In January 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted east of Kafr Qasim (Permit No. A-7009; map ref. 198381–857/667501–800) in an area slated for the construction of an interchange on both sides of Highway 5. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Netivei Israel Company, was directed by A.S. Tendler, with the assistance of D. Shahar (area supervision), E. Bachar and Y. Amrani (administration), A. Peretz (field photography), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), P. Spivak (prehistory survey), C. Ben-Ari (GPS) and A. Glick (ordnance remains). The excavation was preceded by an archaeological survey (I. Kornfeld) that identified the locations which were eventually excavated.
Several ancient sites are located near the excavation area, on the western fringes of Samaria, near the confluence of Nahal Rabah and Nahal Susi (Fig. 1). Settlement remains from the Byzantine period were surveyed at Horbat Dayyar (Khirbat ed-Duweir), c. 500 m to the south (Kochavi and Beit-Arieh 1991: Site 75). Slightly to the west, at ‘Izbet Sartah, Iron Age settlement remains that have been identified with biblical Eben-ezer were exposed (Finkelstein 1986). In 2000, Qesem Cave, which is karstic, was exposed near the excavation area during the construction of the Cross-Samaria Highway (Highway 5). Artifacts found in it are ascribed to the Acheulo-Yabrudian complex of the Lower Paleolithic period (400,000–200,000 YBP; Gopher et al. 2005:86–89).
Two excavation areas were opened: Area A, located north of Highway 5, and Area B to its south. A field wall and an elliptical installation were documented in Area A and a cistern was examined in Area B.
In the northern part of Area A, a field wall (W1; Figs. 2, 3) was documented. It was built of a bottom course of large fieldstones that carried additional courses of small and medium-sized fieldstones. The wall runs along an east–west axis and extends the entire length of the hill. It apparently demarcated the southern boundary of a cultivation plot. Agricultural terraces and olive groves were visible to the north of the wall. A natural hollow in bedrock (L100) was exposed south of the wall. The steep slope farther to the south, beyond the wall, was covered with large rocks that had eroded downhill.
At the northwestern end of the area, an installation (L104; Figs. 4, 5) was documented: an elliptical basin (depth 0.65 m) whose floor sloped northward, toward a round depression (depth 0.35 m). Somewhat similar installations were identified as winepresses (Arbel 2009
). However, no plaster remains or chisel marks were noted, nor were any archeological finds discovered in its immediate vicinity; therefore, the depression might be natural.
A rock-hewn, bell-shaped pit (L122; depth 3 m) that was apparently used as a cistern was excavated in Area B, slightly south of Highway 5. The pit was probably used by the residents of nearby Horbat Dayyar. On the surface and inside the pit were several pottery sherds dating to the Byzantine period, which was the main period of activity at Horbat Dayyar. Parts of military artifacts (Glick, below) were found in the pit. It seems that the shells were intentionally detonated inside the pit and caused a fire. Numerous lumps of coal and charred stones were discovered in the accumulation that was excavated in the pit.
Large shards of artillery shells were discovered in the bell-shaped pit in Area B (L122). The shards were rusted and without any remains of their original paint or their tactical markings. Judging by their shape, it was possible to determine that they belonged to high explosive shells (HE) of a British 18 pound artillery piece (Alford 1917:251–311). A shrapnel shell disk was also found, although no shrapnel pellets were discovered. A mechanical time fuse found near the shards belonged to one of these shells.
The artillery piece, officially designated an Ordnance QF 18 Pounder, entered service in the Imperial British armies in 1904, and within a short period became their principal field artillery piece. Shrapnel shells were used from the beginning of the cannon’s service in 1904. The high explosive shell was first introduced in 1914 (Clark 2004:33–35). In the 1930s, the armed forces began the process of replacing the 18 pounder with the 25 pounder. Eighteen pound cannons were gradually taken out of service, but with the start of World War II, some of the units still used these guns. Most of the old artillery pieces that were still in use were adapted to 25 pound ammunition in a process that began before World War II.
The condition of the shards suggests that the shells were deliberately discarded in the cistern and were probably detonated there by lighting a fire.
The remains that were found at the site are indicative of ancient agricultural activity. The salvage excavations conducted in conjunction with the rapid development of the area have contributed greatly to our knowledge of the archaeology of this region.
Alford L. 1917. Manufacture of Artillery Ammunition
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Arbel Y. 2009. Rishon Le-Z
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Clark D. 2004. British Artillery 1914–1919: Field Army Artillery. Oxford.
Finkelstein I. 1986. Izbet Sartah: An Early Iron Age Site near Rosh Haayin, Israel (BAR Int. S. 299). Oxford.
Kochavi M and Beit-Arieh I. 1991. Map of Rosh Ha-‘Ayin (78) (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.