During March 2006 a salvage excavation was conducted at Gan Soreq (Southwest and South; Permit No. A-4749*; map ref. NIG 17743/65126; OIG 12743/15126), prior to the installation of a sewage line. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the A.R. Yitzhaki Company, Ltd., was directed by U. ‘Ad, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), O. Ackerman (geomorphology), O. Segal and E. Yannai (pottery reading), and M. Shuiskaya (drawing).
The excavation area was located on the lowest part of the northern fringes of a hill. In the center of this hill a large site dating to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages was surveyed, as was a site along its eastern edge that dated to the Persian and Hellenistic periods. A farmstead that dated to the Hellenistic period, c. 0.5 km to the east, was recently excavated (HA-ESI 118
) and 0.8 km to the west-southwest a village that was occupied from the end of the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period was excavated (Permit No. A-4248).
Two squares were opened at a distance of 30 m from each other (Fig. 1). A habitation level and mud bricks from Middle Bronze IIA were discovered in the western square, while the eastern one revealed a fill with kurkar stones from the same period.
A clayey layer was exposed in the western square. It was overlaid with a habitation level (Loci 2003, 2005; Figs. 2, 3) that contained pottery vessels, remains of sun-dried mud bricks, flint and basalt stones. Pits dug into the clayey layer, possibly associated with the production of mud bricks, were identified in several places. The foundation of a mud-brick wall of the same material was documented on the hilltop, to the south. Above the habitation level was an accumulation (0.3–0.5 m) that comprised layers of sand and hamra with variable amounts of clay, a few potsherds and lumps of charcoal (L2002; Fig. 4). This was superimposed with a homogeneous fill (1.0–1.5 m) of dark hamra mixed with chunks of charcoal and several potsherds (L2000). Above the fill was a layer of sand (thickness 7–10 m) that had been removed prior to the excavation.
The kurkar bedrock was exposed in several places in the eastern square (Fig. 5). A concentration of kurkar stones (L2004; 0.25 × 0 .30 m, thickness 0.12–0.15 m; Fig. 6) was discovered in the northeastern corner. Although it is unclear whether they were hewn in situ or brought there, they are indicative of some activity that was conducted in this place. Reddish hamra (L2001; thickness 0.8 m; Fig. 7), devoid of any finds, was exposed above the kurkar. Above it was an accumulation (0.3 m) of sand and hamra layers with variable quantities of clay; this was overlain with a homogeneous layer (0.6 m) of dark hamra mixed with chunks of charcoal and a few potsherds (similar to the fill in the western square; L2000). It seems that the sand and hamra accumulation occurred after the site was abandoned and parts of it were washed away by rain. The homogeneous fill was apparently created by torrential rain and/or an earthquake. As a result of this, walls and parts of the buildings were swept from the hilltop and piled up (thickness 1.5 m) at the bottom of the slope, while in the settlement’s buildings at the top of the hill only the foundations remained. A similar fill was revealed along the southern fringes of the village (A-4248). The discovery of the farmhouse and the village to the east suggests that after the Roman period the region was abandoned and subsequently covered with sand dunes.
A meager assemblage of pottery vessels that mostly derived from the habitation levels (Loci 2003, 2005) was dated to MB IIA and included a large bowl rim (Fig. 8:1), a disc base of a red-slipped platter with radial burnishing (Fig. 8:2), storage jars with everted rims (Fig. 8:3, 4), a jar rim with an inner gutter (Fig. 8:5) and a flat storage jar base (Fig. 8:6).
The findings from the excavation and the survey on the hill to the south show that a large site from MB IIA was situated on the hill and the excavation area was along the northern edge of the hill. The area of the site is estimated to be c. 30 dunams, including the cemetery in its western part, some of which was damaged by development work. The exposed thick clayey layer is indicative of massive construction that utilized sun-dried mud bricks. This site joins similar contemporary sites that were excavated at Yavne-Yam, Ashdod, the cemetery at Bat Yam and along the Nahal Soreq channel. The large MB II cemetery, c. 2 km to the north (Rishon Le-Ziyyon West), where more than 200 burials were exposed, should be mentioned in this context (ESI 13:75–59).