The Late Iron Age Building Complex
Eastern side (Area F). Occupation levels, floors and walls belonging the late Iron Age building complex that may be termed a ‘courtyard complex’ were encountered in several soundings conducted in the 2007–2013 seasons. It seems that the northern part of the complex was badly damaged when the Roman-period building (see below) was constructed, while the southern part of the complex was better preserved. During the 2008–2013 seasons, the southwestern and southeastern corners were exposed, as well as the southern enclosing wall (width c. 1 m), and in the soundings on the southeastern side of the complex (Hasegawa and Paz 2015), a monumental, stone-paved entrance to a series of casemate rooms was unearthed (Tsukimoto et al. 2011). The aim during the 2014 excavation in this area was to better understand the plan and date of the complex. In order to achieve this goal, two squares (Sq E4b9—3 × 5 m; Sq E4b10—3.5 × 4.0 m) were opened within the southeastern flank of the complex, on the assumed northern continuation of the stone wall uncovered in Sq E5b2 in 2013. The main finds are described below.
It turned out that the eastern enclosing wall of the building complex does not form one continuous line (W979, W982; Fig. 2); W979 protrudes c. 1 m eastward relative to W982’s course, and the two walls do not meet. The gap (width 2.5 m) between them probably served as an entrance to the complex. A cylindrical stone (diam. c. 0.6 m, height c. 0.4 m) with a rounded carved hole at the center of its upper side (diam. c. 0.14 m, depth c. 0.15 m) was found in situ in the middle of the entrance. The function of the stone, which seems to have been in secondary use, is not clear, but its location may suggest that it served as a door socket. South of the entrance, a somewhat perpendicular wall (W195) forms a corner with W979. This entrance was narrowed to 1.8 m when a wall (W992) was attached to the northern face of W195. A thin, east–west element (W993), possibly used for a drainage, was attached to W992. A small room was found to the west of the northern part of W982 (W980, W981, W994); its southern and northern walls abut W982. South of W994 was a paved space (L989), which was probably accessed from the south, via a set of shallow stairs.
The scant pottery finds from the various loci that are related to this building complex provide only a rough date in the late Iron Age (seventh–sixth centuries BCE).
Southern Side (Area H). In 2007, a plastered floor-like element was discerned in the eastern section of Sqs D4e9 and D4e10 (Paz et al. 2010:29). This element was badly disturbed by Roman building activities. As it was assumed that this element was associated with the late Iron Age building complex, two half squares (Sq D4f9—2.5 × 4.0 m; Sq D4f10—3.5 × 4.0 m; Fig. 3) were opened immediately east of Squares D4e9 and D4e10.
Both squares contained a large amount of stone debris. Between the stones was brown, eroded soil mixed with Early Roman-period pottery. A grayish accumulation found right below the debris contained large amounts of Roman pottery and few late Iron Age sherds. As this situation was the same as in Sqs D4e9 and D4e10, it was apparent that Roman building activities badly disturbed all Iron Age remains in these squares. A packed-earth floor (L2007) was discerned underneath the accumulation in the eastern section of Sqs D4f9. It carried the remains of a tabun (L2004; diam. c. 0.8 m), whose lower part was encircled with small–medium stones (length c. 0.3 m).
In Sq D4f10, the accumulation was rich with Early Roman pottery, mainly cooking pots and storage jars. Beneath it was the continuation of the floor-like structure: a stepped, plastered structure (L2005; preserved height c. 0.6 m, preserved width 2.2 m; Fig. 4). The structure abutted a late Iron Age wall (W104; unearthed in 2007) from the south; the structure’s plaster partially covered the southern face of W104 as well. The steps seem to have descended toward the southwest, facing Mount Tabor. Their construction comprises a core of small–medium stones (length c. 0.25 m) mixed with local soil and coated with white plaster (thickness up to 4 cm). Only 0.9 m of the tread of the upper step (height 0.4 m) was excavated; it continues into the eastern balk of the square. The tread of the lower step was 0.5 m, and it was 0.2 m high, and the lowest plaster surface (L134; found in 2007) was preserved to a width of only 1 m. The core of the steps was exposed in a sounding (0.5 × 0.5 m) that cut under the plaster in hope of dating the steps. Several Iron Age sherds and one Late Bronze I jar rim were retrieved.
Three possible interpretations and chronologies have been offered for the stepped structure (L2005). One is that it was constructed during the late Iron Age, as it is clearly related to W104, probably a partition wall within the building complex. During this period, it may have been a ceremonial staircase that led either into an inner space within the complex or out of the structure and into another space located to the west, facing Mount Tabor. In the Early Roman period, the structure was used as a trash pit, into which pottery sherds were thrown by the dwellers of the Jewish village that occupied the northern flank of the higher mound. A second possibility is that the structure was built during the Early Roman period as a ritual bath (Miqveh), and W104 from the late Iron age was reused as its northern wall. This explains the hydraulic plaster coating on the wall’s southern face. This hypothesis has two problems: (a) no Roman pottery was found within the core of the steps, whereas late Iron Age sherds were found within it; (b) the elevation of the uppermost step fits the elevation of late Iron Age floors in the building complex, and is in general similar to that of the late Iron Age monumental stone pavement (F199; Hasegawa and Paz 2015). A third possibility is that the stepped structure was built during the late Iron Age period and was reused as a ritual bath during the Early Roman period.
The Early Roman Building
The Early Roman-period building, excavated in the last two seasons in the northwestern part of the higher mound (Area G; Fig. 5), was preserved in order to both maintain the excavated architecture and enable a future, large-scale excavation of the building. The preservation focused on strengthening the walls, using modern materials and local soil.
The 2014 excavation season at Tel Rekhesh concentrated on areas that were opened in recent seasons. The excavation of the late Iron Age building complex revealed that its overall plan was not perfectly rectangular. It had a protruding corner on its southeastern part, a discontinuous outer wall, at least one entrance on the eastern side, and several of the inner courts were lavishly paved with stones and possibly with plaster as well. This building complex was probably established somewhere in the late seventh century BCE, as confirmed by the pottery found on and within floors and occupation levels. It was modified during the sixth century BCE, and was eventually deserted during the Persian period. Despite these important results, the excavation finds leave us with many questions. The exact plan and overall framework of the complex, as well as the purpose and exact construction date of the plastered structure (L2005) are by no means clear. These questions will guide our investigations in the following seasons.