In October 2017, an excavation was conducted at the site of Maqbarat Majdulya (Maqberat Majdulya; License No. G-75/2017; map ref. 272515–25/751958–68; Fig. 1), as part of the Hippos Regional Project, focusing on the study of rural sites and fortifications in the territory of Hippos from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods. The excavation, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, was co-directed by M. Eisenberg (ground and aerial photography, metal detection), M. Osband (pottery) and A. Pažout (documentation, GIS and surveying, photogrammetry).
The site is located under two ancient oak trees on a small rise (Fig. 2), approximately 500 m to the southeast of Khirbat Majdulya, and approximately 1.7 km to the northeast of Moshav Natur (Fig. 1). The site was probably mentioned for the first time by Gottlieb Schumacher under the name “Shajarat el-Ameri” as “a tree with a Moslem tomb” (Schumacher 1888:240). In the Golan Survey it is described as a building located in the center of a modern-day cemetery (Hartal and Ben Ephraim 2012: Site 139). The central structure under the oak trees was identified as an unroofed sheikh’s tomb. Remains of other rectangular buildings—scattered in the cemetery—were seen in the vicinity of this building, and Byzantine pottery sherds were collected.
In the present excavation, three small probes were opened in the central structure: at the southern wall next to the entrance, in the northwestern corner and outside of the northern wall of the structure.
The central structure is a single-room square building (c. 6 × 6 m; Fig. 3). Its walls were dry-built of two faces of roughly hewn basalt blocks (0.25 × 0.25 × 0.30 m up to 0.3 × 0.3 × 0.6 m) laid mostly in headers-and-stretchers or stretchers only. The walls (width 0.8–1.0 m) survive two to four courses high above ground, but during the excavation, up to five courses were uncovered at places. The entrance (width 0.8 m) was located in the center of the southern wall, blocked by a later tomb (W110; Fig. 4). Similar tombs, constructed of two parallel walls and cover slabs—apparently reusing some of the ancient masonry—were built also against the southeastern corner and the northern wall of the structure. A large fragment of a green-glazed bowl dated to the late Mamluk or the early Ottoman period was recovered from W110 during cleaning.
The probe near the entrance (Figs. 3, 4) revealed at least two superimposed stone pavements (F109 and F116) inside the entryway, and probably remains of a plaster floor on the inside of the structure below the level of the upper floor (F109) and above floor F116. The topsoil, as well as the fills between the floors, yielded mainly Ottoman-period pottery and fragments of clay pipes. The excavation was halted due to three tree roots.
The probe (c. 1.0 × 2.5 m) in the northwestern corner was composed of a layer of hard brown earth (a floor?) and disturbed fills that reached bedrock. Locus 118 (Fig. 5), containing small fieldstones, is probably the foundation of the walls. All the loci in this probe contained mixed material, consisting of Ottoman-period pottery, modern glass, metal implements, plastic and two coins: post-1945 Syrian qurush. At the same time, several pottery sherds could be roughly attributed to the Roman or Byzantine periods, and a fragment of a Byzantine, or possibly medieval, lamp was found as well.
Outside of the northern wall lay an unfinished shaft of a column with an integral base (length l.1 m). After the column was moved, a probe (2.0 × 2.2 m) was opened under its location. What initially appeared as a stone floor (F106; Fig. 6), turned out to be two additional tombs, similar to the tombs attached to the southern wall of the structure.
The structure was heavily disturbed by activity in the Bedouin cemetery—apparently in use from the nineteenth century until 1967—and its dating is problematic. The fragments of Roman and Byzantine pottery recovered from the disturbed foundation level may suggest that the structure was erected in antiquity. The first burials—the tombs built against the walls of the structure and distinctly different from the simple Bedouin graves— appeared probably in the late Mamluk or the early Ottoman period. They seem to postdate the main structure, but their contemporaneity cannot be ruled out.
Schumacher G. 1888. The Jaulan. London.