During June 2009, a salvage excavation was conducted near Mas‘ada in the northern Golan Heights (Permit No. A-5675; map ref. 271435/792160), prior to the installation of an electric pole. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Electric Company, was directed by O. Zingboym, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Mishayev (surveying), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), Y. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and M. Hartal (guidance).
The excavation was carried out on a gentle basalt slope that descends from west to east, within the precincts of the Khirbat Namra antiquities site south of Birqat Ram, at an elevation of 1,020 m above sea level. Khirbat Namra was twice surveyed (HA 57-58:3; M. Hartal 1989, The Northern Golan: The Archaeological Survey as a Source for History of the Region, Qazrin, p. 37 [Hebrew]); it was found that the first settlement was established in the Hellenistic period, although the main finds are dated to the Late Roman period. Remains of buildings and a large quantity of ceramic finds that dated to the end of the third–beginning of the fourth centuries CE were discovered in an excavation at the site in 1974 (HA 56:4–5; M. Hartal 2006, Land of the Ituraeans, Qatzrin, pp. 61–81 [Hebrew]).
The site is situated within the area settled by the Ituraeans, which extended across the northern Golan Heights, the Hermon and the Beqa‘a Valley. The Ituraeans established a monarchy c. 85 BCE; following the death of their ruler Lasianis (c. 35 BCE), the kingdom split into four units. The southern unit included the northern Golan Heights and the Hermon. Following the death of Agrippa II (100 CE), the region was annexed to the Syrian province and afterward (195 CE), to the Phoenician province.
One square was excavated and a single stratum that dated to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE; Fig. 1) was discovered. A wide wall (W1; width 1.6 m; Fig. 2), oriented northeast-southwest, was revealed in the southern half of the square. The upper course of W1 was built of large basalt fieldstones and its foundation course consisted of medium-sized fieldstones and was wider than the course above it. A floor (elevation 1011.86 m above sea level) of tamped earth and many potsherds was discovered northwest of the wall. Although no connection was discerned between the floor and the wall, it is evident that they were built together. A similar floor that also did not abut the wall was discovered next to the eastern side of W1 (elevation 1011.82 m above sea level); in all likelihood, it was used together with the floor located northwest of the wall (Fig. 1: Section 1-1).
Another wall (W2, width 0.6 m), built of fieldstones and roughly hewn stones, was found in the northeastern corner of the square; only its foundation course had survived. The connection between Walls 1 and 2 is unclear, yet their alignment indicates that they were probably not incorporated in the same building. A floor similar to the one in L102 was evident east of the wall; however, it was situated upon the foundation of W2 and therefore, postdated it.
Many potsherds that dated to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE) were recovered from the excavation area, on the floors and near W1. These included fragments of bowls (Fig. 3:1, 2), kraters (Fig. 3:4–7), cooking pots (Fig. 3:8–14), jars (Fig. 3:15–19), juglets (Fig. 3:20–23) and fragments of roof tiles (Fig. 4:18, 19). Based on the quality of the pottery and the types of vessels, it seems that most of them were produced in the pottery workshop at Banias, with the exception of the cooking bowls, which were manufactured in the workshop at Horbat Hawarit, near Mas‘ada. Another remarkable feature among the finds is the Golan-type pithoi—large storage vessels, common to the northern Golan Heights from the Hellenistic until the Byzantine periods, which are ascribed to the Ituraean settlements (Fig. 4:1–17). The Golan pithoi are handmade of coarse clay and only their rims were thrown on a wheel. The single ceramic find that predated the Late Roman period is a bowl from the Hellenistic period (Fig. 3:3).
Apart from the potsherds in the excavation, other artifacts included fragments of glass vessels from the third–fourth centuries CE, a small grindstone for crushing wheat, a follis of Constantine I from 316 CE that was struck in the mint of Rome (IAA 135838) and several metal parts, possibly the remains of nails.
Part of a building dating to the Late Roman period was exposed in the excavation. Inside the structure was an extremely large quantity of Ituraean pottery that is distinguished by local production, sometimes crude. The finds are similar to those uncovered in the 1974 excavation (HA 56:4–5 [Hebrew]), which was probably located in proximity to the current excavation.
The inhabitants of the site in the Late Roman period were most likely Ituraeans who lived in this period in the northern Golan Heights, Lebanon and the Beqa’a Valley. Based on an inspection of the ruin and the survey finds it is evident that the settlement extended across a large area. It was first occupied in the Hellenistic period and the main part of the settlement is dated from the mid-third to the mid-fourth centuries CE.