In January 2014, a trial excavation was conducted east of the Zuq et-Tahtani antiquities site, within the precincts of Moshav Bet Hillel (Permit No. A-6967; map ref. 256484/791157; Fig. 1), in the wake of damage to ancient remains. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Israel Electric Company, was directed by R. Assis (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Shapiro (surveying and maps), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), Y. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), R. Kool (numismatics) and E. Israeli (private map collection).
A square was excavated at the bottom of the eastern slope of an artificial hill that rises a few meters above the surrounding level ground. No architectural remains were discovered, and most of the finds consisted of pottery sherds and two coins from the fourteenth century CE. The finds were discovered in the topsoil, probably swept there from the hill (Fig. 3). The pottery assemblage included a holemouth rim from the Chalcolithic period (fifth millennium BCE; Fig. 4:1); a glazed bowl (Fig. 4:2) and a plain bowl (Fig. 4:3), both dating to the Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE); and a bowl (Fig. 4:4), juglet (Fig. 4:5) and pipe (Fig. 4:6) ascribed to the Ottoman period (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries CE). In addition, two coins dating to the Mamluk period were identified: one from the fourteenth century CE (IAA 145720), and the other minted by Sha‘aban II, who ruled between 1363 and 1377 CE (IAA 145721).
The ceramic artifacts from the Chalcolithic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods are indicative of an ancient site at the base of the artificial hill, which can now be identified as an archaeological tell. The British map bears evidence that soil had been removed from the mound in handwritten corrections to the elevation of the trigonometric point that marked the top of the tell. During the first years following the establishment of the State of Israel, local inhabitants continued to remove soil from the ruins to improve the quality of their fields. A similar phenomenon was documented in the excavation of Tel Sheman (Permit No. A-6852).
The following sites appear on the settlement map of the northern Hula Valley in the Chalcolithic period: Tel Turmus (Smithline, Covello-Paran and Marder 2000), Ha-Gosherim (Getzov 1999) and Tel Te’o (Eisenberg 2008), to which can be added the mound alongside the current excavation. Since the site suffered continuous damage as a result of soil removal and agricultural activity, the earliest strata are probably near the surface, and thus there is a risk that the information contained in them will be lost forever. The excavation finds and the location of the village’s houses, as indicated on the British map, evince that the tell remained outside the boundaries of Zuq et-Tahtani and is an independent site. The remains from the late periods probably originated in the village’s houses and the cemetery.
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Eisenberg E. 2008. Te’o, Tel. In NEAEHL 5:2046–2048.
Getzov N. 1999. Ha-Gosherim. HA-ESI 110:2*–3*.
Shaked E. 1998. The Settlement Pattern and the Road System in the Hula Valley during the 10th–13th Centuries CE. M.A. thesis. Bar-Ilan University. Ramat Gan (Hebrew; English abstract).