a pottery workshop.
The early phase remains in Area A included the southwestern corner of a building (W13, W14; Fig. 2) that consisted of large ashlar stones with drafted margins, arranged as headers and stretchers (Fig. 3). A crushed-chalk floor that was placed on top of virgin, indigenous forest soil abutted the exterior of the structure. A section of a wall, built of roughly hewn stones that were placed on top of bedrock, was exposed in the northeastern corner of Area C. Based on the ceramic finds, the beginning of the settlement can be dated to the Middle Roman period and it seems that the site was also abandoned during this period.
In the late phase the southwestern corner of the early building was reused and a unit of two pottery kilns (Area A) was built in it; one of the kilns was exposed in its entirety. The kiln’s firebox was preserved and in its center was a broad column that supported the floor of the firing chamber. The front of the kiln was built of large stones on the northern side, where the stoke hole for the firebox was fully exposed. Smooth leveled bedrock that served as a floor was exposed in the front of the stoke hole. A small section of the second kiln was revealed east of the first one. In Area C, c. 10 m northeast of the kilns, the foundations of fireboxes that belonged to another pair of poorly preserved kilns were partly exposed. A stoke hole was uncovered in the northern side of one of the kilns. After the kilns were no longer in use, their fireboxes and the floor in front of the southern pair of kilns were turned into refuse sites where pottery workshop debris was discarded. It seems that the source of this debris was another workshop in the vicinity, which was not excavated. The debris included a large quantity of potsherds and several fragments of wasters that had been over-fired. Another refuse pit that contained a large amount of pottery workshop debris (Fig. 4) was uncovered at the western end of the large trench (Square B) that had damaged the site.
A preliminary examination of the ceramic artifacts from the late stratum, dating to the third century CE, shows that three main types of barrel jars were primarily manufactured. In addition, a few jar lids, bowls and Saqiye jars were also produced. Once production was suspended, the site was abandoned and never resettled.
The exposed pottery workshop adds important data to our knowledge of pottery workshops along the fringes of the ‘Akko Valley in the Roman and Byzantine periods, such as Horbat ‘Uza (ESI 13:19–21).