In August 2013, the seventh season of excavations was conducted at Tel Rekhesh (License No. G-63/2013; map ref. 243776/728600). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Tenri and Rikkyo (Tokyo) Universities in Japan and underwritten by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research for New Research of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, was directed by H. Kuwabara (Tenri University), S. Hasegawa (Morioka University) and Y. Paz (IAA and Ben-Gurion University). The expedition included T. Onozuka, P. Blaj Hribar and M. Aviam (area supervision), H. Hino, N. Yamauchi, H. Tsumoto, C. Yasui (surveying and photography), T. Yamayoshi (pottery restoration) and Z. Gal (administration).
The 2013 season concentrated on the crest of the higher mound of Tel Rekhesh, within two areas that were already opened in the 2010 season (Fig. 1). In the southeastern part of the crest, a large public building complex of the late Iron Age was further excavated. The occupation level above the floors was shallow, but related loci point to the building being used in the seventh–sixth centuries BCE. In the northwestern part of the upper mound, a large Early Roman building was excavated. The structure had ‘window walls’ and paved spaces. Pottery and coins confirm a date between the first century BCE and the early second century CE.
Late Iron Age Building Complex (Area F; Figs. 2, 3). Several soundings that were conducted during the 2007–2010 seasons encountered occupation levels, floors and architecture of a large, late Iron Age public building complex. The exposed part of the building shows a resemblance to the so-called ‘courtyard structure’. It seems that the northern part of the complex was badly damaged by the Roman-period building activity, while its southern part was well preserved. The southern enclosing wall (width c. 1 m) and the southwestern and southeastern corners of the complex were exposed during the 2008–2010 seasons. In 2013, we focused on the southeastern side of the complex, in which a stone-paved entrance to a court of the building had been revealed (Tsukimoto et al. 2011). The aims of the 2013 season were to better understand the plan of the complex and to date it. In order to achieve these aims, seven squares were opened within the southeastern flank of the complex, and several soundings were made within the formerly excavated squares.
The southeastern corner of the complex—i.e. the eastern (W978) and the southern (W979) enclosing walls of the building (width of both c. 1.1 m)—created the corner of a small room (L974; c. 4 × 4 m). In this room, a number of thick, white plaster fragments, some of them with rounded rims, were discovered. These may have been part of a plastered installation, possibly a bathtub, which eventually completely collapsed. Small corner-rooms, designated as ‘bathrooms’, have been found adjacent to main reception halls in private and public courtyard-structures from the Assyrian and Babylonian periods, such as the one at Arslan Tash. A bathroom that was recently discovered within an Assyrian structure near Tel Ashdod (Kogan-Zehavi 2006) may also reflect this situation. The pottery that was collected in Room 974 contained seventh–sixth centuries BCE pottery.
The eastern enclosing wall (W982) of the complex was detected c. 15 m north to Room 974. This wall and a perpendicular transverse wall (W981) created another room (L977). This room was probably accessed from the west through a well-built stairway (W980; Fig. 4), built of medium–large stones. The pottery collected within this room contained sherds from the late Iron Age, as well as from the Persian and Roman periods. The dating of the entire building complex to the late Iron Age (seventh–sixth centuries BCE; Fig. 5) was based on the pottery from two main loci: Locus 972 in a sounding opened in a square immediately adjacent to Room 977 that yielded only Iron Age pottery between 30.98 and 31.06 m asl close to the stone pavement (F199; 31.30 m asl); and Locus 976, which can be related to the stairway that leads to Room 977, and similarly yielded late Iron Age pottery.
The continuation of W925 was detected in two squares that were opened to the west of the stone pavement (F199). The exact nature of the building complex, as well as a more accurate date for it, should be further investigated in the next season.
Early Roman Public Building (Area G). The northern part of the upper mound of Tel Rekhesh was densely occupied by the remnants of an Early Roman settlement, probably a small village. The Jewish origin for this settlement is confirmed by fragments of chalk-stone vessels and knife-pared oil lamps that were collected in previous seasons. A large public building in the northwestern side of the settlement, which was partially exposed in the 2010 season, was further excavated. So far, six rooms and two paved courtyards were detected.
The building was located within a deep bedrock depression that added to its stability. The walls (c. 1 m wide) were built of basalt boulders. The well-preserved state of the walls and their height (over 2 m) indicate that the building had two stories. The presence of fresco fragments that would have originally decorated some of the walls, among other finds, ascertain the public nature of the structure (Tsukimoto et al. 2013). One of the main architectural features of the structure was an internal division into rooms and paved courtyards.
During the 2013 season, Rooms B, D1 and D2 were excavated, as well as Courtyard C (Fig. 6). The rooms had beaten-earth floors, whereas Courtyard C was paved with flat stone slabs. The northern wall of Courtyard C (W1047), detected within the northern section, was a ‘window wall’ built of basalt slabs that formed five windows. Some of the lintels collapsed; the stone debris contained a Canaanite massebah-like stone or a stele made of basalt that was in secondary use. The stone probably stood originally in a shrine at the site, and was removed by the Jewish settlers, who used it as a lintel (Fig. 7). Courtyard C, which resembles Courtyard A that was excavated in the 2010 season (Tsukimoto et al. 2013), enabled access to a series of rooms that probably formed the northern flank of the building, yet to be excavated. The absence of any stone pavement inside Rooms D1 and D2 and of entrances leading into them may indicate that they were used for storage, and accessed from the second floor with ladders. The finds from the rooms included cooking vessels, jars, lids, jugs and two complete oil lamps (Fig. 8), all typical of the period from the first century BCE and the second century CE. Three coins, two of which are Roman-city coins of Tiberias (Fig. 9), were also unearthed. The finds from the structure suggest that the village existed for about two hundred years, and was finally deserted after the second Jewish revolt against the Romans in the second century CE.
The 2013 excavation season has provided us with some important notions about the two complexes that occupied the upper mound of Tel Rekhesh. The large, late Iron Age complex was probably established sometime in the late seventh century BCE. The small Early Roman-period village in the northern part of the upper mound was occupied by a Jewish community. Within this village, a well-built two story building was established, with paved courtyards and rooms that attest to its public nature. The associated material culture indicates that the village existed during the first century BCE, survived the first Jewish revolt against the Romans and was eventually deserted at the beginning, or during, the second Jewish revolt in the mid-second century CE.