In September 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Tell Sheikh ‘Ali (Permit No. A-6864; map ref. 262140–234/754267–309; Fig. 1), after ancient remains were damaged during earthworks. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Kinneret Drainage Authority, was directed by O. Zingboym, with the assistance of W. Atrash (scientific guidance), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), H. Tahan (drawing of finds), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass) and laborers from Tiberias.
Tell Sheikh ‘Ali is a small mound on the slopes of the Golan Heights facing the Kinneret, located between Nah
al Sefamnun to the south and Nah
al Daliyyot to the north, near Ma‘ale Gamla Junction along Road 92 that runs to the east of the Kinneret. The site was previously surveyed, and ceramics dating to the Middle Bronze Age, Iron Age II, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods were documented (Hartal and Ben-Ephraim 2012
: Site 58). A twentieth-century village was built over the site and covered most of the earlier strata. This is the first excavation carried out at the site (Figs. 2, 3).
The location of the site near the Kinneret and the Batiha Lagoon stimulated construction already in antiquity (e.g., Tel Hadar and Tel Bet Zayda situated nearby). Its proximity to the main Roman ‘Akko–Hauran road hastened the establishment of a settlement in the Roman period. Just east of the site is another site that dates to the Roman period. In the Byzantine period, the site was part of a group of settlements of Jewish nature, such as Batra, Hasniya, Hoha and Zita, but it was not possible to determine with certainty the number and nature of its inhabitants.
Two excavation squares were opened (Fig. 4).
Square A1 (Fig. 5). Three settlement strata were exposed.
Stratum 3 (Iron Age I; twelfth–eleventh centuries BCE). A small wall built of small fieldstones (W1) was exposed. Near the wall was a small section of a tamped-earth floor (F2) with small stones that might have abutted it, and ceramics ranging in date from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron I.
Stratum 2 (Byzantine–Umayyad period; sixth–eighth centuries CE). A floor (F1) built of basalt fieldstones and white mortar was exposed. The floor did not abut any walls.
Stratum 1 (Ottoman period). Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Ottoman period and a partially lined pit grave (T1) were found inside a layer of brown earth. The tomb was not excavated, and its date could not be determined.
Square A2 (2.1 × 2.5 m; Fig. 6).
Two graves were found: a pit grave lined with stones (T2) and a built cist grave, covered with basalt stones (T3). The tombs were not excavated, and therefore could not be dated.
The ceramic artifacts (Fig. 7) are indicative of a settlement that existed over long periods: an open bowl from the Early Bronze Age (Fig. 7:1), a jug from the Middle Bronze Age (Fig. 7:2), a jar from the Middle Bronze Age 2 (Fig. 7:3), a cooking pot from the Middle Bronze Age I (? Fig. 7:4), a carinated bowl from the Middle Bronze Age IIB (Fig. 7:5), a casseroles from the Iron Age I (Fig. 7:6–10), a cooking pot (Fig. 7:11) and a cooking-pot lid (Fig. 7:12) from the Byzantine period, as well as a decorated sherd (Fig. 7:13) and a roof tile (Fig. 7:14) from the Ottoman period. The ceramic finds indicate activity from the Early Bronze Age until the present and supplement our knowledge regarding the settlement at Tell Sheikh ‘Ali throughout antiquity.