Area N (Section 4; Fig. 2) extends along the southwestern part of the proto-historic site of ‘En Esur, a site that has been extensively excavated in recent years (Elad, Paz and Shalem 2019, and see further references there). Eighteen sub-areas were opened (N1–N18; Fig. 3), in which 890 squares were excavated. Remains of settlements dating to the Early Chalcolithic period, the EB IB, the Intermediate Bronze Age and the Byzantine period were uncovered.
Early Chalcolithic Period
Early Chalcolithic remains were discovered, mostly on sterile soil, in most of the areas where the excavation reached below the Early Bronze Age strata. They were not found only on the western and southwestern margins of Area N (N8, N13–N16). Area N thus marks the southwestern end of the Early Chalcolithic settlement, similarly to the EB IB settlement. The nature of the remains varies from one area to another, probably reflecting different zones of activity.
In Area N3, a long, wide solid wall was uncovered (exposed length c. 25 m, width c. 1.8 m; Fig. 4), reflecting public construction works. It seems that the wall turned a corner at its northwestern end, enclosing a higher area to its southwest. Remains of another stone wall lay parallel to, and south of the wide wall.
In Area N10, a wall segment, remains of installations and part of a carefully-lain stone floor were found alongside each other; a few grinding stones were incorporated in the floor (Fig. 5). About 20 m to the southeast, an open area (c. 60 sq m), producing a large quantity of articulated animal bones of sheep, cattle and pig, including both large (back, legs) and small (e.g. jaw) bones, was uncovered. The animal parts seem to have been buried intentionally in an open area selected for this purpose, where there were no dwellings. It seems that this area was associated with cultic activity, and that the animal parts were buried in the course of ritual ceremonies.
In Area N12, c. 40 m south of the animal inhumation site, a shallow pit dug into sterile soil, and containing animal bones, was discovered. The head of a clay anthropomorphic figurine retrieved among the bones, supports the understanding that these remains reflect some cultic activity. Next to the pit, a floor composed of small stones and an installation containing burnt mud-brick fragments were found; it is not yet clear whether the floor overlay the pit.
The area between Areas N3 and N12 was probably an open area on the settlement margins, used for cultic activity, as well as for other functions. A few pits and installations, without building remains, were discovered here, although it is possible that building remains were not preserved as their walls were built entirely of mud-brick.
In Area N4, walls of a large rectangular building were unearthed, outside of which lay patches of floors made of small stones, and a silo built of stone slabs (Fig. 6). The floors are dated to the Early Chalcolithic period, and the building should probably also be dated to that period. The western wall of the building was damaged by an EB IB pit.
In Areas N5 and N9, large areas of floors composed of densely packed small stones, directly underlay the Early Bronze Age remains. On one of the floors, a round, stone-built installation was exposed (Fig. 7). Animal bones, sherds and flint artifacts were found on the floors and between the floor stones. In some places, remains of mostly poorly preserved burials, similar to those found in other areas, were found.
The Early Chalcolithic pottery retrieved in the sub-areas of Area N is homogeneous, and resembles the pottery assemblages retrieved throughout the site (Elad, Paz and Shalem 2018; Elad, Paz and Shalem 2019).
Early Bronze IB
Early Bronze IB remains were found throughout Area N, contributing significantly to the understanding of the settlement’s layout and components. In most areas, two EB IB phases (3, 2) were found; an additional later EB IB phase (1) was observed in four sub-areas (N2, N5, N12, N17). A variety of structures— silos, installations, streets, courtyards, compounds, public areas, public buildings and fortification walls—was discovered. The principal finds from the three phases are described here.
Phase 3. Two types of dwellings are attributed to this early phase, similar to the EB IB early phase dwellings discovered in Areas O and M (Elad, Paz and Shalem 2018; Elad, Paz and Shalem 2019). One type of dwelling is small and rectangular (c. 3 × 5 m; Fig. 8) with narrow walls (width c. 0.6 m) and rounded corners. The other type is larger (c. 3.5 × 11.0 m), and either rectangular with rounded corners, or elliptical with wide walls (width c. 1 m).
In the western part of Area N15, a unique building with exceptional features was unearthed. It was a fairly large, rectangular building (2.8 × 6.3 m), with square corners, built on a northwest–southeast axis; the entrance was not found (Fig. 9). The wide walls (width 1.25 m), set directly on the virgin hamra soil, were preserved for a single course, and part of the building’s stone flooring was uncovered. Southwest of the building, a courtyard was delimited by two walls that abutted the corners of the building. A few large, flat stones, some bearing sandal-shaped cupmarks, were discovered in the courtyard. Similar cupmarks were found in some of the stones incorporated in the building’s walls. No pottery or flint artifacts were retrieved, and no finds revealing the building’s function or dating were unearthed. The building plan does not resemble any other buildings at the site from this period; the associated cupmarks may possibly suggest a public function. The building was dated to EB IB, based on an OSL sample.
