In February 2015, a trial excavation was conducted north of Moshav Hosha‘ya, along the northern side of Highway 77 (Permit No. A-7330; map ref. 741701–804/227478–736), after ancient remains were discovered in trial trenches prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Netivei Israel Company, was directed by Y. Tepper (photography), with the assistance of M. Shemer (area supervision), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Liran, R. Mishayev, D. Porotsky and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Keinan (safety), A. Shapiro (GPS), M. Peleg (metal detection), Y. Bibas (computing), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery illustration), R. Liran (stone illustration) and laborers from Nazareth, ‘Illut and Reina.
Three excavation areas (A–C; Fig. 2) were opened in an agricultural area on the southern fringes of the Bet Netofa Valley. A section of a rural road dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods was exposed in Area A, a line of stones that may have been part of an agricultural wall was uncovered in Area B, and installations hewn in a rock outcrop were uncovered in Area C.
Two segments of imperial Roman roads and two milestone stations were documented near the site. One road-segment was located on the southern outskirts of the Arab al-Heib village (Rumat al-Heib), north of Highway 77, and next to it was a second century CE milestone station containing at least three milestones. One of the stones bears an inscription that states the distance from Z
ippori-Diocaesarea was two miles (Archives of the Israel Milestone Committee). The second imperial road-segment, leading to Z
ippori-Diocaesarea was exposed south of the excavation, on the western fringes of Hosha‘ya (Covello-Paran and Tepper 2011; Fig. 1: A-5752). This road-segment dates to the fourth century CE. Under it, an earlier phase of a local rural road, also ascribed to the Roman period, but not following the same route, was exposed. The second milestone station, containing three stones, was recently exposed on the fringe of the Eshkol Reservoir, northwest of the excavation; the inscriptions on the milestones date to the reigns of the emperors Hadrian (second century CE) and Constantine the Great (fourth century CE; Tepper 2014; Fig. 1: A-6330).
Area A. Five squares were excavated, and a northern and southern sections of a rural road were exposed (overall length c. 20 m). Two squares were opened in the southern section (Fig. 3), and a road (W102; length c. 4 m, overall width c. 2 m) bounded by two walls was exposed below the topsoil (L101). The road was constructed of fill consisting of small stones and a meager quantity of pottery sherds. The roadbed (thickness c. 0.4 m), which was built of small and medium stones laid on virgin soil, was revealed in a trench (L113; Fig. 4) that was excavated perpendicular to the road. The walls delimiting the road were haphazardly constructed and consisted of a single course of large stones.
Three squares were excavated in the northern section (Figs. 5, 6), and a slightly curved segment of the road was exposed, delimited by the two walls (length c. 17 m). The width of the road in this section was uneven (overall width 2–4 m, width of the road without the walls 1–2 m). It was constructed of fill consisting of small stones (L104, L107, L109), and the walls flanking it were constructed of two courses of large limestone blocks. The walls were not well-preserved, especially in the central part of the section. Probably stones were dislodged due to extensive cultivation, mainly in the modern era. There was a bend in the northern part of this section of the road (Fig. 7), possibly following to the terrain, or a division in the cultivation plots. The eastern wall flanking the road in the vicinity of the bend was built of two rows of stones; this style of construction may preserve technical phases of road-construction—repairs or additions—or it may be an intentional thickening for the curve. The fill of the road which was excavated between the two walls flanking it in the area of the bend, abounded in more small stones and fragments of pottery vessels than the other sections of the road. A bedding of small stones and sherds (c. 0.3 m; Fig 8) was exposed in a trench that was excavated across the road in the area of the bend (L117; Fig. 5: Section 2–2). In trenches that were dug along the eastern and western sides of the road, virgin soil devoid of any finds was exposed down to a level below the base of the baundary walls (L108, L112, L115, L116).
A circular installation (L114; diam. c. 1 m; Fig. 9) was exposed halfway along the northern section of road, in a place where the walls were less well-preserved. It was built of two–three courses of fieldstones set into the road, and it was founded on virgin soil and integrated into the wall east of the road. The installation was evidently constructed after the road was no longer used.
The pottery that was recovered from the excavation in Area A was sparse and consisted of a limited variety of vessels, including some imports that date to the Roman and Byzantine periods, and are known from settlements in the Galilee. Fragments of imported bowls were found in the topsoil (L100), including LRC 3, LRC 10 and CRS 9 bowls (Fig. 10:1–3 respectively), which date to the Byzantine period (sixth–seventh century CE).
Fragments of an imported CRS 1 bowl (Fig. 10:4) dating to the late fourth–early fifth century CE, and a rim of a Kefar Hananya Type E1 bowl (Fig. 10:5), dating to the third century – early fifth century CE, were found on top of the stone fill (L104, L107) of the road. A Kefar Hananya Type D1 bowl (Fig. 10:6; mid-third century to 300 CE) was discovered during the excavation of Installation 114.
