During February 2012, a trial excavation was conducted at Tel Yehud, in the center of the town (Permit No. A-6412; map ref. 189497–603/659633–759; Fig. 1), after ancient remains were discovered in probe trenches prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Lugano Yehud Project, was directed by Y. Arbel, with the assistance of Y. Elisha (area supervision), E. Bachar and Y. Amrani (administration), R. Mishayev and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), M. Shuiskaya (find drawing), C. Amit (studio photography), N. Agha (archaeozoology) and S. Yehielov, H. Torge, A. de Vincenz, E. Yannai and Y. Gorin-Rosen.
Several excavations had previously been conducted nearby, in which remains dating from the Chalcolithic to the Ottoman periods were discovered, including architectural remains, installations and tombs (HA-ESI 124
, HA-ESI 123
, HA-ESI 123
, HA-ESI 120
, HA-ESI 118
, HA-ESI 116
). Remains of small frontier settlements have hitherto been discovered in Yehud and nearby Or Yehuda, where villages or farms exploited the region’s fertile soil and favorable climate.
Two excavation areas (A, B; Fig. 2) were opened, comprising seven in Area A (A1–A7) and three in Area B (B1–B3). Due to various restrictions, the excavation was mainly carried out in Squares A1–A5, B2 and B3, while the rest of the squares were only opened and documented. Remains of three buildings from the seventh century CE and tombs from Middle Bronze Age II were exposed.
Square A1 (Figs. 3, 4). Sections of two walls (W114, W116) that probably delimited a room or courtyard on the west and south were exposed. The walls were built of medium and large limestone and nari, several of which bear signs of partial stone dressing. The walls were preserved a single course high. Fragments of an in-situ threshold were discovered in W114. Stone surfaces were exposed slightly east and west of W114, which may be the collapse of the upper courses of the wall or part of a coarse pavement that was partially preserved; similar remains were discovered in the northeastern corner of the square. Tamped earth floors (L111, L117), partly covered by an ash layer, were revealed in the area between the two walls, as well as south of W116. A complete bowl and jar fragments were discovered on Floor 117 (Fig. 5). The ceramic finds in the excavation mostly date to the seventh century CE. It was not possible to determine if the building was abandoned or destroyed during a single event.
A small concentration of human bones, probably remains of a disturbed burial, was exposed in the foundation layer beneath the remains of the building.
Square A2 (Figs. 6, 7). Remains of the northern wall of a large, massively constructed building were exposed (W105; exposed length 5.3 m). The bottom course of the wall was built of medium-sized fieldstones, and the course above it consisted of partially dressed medium-sized stones. A wall stump (W106) was exposed in the south of the square. It was perpendicular to W105 and built of small stones reinforced with mortar; it appeared to be an interior wall in the building. A tamped earth floor (L103) was exposed south of W105; it was overlain with a dense scatter of jar fragments dating to the seventh century CE (Fig. 8), similar to Square A1. The elevation of Floor 103 was similar to that of the bottom upper course of W105. Remains of another wall (W118) were exposed c. 0.5 m north of W105; it was built of medium-sized fieldstones, parallel to W105 and was c. 0.12 m lower than the bottom course of W105. The construction of W118 was similar to that of the bottom part of W105. The ceramic finds in the wall’s stratum and below it are identical to those discovered on Floor 103. It seems that the builders of W105 were aware of W118; yet the two walls were not used in the same building and probably not at the same time. Wall 118 might have been part of a building from an early phase in the same period, most of whose stones were dismantled and were reused in the construction of the adjacent building.
Square A3 (Figs. 9, 10). Part of a building with several rooms was discovered; it was built of densely packed fieldstones bonded in mortar and was preserved a single course high. The main wall in the building (W107; exposed length c. 5 m) was aligned north–south. Another wall (W115; exposed length c. 2.5 m) abutted the northern part of W107 and together they formed a corner of the building. A large limestone threshold, badly cracked, was incorporated in W115. Another wall (W122; exposed length 1.8 m) abutted the middle of W107 from the east. A line of scant building remains, possibly the western continuation of W122, was discovered west of W107. To the north of W115, a large cluster of stones, which might have been remains of a pavement or part of the wall’s collapse, was discovered. Based on the plan of the building, it seems there were two rooms situated east of W107, while the area to the west of W107 was an open courtyard (L103). Unlike the multitude of pottery that was discovered in Squares A1 and A2, only a scant amount of potsherds dating to the seventh century CE was found in the excavation of this square.
