Site 1. A dense concentration of pottery vessels, dating to the Early Islamic period, south of the Hammat Tiberias National Park’s fence (map ref. 25210/74128). Ancient remains were discovered in four probe trenches (T1–T4) and subsequently, extensive excavations were conducted by M. Hartal and G. Cinamon (Permit No. A-5361), revealing numerous remains that were dated to the Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties. The finds demonstrated that during these periods the site was situated within the city limits of Hammat Tiberias.
Sites 2, 3. Remains of walls and numerous potsherds from the Early Islamic period were observed south of the access road to the tomb of Rabbi Me’ir Ba‘al Ha-Nes (map ref. 25220/74116). The remains are part of the city of Hammat Tiberias and the southern end of the potsherd scattering (map ref. 25229/74102) was the southern end of the city from this period. Three probe trenches were dug (T5, T22, T23) in the eastern part of the potsherd area, next to the saltwater carrier’s channel. The three trenches were rich in remains from Early Bronze Age IB.
Extensive excavations (HA-ESI 121; Permit No. A-5363) uncovered rich remains from the periods discovered at the site during the survey.
A concentration of potsherds from the Abbasid period in the western section of Highway 90 (map ref. 25255/74082). A level of basalt stones and a few potsherds were identified in the probe trenches (T13, T14). Fragmentary remains that dated to the Early Islamic period were found in the following excavation (HA-ESI 121
Site 5. The only find from the site is a folded ledge handle dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age. The probe trench (T15; map ref. 25285/74039) was devoid of any remains.
Site 6. A scattering of potsherds dating to the Late Roman period and spread over a distance of c. 150 m (central map ref. 25294/74003). Potsherds from this period were found throughout the survey area and are certainly connected to the fertilizing of the ancient farmland with waste that was brought from the settlements. Nevertheless, the amount of potsherds at this site was significantly greater and therefore four probe trenches were excavated. A layer of basalt stones (depth below surface 0.8 m) that may be the remains of an ancient road that led to Tiberias from the south was found in two of the trenches (T16, T17), whereas the two other trenches (T18, T19) were devoid of archaeological remains.
Site 7. An ancient installation that included a building, which contained pools and an aqueduct (Fig. 2; map ref. at the center of the installation 25308/73983; the site is referred to as the Hostel Junction in the IAA archive). The IAA archive contains no information whatsoever regarding an excavation in the installation; however, it appears from the remains that an archaeological excavation had been conducted and conservation measures were taken to reinforce it. Z. Winogradov (2002. The Aqueduct of Tiberias. In D. Amit, J. Patrich and Y. Hirschfeld, eds. The Aqueducts of Israel (JRA Supp. Ser. 46]. Portsmouth. Pp. 295–304) writes that P. Bar-Adon directed the excavation and mentions that S. Avitsur suggested the installation was used for dying textiles or producing indigo dye.
As part of the archaeological survey, Y. and Y. Tepper took detailed measurements of the installation’s remains. They thought that the installation consisted of a series of pools for raising fish and an ornamental fountain.
Three probe trenches (T20, T21, T25) were excavated between the installation remains and the saltwater carrier. The trenches yielded no archaeological remains and if there were any, they must have been destroyed when the saltwater carrier was constructed.
A concentration of industrial flint debitage in the section of the carrier channel, west of Shah
af beach (length c. 40 m; map ref. 25347/73887). The assemblage was examined in a small area and included among others, purple and pink blades that are characteristic of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. Remains of a Natufian settlement and a few remains that dated to the beginning of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period were recovered from an excavation that was conducted at the site (HA-ESI 121; Permit No. A-5099).
Site 9. A few potsherds from Early Bronze Age IB, found in soil that was removed from the saltwater carrier’s channel at the time of its installation (map ref. 25358/73814). A probe trench (T24) was excavated along the route of the channel and clay sediment, which contained several potsherds, among them body fragments adorned with a band-slip decoration that is characteristic of Early Bronze Age IB, was found (thickness c. 1 m). These potsherds are insufficient to indicate the presence of a settlement; however, they may point to a settlement nearby, outside the limits of the antiquities inspection, or a seasonal camp.
Site 10. Roughly worked building stones and a few potsherds from the Early Islamic period in the soil that lined the side of the saltwater carrier’s channel (map ref. 25361/73764). It is unclear if the soil and the finds it contained are close to their original locations; digging probe trenches was impossible.
Site 11. A few potsherds from Early Bronze Age IB, including fragments bearing a band-slip decoration, were found in soil that was removed from the saltwater carrier’s channel at the time of its installation (length c. 10 m; map ref. 25354/73693). The finds probably point to the existence of a tiny settlement in this period. Probe trenches could not be dug at the site.
