During September 2003 a salvage excavation was conducted along the northeastern slope of the village of Nein (Permit No. A- 3977*; map ref. NIG 2331/7261; OIG 1831/2261), following the exposure of ancient remains during preparations for construction. The excavation, on the behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Amos (photography), with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), I. Berin (drafting), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and E.J. Stern (ceramic consultation).
A square was opened, revealing three architectural layers that dated to the Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods (Fig. 1).
Stratum III. A north–south aligned wall (W7; length 1.9 m, width 1 m), built of large stones with small fieldstones among them and preserved a single course high, was exposed (Fig. 2). A tabun (L12) was found to its east. The area was covered with burnt soil that contained potsherds from the Crusader period (twelfth century–beginning of the thirteenth century CE), including a glazed bowl imported from the Aegean Sea (Fig. 3:1), a krater (Fig. 3:2), a cooking pot (Fig. 3:3) and a jar (Fig. 3:4).
Stratum II. The southwestern corner of a room that had a storage pit in its floor and the wall of another building to the southwest were exposed in this level. Two construction phases were discerned.
Phase IIb. Walls 2 and 5 formed the southwestern corner of a room. Wall 2 (length 4.3 m) was oriented north–south; its southern part was built on top of W7 (Stratum III), slightly deviating to the east and its southern end did not survive. It was preserved three courses high and built of medium-sized masonry stones, which surmounted a foundation of small stones. Wall 5 (length 1.3 m), closing the room from the south, was preserved two courses high and built of medium-sized fieldstones.
A pit of small fieldstones was dug into the floor of the room (L20). The pit (bottom diam. 2.5 m, depth 2 m) was lined with built fieldstone circles that tapered toward its top. Two large stones were placed around the opening. The pit was not plastered and seems to have been used for storing dry goods. Potsherds dating to the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE) were found above the floor.
Southwest of the room’s corner was another wall (W6), oriented north–south. Only its eastern side survived (length 1 m); its western part was beneath the stone collapse of Wall 3 from Stratum I (L15). It was probably abutted by another wall, oriented east–west, which was discerned amongst the stone collapse (L5) and probably formed the northeastern corner of another building, west of W2.
A thick burnt layer (L21), overlain with a small-fieldstone layer (L19) that contained numerous animal bones (camel, donkey and goat) was discerned in the area south of the room, above W7 and east of W6. The ceramic finds, similar to those recovered from the floor of the room (L20), included a glazed bowl decorated with a slipped stripe (Fig. 3:5), green and yellow gouged ware bowls (Fig. 3:6), monochrome glazed bowls decorated with splashes of paint (Fig. 3:7) and the fragment of a mold-made and slipped bowl (Fig. 3:8).
Phase IIa. Alterations were undertaken in the room. Wall 5 was cancelled and all that survived of it were two courses of its northern face. Above its southern face was a new wall (W1; width 1 m), built of medium fieldstones with small fieldstones among them and preserved three courses high (Fig. 4). The storage pit below Floor L20 was blocked by a heap of fieldstones that reached the second course of W5, which survived c. 0.7 m high above the floor. The rest of the room’s area was filled with soil fill to the height of the pit’s fill and paved with small fieldstones (L18) that covered the room and the remains of W5. The ceramic finds in the fill layer beneath Floor L18 and in the heap of stones that blocked the pit consisted of an incised green glazed bowl, imported from northern Italy (Fig. 3:9), a jug fragment decorated with incising (Fig. 3:10) and an amphoriskos (Fig. 3:11), dating to the Mamluk period. The layer of fill above Floor L18 also included potsherds from the Mamluk period.
The passageway between the corner of Walls 2 and 5 and W6 was blocked by a wall (W4; Fig. 5), built of medium-sized, disarrayed fieldstones. The blockage was built on a foundation of small fieldstones (L19) from Phase IIb, which contained animal bones and potsherds from the Mamluk period, including a bowl (Fig. 3:12), a jar (Fig. 3:13) and a glazed green and yellow gouged ware bowl (Fig. 3:14).
Stratum I. A wall (W3; width 0.6 m) in the western half of the square, oriented east–west, was built of dressed masonry stones and medium-sized fieldstones and preserved a single course high. The eastern end of W3 overlaid the top of W6 from Phase IIb and extended as far as W4 from Phase IIa. The area south (L15) and north (L17) of W3 was covered with stone collapse (Fig. 6), which was not excavated and therefore cannot be unequivocally ascribed to W3. The ceramic finds gathered from the stone collapse are dated to the end of the Mamluk period and include a frit-ware amphoriskos (Fig. 3:15), fragments of painted glass bracelets and two bronze rings. The soil fill that accumulated above the stone collapse contained burnt material, animal bones and potsherds from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Inside the room from Phase IIb, above the fill layer from the Mamluk period, another fill layer reached the top of Walls 1 and 2 and contained animal bones and potsherds from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, including a Rashaya el-Fukhar bowl (Fig. 3:16) and pipes (Fig. 3:17), dating to the nineteenth century CE.
The entire area of the excavation and up to surface was covered with a layer of modern fill, which contained animal bones and potsherds from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, including a glazed bowl decorated with a slipped stripe from the nineteenth century CE (Fig. 3:18), as well as modern artifacts. The excavation was suspended due to safety precautions when the Crusader wall (W7) and the adjacent tabun were exposed. The excavation reached neither bedrock nor virgin soil and it is assumed that layers from earlier periods exist below the Crusader stratum. The architectural finds from the Crusader to the Ottoman periods (twelfth–nineteenth centuries CE) show that the northeastern area of the Nein village was situated within the domain of the ancient tell.