During February 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted in Sulam (Tel Shunem; Permit No. A-4101; map ref. 2315/7237), following the discovery of ancient remains during the construction of a house. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by K. Covello-Paran (field photography), with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), E. Amos (photo of Fig. 6), H. Tahan (drawing), H. Rosenstein (coin cleaning) and D. Syon (numismatics).
Two coins (IAA Nos. 106522, 106523), dating to the Byzantine Period (second half of the sixth century CE), were found in the initial descent of the excavation. One of the coins (IAA No. 106522) is an Arab-Byzantine coin that imitates the coins of emperor Constans II and is dated to 640–660 CE.
An accumulation of occupational debris (L210) and two pits (L202, L204), which penetrated into the ruins of the Stratum II building, were associated with this stratum. The pottery vessels recovered from Stratum I were very fragmentary and included bowl fragments, kraters, a cooking pot and jars, all dating to the Middle Roman period. Additional finds included animal bones, tesserae, marble fragments and a complete striated ‘Olynthus’ basalt millstone (length 0.7 m, width 0.4 m, thickness 0.07 m; Fig. 5).
Part of a building was excavated (Figs. 4, 6). A long wall (W201), traversing the excavation square from north to south, was constructed from both a single row of large stones and two rows of medium-sized stones, with a core of smaller filler stones. The wall was abutted by a semicircular stone-built platform (L205; Fig. 7) and a living surface (L209). The platform was apparently placed at a corner between the W201 and a probable wall (not excavated) that ran in an east–west direction and was due north of the excavated area. Both W201 and Platform 205 were preserved to a maximum of 0.5 m high. The pottery assemblage associated with Stratum II dated to Early Bronze IA and included bowls (Fig. 8:1), holemouth jars (Fig. 8:2–7), rim and base of a storage jar (Fig. 8:8, 10), a pithos (Fig. 8:9), ledge handles of closed vessels (Fig. 8:11, 12), a gray-burnished potsherd (Fig. 8:13), as well as a basalt stone whorl (Fig. 8:14).
The architectural remains of the earliest Early Bronze I occupation at Tel Shunem were exposed for the first time at the site during the present excavation, previously known only from surface reconnaissance. The location of these remains, beyond the reconstructed line of the Middle Bronze Age fortification, suggests that the MB II settlement receded when compared to the EB I occupation, at least in the northeastern area of the site.
The Roman-period pits point to various activities that took place adjacent to the agricultural fields in the area, which are topographically lower than the main part of the site. Furthermore, the excavations have, once again, exhibited the existence of archaeological sites ‘buried’ below seemingly sterile alluvial soils along the margins of the Jezre’el Valley.