During November 2001, a salvage excavation was conducted in ‘Emeq Ha-Arazim northwest of the Mē Neftoah village (Permit No. A-3533*; map ref. NIG 21848–62/63453–62;
OIG 16848–62/13453–62; Fig. 1), in the wake of damage to antiquities caused during the paving of Highway 9. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Avner and A. Eirikh-Rose, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), B. Zissu (field photography), Y. Bukengolts (pottery restoration), I. Lidsky (pottery drawing), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and A. de-Groot (pottery reading and scientific assistance).
The site had been destroyed in the past, probably when the area was prepared for the plantation the pine forests. Its walls were ruined and their stones were pushed aside by heavy machinery prior to the salvage excavation. A cluster of potsherds discovered near the stones induced the salvage excavation.
A level (L4; Fig. 2) that was probably the remains of an earthen floor, overlaid with layers of potsherds from the Persian period, was uncovered. Two plastered pits, which contained fill and potsherds that dated to the same period, were exposed c.16 m southwest of the floor and c. 26 m to its south.
Two squares were excavated where the pottery cluster and the stones occurred. The earthen floor was found only in the northeastern part of the northwestern square. Along the southwestern border of the floor small grains of crumbling charcoal were discerned in the soil amongst the potsherds and below them. The small and sparse amount of charcoal precluded Radiocarbon dating or its botanical identification. The soil with charcoal grains superposed a natural straight bedrock surface that was overlaid with potsherds, similar to those above the floor.
The Western Pit
. A plastered bell-shaped pit (L3; width at bottom 5.2 m, preserved height 4.3 m) was discovered c. 15 m southwest of the excavation squares. It was damaged and only its northern half was partially preserved. The walls of the pit were built of medium-sized, carelessly dressed stones, bound with gray-white plaster (c. 4 cm thick), which was also applied to its bottom.
The Southern Pit
. The remains of another pit (L6; max. preserved height 1.6 m) were discovered c. 26 m southeast of Pit 3. The bottom of Pit 6 was a straight bedrock surface, plastered with a pale yellow chalky material (2 cm thick). Most of the pit was damaged and its walls were preserved only in the east and south. It was impossible to reconstruct its diameter; however, based on the incline of the walls it seems to have been also bell-shaped and built in a similar manner as Pit 3.
The Ceramic Finds.
The pottery assemblages from the pits and the floor are homogenous. The vessels are produced of local marl clay from the Moz
a Formation, which has a pink-orange hue and is mixed with small and medium-sized white temper. The fragments include bowls (Fig. 3:1–6), mortaria (Fig. 3:8, 9), kraters (Fig. 3:7, 10, 11), cooking pots (Fig. 3:12, 13) and jars (Fig. 3:14–17). The assemblage is similar to that from the Holyland site (‘Atiqot
40:7–11, Figs. 6–10; 17–19, Figs. 15, 16) and it dates to the sixth–fifth centuries BCE.
. A YHD
coin dated to the years 270–247 BCE (IAA No. 95639; Fig. 4; ‘Atiqot
41, II:288, Table 3) was found with jar body fragments on Floor 4.
The site should be dated to the sixth–fifth centuries BCE based on the homogenous pottery assemblage. The beginning of the site was apparently in the Persian period and it continued into the beginning of the Hellenistic period, as indicated by the YHD coin.