Area A yielded a complex consisting of an enclosing wall and three buildings, preserved to a maximum height of 2 m. One building was uncovered on a hilltop, and the other two lay on its northern and western slopes. Most of the walls in the complex were built of two rows of large, partially dressed stones, with a central fill of small and medium-sized limestone stones. In several places, especially near rock protrusions, the walls reached a thickness of several meters, apparently from the piling of numerous stones that were cleared from the hill slopes, when preparing them for farming.
The building unearthed at the top of the hill consisted of two rooms (Fig. 1), on the northeast (4 × 7 m) and on the southwest (3 × 4 m); two excavation squares were opened within them. The northeastern room is elliptical, and its walls were preserved to a height of three to four courses. A section dug on the west side of the room exposed a layer of brown soil overlying the bedrock. It yielded a single piece of Rashaya el-Fukhar pottery and a worked pebble. The southwestern room was small and elliptical, and poorly constructed. It was built on the bedrock near a rock protrusion, on a higher level than the eastern room. While excavating its interior fill, a layer of dark soil was found covering the bedrock. A few fragments of decorated Rashaya el-Fukhar ware were recovered from the soil layer beneath the stone collapse inside the room and from a collapse of stones on the rock outside the room. This pottery was manufactured in Lebanon and dates from the early twentieth century CE. Several rifle casings, bearing a headstamp with the year 1941, were also discovered while excavating this room.
The building uncovered on the northern slope of the hill consisted of two adjacent rooms built against the outer face of the enclosure wall; a single square was excavated. The two rooms were connected via an opening, and only the northern room had an external entrance. The building’s walls (width c. 2.5 m) were founded on bedrock and poorly constructed; they were preserved to a height of five to six courses. The excavation inside the northern room uncovered soil that accumulated on the bedrock over the decades.
The building unearthed on the western slope of the hill consisted of a rounded wall (Fig. 2) that abutted a rock protrusion from the west. A heap (height c. 2 m) of small calcareous stones was piled up over the western part of the wall, near the rock. An excavation square dug across the heap revealed that it was placed over dark brown soil. The wall was poorly built of large fieldstones with no bonding material and with large gaps between the stones. The heap was evidently the result of stone clearing, and that the wall was built to enclose it. The only finds were several rifle casings bearing a headstamp with the year 1941.
The complex may have been used as a sheep pen, as such installations usually consist of either one or more large, usually elliptical, rooms. Similar structures were documented in the survey; some had internal partition walls with openings between the rooms, which may have served to separate groups of sheep.
A hewn opening, possibly a water cistern (diam. at opening 1.5 m, depth at least 1 m), was discovered at the top of the eastern slope of the hill. A water cistern with a concrete lid was discerned near a streambed to the south of the hill, and a rock-hewn installation was found nearby.
Area B. To the north of Area A, in a rocky area on a lower hill, was an olive grove (c. 7 dunams) enclosed by stone walls. Within the enclosure were 15 stone heaps, both large (diam. 6 m, height 2 m) and small (diam. 3 m, height 2 m). It seems that the heaps, or at least some of them, are stone-clearance heaps. Two of the heaps were excavated. The eastern one was large (Fig. 3) and consisted of a wall surrounding a pile of fieldstones. Beneath the stone heap were internal partition walls, not as well-built as the outer wall, that probably allowed for piling the stones evermore higher. The inner core of the heap comprised of large boulders that rested on a layer of dark agricultural soil. Two sections excavated outside the stone heap, to its southeast and northwest, exposed the soil down to bedrock. The western heap was small (Fig. 4). It was found to contain an internal partition wall built of fieldstones and flanked on either side by piles of fieldstones. The partition wall ran perpendicular to a rock protrusion. A layer of dark soil was discovered beneath the heap. An iron knife characteristic of the metalware industry that flourished at the nearby village of Tarshiha in the twentieth century CE was discovered while excavating the heap. Two non-diagnostic flint flakes, a few worn potsherds from the Byzantine period and fragments of early twentieth century CE Rashaya el-Fukhar ware were discovered in the two stone heaps excavated in the area.
Area C. On a saddle southeast of Area B, three rock-hewn shafts were identified prior to the excavation; at least one of them was used until recently as a water cistern. A survey conducted in the area during the excavation documented another nine rock-hewn shafts (max. depth 2 m), some of which were completely blocked. The shafts are irregularly shaped. Small hewn openings found in the walls of several of the shafts led to subterranean chambers that were used for burial. Several of the shafts were hewn wither into or near pyramid-shaped rock protrusions, which may have served as gravestones; at least two of these protrusions were smoothed using a chisel. Based on the form of the shafts and the quarrying marks on their walls, they were probably quarried in an era predating the use of iron tools.
