Area A (c. 8 × 8 m). A round stone tower (diam. c. 4 m; Figs. 3, 4) used as a columbarium and preserved to a height of one–two courses was excavated. The massive stone collapse around the tower, removed during the excavation, indicates that the tower, founded on bedrock, was extremely high. The tower was built of two rows of fieldstones with stone and soil fill in between. The inner face of the tower, constructed of small fieldstones (0.2–0.3 × 0.2–0.4 m), held the columbarium cells (width, height and depth c. 0.2–0.3 m; Fig. 5). The outer face was built of larger stones (c. 0.6–0.8 × 0.5–1.0 m, height c. 0.6 m), some of them carefully worked and rounded. A section of plaster exposed on the western side of the installation (Fig. 6) indicates that the outer face of the columbarium was coated with a layer of white plaster.
Bedrock was exposed inside the tower (L103, L107, L108). A rock-cut shaft (L110; width 1.5 m, depth 1 m; Fig. 5) leading to a hewn square subterranean cavity (c. 3.5 × 3.5 m, height 2 m) was found at the elevation of the leveled bedrock on the installation’s floor. In the walls were five rows of hewn columbarium niches (c. 0.2 × 0.2–0.3 m; Figs. 3, 7, 8). A step (0.4 m riser and tread) was hewn at the base of the walls, except for the western side. At the bottom of the step in the eastern part of the installation was a hewn basin (L114; 0.3 × 0.4 m, depth 0.1 m) whose eastern side was brown-plastered (Fig. 9).
Both the built and hewn parts of the installation, as well as the surrounding area, were filled with brown alluvium. Two coins—a serrated Seleucid coin (IAA 144814) and a Hasmonean coin (IAA 144813)—were discovered in the soil outside the installation. Among the pottery finds is a bowl dating to the Early Bronze Age III (Fig. 10:1), a jar from the late Hellenistic period (Fig. 10:6), a bowl (Fig. 11:1), a krater (Fig. 11:2) and a jar (Fig. 11:6) from the late Byzantine–beginning of the Early Islamic periods.
Among the pottery sherds recovered from the alluvium excavated inside the installation were a bowl from the Iron Age II (Fig. 10:5), a jug from the Late Roman period (Fig. 10:7), a krater (Fig. 11:3) and jars (Fig. 11:4, 5) from the late Byzantine–beginning of the Early Islamic periods. Two intact lamps dating to the late Byzantine–beginning of the Early Islamic periods were also identified (Fig. 11:7, 8). Dozens of roof tiles fragments (Fig. 11:9) were found that may show how the installation was covered. A broken dressed building stone was exposed; it may have been integrated in the tower’s construction (Fig. 12), allowing the pigeons to enter and leave the installation. A similar stone was discovered in the excavation of a rock-hewn columbarium in the Jerusalem area ('Adawi 2016).
Other finds included small bones of small animals, possibly belonging to pigeons (N. Marom, pers. comm.), several stone objects (Fig. 13; Matskevich, below) and a body fragment of a glass vessel that may have been a bowl (Fig. 14; Gorin-Rosen, below).
Area B. A curved natural basin (Fig. 15) filled with alluvium was exposed. The excavation was halted prior to reaching the bottom of the basin and no datable finds were found. A coin of Alexander Jannaeus dating to the ninth decade of the first century BCE (IAA 144815) was discovered in the alluvium around the basin.
Area C. A square around an elliptical cluster of fieldstones (4 × 4 m; Fig. 16) was excavated, conducted in alluvium down to the level of the bedrock after which the cluster of stones was removed. No datable finds were discovered.
Area D. Two squares (5 × 5 m) were opened alongside a cluster of fieldstones (Figs. 17, 18), some of them large and rectangular (0.4–0.6 m × 0.4–1.1 m). The excavation was conducted in brown alluvium and exposed the bedrock (L400, L401), but revealed no definitive architectural remains. The ceramic finds included a bowl (Fig. 10:2), a base of a vessel (Fig. 10:3) and a pithos (Fig. 10:4) dating to the Early Bronze Age III.