Square A4. A short section of a wall (W110) was exposed c. 8 m south of W105 in Sq A2 (see Fig. 6); it was oriented north–south, and its construction resembles that of W105. Given the alignment and construction of the wall, it seems that this was the western wall of the massive building that was discovered in Sq A2, and that its continuation abutted W105
Square A5. A poorly preserved human burial was discovered at a depth of 0.7 m below the surface (Fig. 11). It seems that the deceased was placed in a trench dug in the ground. A broken pottery vessel dating to Middle Bronze Age II was discovered alongside the bones. The bones and the vessel were left in the field and covered with soil.
Pottery from the Late Byzantine period was discovered at a depth of up to 0.6 m below the surface in the three squares opened in this area; the vast majority of the vessels were jars. The grave of a man was exposed at a depth of 1.5 m below the surface in Sq B3. The deceased was placed in a partial fetal position with his head to the north and feet to the south. It seems that the burial was carried out in an excavated trench. A well-preserved bronze dagger was discovered alongside the skeleton, near one of its hands (Fig. 12). The blade of the dagger was preserved in its entirety (length 0.19 m; Fig. 13:1), including the rivets that connected it to the haft, and the pommel that probably held the end of the haft (Fig. 13:2). The haft, which was probably made of wood, did not survive.
The pottery finds from the excavation are fairly diverse and date to MB II and the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The pottery from MB II mainly consists of daily ware including bowls (Fig. 14:1–3), kraters (Fig. 14:4), cooking pots (Fig. 14:5, 6) and jars (Fig. 14:7). A fragment of a clay weight ascribed to this period was also discovered (Fig. 14:8). A scant amount of finds from the Roman and Byzantine periods was discovered, including a bowl from the Late Roman period (Fig. 14: 9), a mortarium dating to the fourth or fifth century CE from Northern Syria (Fig. 14:10), a baggy-shaped jar from the fifth century CE (Fig. 14:11) and an imported amphora from the Byzantine period (Fig. 14:12). Most of the ceramic artifacts in the excavation date to the transition between the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (late sixth–seventh centuries CE) and include plain locally produced bowls (Fig. 14:13), a variety of imported slipped bowls (Fig. 14:14–17) that are indicative of an affluent population that also resided in the settlement, bowls decorated with wavy combing (Fig. 14:18), cooking pots (Fig. 14:19), jars (Fig. 14:20–23), jar lids (Fig. 14:24) and jugs (Fig. 14:25). The finds ascribed to the late periods are meager and include jars from the Mamluk (Fig. 14:26) and Ottoman (Fig. 14:27) periods.
Nine animal bones were discovered in the excavation. Two of the bones belong to sheep/goat and were found in the MB II burial complex. The seven other are bovine bones that were found in the accumulation above Floor 103 which dates to the seventh century CE. All the bones bear signs that are produced in the ground, as a result of contact with roots that secrete acids or with fungi and bacteria that are nourished by the bones. These signs—thin deep grooves that have a U-shaped cross-section—are particularly prominent on the bovine bones from the seventh century CE and they were produced as a result of the stratum’s proximity to the surface. Five of the bones from the assemblage are noteworthy, as they bear butchering marks. Marks characteristic of the animal’s butchering stages were discovered on the humerus of the sheep/goat and on the foreleg of a bovine, where there was an especially deep mark. The cutting marks typical of the meat removal stages were identified on three bovine bones—two radii and a forefoot. The animal species represented in the bone assemblage at the site are in keeping with the animal bone assemblages known from the two periods under discussion.
The excavation at the site revealed two activity phases in very different periods. During MB II, the site, or part of it, was used for burial. It should be mentioned that other tombs from this period were discovered in Yehud, some of them near the site. In the Late Byzantine period, a settlement was at the site, which appears to have been well-established. The ceramic finds indicate that the settlement continued to exist in the Umayyad period, but was abandoned at some point during that period.