During November 2005 a small excavation was conducted near the ruined bridge of Jisr es-Sidd, c. 2 km south of Qevuzat Kinneret (Permit No. A-4623*; map ref. NIG 25295–310/73400–50; OIG 20295–310/23400–50), in the wake of damage to an unknown subterranean wall. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and partially financed by the Meqorot National Water Company, was directed and photographed by H. Smithline, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS), N. Zak (drafting) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics). Z. Vinogradov of Qibbuz Bet Zera‘ contributed from his extensive knowledge of the region.
The flat excavation area (35 sq m) was in the fertile agricultural fields of the central Jordan Valley, c. 100 m west of the river and immediately east of an abrupt 2 m rise in the surface. Running adjacent to the river is an unpaved road, separated from the fields to the west by a low embankment that is possibly a ruined and concealed aqueduct. Remains of construction on the eastern bank are possibly part of the ruined bridge Jisr es-Sidd that at one time traversed the Jordan River. The steep and thickly overgrown west bank precludes the finding of any construction remains. The active Alumot Dam is c. 500 m to the north and Khirbat Umm Juna is less than 1 km to the southeast. The confluence of the Jordan River with the Yavne’el stream, descending from the west, is a short distance to the south. This section of the Jordan River has been traversed by a number of bridges and dams with little evidence of their remains. These were catalogued by Z. Vinogradov, who also collated references to Jisr es-Sidd on various nineteenth and twentieth century maps, such as the Jacotin map, where it was incorrectly named and the map of the British Survey. Vinogradov claims that the bridge is named after a local Bedouin tribe. In addition, the name Jisr es-Sidd suggests that it served as a dam, as well as a bridge.
The upper excavation layer comprised c. 0.3 m of fertile soil that covered a layer of leveled small stones, spreading southward (L105; Fig. 1). Adjoining the stones to the west was apparently a round installation built of larger fieldstones. This poorly built feature was barely defined as it jutted out from the southern edge of the square. The stone layer and installation were separated from the remainder of the area by the intrusive Meqorot channel.
Two parallel walls were found to the north of the channel, oriented northwest–southeast (Fig. 2). The southern wall (W112) was partially damaged by the intrusive channel. Its southern face was constructed from large basalt hammer-dressed stones, while the northern face consisted of smaller and rounder stones. The two faces formed a single unit that left a narrow space for a core of small stones. Wall 112 incorporated a very large, in situ, basalt boulder (length c. 1 m; Fig. 3). A very hard mortar surface abutted the southern face of W112 and was also applied to its face. The surface was cut by the intrusive channel but it continued to the southeast where it abutted the extension of W112 in an identical manner. Wall 112 and the mortar surface are probably the remains of a water carrier, either a built channel or an aqueduct. It appears that after the carrier went out of use its channel was filled with archaeologically sterile silt and alluvium (depth c. 0.5 m), upon which the topsoil and stone level accumulated (Fig. 4). The construction technique is commonly known in colloquial Arabic as daqa (دکة), whereby a finely ground mortar is applied to walls and surfaces, creating a very hard cement-like material that is water resistant (Fig. 5).
The parallel Wall 114 was buried beneath a tumble of stones that descended from south to north. This poorly built wall was constructed from carelessly set basalt boulders on its northern face and smaller basalt stones on the southern face, with no binding material (Fig. 6). The narrow space (L113; width 0.6 m) between the two walls attained the in situ boulder that was then incorporated into W112. Perhaps W114 served as support for the aqueduct or built channel of W112.
A small number of potsherds, mostly small and extremely worn fragments that did not enable accurate dating of the construction, were recovered from the excavation. Potsherds dating to the early Chalcolithic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods were identified. A small group of twelfth-thirteenth centuries CE fragments were uncovered in the space between the walls (L113) and Rashaya el-Fukhar fragments were common in surface loci.
Two coins were discovered as well. One came from surface and is dated to the fourth century CE (IAA 102367) and the second is an Omayyad fals, retrieved from the stone fill (L110; IAA 102368).
The large quantity of water and the fertile soil in the Jordan Valley necessitated the construction of water carriers to facilitate irrigation. It also led to the establishment of large mills, such as at Umm Juna and el ‘Ubeidiya. Our excavation exposed one of these water utilization conduits: a stone-built channel or an aqueduct that transported water into the fields and presumably, to one of the milling installations. However, its continuation and relationship to Jisr es-Sidd and the Jordan River, as well as to other units, remain buried. The exact plan of the structure is unclear due to poor preservation and the limited excavation. The 2 m abrupt rise to the west of the excavation area may conceal a better preserved section of the construction, whose accurate dating is impossible.
Twenty-five meters to the northeast and 40 m to the north of the excavation, in the thick and nearly impenetrable brush, two large sections of an aqueduct or a mill were found and partially cleared, but not excavated. One of the sections is preserved over 2 m high (Fig 7). Likewise, hidden in the thick brush, 150 m to the southeast, is a still extant bridge/aqueduct of unknown date, traversing the Yavne’el Stream.