The 2017 and 2019 seasons of excavations at Tel Shimron (License Nos. G-43/2017, G-24/2019; map ref. 21980–2050/73410–65) were conducted under the auspices of Tel Aviv University and Wheaton College, Illinois, and were directed by D.M. Master (Wheaton College) and M.A.S. Martin (Tel Aviv University). The excavation was carried out with the assistance of A. Aja, K. Birney, T. Hoffman, J. Walton, J. Wylie and R. Kalischer (primary field supervision), K. Pierce (registration), G. Pierce, V. Tewell and J. Scheffer (spatial analysis), E. Ernenwein and R. Grap (ground penetrating radar), E. Laugier (magnetometry), E. Boaretto (microarchaeology and radiocarbon sampling), A. Adaniya (field conservation), G. Solar (conservation architect), D. Fulton (zooarchaeology), J. Marston, K. Forste and K. Wade (botanical analysis), S. Schloen, N. Schulte and A. Wright (OCHRE database), M. Aja (photography), Y. Farhi (numismatics), J. Clark and S. Moshier (geology), G. Tucker (chipped stone), R. Barron (LiDAR), R. Ekshtain (education) and O. Gutfeld (logistics).
Tel Shimron is located on the northern side of the Jezreel Valley and at the western edge of the Nazareth ridge. The site lies along the ancient route running from the ‘Akko plain to the Bet She’an and Jordan Valleys, and it was occupied from the Neolithic until recent times. The current archaeological project began in 2016 with a surface survey and remote sensing, aiming to duplicate the methods (surface collection, test pits) and the results of the survey undertaken by A. Raban, A. Ben-Tor and Y. Portugali in 1981 (Portugali 1982). The survey succeeded in confirming many of the results of the original survey, including the existence of Middle Bronze Age remains close to the surface on many parts of the mound and the presence of remains from later periods on the terraces in the center of the mound (Fig. 1). In some areas, however, such as on the lower terraces on the western side of the site, the 2016 survey indicated that several later strata overlay the Middle Bronze Age remains. Based on the new survey results, along with the results of ground penetrating radar and magnetometry assays, the excavations in 2017 and 2019 were carried out in four fields located across the mound of Tel Shimron—Grid 92, Grid 33, Grid 94 and Grids 23/24—yielding remains from the Middle Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Persian and Hellenistic periods and the Roman period (see Fig. 1 for location of grids).
Grid 92. At the southwestern corner of Tel Shimron, a sequence of domestic houses dating from the Middle Bronze Age produced evidence of daily life, including remains of small craft industries, such as metalworking. The houses were small, with narrow walls that could hardly have carried a second story, but the rebuilding phases in these structures allowed us to reconstruct a detailed chronological sequence throughout the Middle Bronze Age (1950–1550 BCE). Preliminary radiocarbon sampling point to an earlier phase in MB IIB (1750–1650 BCE) and to a later phase in MB IIC (1650–1550 BCE). Caches of complete vessels from intramural interments (Fig. 2), found here in association with these radiocarbon-dated samples, provide a connection with the ceramic relative chronology of the period.
Grid 33. Additional remains from the Middle Bronze Age were uncovered in the excavation area located on the acropolis at the eastern end of the tell. Here, however, all the remains are monumental in nature. On the crest of the hill, walls built of huge boulders supported a multi-story structure. Slightly farther down the slope, large mud-brick walls run parallel to the slope and must have been part of some substantial fortification. Between the mud-brick walls, tens of thousands of bones and pottery fragments were recovered. The ceramic finds here are contemporary with the pottery retrieved in the domestic areas in the lower city (c. 1750 BCE), but the range of forms and the workmanship are completely different. In the deposit between the mud-brick walls, the pottery dump included miniature vessels and multiple examples of a ‘bowl with seven cups’, a characteristic form in the high cultic place at Nahariyya. The excavations on the western (domestic) and eastern (monumental) edges of Tel Shimron together offer a rare opportunity to study differences in status in a major Middle Bronze Age city.
The surveys indicated that in the Iron Age, Tel Shimron was a major city, but the Iron Age levels have not been reached with any breadth in the current excavations. In 2019, a small Iron Age I (eleventh century BCE) silo that had cut into the Middle Bronze Age fortifications of the acropolis, was uncovered in Grid 33. The silo contained whole vessels similar to those found in Stratum VI at Megiddo, a beautiful bronze bracelet and even some electrum sheeting (Fig. 3). The most interesting aspect of this collection is its similarity to contemporary collections at Megiddo and Bet She’an, tell sites where Bronze Age ‘Canaanite’ communities persisted, notwithstanding the emergence of the new communities in the highlands.
Grid 94. A small trench was cut on the western lower slope of the tell in order to examine the discrepancies between the surface findings from the 2016 survey (Late Roman reading) and the original survey (Middle Bronze Age reading). Here, the excavated remains reflected an occupation sequence dating from the Persian and Hellenistic periods (fourth to second centuries BCE). In this era, Tel Shimron was an agricultural village subordinate to the port city of ‘Akko-Ptolemais, within the extensive Persian and Hellenistic Empires. A hoard of coins from the reign of Antiochus III found here (Fig. 4), highlights the transfer of Tel Shimron from Ptolemaic Egyptian rule to Seleucid Syrian control, in the context of the Syrian Wars between the two great Greek empires. The Seleucid phase at Tel Shimron lasted until the middle of the second century BCE, when the site was suddenly abandoned. The numismatic evidence includes coins of Demetrius II (probably from his first reign, 145–138 BCE), but no later Seleucid or Hasmonean coins.
Grids 23/24. The fourth excavation area is located at the center of the mound. In this area, medieval-period stone piles overlay several well-preserved houses dating from the first to third centuries CE. One house, extensively excavated in 2017, had an entrance courtyard leading into a house with a miqveh, a ritual bath, in its southeastern corner. Another house, located to the south across a small east–west street, had a similar entrance courtyard with an ancient bread oven. Inside the house the rooms were divided by a wall with large stone ‘windows’ of the type found at, for example, Korazim. All the elements exposed in this area were characteristic features of structures in Galilean villages in the Early Roman and later in the Roman period. Because, however, the well-built stone walls of the buildings stood for several centuries, whether occupied or as ruins, the fill layers inside the rooms contained coins and pottery sherds dating from the fourth to seventh centuries CE. Consequently, we have not yet have determined precise dates for the construction, use and abandonment of these buildings.
Portugali Y. 1982. A Field Method for Regional Archaeology (The Jezreel Valley Survey 1981). Tel Aviv 9:170–188.