Area E. A square (c. 5 × 5 m; Figs. 19, 20) was opened on a bedrock surface, exposing a rock-hewn winepress consisting of an irregular treading floor (c. 2.0 × 2.3 m) and a collecting vat (c. 1.0 × 1.7 m, depth 0.6 m). No datable finds were discovered in the alluvium that covered the winepress (L500–L502).
Area F. A square (c. 4 × 4 m; Fig. 21) opened in a corner formed by two field walls (W601, W602), built of fieldstones and preserved to a height of one course (Fig. 22), was excavated in alluvium down to bedrock (L603, L604); no datable finds were discovered. The walls were used to fence off and delineate agricultural areas.
Fragment of Glass Vessel
Yael Gorin-Rosen
A body fragment of a glass vessel cast in a mold and adorned with a carved decoration on its outer wall (Fig. 14) was found inside the columbarium (L111). The shape of the fragment indicates that the artisan carved a wide horizontal stripe by removing glass from above and below it. Vessels thus ornamented were very common during the Hellenistic period in the eastern Mediterranean basin; however, the placement of the pattern and the width of the horizontal stripe are rare examples. Most of the mold-cast bowls are decorated with narrow conical grooves on the inner wall below the rim or on the outer wall. The decoration on the outer wall of this bowl is located at the bottom of the vessel. Nevertheless, the fragment can be ascribed to this group and dated to the second–first centuries BCE.
Cast bowls dating to the Hellenistic period were found mainly in affluent households in Jerusalem, Marasha, Tel Anafa and ʽAkko, as well as at many other sites. The importance of this fragment lies in the fact that it was discovered in the context of an agricultural installation rather than that of a dwelling or an urban environment. Of course, it is plausible that it was inadvertently deposited in the fill there after the installation was no longer used. In any event, it is unlikely that such a fragment traveled a great distance, and thus, it presumably originated in a nearby dwelling.
Zinovi Matskevich
A small lithic assemblage consisting of ten items was discovered in the layer of topsoil, and in the Roman and Byzantine contexts of the excavation, probably in secondary deposition. The flint assemblage included six tools and one primary flake. Three pounders were also found. The items making up the assemblage were fashioned from two kinds of raw material. Five of the items are made of conglomerate flint of the Zor‘a Formation, located in the immediate vicinity of the site. Two items are made of fine-quality Eocene flint.
The implements identified in the assemblage include a fan scraper (Fig. 13:1), a truncated burin (Fig. 13:2) and four retouched flakes. The especially small fan scraper (length 2.4 cm, width 4.2 cm) is knapped on a transverse primary flake and has a semi-abrupt retouch around its entire edge on the proximal side and a regular retouch on the transversal sides and the distal end. The burin is knapped on a blade with a semi-abrupt retouch and a truncation on the proximal side. All the flakes have a fine or regular retouch on some of their edges (one of the tools has it on its ventral side). One of the pounders is made of flint (5.8 × 6.6 × 6.6 cm; Fig. 3:13) and two are of limestone (5.2 × 6.5 × 7.0 cm, 3.0 × 5.1 × 5.7 cm). Pecking is evident of the surface of the items.
The only lithic find that aids in dating the assemblage is the fan scraper, which is known from assemblages ascribed to the Chalcolithic period and the Early Bronze Age. Apparently, all the flint artifacts in the assemblage were swept onto the site from Tel Yarmut, which rises above the excavation area; therefore, the flint assemblage should be dated to the Early Bronze Age, the main period represented at Tel Yarmut.
The excavated remains were of an agricultural nature, dating from different periods of settlement. Some of the finds reflect activity at the site while others originate in the erosion from Tel Yarmut at the top of the slope. The time of the columbarium is unclear, but the end of activity seems to be reflected in the two intact lamps. Columbaria were generally built near settlements as part of the household economy. The excavated installation belonged to a settlement or a farmhouse whose location has not yet been identified, possibly near Tel Yarmut or another settlement in the vicinity.