Two excavation squares were opened on a rocky outcrop containing five hewn shafts (1–5; Fig. 5); four of the shafts were excavated. Shaft 1 is cone-shaped and was filled with small stones and one large stone quarried out of hard limestone rock. A rectangular channel was cut in the rim of the shaft’s opening. Shaft 2, adjacent to Shaft 1, with rounded corners and two small steps were hewn in its corners to facilitate access to and from the shaft. An opening hewn at the bottom of the shaft led to a small burial chamber with a hewn niche beside it. Shaft 3 was quarried beside a bedrock protrusion. Two small steps were hewn in its corners to facilitate access to and from the shaft, and two small niches were cut in its lower part. Shaft 4 was hewn into a bedrock protrusion. An opening cut in the lower part of the shaft leads to an irregularly shaped burial chamber that has rounded corners. In the center of the chamber, near the opening, a shallow hewn socket probably served as a shelf along the walls. The highest point of the rock is located above the entrance to the burial chamber. A large limestone block discovered on the surface near the shaft may have been used to block the opening leading to the burial chamber. Shaft 5 is rounded; it was not excavated.
On the rocky outcrop near the shafts and between them are shallow depressions; some are natural, but others were apparently smoothed using a chisel. North of Shaft 1 were two irregular depressions in the outcrop; a circular rock-cutting between them may have been the start of another rock-hewn shaft. North–south plow marks found on this outcrop were probably caused by a modern plow. The soil deposited on the rock outcrop in the two squares yielded several small potsherds, only a few of which are diagnostic, dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods and from the present day. The soil deposits from the shafts were sieved, but no finds were recovered. Of the potsherds found in the burial chamber leading out of Shaft 2 date, a few are from the Roman period, while others have not yet been identified. Also found in the burial chamber were animal bones, probably belonging to cattle. The finds may indicate secondary use of some shaft tombs.
Area D. The remains of a stone structure (Fig. 6) were discovered West of Areas A and B, near the ‘En Ya‘aqov–Ma‘alot road. The structure was built along the outer face of a field wall that extends over c. 100 m. Its outer walls (width 3 m, preserved height c. 1.5 m) were founded on bedrock and built of two rows of large limestone fieldstones, some roughly dressed, that encased a fill of small and medium-sized fieldstones. Two north–south geological fissures are visible to the east and west of the structure. The stone structure may have served as a base for a temporary structure made of perishable materials. Few potsherds were recovered from the excavation; they seem to date from the Roman or Byzantine period and may provide a date for the structure.
Area E. Two parallel field walls, demarcating a rural road (total width c. 11 m; Fig. 7) running southwest–northeast, were documented on the slope between Area B and Area C. The walls along the road extend beyond the excavation area and at some point veer westward toward Ma‘alot–Tarshiha. Four excavation squares were opened along the road. The two walls (each c. 1.5 m wide) are somewhat crooked and poorly constructed. They were built of fieldstones cleared from the path of the road, in accordance with the topographic conditions. The rocky terrain and its rock protrusions is visible on both sides of the road. A layer of soil covered the bedrock along the course of the road; no bedding layer nor paving were discovered. It thus seems that the road’s surface lied originally at a higher level and had washed away over time. The finds from this area include flint flakes, several worn potsherds, probably from the Byzantine period, and fragments of early twentieth century CE Rashaya el-Fukhar ware. The road connected the village of Tarshiha with its farmlands, but its direction and substantial width suggest that it was once part of a regional road system that linked more distant communities.
The excavation uncovered shaft tombs that probably date from the Bronze Age, a rural road and evidence of agricultural activity consisting mainly of extensive stone clearance and the construction of field walls, field-demarcation stone fences and a sheep pen dated to the Ottoman period. The shaft tombs extend across an area of at least 10 dunams. Their main distinguishing feature is that they were quarried into bedrock protrusions that were partly smoothed through chiseling and were probably used as gravestones; this feature is completely absent from all other tombs, even those from the Bronze Age, in the Western Galilee. Another singular aspect of these tombs is the existence of niches hewn in the lower part of the shafts; they may have been used for grave goods or for secondary burial. The few potsherds dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods found in the excavation may date the beginning of agricultural activity in the vicinity. The road led from the settlement to the agricultural fields and ran between them. It may have been the continuation of a road documented near H
orbat ‘Inbal, west of Yeh
i‘am, which has similar characteristics (Frankel and Getzov 1997
:42; Frankel et al. 2001
:113–114). Based on this assumption, the road uncovered in the excavation was part of an important regional road that served local residents over long periods of time.