During May–June 2001 two excavations were conducted in the eastern (Area F) and the northern (Area G) parts of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-3427; Area F map ref. NIG 231640/739475; OIG 181640/239475; Area G map ref. NIG 231550/739565; OIG 181550/239565), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowners, A. Muntaha (Area F) and S. Na‘il (Area G), was directed by Y. Alexandre (surveying and photography, Area F), with the assistance of B. Hana (field supervision, Area G), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying, Area G), H. Smithline (photography, Area G), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and E. Belashov and E. Berin (drafting).
The small-scale excavation (24 sq m) exposed architectural remains from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
A single square was excavated to a depth of 1.6 m, not reaching bedrock (Fig. 1). The earliest remain was a floor of flat medium-sized flagstones (L514; 1 sq m), overlaid with Hellenistic potsherds. A very small section of a stone wall protruding beneath a later wall (W56) may also belong to this occupation layer (Stratum V).
Five stone walls that belonged to a single architectural complex (W51–W55; Fig. 2) superimposed Stratum V. It seems that, at least technically, W52 and W54 were first built, followed by W51, W53 and W55 that abutted the first ones. However, the walls were in use contemporaneously for a considerable period of time, as indicated by the sequence of consecutive floors that adjoined them. The earliest associated packed-earth floor (L512) was at the base of the walls. Subsequent floors were a packed-earth floor (L511) and a flagstone floor of medium-sized stones (L507), into which a fired clay tabun (L509) was sunk. The few indicative potsherds on the floors and in the fills show that the house was built in the Early Roman period (Stratum IV) and continued in use during the Middle Roman period (Stratum III).
During the Byzantine period (Stratum I), after a period of abandonment, the walls were leveled and the top courses were incorporated into a flagstone floor (L502).
The limited excavations in Area F indicated that houses in this area existed during the Hellenistic (Stratum V), Early Roman (Stratum IV), Middle Roman (Stratum III) and the Byzantine (Stratum I) periods.
This was the first excavation on the higher tell (elevation 222 m asl). It was undertaken since other houses had already existed on this part of the tell. The excavation (100 sq m; Fig. 3) exposed a significant size of the site, revealing a multi-period settlement of meaningful depth and complexity that included early strata from the Iron Age and the Persian period (Strata X, IX, VII), not found to date in all other excavations at the site.
The excavation area was close to the top of the northern terraced slope of the tell. Several ancient olive trees were uprooted from the area prior to the excavation and surface soil was removed (depth c. 0.5 m) with mechanical equipment. The sloping and terraced modern surface proved to be a true reflection of the ancient topography and the ancient buildings were constructed on terraces. The excavation reached a depth of 1.5–2.0 m below surface in several areas, but in no location was bedrock exposed, nor was there any indication of proximity to bedrock. It is feasible that beneath the lowest excavated level was a meter or more of archaeological deposits that were not touched. Thus, since the earliest exposed occupation level was Iron Age IIA, no information about pre-Iron Age archaeological strata on the tell is known.
Strata X, IX (Iron IIA-B)
Three superimposed strata of the Iron Age were uncovered in this area (Fig. 4). The remains of each architectural stratum were incomplete, yet sufficient to determine that a least three distinct building strata that had different plans, although similar in concept, existed. The sloping surface has resulted in the erosion of the more northern exterior buildings of the later periods. For the sake of convenience, Stratum IX was divided into two phases, IXB and IXA. On the basis of architectural remains it appears that each phase may have been independent, not exploiting or reusing the earlier walls; however, the limited building remains preclude the assignment of an independent stratum to each phase. It is expected that additional excavations in this vicinity may clarify the stratigraphy.
Stratum X. The earliest building stratum consisted of several small segments of stone walls that appeared beneath the later Iron Age walls, which were not removed in the excavation. Moreover, the construction of the later walls caused extensive damage to the earlier walls. Wall 69, W71b, W72 and W77–W81 were probably part of a contemporary structure, built in steps down the slope. The stone walls (mostly 0.6–0.7 m wide) consisted of two roughly worked faces and a rubble core. Wall 69 was built along the contour of the slope and had an entrance, possibly the main one into the building that may have been a private house. Wall 72 was a long north–south oriented wall, exposed for c. 9 m (interrupted by the balk) down the slope and abutted by W69. Wall 71b, lying beneath the later W71a, together with W69 form a narrow corridor (0.8 m wide), too constricted to be functional; it is possible that an additional phase may be present here. Four floor layers (L632A, L635, L644 and L645) were associated with this building. The function of the square mud-brick structure (L646) attributed to this level is not clear.
