In November 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted at a prehistoric site adjacent near the Israeli–Egyptian border, south of Ketef Nizzana(Permit No. A-6342; map ref. 142780–850/530345–95; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of the border fence. The excavation, conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by J. Vardi (lithics photography) and E. Aladjem (field photography), with the assistance of N. Shaul (assistant supervisor), Y. El-‘Amorr (administration), S. Gal (GPS) and M. Smilansky (lithics drawing).
The site was documented in a survey undertaken prior to the construction of the border fence; much of the site extends beyond the border. Two excavation areas (A—112 sq m; B—184 sq m; Figs. 2, 3) were opened on two spurs descending gently from east to west, toward the border, and separated by a streambed and a low hill. Flint items scattered in densities of 20–30 items per sq m, were documented over and area of hundreds of square meters on the surface of the two spurs. The flint items were scattered on a layer of sand; some were slightly covered with dune sand. Most of these flint finds belong to the Mousterian culture (Middle Paleolithic period), while some are from later periods, including the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.
Both excavation areas were opened with squares (2 × 2 m) arranged in a grid. Each square was divided into four squares of equal size, so that collection of artifacts was conducted in units of 1 sq m. All of the material from the excavation was sieved through a 5-mm sift. Since the flint items were concentrated in both areas on the surface (Fig. 4), they were first gathered from the surface, and only then were the areas excavated to a depth of 10 cm. A probe was excavated along the edge of Area B; it became apparent that the layer of sand upon which the finds were scattered covered limestone (Fig. 5).
A preliminary typological analysis of the finds conducted in the field ascertained that many of the scattered flint items included natural flint chunks (nodules). These nodules were probably mined intentionally for knapping, but only several of them were selected while the rest were left in the field. Most of the nodules are amorphous, but some are elliptical and characteristic of the Har Keren formation. The flint items also include enormous cores (length 0.3–0.4 m) from which several flakes were removed, flint cores of various sizes, and debitage and tools that were discarded after knapping. Many of the items date to the Middle Paleolithic period (the Mousterian culture). These comprise Levallois cores (Fig. 6:1–5) and tools made on Levallois flakes (Figs. 7; 8:1, 2). Other finds include unidirectional blade cores (Fig. 9:1), characteristic of sites dating from the Upper Paleolithic to the Chalcolithic periods; bipolar blade cores (Figs. 9:2; 10), typical of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; bifacial tools, including a large, coarse specimen (Fig. 11); and an adze whose cutting edge was knapped through lateral flaking (tranchet; Fig. 12:1). Similar bifacial tools are known from PPNA sites. However, similar adzes are known from Chalcolithic assemblages in the Negev, and it is likely that the adze dates to this period (fifth millennium BCE). Some tools in the assemblage date from the end of the Neolithic period to the Early Bronze Age, among them a scraper knapped on tabular flint (Fig. 12:2) and a massive scraper made of tabular flint (Fig. 13), characterized by one side covered with a flat-chalk cortex. Both tabular scrapers were fashioned by means of scale-like retouch that created a sharp cutting edge.
An interesting core in preliminary stages of knapping, ascribed to the Mousterian culture, was discovered in Area B; three of its flakes could be restored (Figs. 14, 15). The restoration proves beyond any doubt that the flint scattered at the site had not been swept there; rather it was a product of indigenous knapping. Similar quarrying and knapping sites were documented in the region of Har Keren (Goring-Morris and Rosen 1987
) and at Giv‘at Barne‘a, south of Ketef Nizzana (Permit No. A-6385, Site 174–175).
Most of the items and tools discovered in the excavation date to the Mousterian culture; others range in date from the Upper Paleolithic period to the Early Bronze Age. They were fashioned in the vicinity of the site and were knapped from flint chunks mined in quality Eocene flint outcrops located near the site. All of the flint items and tools in the assemblage are fairly massive; there is no evidence of smaller items, such as arrowheads or microliths. These smaller items might have eroded away. Alternatively, perhaps only large items and tools were produced at the site.
Goring-Morris A.N. 1987. At the Edge: Terminal Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherers in the Negev and Sinai
(BAR Int. S. 361). Oxford.
Goring-Morris A.N. and Rosen S.A. 1987. Late Cenozoic Geology in the Site Area, Attachment A: Prehistoric Archaeology (Nuclear Power—Shivta Site: Preliminary Safety Reports, Appendix 2.5E). Haifa.
Rosen S.A. 2004. The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Nessana Region. In D. Urman ed. Nessana: Excavations and Studies I (Beer-Sheva 17). Be’er Sheva‘. Pp. 119*–157*.