During October–November 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted in the southeastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-4263; map ref. NIG 231605/739420; OIG 181605/239420), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the land leaser I. Daoud, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), H. Smithline (photography), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
The excavation (c. 50 sq m; Fig. 1) revealed a significant stratigraphical sequence with impressive architectural remains from the Hellenistic (Strata VI, V), Early and Middle Roman (Strata IV, III) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods.
At the beginning of the excavation, the topsoil layer (depth c. 0.3 m) down to the first appearance of walls was removed with the aid of a backhoe.
Stratum IX. The excavation reached bedrock in two small areas (L359, L360), at a depth of c. 2 m below surface, after removal of top soil. The outline of a circular, bedrock-hewn pit (L360) was traced, but the pit was not excavated and therefore, could not be dated. The potsherds on bedrock were mainly from the Hellenistic period, although several could be dated to Iron IIB.
Strata VI, V. A packed-earth floor (L350, L351), exposed in the two squares on either side of the balk, 0.3 m above bedrock, was probably associated with a stone wall (W352) and with the lower courses of two additional stone walls (W338b, W326b). No coherent plan could be obtained as the early remains were overlain by the later walls and it is clear that the later Roman strata reused the earlier Hellenistic walls, with changes. A thick burnt layer with much ash and a considerable quantity of store jar and cooking pot fragments from the Early Hellenistic period overlaid the floors, as well as many animal bones, showing signs of butchering. These finds probably indicate that the Early Hellenistic house suffered a violent destruction. An additional packed earth floor (L349) superposed Floor L351 and was also strewn with a large quantity of Hellenistic potsherds. The dating of the Hellenistic stratum’s destruction will be determined after the pottery analysis.
Strata IV, III. Several phases may be observed within these strata. A single large building with several rooms was constructed in this period. A major long wall (W326a/W329; Fig. 2), running the whole length of the excavation (10 m), was exposed. Several walls were built perpendicular to it (W337, W338, W362), as well as a covered water channel (L348), built of dressed upstanding nari blocks, alongside and at one point crossing W328a. An additional channel (L357), built in an identical fashion, ran along the western side of W328/W328a and joined up with Channel L348, leading water in an easterly direction, beyond the excavation limits. An impressive, almost completely preserved miqwe (ritual bath) was attached to this building. This large miqwe (length 4.3 m, width 2.3 m, preserved max. height 2.2 m; Fig. 3), partially rock hewn and partially built of stone, had six broad steps and was completely coated with a thick layer of plaster. The extant walls indicated that the miqwe had originally a vaulted ceiling, which had caved in. Despite its large size, entrance into the miqwe from inside the house suggests that it belonged to a family, possibly an extended one. Alterations to the outer walls of the miqwe were noted and at some stage during the Middle Roman period, the miqwe was no longer in use and intentionally filled with considerable quantities of stones that partly came from the collapsed ceiling. Two superimposed floors that abutted the same walls were found in most of the excavated rooms, indicating at least two phases of use in the house. Unfortunately, the limits of the excavation did not permit the recovery of the complete plan of the house, which was abandoned at some stage. A gap in occupation in this area, probably in the fourth century CE, is assumed on the basis of absent pottery.
Stratum I. Subsequent to the period of abandonment, occupation at the site was renewed to a limited extent. The remains from this stratum comprised a segment of a single wall (W322) and a packed-earth floor (L321), lying about 0.2 m below surface. The finds consisted of animal bones and potsherds from the fifth century CE.
The excavations in Area S have revealed part of a Roman house, overlying the remains of a Hellenistic house. The Roman house consisted of several rooms, and most importantly, a large miqwe. This is the third excavation area at Karm er-Ras that exhibits a private house with a miqwe. Another rock-hewn miqwe, possibly not associated with a house, was discerned c. 100 m to the north of this area. These miqwa’ot, as well as the discovery of several chalk vessels, clearly suggest that the occupants of this area in Karm er-Ras were concerned with ritual purity, as was characteristic of priestly families. This shift of the priestly families from Judea to the Galilee after the Bar-Kochba revolt is reflected in later synagogue inscriptions, in which the village of Cana is probably the home of the eleventh priestly course of Elyashiv.
Due to the importance of the finds, the IAA did not permit the construction of a house at this site.