Some 6,600 diagnostic sherds and scores of chalk vessels were gathered during the survey. The identification and dating of the ceramic finds utilized a method similar to the one adopted by Ben-David (2005)
and Leibner (2009)
and is based on the research of Slane (1997)
, who studied Eastern Sigillata A ware, including a variety of imported red slipped tableware that was found at Tel Anafa in the late Hellenistic and Early Roman strata; Adan-Bayewitz (1993
), who studied Kefar H
ananya ware, comprising domestic utensils—cooking pots, bowls and jugs—from the Galilee, dating from the Roman and early Byzantine periods; and Hayes (1972
), who studied Late Roman Red Ware, including red-slipped tableware found in numerous excavations in the eastern Mediterranean basin.
An analysis of the finds according to the aforementioned method showed that most of the Hellenistic-period sites were small—fortresses or single buildings—and only a few of these sites were identified as villages. During the Early Roman period there was a significant increase in the number of small sites, such as hamlets, farmsteads and fortresses. A considerable increase in the quantity of potsherds in the Roman-period sites, both in the small ones and in the villages, was also discerned. Chalk vessels, which are usually dated to the Early Roman period, were found in several of these small sites and villages. The habitation in the area seems to have reached its peak in the Middle Roman period, when the area had the highest number of settlements. In the Late Roman period, the number of inhabited sites declined somewhat. In the early Byzantine period, there was a significant decline in the number of inhabited sites, both the small ones and the villages, and in some villages only few sherds were found. However, the amount of Byzantine-period sherds increased considerably at several of the villages.
Shovel tests were conducted at four of the sites—Khirbates-Seybi(Fig. 1:1), el-Mabara (West; Fig. 1:3), Jidyā(Fig. 1:40) and Tel Nov (Fig. 1:41)—to examine the reliability of the historical settlement patterns that emerged from the surface collection of ceramic artifacts. The shovel tests comprised probes identical in size (diam. 1.5 m, depth 0.2 m) that were scattered over as much of the site’s surface as possible. All of the excavated material was sifted. The shovel tests at Khirbat es-Seybi, Tel Nov and Jidyāyielded relatively meager results. However, more finds were discovered at el-Mabara (West).
A survey using a metal detector was carried out at twelve sites in hope of collecting coins that would aid in dating the sites, especially the phases when they were abandoned. Approximately 100 coins from the Hellenistic through the Byzantine periods were found. A preliminary examination indicates that the dates of the coins correspond to those of the pottery sherds.
Based on the survey finds, consisting of c. 6600 diagnostic pottery sherds, c. 100 coins and scores of stone vessels from the Hellenistic–Byzantine periods, our initial impression is that during the Hellenistic period the population in the southern Golan was sparse and resided mainly in small settlement sites. Villages began to develop in the area in the Early Roman period. During this phase, possibly following Alexander Jannaeus’ military campaigns in Transjordan, Jewish settlements, where chalk vessels were used, were established in the area. The increase in population continued throughout the Middle Roman period, which probably saw the peak of both settlement numbers and population size. During the Late Roman period, the population of the sites declined, and several of them no longer existed. By the end of the Late Roman period and at the beginning of the Byzantine period, dozens of Roman-period sites in the southern Golan, including Jewish ones, were severely reduced in size or ceased to exist. This phenomenon has been observed in other areas in the north of Israel. It does not seem probably that the Jewish settlement disappeared due to some military action or a deliberate ethnic cleansing, since non-Jewish settlements were part of this process. The Byzantine period ushered in another significant decline in the number of inhabited sites in the southern Golan Heights, but the size of the sites where the settlement continued was greatly increased. Ben-David pointed out a similar phenomenon based on the results of his survey in the center of the western Golan Heights. During the Byzantine period, two villages were established in the surveyed area, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee: Khirbat Kursi and Khirbat Duweiraban.