Phase 2. Remains from Phase 2, uncovered throughout Area N, are probably contemporaneous with the later EB IB phase uncovered in Areas M and O. These remains represent the zenith of the EB IB settlement, comprising streets, compounds, dwellings, courtyards, silos and installations, similar to those unearthed in Areas M and O. In addition, for the first time, public buildings and parts of a fortification wall were uncovered. The Phase 2 settlement, briefly described here, includes dwellings, silos, streets, public areas, a public complex (N5), a round public building (N4) and two parts of a fortification wall (N4, N15).
The numerous dwellings and silos uncovered are similar to those discovered in the other areas of the site. The dwellings are either rectangular with rounded corners, or elliptical (c. 3.5 × 11.0 m; Fig. 10). Most of the dwellings were built on a north–south or an east–west axis, although some were built on a different axis.
The streets and public spaces also resemble those found elsewhere at the site. A few main streets, dozens of meters long, divided the area into quarters (Fig. 11). Some streets separated compounds of dwellings and silos; some of the walls lining the streets also constituted the walls of dwellings. In Areas N5 and N6, an exceptionally wide (width 5 m), north–south street passed next to a dwelling, and its northern end opened onto a large open area (over 20 × 35 m; Fig. 12). The area was paved with a series of floors made of small stones, laid on an earthen fill foundation layer containing large quantities of pottery fragments and animal bones. No other paved space exposed at the site was so large. This paved open area may have served a public function, its connection to the wide street reinforcing this hypothesis.
The public complex discovered in Area N5 has cultic elements; it was particularly large, and it was built over an earlier building attributed to Phase 3 (Fig. 13). It featured a courtyard (Fig. 13:1), a building including an entrance room (Fig. 13:2), a large main hall (Fig. 13:3), and a small rectangular room (Fig. 13:4). At least two construction phases were discerned here. In its early phase, the building was at its largest (c. 15 × 30 m); some of the walls of this phase were particularly wide (maximum width 1.4 m), and were built of large stones. The courtyard (Fig. 13:1) to the east of the building, was probably at least partially paved. A very prominent large, flat stone (1.4 × 2.4 m) was set in the courtyard opposite the doorway that led to the entrance room. In the southern part of the courtyard, a large, monolithic basin was found (1.3 × 3.2 m, depth 0.6 m). The entrance room (Fig. 13.2) was rectangular and connected the courtyard to the main hall. Two column bases to support the roof, were found in the entrance room. An impressive, dressed threshold stone (width 0.9 m), with sockets for the door hinge was set in the doorway between the entrance room and the main hall. A small stone basin (c. 0.7 × 0.9 m, depth 0.4 m) with a depression in its base, was found near the doorway. The central hall (Fig. 13:3) was large (width 4 m); the eastern wall was extant for a length of 22.5 m, but the precise length of the building is not known, as its northern part was partially destroyed by a later Phase 1 dwelling. Six large column bases were found along the main axis of the hall. Stone benches were found on the interior of the long western and eastern walls. In the hall opposite the entrance, a stone circle (diam. c. 0.8 m) was found, in the upper part of which a cattle skull was discovered. The small rectangular room (Fig. 13:4) lay south of the entrance room, with its opening in the southern wall. A stone with a socket for a door hinge was found next to the entrance. A narrow corridor (width 0.8 m), led from the south to the doorway. The dimensions, construction and other characteristics indicate that it was public building. The stone basins, and the cattle skull unearthed in the stone circle are not known in domestic contexts. Moreover, special finds, including a seal impression depicting a cultic scene featuring a human figure in supplicant posture with raised hands, standing next to a horned animal and the head of a clay anthropomorphic figurine, were unearthed in the structure. In the late phase of the building, the doorway into the entrance room was cancelled, and, a rectangular room with its doorway in the northern wall, was built to the east of the entrance room. Also in the late phase, walls were built around the large monolithic stone basin, and a wall was built across the main hall, reducing its size.
The round public building exposed in Area N4 (interior diam. 6 m; Fig. 14) featured an exceptionally wide wall (width 2 m), perhaps indicating that the structure was very tall. The floor was carefully lain with small stones. At least six large, flat stones placed between the small stones were apparently columns bases that supported the roof; there were probably additional column bases that did not survive. The dimensions of the building, and its thick walls attest that it was a public building. Its round form recalls silo plans, and it cannot be ruled out that it was a public storage facility for the storage of surplus food.
Two segments of a fortification wall were found in Areas N4 and N15, on the western edge of the settlement. The wall exposed in Area N4 (preserved length 12 m) was poorly preserved, due to the disintegration of the stones. The wall segment found in Area N15 was better preserved (preserved length 24 m; width 2 m; Fig. 15). Part of a semicircular watch tower abutted the southwestern exterior face of the wall. Parts of a similar EB IB wall and tower were uncovered at ‘En Zippori (Yaroshevich 2016: Figs. 2, 22).
