During February–March 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted in the village of Fassuta (Permit No. A-4114*; map ref. NIG 22920/77295; OIG 17920/27295) in the wake of damage to antiquities caused by the construction of a private house. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquity Authority, was directed by H. Bron, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), V. Essman (surveying and drafting) and H. Tahan (ceramic drawing).
The village of Fassuta in the upper Galilee is situated between Nahal Keziv and the ‘Akrab valley. It is a known antiquity site that has been excavated in the past (A-4065). The current excavation is located on the northern fringes of the site, close to the modern cemetery. Two rectangular excavation areas (3 × 4 m) were opened within the limits of the newly constructed building.
The excavation areas, distanced 2 m from each other, were in close proximity to bedrock, which was visible in part of the area. After cleaning bedrock in both areas (L 100, L101; Fig. 1), it became apparent that the area between them was composed of a thick accumulation of soil. The removal of this soil (L104) revealed a rectangular-shaped aperture (2.5 × 3 m) in bedrock, which proved to be the roof entrance into a collapsed cave that was used as a refuse pit during the Hellenistic period. The collapsed cave was bell shaped (width at bottom 4 m, width on top 2.5 m; preserved depth c. 3 m) and chisel marks were clearly visible on its interior.
Three levels and a single wall were identified.
Level 1. The light white to grayish surface soil in both areas was probably the result of accumulations created by the leveling activities for the construction of the modern house on the site. The mixed potsherds in this layer point to the various occupation periods at the site, including the Early and Middle Bronze Ages and the Persian, Hellenistic and Mamluk periods.
The soft, light colored limestone bedrock in most of the excavated area, which did not evidence any installations or quarrying, was reached at 0.1–0.2 m below surface.
Level 2. The reddish brown soil fill within the cave contained a large amount of ceramics, mainly from the Hellenistic period with some Early Bronze and Iron Age intrusions. Vessel fragments were dispersed throughout the fill, probably disposed of on purpose, pointing to its creation within a short time span. One of the fragmented vessels is of particular interest. It is a large jar decorated with a floral pattern on its shoulder (Fig. 2). The vessel is orange slipped and the floral decoration is reddish brown and seems to imitate the West Slope decoration of the Hellenistic period. The other vessels included a miniature jug, probably intended for cosmetics or medical oils (Fig. 3:1), a small juglet (Fig. 3:2), a platter (Fig. 3:3), a large bowl or krater with a wavy rim decoration (Fig. 3:4), a spindle whorl (Fig. 3:5), a wide range of bowl fragments (Fig. 3:6, 7), an array of jar and jug rims (Fig 3:8–12) and half of a basalt grinding bowl (Fig. 3:13). A bowl with a bar handle probably represents the Late Bronze /Iron Ages (Fig 4:1) and the Early Bronze Age fragments include a jar base fragment (Fig. 4:2) and a jar rim (Fig. 4:3).
The dark colored fill in the cave contained large pieces of chalk that probably resulted from the ceiling collapse, as well as a nearly complete Hellenistic cooking vessel (Fig. 3:14).
Level 3. A small stone-built wall on bedrock (W109; Fig. 5), located at a depth of 2 m and preserved c. 1 m high, was discovered at the northern part of the cave. Near the wall, a small area was filled up with stones, creating a podium whose purpose is unclear (L110). Pottery from the layer overlaying W109 included Hellenistic jar rim fragments (Fig. 4:4, 5) and an oil lamp spout (Fig. 4:6). The date of the wall is ambiguous because no potsherds were found in or near its base.
The ceramics from the lower part of the cave, dating from the Early Bronze Age and the Hellenistic period, suggest a date for the last use of W109 in the Hellenistic period, while its construction might be of a much earlier date.
The cave in Fassuta is obviously man-made and its original task could have been meant for burial or storage. The purpose of W109 is unknown and its construction upon the cave’s floor shows it was probably built when the cave was empty of soil. The accumulated fill in the cave had a short time span, as indicated by the potsherds from the Hellenistic period and it appears that the collapse of the cave’s ceiling and the fill happened during this period. Most of the fill came from an ancient dump, as the range of ceramics seems to indicate.