The topography of the slope indicates that a fortification wall probably stood at the northern end of the excavated area, which is now overbuilt with a modern house. The wall, not exposed in the excavation, was possibly located slightly to the north.
Stratum IXB. Four stone walls (W60, W61, W64 and W70) enclosed a room, which had a different orientation to the Stratum X building. Two walls (W68, W73) of a second room, whose other walls may have been concealed by the wide central balk, were exposed at a lower level. Wall 66 and W71a, which was either the addition or the repair to W71b, may have also belonged to this stratum. Packed-earth and flagstone floors (L606, L618, L631, L632B and L636) were associated with the rooms, which were either individual or part of different houses, terraced down the slope.
Stratum IXA. A corner of another house (W63b and W74) was built over and cut into the walls of the earlier houses.
The three Strata X, IXB and IXA contained considerable quantities of Iron IIA-B pottery and many other artifacts. The pottery repertoire from Stratum X can be dated to Iron IIA (the late tenth–early ninth century BCE), whereas the one from Stratum IXA can be dated to the second half of the eighth century BCE. It is thus clear that domestic houses existed in this area from the late tenth to the second half of the eighth century BCE. There is significant evidence for a destruction level at the end of Stratum X, reflected by much mud-brick debris that comprised many finds of basalt grinding bowls, pottery and loom weights. However, no evidence for a gap in occupation or a lapse in time before the construction of the subsequent house was present. A second destruction layer seems to have brought the occupation of Stratum IXA to an end in the late eighth century BCE; thereafter, the site was abandoned.
Stratum VII (the Persian Period)
The Iron Age village at the site was deserted for a period of at least 200 years until its resettlement in the late Persian period. No architectural remains could be assigned to this period. A layer of accumulation fill (0.6 m thick) that contained many building stones and enormous quantities of pottery overlaid the Iron Age walls. Careful excavation led to defining the general contours of many large oval-shaped pits that were dispersed in the area. Eight pits could be delineated, some cutting into others (L605, L607, L610, L611–L613, L615, L623; diam. 2–7 m). The pits were mostly at the larger end of the scale, not lined, but simply cut into the debris of the Iron Age strata. The large quantity of building stones in the pits seems to come from the collapse of Iron Age walls and there is no indication of any walls associated with the Persian stratum. The mass of pottery consists predominantly of large store jar fragments, whose quantity and dense distribution suggest that many had stood here, in situ. The type of jar is overwhelmingly the bag-shaped jar of buff-colored ware with a short neck and a thickened rim, dated to the fourth century BCE. Only few other types were present in this stratum. The homogeneity of the repertoire implies that this occupation may not have been long-lived, although the quantity may suggest otherwise. As no indication for a destruction level occurs, it is possible that the occupation on the higher part of the tell was abandoned in the third century BCE.
It is not easy to determine the nature of occupation in this period. It is possible that the inhabitants lived in temporary quarters, such as tents. This stratum may have been partly destroyed by the roots of olive trees, as well as by preliminary work of mechanical equipment that, to some extent, prevented a clearer understanding of the remains.
Stratum III (the Middle Roman Period)
The only indication of a later presence in this specific area of the tell, subsequent to the abandonment of the Persian occupation, is a round pit (L643; diam. 2 m, depth c. 0.5 m) cut into the Iron Age stone walls at the northern edge of the excavation. The pit contained considerable quantities of potsherds dating to the Middle Roman period.
Stratum I (the Byzantine Period)
A single row of large building stones (W62), overlying the Persian stratum, was probably an agricultural terrace wall, dated by some potsherds to the Byzantine period.
The excavated area on top of the tell (Area G) revealed intensive domestic occupation of Iron Age IIA-B (tenth–eighth centuries BCE) which, in historical terms, defines the duration of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. During this period, the building remains at the site were destroyed twice, most probably by an external enemy. The first destruction occurred in the early ninth century BCE and may be attributed to one of the Aramaean attacks on the north of the country. The second destruction, in the second half of the eighth century BCE, can almost certainly be assigned to the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-Pileser III, who conquered the Galilee in 733 BCE. The gap in occupation, following this destruction, coincides with the Exile of the Northern Kingdom. The renewed, if temporary settlement, established here in the fourth century BCE may reflect an influx of Phoenician settlers from the coastal area or, less probably, the return of the Exiles.