In 1996, a salvage excavation was conducted northeast of Moshav Bet Nehemya (Site 77 North; License No. B-104/1996; map ref. 196448–579/653837–4344), prior to the construction of Highway 6. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Department of Archaeology at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and financed by the Cross-Israel Highway Company, Ltd., was directed by Y. Yekutieli and Y. Ben-Yishai, with the assistance of T. Harpak and O. Gat (area supervision), D. Bachar and P. Kaminski (surveying), S. Talis (ceramics), I. Gutman (pottery restoration), P. Kaminski and H. Sokolovsky (drawing of finds) and A. Fogel (studio photography).
Bell-shaped cistern (map ref. 196514/654054; L10; max. diam. 4.7 m, depth 4.8 m). The cistern was discovered c. 50 m north of the stream, and c. 3 m above the level of the streambed. It has a round opening (diam. 1 m), its upper part was hewn in the hard nari rock, and its lower part is in the soft limestone. About two-thirds of the cistern’s volume was filled with alluvium devoid of finds. Jar fragments with a variety of rims, which were commonly used in the southern Judean Shephelah in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, were collected on the surface (within a 3 m radius of the cistern). These included a jar with an everted and elongated triangular rim (Fig. 3:1), a jar with a rim thickened on the outside (Fig. 3:2), a jar with a straight, thickened rim with a prominent ridge at its base (Fig 3:3), and a jar with a broad neck and thin, everted rim thickened on the inside (Fig. 3:4). A modern Gaza jar (Fig. 3:5) was also discovered. About half a meter northeast of the cistern was a circular rock-cutting (L11; diam. 0.9 m, depth 0.4 m), probably a settling pit that was hewn next to the intake opening of the cistern. Only its northern part was preserved.
Cupmarks. At the top of a spur north of the stream, c. 200 m north of the cistern, were two groups of cupmarks, c. 10 m apart—one on its eastern side, the other on the western side. The eastern group consisted of four cupmarks hewn in a rock outcrop (L12–L15; diam. 0.22–0.30 m, depth 0.25–0.36 m), at a distance of c. 3 m from each other. The western group comprised two clusters of three cupmarks each, 1 m apart. The cupmarks were elliptical, and 0.1–0.2 m apart (L16–L21; length 0.35–0.44 m, width 0.27–0.35 m, average depth 0.15 m). The shape of the cupmarks indicates that they may have been used for pounding and grinding, and the fact that they were clustered points to a possible group activity. A group of cupmarks that was dated to the Chalcolithic period was previously discovered several dozen meters west of these two clusters. At the time the excavators suggested that they were associated with group activity related to food processing (van den Brink et al. 2001).
Quarry. A quarry for building stones (map ref. 196482/654270; L22; 30 × 35 m, max. depth 2.5 m) was discovered in the middle of a rock surface west of the cupmarks. Quarrying marks were visible on the sides and at the bottom of the quarry.
Tomb. A deep rectangular rock-cutting (L24; 1.2 × 3.0 m, depth 2 m), which contained a limestone sarcophagus (0.8 × 2.3 m, height 1.2 m, wall thickness 0.1 m; Fig. 4) was exposed in the southern part of the site, near the top of a spur south of the stream. The sarcophagus was entirely concealed beneath the surface. A shallow stone pillow was sculpted at on end of the sarcophagus, to support the head of the deceased. The sarcophagus was sealed with a lid (0.90 × 2.25 m; Fig. 5) adorned with rounded acroteria on its four corners. The surface of the sarcophagus was not decorated. Similar stone sarcophagi first appeared in Israel during the reign of King Herod. In the second and third centuries CE they were fairly common in central and northern Israel and beyond it—throughout the Mediterranean countries. In the large necropolis at Bet She‘arim for example, 125 stone sarcophagi dating to the second and third centuries CE were found. Ninety of them, like the one discovered in the current excavation, were not decorated (Avigad 1971). Inside the sarcophagus were the remains of two individuals in supine position, with their heads on either end of the sarcophagus, facing the wall. Near the head of one were five candlestick-type glass bottles (Fig. 6:1–5) of a type common throughout Israel in the second and third centuries CE (Greenhut and Solimany 1995; Nudel 1999). A gold earring (Fig. 7:1) and a bronze bracelet in the shape of a cobra’s head (Fig. 7:2) were found on one of the deceased. Next to the same individual was a bone kohl-stick, of a type which was very common in the Roman period (Fig. 8).
Site 77 (North) was an open area between settlements, and was used for agricultural activities, quarrying and burial. The dating of the finds shows continuous activity from the second century CE to the present. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a variety of activities took place at the site much earlier, because it is only a few hundred meters from Tel Dalit, which was inhabited in the Early Bronze Age II (Gophna 1996
), and from Site 77 (Area N), which dates to the Early Bronze Age IV (Yekutieli, Paran and Ben-Yishai 2015
Avigad N. 1971, Bet She‘arim III. Jerusalem.
Brink E.C.M. van den, Liphschitz N., Lazar-Shorer D. and Bonani G. 2001. Chalcolithic Dwelling Remains, Cup Marks and Olive Stones at Nevallat. IEJ 51:36–43.
Gophna R. 1996. Excavations at Tel Dalit. Tel Aviv.
Greenhut Z. and Solimany G. 1995. Jerusalem, Arnona. ESI 14:97–98.
Nudel S. 1999. Daliyat el-Karmel. ESI 19:21*
Yekutieli Y., Paran N.S. and Y Ben-Yishai 2015. Bet Nehemya. HA-ESI 127.