During December 1999 a trial excavation was conducted in the village of el-Fureidis, in a cave located midway up the western slope of the Karmel, above the old part of the village (Permit No. A-3155*; map ref. NIG 196075/723350; OIG 146075/ 223350). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Yannai, with the assistance of A. Buchennino and M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery and stone drawing).
The cave was filled with bedrock collapse, precluding the completion of its excavation and graphic description due to safety precautions. Only a quarter of the area in the cave’s south side was exposed (3 × 7 m, depth c. 2.5 m), revealing six strata that, based on the potsherds they contained, represented four occupation layers and two layers of alluvium.
Stratum I: Recent fill devoid of finds (depth c. 1 m).
Stratum II: Alluvium containing abraded potsherds from Middle Bronze Age II and Early Bronze Age IV.
Stratum III: A burial from the Ghassulian phase of the Chalcolithic period.
Stratum IV: Alluvium devoid of finds.
Stratum V: Potsherds from the Ghassulian phase of the Chalcolithic period (thickness c. 0.25 cm).
Stratum VI: Potsherds dating to the pre-Ghassulian phase on the floor of the cave, only in southern side of excavation.
The Finds (Fig. 1)
Fragments of pottery (not drawn) that dated to the pre-Ghassulian or Wadi Rabah culture in the Chalcolithic period were found. The finds from the Chalcolithic period included large bowls (Fig. 1:1), pithoi (Fig. 1:2), jars (Fig. 1:3, 4) and holemouth jars with a rope ornamentation on the rim (Fig. 1:5, 6), bowls on pedestals (Fig. 1:7–9), a cornet (Fig. 1:10) and a churn fragment (Fig. 1:11). Other finds consisted of lug handles (Fig. 1:12), a rope ornamentation on a jar fragment (Fig. 1:13), several fragments of ossuaries (Fig. 1:14, 15), a ceramic object with two depressions (Fig. 1:16) and a pale pink limestone pendant (Fig. 1:17); all of these have comparisons in contemporary sites.
A complete ossuary (0.27 × 0.48 m) from Stratum V disintegrated upon its removal. It was made of yellow clay mixed with a large quantity of chalk and flint gravel. An opening (0.2 × 0.2 m) was identified in the distorted facade of the ossuary with a shaped ‘nose’ above it, which is characteristic of this ossuary type.
A holemouth rim fragment (Fig. 1:18) and a typical ledge handle (Fig. 1:19), dating to Early Bronze Age I, were found. Several body fragments (not drawn) from Early Bronze Age II indicate that the cave was used for burial or as a dwelling also during this period.
The finds from Early Bronze Age IV included a goblet fragment alongside a jar fragment with a cut rim. Analogies for the finds from this period come from caves that had been excavated in the past at el-Fureidis (O. Hess, ‘Atiqot 14:34–36; Z. Horovich and M. Masarwah, ‘Atiqot 38:1*–4*).
The sterile layer above Stratum V and the study of the finds indicate that the cave was hewn in the pre-Ghassulian phase and was used as a dwelling in this phase (Stratum VI), as well as during the Ghassulian phase (Stratum V). Subsequently, it was filled with dark brown alluvium, probably deposited during Stratum V or Stratum III and intended to separate between the occupation and burial layers. During the following Ghassulian phase (Stratum III), as well as the Intermediate Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age (Stratum II), the cave was used for interment.
The artifacts from the cave attest to the presence of a settlement from the pre-Ghassulian period west of the Karmel ridge, which has not yet been discerned in the region. The clay coffin interment in the Chalcolithic period is also unknown west of the Karmel ridge. The evidence from the cave thus contributes to our knowledge of the distribution of settlement sites and burial caves from this period in the country. Evidence of an Early Bronze Age IV burial cave can be added to several contemporary tombs of the period that were excavated at el-Fureidis, whereas the burial evidence from Middle Bronze Age II points to a settlement from this period in the region.