Stratum 9 – The Early Bronze Age
Several potsherds from the Chalcolithic period were discovered in Area E, at the western end of the excavation. These are indicative of a presence at the site during this period, although no architectural remains were found. In all likelihood, a Chalcolithic settlement that was not excavated existed in the area, possibly close to the spring.
Remains from the Early Bronze Age, particularly Early Bronze IB, were found in all the excavation areas and it seems that the settlement reached its greatest size during this period. A wall built of large basalt stones and founded on the bedrock (W255; length 11.25 m, width 1.7 m, height 2.6 m; Figs. 2–4) was exposed near the southern boundary of Area B. No finds were discovered on the slope to its north. South of it, in Area A, an accumulation of soil from a tell contained potsherds dating to the Early Bronze Age. The location of the wall close to the top of the slope, its massive construction and the fact that remains were situated along just one of its sides indicate that the wall was a city wall in the Early Bronze Age. Settlement remains from the Early Bronze Age were only found in Areas A and B. The remains from this period in all the other areas are located beneath the later habitation layers and only a small part of them was exposed. The continuation of the city wall was discovered in Area C, beneath buildings that dated to the Middle Bronze Age.
The nature of the finds reflects the enormous power of the settlement in Early Bronze I. Finds from Early Bronze II and III were quite scarce and the settlement during these periods was probably abandoned or was significantly reduced in area.
Stratum 8 – The Middle Bronze Age
After a hiatus, the settlement was renewed in Middle Bronze II. No remains from this period were found in Area B, at the eastern side of the excavation; hence the settlement was smaller than that of the Early Bronze Age.
Remains of two buildings, ascribed to the Middle Bronze Age, were exposed in Area C; they were built above the Early Bronze Age city wall and deviated from its line to the north. The northern parts of the buildings did not survive. Three walls of the eastern structure, built of basalt fieldstones (max. height 1.8 m; Figs. 5, 6), were exposed. Remains of a tabun were found in the northeastern corner of the building. Northwest of the tabun was a round installation (diam. 1.97 m; Fig. 7), whose construction severed the northern part of the tabun. The floor of the installation consisted of large carefully smoothed basalt stones, and its sides (thickness 0.28 m, height c. 0.3 m) were built of small fieldstones placed on the stone floor. Plaster was applied to the installation’s sides from the floor level, while the floor itself was left bare. The installation was probably a winepress. New floors, which covered the installation and negated its use, were laid in the building during the Middle Bronze Age. The building was only used in this period and was not reoccupied after its destruction.
A floor was found in the western building (see Fig. 5); its eastern part consisted of fieldstones and mortar was incorporated in it, while the western part was tamped soil. This floor served throughout the periods that the room was used, and unlike the eastern room, no other floor was set on top of it. The building is dated to the Middle Bronze Age, based on the ceramic finds it contained.
Remains of buildings from the Middle Bronze Age were also found in Areas D and E. Floors that abutted the walls were overlain with numerous potsherds, including complete vessels. The Middle Bronze Age layer in these areas was covered with later remains.
Two tombs attributed to the Middle Bronze Age were discovered in the western half of Area D. One tomb was dug beneath the floors of a building from this period into a building that dated to the Early Bronze Age. The tomb was rectangular and lined with stone walls (Figs. 8, 9).Bones and skulls were found in the tomb (and left there), alongside a red-burnished jug (see Fig. 9). The second tomb was exposed at the bottom of a probe at the western end of Area D. A human skull (left in situ) was exposed. The rest of the skeleton was not excavated. Near the skeleton was a large bowl and juglets, including a Tell el-Yahudiyeh juglet (Fig. 10).
An underground cavity was discerned in the middle of the excavation area. Its upper part was dug into the ground, lined with stones and covered with stone slabs; its lower part was quarried into the scoria surface. The cavity was located below walls that dated to the Hellenistic period. During the excavation, the upper part of the cavity collapsed and therefore, it was not excavated in its entirety. An examination of the cavity revealed that it descended steeply to a rock-hewn chamber, devoid of finds. The underground cavity led to other chambers, but due to the collapse it was not possible to enter them. No finds that could aid in dating the complex were discovered; however, its stratigraphic location indicates that it predated the Hellenistic period.
Stratum 7 – The Late Bronze Age
Meager remains ascribed to Late Bronze II–III were found.Sections of walls were revealed above the Middle Bronze Age buildings in Area C. The walls were preserved one–two courses high and it was not possible to distinguish the complex of which they were part.
A narrow building covered with a gabled roof built of stone slabs (Fig. 11) was discovered in the western part of the excavation (Area D). The entrance to the structure was set in its northern façade. The building was not excavated, but its shape recalls Mycenaean tombs from the Late Bronze Age.
Stratum 6 – The Iron Age
The remains dating to the Iron Age were also quite negligible. Sections of walls and floors were found only in the western part of the excavation. It seems that these were the eastern fringes of the Iron Age settlement that may have extended beyond the limits of the excavation.