The ceramic artifacts recovered from the excavation of the roadbed (L117), included the rim of a CRS Type 1 bowl (Fig. 10:7) that dates from the end of the fourth century to the beginning of the fifth century CE, a fragment of a base of an unidentified imported bowl (Fig. 10:8), a fragment of a Kefar H
ananya Type E1 bowl (Fig. 10:9) dating from the mid-third century to the beginning of the fourth century CE, two elongated triangular rims of kraters (Fig. 10:10, 11) that were dated in the excavations at Z
ippori between the Bar Kokhba revolt and the end of the third century CE (Balouka 2013
: Plate 23:4–7, KR1), and a fragment of a jar with a ridge on the neck and a slightly concave rim (Fig. 10:12), similar to a type that dates to the same period, and was discovered at Z
ippori (Balouka 2013
: Plate 17.1:SJ2).
These finds indicate that the road was built or repaired at the end of the Roman period (fourth century CE at the earliest) and that it was used during the Byzantine period (until the seventh century CE).
Area B (Figs. 11, 12). Two squares were excavated and, a line of large limestone blocks aligned north–south was exposed (W102; length 7 m). No proper construction was discerned, and this may have been part of a stone heap, an enclosure wall that delimited a cultivation plot, or part of other construction work. The ceramic finds were meager and dating was not possible.
Area C (Fig. 13). A single square was excavated on a sloping rock surface in which three rectangular rock-hewn installations were exposed (average size 0.2 × 0.4 m, depth c. 0.1 m; Figs. 14, 15). No ceramic artifacts were discovered. A fragment of a stone cylinder (B-3004; diam. 0.4–0.6 m, length > 0.7m; Figs. 16, 17) was found in a nearby stack of stones; it was probably part of an agricultural installation in the vicinity, which was not located.
The finds from this excavation supplement our knowledge of the rural-agricultural area in the vicinity of Zippori during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The principal remains in the excavation were sections of a rural road that was built or repaired at the end of the Roman period and remained in use until the end of the Byzantine period. The road ran in a general north–south direction and it may have connected Zippori-Diocaesarea, which was the main city in the region in these periods, with the rural-agricultural area of the Bet Netofa Valley north of the city, and the settlements in it. Judging by the ceramic recovered from the fill and the roadbed, it seems that the road was not built prior to the mid-fourth century CE. In width and construction-technique this road (and see a similar road in Alonēy Abba: Alexandre 2008
) differs from the imperial Roman road discovered near the excavation, which was usually used to mobilise troops and representatives of the government and Roman administration for imperial purposes (for a more detailed discussion see: Roll 1976
). However, the road fill that was discovered in the excavation does resemble the fill of the imperial Roman road leading to Zippori-Diocaesarea, which was discovered south of the excavation (Covello-Paran and Tepper 2011
). This fill contained pottery fragments, and it was probably brought from a nearby settlement specifically to pave the road. Given the similarity of the fill of the rural and imperial roads, this method of construction was presumably practiced in the vicinity of Zippori-Diocaesarea because the raw materials were readily available in the urban area.
Remains associated with agricultural activity were discovered in Areas B and C. Rectangular rock-hewn installations such as the ones exposed in Area C are known from many other sites. Sixteen similar basins were documented in the survey of Midrakh Oz in the western Jezreel Valley, and it was proposed that they were used for collecting rainwater, planting trees or preparing seedlings (Getzov, Tepper and Ktalav 2008
; Tepper 2009
: Fig. 7); agricultural activity in this area reached its zenith in the Roman and Byzantine periods. It seems that the stone cylinder that was found near Area C was not a fragment of a milestone, but was related to agricultural activity. Milestones are usually slightly different in shape, and have a larger diameter. Similar stone cylinders that were found at the site were used for crushing agricultural produce, probably grapes for making wine. Although no winepress treading floor was discovered in the excavation, a large winepress was recently exposed nearby, and in it an installation for a screw press (Maayan Shemer, pers. comm.). Exceptional installations with treading floors, collecting vats and stone cylinders are known from the hills near Zippori, dating to the Early Roman to the Byzantine periods (Amit and Baruch 2009
:430–431, Table 1:7–12, Fig. 73.6).
Amit D. and Baruch Y. 2009. Wine Presses with Stone Rollers—An Ancient Phenomenon Seen in a New Light. In E. Ayalon, R. Frankel and A. Kloner eds. Oil and Wine Presses in Israel from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods (BAR Int. S. 1972). Oxford. Pp. 420–440.
Balouka M. 2013. Roman Pottery. In E.M. Meyers and C.L. Meyers eds. The Pottery from Ancient Sepphoris. Indiana. Pp. 13–129.
Covello-Paran K. and Tepper Y. 2011. Z
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Getzov N., Tepper Y. and Ktalav I. 2008. Midrakh ‘Oz, Khirbat el-Khishash. HA-ESI 2008
Roll I. 1976. The Roman Road Network in Eretz-Israel. Qadmoniot. 34–35:38–50 (Hebrew).
Roll I. 1986. Excursion Along a Roman Road in Western Galilee. In M. Yedaya ed. The Western Galilee Antiquities: Collected Essays. Haifa–Tel Aviv. Pp. 297–300 (Hebrew).
Roll I. 1995. Survey of Roman Roads in Lower Galilee. ESI 14:38–40.
Tepper Y. 2009. Midrakh ‘Oz, Khirbat el-Khishash, Survey. HA-ESI 121