In May 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted in the fields east of Kibbutz Newe Ur in the Bet She’an Valley (License No. B-465/2018; map ref. 253609–40/721790–800). The excavation, under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and on behalf of the salvage excavations program headed by O. Gutfeld (project management and field photography), was funded by the Israel Natural Gas Lines company. It was directed by M. Freikman (field photography), with the assistance of A. Rabinowitz (area supervisor), Z. Abu Ganem (foreman), A. Landau (administration), M. Cohen (surveying) and M. Frouin (map).
The site of Newe Ur is located in an agricultural field between Kibbutz Newe Ur and Tel Kitan, on a terrace of the Ghor above the Jordan River (Fig. 1). The site, which was discovered by members of the kibbutz, was first surveyed in the 1950s (Tzori 1958; Perrot, Tzori and Reich 1967). Some of the finds that were discovered during the survey or by chance have been published, and some are now on display at the Archaeological Museum at Gan Ha-Shelosha. However, the site had never been excavated. The current salvage excavation was conducted following a trial excavation to its south by Y. Tzur on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (Area A; Permit No. A-8168; Fig. 2)
Sixteen squares (Area B), marked by numbers from north to south and by letters from west to east, were excavated in an area covering c. 400 sq m; an additional half square (Z3) was excavated in the southwestern part of the area. In ten of the squares were remains of a settlement from the Late Chalcolithic period. These remains lay on a thin layer of marl (max. thickness 0.5 m), which covered a layer belonging to an alluvial fan, which apparently developed at the mouth of Nahal Tavor, to the west of the site. The excavation revealed one settlement stratum from the Late Chalcolithic period, in which two phases were identified; both strata had a similar material culture. The remains from the later phase were uncovered only in a small area. A few late sherds and modern-day finds were discovered near the surface. The excavation removed the entire archaeological deposits down to virgin soil.
The early phase (Stratum B1). Most of the excavation area revealed an occupation level consisting of tamped earth. It seems that the first settlers utilized the area after they had intentionally filled the natural depressions (e.g., L131). In an area of c. 200 sq m, five large pits were found (Fig. 3), which were dug from the occupation level down into the virgin soil. The pits comprised two types:
1. Shallow (depth 0.3–0.4 m), irregularly shaped pits, which served as refuse pits (L116, L137). They contained a large amount of pottery, stone tools and various small finds. Pit 116 was especially rich in finds, consisting of dozens of V-shaped bowls in a variety of sizes and other types of pottery and stone vessels, as well as flint and bone tools and other finds. Pit 137 is the continuation of a pit that was partially excavated during the IAA trial excavation.
2. Deep (depth 0.6–1.0 m), oval or rounded pits (L124, L142, L150), which were filled with a dark gray to black sedimentrich in organic material and burned bones. These pits were found to contain a much smaller quantity of pottery and other finds than the shallow pits, and seem to have been used for cooking.
The late phase (Stratum A1). An occupation level found in a small area in Sqs A1 and B2, 0.10–0.15 m above the early phase, contained potsherds, flint items and bone tools that were scattered over a layer of tamped marl (Fig. 4). The stratum, which had been severely damaged by plowing over the past decades, revealed no architectural remains other than a rounded installation constructed of medium-size fieldstones (L103).
From the early stages of data processing, it was apparent that the site dates from the Late Chalcolthic period. Its material culture is typically Ghassulian and resembles the material culture found at other sites in the area. Although no architectural remains were discovered in the excavation area, numerous fragments of mud-bricks were uncovered, attesting to the presence of a settlement at the site. This conclusion is corroborated by the architectural remains found in the nearby trial excavation (Y. Tzur, pers. comm.).
Tzori N. 1958. Neolithic and Chalcolithic Sites in the Valley of Beth-Shan. PEQ 90:44–51.
Perrot J., Tzori N. and Reich R. 1967. Neve Ur: un nouvel aspect du Ghassoulien. IEJ 17:201–232.