The ceramic finds dated mostly to Iron II. No remains from the later phases of the Iron Age or the Persian period were found. It seems that the settlement was abandoned in the latter part of Iron II and the site remained deserted for hundreds of years.
Stratum 5 – The Hellenistic Period
The occupation of the site was renewed in the Late Hellenistic period and remains from this era were found in Areas D and E. Remains of walls built of small stones were found, as well as several walls built in the Phoenician style, utilizing pilasters of standing ashlars with fieldstones between them (Fig. 12).
The Hellenistic stratum was extensively damaged, the cause of which is unclear.Stone collapse from the walls accumulated to a great height in most of Area D and contained numerous fragments of pottery vessels that dated it to the Hellenistic period.
Stratum 4 – The Early Roman Period
A new settlement was built in the Early Roman period above the ruins of the Hellenistic period. Remains from this period were found in Areas D and E, andthe finds are quite meager and indicate the settlement was small.
Stratum 3 – The Middle Roman Period
The settlement from the previous era continued to exist in the Middle Roman period. Some of the walls continued the walls from the Early Roman period and some were built anew. A long wall (length 43 m; Fig. 13) built parallel to the slope was discovered along the southern edge of Area D. A parallel wall was uncovered at the northern end of the excavation; the two parallel walls were connected by lateral walls. Some of the walls penetrated into the Middle Bronze Age stratum and damaged it. A later excavation that was conducted northeast of the current one revealed a bedrock terrace that also dated to the Roman period (HA-ESI 121).
The Middle Roman period was a time of prosperity for the settlement. The site was subsequently abandoned and hardly any finds that could be attributed to the Late Roman period were discovered.
Stratum 2 – The Byzantine Period
The first stratum beneath the surface dated to the Byzantine period. Remains from this period were only found in the western half of Area D and in Area E. The long wall from Stratum 3 continued to be used in this period as well. The northern side of the eastern half of the wall was not abutted by any floor and it seems that it was a northern wall of a building that extended beyond the excavation area. Both sides of the western half of the wall were abutted by floors.
The remains from this period in the western half of Area Dincluded a floor of calcareous material and a pool (1.92 × 2.00 m, depth 1.5 m) that was dug into the strata of earlier periods. Its walls were built of fieldstones and roughly hewn stones. The walls and floor were coated with gray plaster that was applied to a basal layer of potsherds. A large jar, whose upper part is missing, was installed at the bottom of the pool, which seems to have been used as a collecting vat (Fig. 14). The potsherds underneath the plaster date the pool to the Byzantine period. The pool was found filled with earth, containing a large quantity of Byzantine ceramics.
A Byzantine structure that lasted for a very long period was excavated in Area E. During this period, several floors were installed inside it, one atop the other. One floor was of tamped earth, while the others consisted of flat fieldstones. A column drum (Fig. 15) was above the upper floor, which probably belonged to a structure that had a public capacity and was built on the upper part of the slope. A translucent gemstone that dated to the second–fourth centuries CE was discovered on the bottom Byzantine floor. The gemstone was engraved with the image of Sol Invictus, the sun god. His right hand is raised and his left hand holds a kind of whip. Next to him is a star with six points (Fig. 16).
Stratum 1 – The Modern Era
The Byzantine period was the last settlement stratum in the excavated section of the site.Although a few potsherds from the Early Islamic and Mamluk periods were found in the top layer of the excavation, it seems that the area was not inhabited then. The settlement in these periods had probably moved to the location of the Hittin village, which, in the twentieth century, extended north of the current excavation areathatmostly was not included within the precincts of the village. One building from this period was uncovered in Area C. At the western end of Area D and at the eastern end of Area E, walls of modern buildings that were dug into the antiquities, probably during the time of the British Mandate, were found. At the western end of Area E, remains of a modern structure that included an in situ olive press (Fig. 17) were exposed.Another modern building was discovered c. 80 m east of the current excavation (HA-ESI 121).
A tell that had been previously unknown was discovered in the excavation; based on the finds, we are able to reconstruct the history of occupation. The largest settlement was in the Early Bronze Age and its remains were discovered in all the areas. The settlement was renewed in Middle Bronze II, but it only covered the western two thirds of the upper terrace. During the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, the settlement was reduced even more and only its margins were uncovered in the excavation. It was abandoned in the latter part of Iron II, possibly in the wake of the Assyrian exile. The site remained deserted for hundreds of years. In the Late Hellenistic period, probably in the middle of the second century CE, the settlement was renewed in the western half of the area, and the finds from the excavation indicate that the occupation was rather meager. The settlement was more substantial in the Middle Roman period, but was deserted in the Late Roman period. After a hiatus of c. 100 years, the settlement was renewed and it seems that in the Byzantine period it was well-established and flourishing. According to literary sources, the settlement in the Byzantine period was called Hittiya.It was inhabited by Jews, among them sages who are mentioned in the sources, and a synagogue was established there. The settlement was destroyed at the end of the Byzantine period and remained abandoned until the modern era.