During September–November 2000 and April 2001 trial and salvage excavations were conducted along the northern fringes of Tel Yavne (A-3286, A-3396; map ref. NIG 1761/6418; OIG 1261/1418), prior to the construction of a residential neighborhood. The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, were directed by R. Kletter, with the assistance of L. Zak, D. Barkan, A. Gorzalczany, A. Bushnino, H. Eliaz and M. Ajami (area supervision), Y. Rahamim and E. Lavi (administration), T. Sagiv (photography), H. Tsion-Cinamon (GPS system), A. Hajian V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying) and Y. Nagar (physical anthropology). Special thanks are due to Y. Levy, E. Ayash and the Israel Police (Yavne and Rehovot stations) for their assistance.
The excavation areas were located close to the northern edge of Tel Yavne, along a plain that ascended gently westward and southward. A single grave from the Late Bronze Age, cist graves and plain burials that may have been simple pits, probably dating to Iron Age II, were discovered. The fringes of the tell were presumably uninhabited in these periods and used for burials. Refuse pits and meager construction from the Byzantine period and a hearth and scant building remains from the Ottoman period were exposed as well. A few pottery fragments from unclear contexts, dating to the Chalcolithic period or the Early Bronze Age (one sherd), the Persian and Early Islamic periods (9th–10th centuries CE) and the Middle Ages, were found. The excavation was frequently disrupted due to the intervention of Ultra-Orthodox religious factions; the human remains from the excavation were handed over to representatives of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for reburial.
Tombs. A single burial from the Late Bronze Age was oriented north–south. Owing to the disturbances provoked by the Ultra-Orthodox extremists the tomb was poorly documented and the gender and age of the interred individual was not determined. The burial contained a jar, a bowl, a knife-shaved juglet and Base Ring I type juglets (Fig. 1), dating to the 14th century BCE.
The cist graves (average outer dimensions 0.8 × 2.0 m) were built of dressed kurkar blocks above the kurkar bedrock and were aligned east–west. Eighteen densely concentrated graves were revealed. Cover stones were preserved only over six of the graves. Each contained a single interment that was laid in a supine position. The head of the interred was in the east and faced west in most of the graves, except for Tomb 217 where the deceased was placed in the opposite direction. All of the deceased were adults, who may have been interred according to age classification in different parts of this cemetery. Most of the graves contained no ceramic finds, other than several pottery fragments that may have fallen into them. A bag-shaped jar dating to the end of the Iron Age–Persian period was uncovered between the covering stones of one of the graves. Three graves had poorly preserved iron rings that were probably originally worn on the fingers of the deceased. One of the tombs contained a triangular fibula, dating from the 8th century BCE until the Persian period. It is uncertain whether the fibula was originally put in the tomb because it was detected near the feet of the deceased and not on his chest as would be expected; the covering stones on this particular tomb were not preserved.
The plain graves were located alongside the cist graves and contained ten interments, some of which had poorly survived. The deceased were laid to rest in a general east–west direction, at an elevation similar to that of the cist graves. Most of the interments could not be dated because the ceramic finds near them were mixed and probably swept over into the graves. A few complete pottery vessels from Iron Age II were discovered near several of the graves. One grave contained a plain bronze earring at the head of the deceased, of the type commonly known in the country during the second and first millennia BCE. Another burial included a bronze earring at the head of the deceased, as well as the remains of a bronze fibula and a handle made of an animal bone.
It seems that the cist graves and the plain burials were part of the same cemetery and were contemporary because they were located alongside each other, aligned in the same direction and did not damage each other. The cemetery should probably be dated to Iron Age II, based on the small number of complete pottery vessels near several of the plain graves and the bag-shaped jar, which was recovered from the covering stones of one of the cist graves and is dated from the end of the Iron Age until the Persian period.
Other Finds. Three large refuse pits dating to the Byzantine period were exposed. They contained numerous ceramic finds, animal bones, lumps of plaster, industrial tesserae and bronze coins. The ceramic finds were mostly Gaza jars, ribbed bag-shaped jars that have a short upright neck, as well as cooking pots and other vessels. A few meager walls that may date to the Byzantine period or later were unearthed and numerous stone fragments, possibly debris from the production of tesserae were collected.
A small hearth from the Ottoman period was examined. A burnt layer at its bottom was overlain with a fill of Gaza potsherds and the remains of scant walls that probably belonged to a building. Floor beds containing Gaza ware, a glass bracelet and fragments of Marseilles roof tiles may have been the remains from the Arab village that was located in Yavne from the end of the Ottoman period.