Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. A paved enclosure and a burial ground, separated by a wall, were exposed (Fig. 2).
The paved enclosure was rectangular (8 × 13 m) and included two benches and a stone pavement composed of four sections (Fig. 3). The section in the southeastern corner was built of angular stones embedded in plaster (3 × 4 m; Fig. 4:1). To its north was a segment of porous stones (2 × 4 m; Fig. 4:2). The largest paved section, built of basalt and limestone polygonal slabs, was in the center of the enclosure (4 × 5 m; Fig. 4:3). To its north was a small segment of pavement, composed of small basalt stones (1.5 × 1.5 m; Fig. 4:4). In light of the diverse paving styles, it seems that the enclosure’s pavement was constructed and enlarged in stages. The landslide to the north, toward the wadi channel, created convex folds in the floor.
Two benches were preserved in the east and south of the enclosure (Fig. 5). The benches, built of basalt slabs, were delimited by a row of white stones that accentuated the edge of the bench. The front of the benches was lined with a row of basalt orthostats. No evidence of high walls or posts was found in the enclosure and it is therefore assumed that it had no roof. Basalt slabs were not found in the other excavation areas and their use attests to the deliberate choice of a construction material that was not entirely indigenous to the region.
A burial ground that consisted of a field wall and at least eight tombs was found c. 7 m east of the paved enclosure; some of tombs were sealed with flat stones and plaster (Fig. 6). The burials were all secondary and the deceased, identified as adults, included seven males and one female. Funerary offerings were discovered in three of the tombs: arrowheads were recovered from two of the male’s tombs (L415a, L498) and the female’s tomb (L473) contained a leg of a wild bull and a perforated shell (Fig. 7).
The flint assemblage is characteristic to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period and includes products of naviform technology of blades, including blades (Fig. 8:1, 2), a core tablet (Fig. 8:3), a core (Fig. 8:4) and burin debitage (Fig. 8:5). The diagnostic flint tools include arrowheads types of Hilwan (Fig. 9:1), Jericho (Fig. 9:2–4) and Byblos (Fig. 9:5, 6), as well as sickle blades that are retouched on the ventral face (Fig. 9:7, 8).
A sampling of the animal bones shows that none of them are domesticated and wild bulls constitute the predominant species (c. 40%).
Pottery Neolithic period. The only find from this period was a primary burial of an adult that had cut through the center of the southern bench and the stone pavement adjacent to it (Fig. 3). The burial offerings included an ‘Amuq-type arrowhead (Fig. 10:1) next to the deceased’s head and a worked pebble (Fig. 10:2) at his feet. The burial was dated by 14C to the Yarmukian period (7640±70 BP).
Roman-Byzantine period.The Pre-Pottery Neolithic stratum was covered with a layer (thickness 0.2–0.4 m) that dated to the end of the Roman–beginning of the Byzantine periods (third–fifth centuries CE). A few terrace walls and many surface potsherds were found; the origin of these potsherds was probably from fertilizing the fields with habitation refuse and they do not point to an ancient settlement at the site. Overlying this layer was a thin accumulation of top soil that yielded a few modern remains that probably originated in the abandoned village of el-Ghabaet-Tahta.
Pottery Neolithic period. Four pits were exposed; they were hewn in tuff and included a pair, one of which contained angular stones and the other fragments of pottery vessels characteristic of the Yarmukian culture (Fig. 11). Similar pits, probably used as installations, were found at many of the contemporary sites.
The flint assemblage is meager and comprises a few artifacts. The diagnostic artifacts from both areas include two arrowhead types of Ha-Parsa (Fig. 10:3), a single one of Nizzanim (Fig. 10:4) and a sickle blade (Fig. 10:5). The latter is a type characteristic of the Jericho IX culture and its presence at the site probably attests to the transition from the Yarmukian to the Jericho IX cultures.
Early Bronze I. Overlying some of the Yarmukian pits was a rich accumulation of potsherds from Early Bronze I.
Intermediate Bronze Age. Scant remains of floors of dwellings that dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age were exposed above the Early Bronze Age accumulations.
Most of the occupation at the site is dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and the Pottery Neolithic periods so that these periods are naturally the subject of discussion.
Remains from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period, found in most of the site’s area, include architecture, burials, animal bones and flint artifacts. The thickness of the layer (up to 0.5 m), the amount of finds and particularly the composition of the flint assemblage indicate that the site was probably inhabited for a short period. A preliminary analysis of the flint assemblage shows that the predominant arrowhead type is the Jericho point and therefore, it should be dated to the middle phase of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. Although the discovery of sickle blades, used to harvest grain, is certainly indicative of farming, a preliminary analysis of the animal bone assemblage shows that only non-domesticated animals were found at the site. The high frequency of wild bulls at the site is especially interesting because its image is associated with Neolithic cult.
While stone-paved enclosures are rare at Neolithic sites in the Ancient East, plaster floors have been documented at a large number of sites in the southern Levant and in the close vicinity of the site, such as at Yiftah’el and Kefar Ha-Horesh. To date, stone-paved enclosures have only been documented along the outskirts of villages at Çayönü in eastern Anatolia and in Beida in southern Jordan and were interpreted as temples.
The exposure of the paved enclosure next to the burial ground raises questions with regard to their function and that of the site. At this point, we are inclined to link the two of them together because of their proximity and the identical composition of the flint assemblages discovered in them. Until other areas are excavated, it will be impossible to determine if the cultic installation represented a cultic site or a distinct zone within a village.
Mostly pits from the Pottery Neolithic period have survived at the site; yet, the assemblage seems to be quite homogenous, without intrusions from other periods and thus it is extremely important. It appears that the pits and the burial indicate the presence of a permanent settlement in the vicinity of the tomb. It is ascribed to the Yarmukian culture based on the pottery assemblage that includes items decorated with a herringbone pattern, and the flint assemblage, which includes small Ha-Parsa and Nizzanim points together with ‘Amuq points that are knapped with lateral line-pressure flaking. The 14C dating and the appearance of a sickle blade that is characteristic of the Jericho IX culture, which postdates the Yarmukian culture, allude to the end of the period. These finds join the Yarmukian artifacts that were exposed in Strata XIX–XX at Tel Megiddo and at Qibbuz Ha-Zore‘a and underscore the Yarmukian presence in the Jezre’el Valley.