Phase 1. Settlement remains from Phase 1, the latest EB IB phase, post-dating the zenith of the settlement, were only found in Area N. These remains covered a limited area after most of the site was abandoned, probably representing the final settlement phase. Building remains, constructed overlying the Phase 2 buildings that had fallen out of use, were exposed in some sub-areas in Area N. In Area N5, a rectangular dwelling with rounded corners was built over the northern part of the Phase 2 public building complex, cutting some of its walls. In Area N2, remains of two round structures (silos?) cut into a Phase 2 dwelling, rendering it obsolete. In Area N12, a large insula, consisting of several rooms, was found (Fig. 16), its eastern part cutting the Phase 2 fortification wall exposed in Area N15.
Intermediate Bronze Age
In Areas N1 and N5, meager architectural remains and pottery fragments were unearthed. In Area N1, the remains of two layers of stones and a few pottery shards were found. In Area N5, three round installations were built abutting the EB IB walls. Many Intermediate Bronze pottery shards were found next to and inside the installations. One installation blocked the entrance of the main hall in the EB IB Phase 2 public building (Fig. 17). Patches of stone paving, occupation layers and pits, yielding Intermediate Bronze pottery fragments, were also found. One pit contained a complete smashed spouted krater with an incised decoration.
Byzantine Period
In the western part of Area N, remains of three terrace walls, built on an east–west axis perpendicular to the southward slope, overlay the Early Bronze Age remains (Fig. 18). The walls were built of locally collected small stones, along with a few building stones that probably came from the earlier buildings. Remains of a building and numerous Byzantine period finds were previously uncovered in the northeastern part of the site (Sa‘id 2011).
Early Bronze IB Pottery
At this early stage of the research, the pottery assemblages from the three EB IB settlement phases seem similar, with no distinctive typological or statistical differences. The Area N assemblages resemble those from Area M, located in the southwestern part of the site (Elad, Paz and Shalem 2018). A general description of the EB IB pottery from Area N is presented.
Shallow or deep, small bowls with a tapered rim (Fig. 19:1, 2). These bowls are very common throughout the country during the entire Early Bronze Age.
Deep bowls with a flat rim (Fig. 19:3). These bowls are not common at ‘En Esur, but they have been found at many other EB IB sites throughout the country, e.g., Bet Yerah in the north (Paz 2006: Fig. 7.28:1), and Tel Dalit in the center (Gophna 1996: Fig. 39:7).
Holemouth kraters (Fig. 19:4–6). These kraters are among the most common vessels at the site. They sometimes feature degenerate ledge handles, or lug-shaped plastic decorations.
Holemouth jars with thickened rim (Fig. 19:7, 8). These vessels are usually not decorated or ridged.
Jars with a short tapered, straight or slightly everted rim (Fig. 19:9–11). These vessels are common at the site, probably constituting the most common portable storage vessel.
Pithos with a bow rim (Fig. 19:12, 13). Most of the pithoi belong to this type, which was common along the northern coastal plain, e.g., in the Akko plain, but rare in the Yarkon-Ayalon basin (Golani 2003: Fig. 4.10, 4.11). The easternmost boundary of this type is the Jezreel Valley (Tel Qashish; Zuckerman 2003: Fig. 22:2, 3).
Small jars, juglets and teapots (Fig. 19:14–16). These vessels constitute a negligible percentage of the assemblage at the settlement site, whilst they were very common in burial assemblages attributed to the site (Yannai 2016: Fig. 2.15:1–8).
Intermediate Bronze Age Pottery
The building remains and the pottery from this period are meager. The most noticeable feature of the assemblage is the absence of jars, bowls, goblets and cups, whilst these vessels are common in most contemporary pottery assemblages from settlements elsewhere in the country (Gitin 1975: Fig. 4:1–8; Eisenberg 2012:34). The pottery assemblage mainly comprises two types of cooking pots.
Holemouth cooking pots (Fig. 20:1–7). These vessels have thin walls and were made of brown or gray clay; several exhibit soot marks. These cooking pots are common in contemporary assemblages throughout the country, e.g. Jebel Qa‘aqir (Gitin 1975: Fig. 1:15–18).
Cooking pots with a short neck and tapered rim (Fig. 20:8, 9). These vessels were made of brown clay, some exhibiting soot marks. They were common in the north, e.g., at Horbat Qishron (Smithline 2002: Fig. 12:5–7).
Krater with spout, and incised decoration (Fig. 20:10). This krater has an incised decoration around the perimeter. It is uncommon in contemporary assemblages, but it is frequently found in assemblages dating to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, e.g., Bet Yerah (Greenberg and Eisenberg 2006: Fig. 5.102:10). The presence of this bowl type in the Intermediate Bronze Age assemblage at the site may indicate that this is a late phase in that period.