During February 2004 probes were conducted to the east of Tel ‘Ali before digging a channel for the laying of a sewage line (Permit No. A-4126; map ref. NIG 25270–88/73390–74220; OIG 20270–88/23390–24220). Three probes were excavated along the length of the channel where the possibility of harming antiquities was suspected. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the ‘Emeq Ha-Yarden Regional Council and the Department of Public Works, was directed and photographed by Howard Smithline, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), V. Essman and S. Pirsky (surveying) and E. Belashov (drafting).
Tel ‘Ali is an extensive Neolithic and Chalcolithic site situated on the lower flanks of the eastern lower Galilee, as they slope down to the middle Jordan Valley. It is immediately north of Nahal Yavne’el and near its confluence with the Jordan River, which exits the Sea of Galilee c. 1.5 km to the northeast. The late M. Prausnitz conducted four excavation seasons on the site between 1955 and 1959 (Areas A–C). Two additional excavations were directed by Y. Garfinkel in 1989–1990 (Areas D and E; ESI 9:112; 12:19). The present excavation was conducted in three separate areas and continued the area lettering sequence that had begun with Prausnitz and maintained by Garfinkel; thus, the three excavated areas are designated F, G and H (Fig. 1). All of the excavated squares are 150–200 m east of, and down the slope from the previously excavated areas of Tel ‘Ali. They are situated along the unpaved road that leads south from the entrance to Qevuzat Kinneret through the agricultural land to the crossing of Nahal Yavne’el. All of the areas were partially cleared by mechanical equipment. Approximately 35 sq m were excavated in Area F, the most northerly area; about 50 sq m were excavated in Area G, 185 m to the south and a total of approximately 50 sq m were cleared or excavated in Area H, 140 m further south and 100 m north of Nahal Yavne’el.
Fragmentary wall remains were uncovered in the alluvial earth below an upper accumulation of modern material. Two of the walls (W603, W604; Fig. 2) appear to form the corner of a poorly constructed structure that contained a number of stones in secondary use, including an early basalt mortar––possibly dating to the Neolithic or Chalcolithic period––and a well-cut rectangular basalt building stone, possibly dating to no earlier than the Byzantine period (Fig. 3). This structure extended below the present-day road. Half a meter further south was an additional intentionally placed row of stones (length 1.40 m). The stones were placed on sterile alluvium that accumulated on bedrock, which was attained c. 2.5 m below the present-day surface.
Very few potsherds were recovered from Area F, most were small, worn body sherds datable to the Byzantine or Early Islamic periods; noteworthy is a seventh or eighth century CE lamp fragment. The ceramic finds do not present sufficient chronological evidence for dating this structure.
Two disturbed parallel rows of basalt boulders with a fill of small stones between them, oriented southeast–northwest, were uncovered over a length of c. 4.5 m (Fig. 4). The boulders had an average size (length 0.6–0.7 m; height c. 0.4 m). The stone alignment was cut in the east by the original drainage channel that runs along the western edge of the road. As in Area F, an extremely small amount of worn potsherds was discovered that does not provide ample evidence for dating this construction. It is assumed that these stone rows were associated with agricultural activity rather than being part of an independently standing structure. Below the boulders was sterile alluvium, which was found to descend 2.5 m to bedrock in an adjacent probe with no archaeological remains.
Area H (Fig. 5):
A probe (5 × 5 m) that was initially excavated manually and completed by mechanical equipment, revealed sterile alluvium from the opening surface down to bedrock, 3.00 m below. A second probe, 25 m to the northeast, consisted of poorly preserved remains of a paved road. The remains were badly disturbed by their close proximity to surface, as well as by the aforementioned drainage channel. The road, which may be assumed to have served the local inhabitants of the area in the nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE, was composed of intermittently horizontally laid, nearly flat stones with a white, plaster-like binding material on the alluvial earth. Fragments of this make-up were traced over a course of c. 20 m, at which point it apparently turned to the southeast and disappeared below the existing road.
The potsherds in this area were very few as well, although they were not as worn as those found in Areas F and G, and were datable to the Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
The finds from the three excavated areas, although slight and impossible to accurately date, assist in estimating the size and dispersal of the Tel ‘Ali site. No evidence of early occupation, other than the basalt mortar detected in secondary use in W603, was uncovered in this 300 m long strip of land. The border of the early occupations of Tel ‘Ali is thus located closer to the site itself, which lays approximately 150–200 m to the west of our excavated areas.