During August 2001, a salvage excavation was conducted at a site near ‘En Tamar, slightly west of the Nahal Zin wadi channel (Permit No. A-3484*; map ref. NIG 23300–1/54430–40; OIG 18300–1/04430–40) in the wake of damage to a building and an installation of the Early Islamic period, caused by the digging of a ditch. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the A.A.G. Azot Company, was directed by G. Seriy, assisted by A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), H. Lavi (administration) and A. Dodin (pottery drawing).
The site is situated at the foot of a low hill that is part of a marl-hill ridge, c. 200 m east of a building, which was excavated in 1982 by R. Cohen and dated to the first–second centuries BCE (ESI 2). The excavation took place in two areas, c. 40 m apart, along the ditch that exposed and damaged the Early Islamic-period remains.
Area A (4.5 × 6.0 m; Fig. 1) was located in the southern part of the site. A front wall of a building, with a doorway, was exposed. The wall (W1; width c. 1.4 m, preserved height 0.8 m, exposed length 6 m) was built of two rows of ashlar stones, placed atop a foundation of large wadi pebbles with a core of smaller wadi pebble fill. The ditch section seems to indicate that the original length of W1 was 7.4 m and two other walls joined it in the west. The three walls delineated a room, which was not excavated due to limitations in the field. The two walls, which were built of roughly hewn kirton blocks (width c. 0.8 m), were only c. 0.3 m high and not as well preserved as W1. Most of the building’s walls were probably dismantled in antiquity because no collapse was discerned at the site, save three masonry stones that were noted northeast of the doorway and for some reason, were not taken away.
The doorway (width 0.7 m; L102) was set in the middle of W1. It was flanked by two narrow walls (0.4 × 1.4 m) that formed a continuation of the eastern face of W1 and served as doorjambs. The entrance threshold was built of three large stones. Further to the west, the entrance widened to 3.5 m and nine large stones, which formed the continuation of the bottom course of W1, were placed. A door socket, in situ, was found in the northeastern corner of the entrance’s widened part. A threshold (0.75 × 2.85 m) of roughly hewn kirton stones bonded with gray plaster was exposed in front of the doorway, on the east.
East of W1, at a level c. 5 cm lower than the exterior threshold, remains of a habitation level (L103; courtyard?), which consisted of seven hearths, a quantity of ash and numerous fragments of pottery vessels, were uncovered. The habitation level overlaid a floor of fine, slightly tamped alluvial soil (L105) that abutted the top of W1 bottom course and therefore, seems to be contemporaneous with the building. A probe (depth c. 0.3 m) excavated in the northern part of the area, below the foundations of W1 (L104), showed that this occupation layer was the only one relating to the building and dating it.
Area B (3 × 4 m; Fig. 2). Scant remains, including an irregular section (0.65 × 1.20 m) of a gray-plaster floor, overlaying a bedding of medium-sized wadi pebbles were revealed in this area, located in the northern part of the site. It seems to be part of a plastered installation that mostly extended west of the ditch. An occupation level (L202) on the floor was identical in its finds and chronology to that in Area A. It was impossible to determine the use of the installation or its size.
Many fragments of pottery vessels, common to the Early Islamic period, were found on the floors, in the habitation layer (Loci 102, 103, 105) and in the probe in Area A (L104), as well as in the layer above the floor of the installation (L202) in Area B. The assemblage included fragments of bowls and cups of Fine Islamic Ware, dating to the eighth century CE, with a black decoration below the rim and burnished (Fig. 3:1), a black decoration below the rim (Fig. 3:4) and a black and red decoration (Fig. 3:5); a plain cup and saucer and bowl from the seventh–eighth centuries CE (Fig. 3:2, 3); deep kraters, dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE (Fig. 3:6); cooking pots similar to those of the Umayyad period (Fig. 3:7); cooking kraters and lids that spanned a broad chronological range, reaching the ninth century CE (Fig. 3:8, 9); jugs made of cooking pot material that have comparisons in the later part of the Byzantine period (Fig. 3:14); jugs dating from the end of the Byzantine period to the Abbasid period (Fig. 3:15 [FIW], 16, 17); undecorated Khirbet al-Mafjar-type jugs, dating to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods (Fig. 3:18); flasks dating to the sixth–eighth centuries CE (Fig. 3:19, 20) and baggy-shaped jars from the seventh–tenth centuries CE (Fig. 3:10–13).
The building and installation are dated to the seventh–eighth centuries CE, based on the finds. Although similar types of pottery vessels were found in numerous sites of the Early Islamic period in the south of the country, no settlement dating to this period was known to have existed at ‘En Tamar, to date.