During November 2004, a small excavation was conducted at the foot of Tel Kabri (Permit No. A-4271*; map ref. NIG 21310–2/76810–2; OIG 16310–2/26810–2), preceding the laying down of a telephone cable. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and partially financed by the Cellcom company, was directed and photographed by H. Smithline, with the assistance of L. Porat (pottery restoration), H. Tahan (pottery drawing), A. Berman (numismatics) and A. Shapiro (GPS).
Kabri is situated in the northern coastal plain, 5 km east of Nahariya. This rambling multi-period site of c. 320 dunam has been extensively studied and excavated by A. Kempinski of Tel Aviv University. The tell is the highest point in the Kabri antiquities complex and until 1948 was occupied by the small village of et-Tell. The Tel Aviv University excavations explored part of the mound (Area E) where an Iron Age II fortress was uncovered. The current excavation area (4 × 6 m) lies c. 12 m below the top of the mound, on its steep northwestern slope where a narrow and relatively level step protrudes from the slope. The step continues to descend steeply to the north, down to the valley floor and, more gradually, to the west. It is oriented northeast–southwest and branches off from the old road to Nahariya that bisects the Kabri site from east to west and serves at present as an agricultural service road. The largest of the Kabri springs, ‘En Shefa‘, is 100–150 m to the northeast.
The excavation uncovered accumulations and pockets of soil, as well as periods of flooding that spread collections of smooth and rounded stones and pebbles, presently embedded in a hard sediment, frequently in groups (Fig. 1). The sediment crust was sterile and void of ancient artifacts, as was the packed earth below. The occasional pockets of earth within the hard sediment contained pottery fragments. The flooding can be accredited to run-off from the nearby ‘En Shefa‘.
The accumulations of earth above the sediment, which contained randomly, distributed pottery fragments, spread down the steep northern slope and, less acutely, down the slope to the west (Figs. 2, 3). At least 3 m of sterile alluvial soil lay beneath the earth accumulations and sediment (Fig. 4). Due to the precarious position of the excavation on the edge of the steep slope and the reaching of sterile alluvium, the greatest depth was achieved by mechanical means, although bedrock was not attained. The topography of the steep northern slope is reminiscent of a rampart, yet no evidence attesting to construction, or layering of fill or any intentional interference with the natural topography, was uncovered. The possibility remains that the lowest 5 m of the slope, down to the valley floor, conceal rampart construction, but extensive fieldwork was precluded due to the limited nature of the excavation.
The pottery finds retrieved from the excavation reflect the ceramic profile of Area E at Tel Kabri, representing all its Iron Age phases. However, the finds clearly incline toward the ninth–eighth centuries BCE and include bowls (Fig. 5:1–7), cooking pots (Fig. 5:8–12), kraters (Fig. 5:13–16) and storage jars (Fig. 6:1–4), which are typical of Iron Age II assemblages that possess Phoenician influences in the north. Only a small number of finds may be dated to the latest phase of the fortress in the later half of the seventh century BCE, e.g., storage jars (Fig. 6:5, 6). An extremely worn black-on-red Phoenician ridge-necked juglet (not illustrated) was also found. Parallels to the ceramic repertoire may be found at Iron Age II sites, such as Horbat Rosh Zayit, Tel Keisan and Tel Dor.
The number of pre-Iron Age potsherds, mostly from the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze II periods that were the two major periods of Kabri’s habitation, is veritably negligible, as was apparently the case in the excavation of Area E.
A few Hellenistic-period imported amphora fragments occasionally appeared. The surface matrix turned up a small amount of Ottoman-period potsherds that included some examples of Rashaya el-Fukhar ware.
A single Mamluk-period coin (IAA 100001) was found in the surface matrix. The coin is a fraction of a silver dirham, dating to the thirteenth century CE.
A broken basalt grinding stone may be enumerated among the finds.
This limited excavation adds little to our present knowledge of the history of et-Tell in the western portion of ancient Kabri. Perhaps its main contribution is the relatively large number of potsherds datable to the pre-fortress phase (E4), prior to the eighth century BCE, and the early fortress phase (E3; 734–660 BCE). The ceramic finds are probably remains of spill that derived from the tell and apparently reflect the large-scale construction and the heightened building activity on top of the mound.