Sites 12, 13. Remains of the Umm el-Qanatir bridge. According to V. Guérin, the bridge was already destroyed c. 140 years ago, but remains of the arches that bore it were still visible. Building stones were found in the saltwater carrier’s channel at Site 12 (map ref. 25347/73473). The remains of one of the bridge’s piers (Fig. 3), on the ridge between the Jordan River and the saltwater carrier’s channel (map ref. 25350/73477), were visible at Site 13. To date, a section of a wall from the eastern side of the pier, built of ashlars and reinforced with lime cement, is still visible.
Several potsherds from Middle Bronze Age II were found on the left bank of the saltwater carrier’s channel (when facing the direction of the flow), next to the remains of the bridge. An excavation (Permit No. A-5058) was conducted and two squares (each 3×4 m) were opened. Two strata (I, II) were identified; one contained prehistoric finds and the other yielded finds that dated to the Middle Bronze Age and the Mamluk period.
Stratum II was an accumulation of wadi silt (thickness c. 0.4 m) on top of soft sediment, probably of the Lisan Formation. The accumulation included boulders, pebbles and sandy soil, as well as an abundance of worn flint implements. Several of the artifacts were made using the Levallois technique, characteristic of the Middle Palaeolithic period, and other artifacts were probably from an earlier period. The wear on the items shows they were exposed to the flow of water and may have been swept there from distant sites.
Stratum I was a gray accumulation (thickness c. 0.2 m) that contained wadi shells and potsherds from the Middle Bronze Age and the Mamluk period. Noteworthy among the finds from the Middle Bronze Age were a krater (Fig. 4:1), a pithos (Fig. 4:2) and three jars (Fig. 4:3–5); the finds from the Mamluk period included fragments of glazed bowls (Fig. 5). The potsherds from the Middle Bronze Age are apparently indicative of a tiny settlement, and the finds from the Middle Ages should probably be associated with the movement of people and merchandise on the bridge.
Sites 14, 15. Concentrations of flint artifacts were discerned on the left bank of the saltwater carrier’s channel (central map ref. Site 14—25351/73459, central map ref. Site 15—25331/73426). Most of the flint tools are worn and covered with a double patina; however, it is impossible to determine if they were swept there by the Jordan River or if they were in situ and the water flowing in the ancient river course eroded them. The finds should be dated to the Middle Paleolithic period, as several Levallois cores had been found. An excavation (Permit No. A-5094) was conducted at the sites.
Site 16. Bitanyya—a gentle hill on the western bank of the Jordan River (central map ref. of the site—25330/73440). Flint tools, a fragment of a Neolithic pottery vessel and bone fragments were discovered on the surface. The site is located c. 600 m northeast of the large Neolithic site at Tel ‘Eli. Its center is probably on the hilltop, beneath the Bitanyya police station from the time of the British Mandate. Information in the IAA archive regarding discoveries at the site includes foundations of buildings and flint implements dating to the Neolithic period. The finds confirm the existence of Neolithic remains at Bitanyya. The discovered flint tools at the site were blades, including blades that have a purple-pink color, which may have been intentionally baked. A fragment of an elongated axe is noteworthy among the tools recovered from this site. It is reasonable to assume that the site was inhabited on several occasions during the Neolithic period.
No ancient finds were discovered on the Jordan River bank east of the site and no archaeological remains were noted in the probe trenches west of the site (T31–T40). It can therefore be stated that the size of the site is smaller than 50 dunams; based on the location of the flint tools its size is estimated to be c. 30 dunams.
About half of the surveyed sites are located within the precincts of previously known archaeological sites (1–3, 7, 12 13, 16) and the other half were discovered for the first time in the current survey (4–6, 8–11, 14, 15). It is known from previous studies that at least six other sites exist within the limits of the survey whose remains were not located, either because they were totally destroyed or they are covered over today and no longer discernable. Most of the sites discovered in the survey are very small and include a few artifacts that did not justify further archaeological study; however, in several of the sites, for example Site No 8, it was ascertained that extremely valuable remains are buried there.
The survey finds testify to characteristics of settlement from Early Bronze Age IB and the Early Islamic period in the region. During Early Bronze Age IB, when a large fortified city was founded at Bet Yerah, an extensive system of settlements developed southwest of the Sea of Galilee, among them a large settlement south of Hammat Tiberias (Sites 2, 3), as well as two other smaller settlements (Sites 9, 11). There is no evidence of settlements from the Early Islamic period within the surveyed area, apart from Hammat Tiberias, which in this period reached its greatest size and was a southern neighborhood of Tiberias, and Tel Bet Yerah, which was not in the surveyed area, yet it is known to have had a royal palace and possibly a small settlement as well. The southern boundary of Hammat Tiberias was defined in the survey, and no evidence of fortifications was found along this border. From the settlement stand point in these two periods it became clear that no direct connection existed between fortification and assembly; there is a period when the cities are fortified and are surrounded by numerous rural settlements and at another period, the cities are open and most of the population is concentrated within them.