During April 1998 a salvage excavation was conducted in Yehud (A-2846*; map ref. NIG 18972/65965; OIG 13972/15965) after ancient remains were damaged during development work. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Yannai, with the assistance of E. van den Brink, M. Ben-Gal (pottery restoration) and M. Rappaport (drawing).
Two excavation areas were opened, revealing pebble surfaces and ceramic finds dating to the Byzantine period, as well as ceramic assemblages associated with tombs from Early Bronze Age IV and Middle Bronze Age II.
Area A was excavated to a depth of 1.95 m below surface (2.6-2.8 m). Debris mixed with finds from the time of the British Mandate was discovered from surface to a depth of 0.68 m and removed by mechanical equipment. A layer of brown soil, yielding an abundance of potsherds from the Byzantine period (5th–6th centuries CE) and a large quantity of roof tiles, extended from a depth of 0.7 m until the bottom of the excavation. The ceramic finds included three fragments of lamps and several sherds of Cypriot imports (Cypriot Red Slip Ware), vessels from North Africa (African Red Slip Ware) and Late Roman C ware (Fig. 1:11). A surface of large pebbles that derived from the Lower Cenomanian epoch was uncovered at the bottom of the excavation; the pebbles were set in place in one course. This may have been a working surface or perhaps it was used for storage by a workshop that produced ceramic roof tiles in the Byzantine period.
Area B (2.8 × 5.0 m) was 10 m east of Area A; it was excavated to a depth of 1.96 m below surface. The trenching performed prior to the excavation exposed several complete pottery vessels that dated to Middle Bronze Age II (c. 1800 BCE). Debris that consisted of stones and fragments of pottery and glass vessels from the time of the British Mandate was in the upper level of the area, to a depth of 0.56 m. A layer of dark-brown clay soil extended from this elevation down to a depth of 0.88 m. A pebble surface from the Byzantine period (5th–6th centuries CE) similar to that in Area A was detected at the bottom of this level and it seems that both pebble layers had the same function.
Red sandy hamra
that contained a wealth of vessels and pottery fragments from Early Bronze Age IV (Fig. 1:1–5) existed
below the pebble-surface level. The position of the vessels and their state of preservation indicate they probably belonged to tombs. The vessels were similar to tomb assemblages that were discovered in the Yarqon Basin and in the south of the country (‘Atiqot
21:1*–8*). In the western part of the excavation area, a complete jar was found, in situ
, alongside fragments of jars and bowls from Middle Bronze Age IIA–B (1800 BCE; Fig. 1:6–10) that also belonged to tombs. Similar vessels were discovered in a cemetery west of Tell Qasile, excavated by R. Kletter (HA–ESI
111:35*–37*) and in Stratum AXIII at Tel Afek, where they were dated to the Post-Palace phase in Area A, i.e., the transition from the early to late phase in Middle Bronze Age II. No human bones were discerned.
It seems that pit graves existed in the excavation area during Early Bronze Age IV and Middle Bronze Age IIA–B. The condition of the vessels implies that the Middle Bronze Age tombs destroyed the Early Bronze Age tombs and the latter’s vessels were discarded off to the side. Due to the conditions of the excavation it was impossible to reconstruct the plans of the tombs.
The excavation contributes geologic and topographic information about the region in the Middle Bronze Age and the Byzantine period. The pebble surface in Area B was considerably higher than its counterpart in Area A; therefore, it seems that the area sloped to the west in the Byzantine period and was not level as it is today. It was also deduced from the finds in Area B that until the Byzantine period the hamra was not covered with alluvium and the tomb remains were bare on surface. From the 6th century CE until the present time the area was overlaid with a thick layer of alluvium. According to the contents of the alluvium it seems to have originated in the Yarqon River and its tributaries, located c. 100 m south of the excavation area, and not in a local marsh. It can thus be concluded that at the time of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages interments the Yarqon River channel flowed at a lower level and did not inundate the vicinity of the tombs. During the Byzantine period the level of the river was apparently considerably higher and it flooded the area frequently, causing the deposition of a thick alluvium layer.