Tel Bet Yerah Research and Excavations Project 2007 Excavations

Report on The 2010 Excavation Season
Rafi Greenberg and Sarit Paz

Large excavations tend to create a great deal of information, sometimes more than can be absorbed in a single year. That's one of the reasons why our 2010 season was considerably scaled down, in relation to 2009. Another reason was that we wanted to focus all of our energy and our care on a couple of fascinating contexts of excavation: one in Area SA-M, the unexcavated “island” probed last year, and the other in Area SA-S, where we were looking at a very dense sequence of house-floors. SA-M was our “Khirbet Kerak” area, and SA-S our “indigenous” area, and we began carefully sifting for clues to the differences that we had already noticed in 2009 between the material culture in these two areas.

As in 2009, our excavation benefitted from a collaboration between the Institutes of Archaeology at Tel Aviv and UCL; in addition, we were also an accredited UCLA Field School, and enjoyed the intense participation of a group of students in the International Field School program, who worked alongside students from UCL and TAU. Our resident potter Andrew Chanania joined us on a grant from the Friends of Tel Bet Yerah, USA. Ohalo Manor served as our base for the summer.

This season's excavation focused on the area to the north of the Circles Building (Area SA-M): the ‘island' left unexcavated by previous expeditions. As part of this effort, we re-excavated a part of the paved street to the west of the building and the fine, broad stairway leading from that street down to the plaza that extended out to the north. The street and stairs had been covered by excavation dumps. In Area SA-S we excavated a small area, clearing a new part of the fine pebble pavement and cutting a small section into the EB II houses that faced the western street.

A methodological innovation of this season, planned in consultation with Liora Horwitz and overseen by Alice Berger was the considerable increase in the resolution of the excavation, with the intent of gathering a large sample of environmental data (plant and animal remains). The excavation area was divided into small units and these were excavated in 5 to 10 cm spits. The spoil was sieved on 4 and 1 mm meshes, and large samples were floated and wet-sieved. This provided us with large quantities of bone (including fish-bones and other microfauna), seeds, flint chips and more. Dozens of bags were taken back to our lab for the laborious process of sorting, concluded only a year after the excavation! This sorting yielded thousands of small objects, including beads made of crystal, carnelian, and gold, and a small gold nail.

This high-resolution excavation slowed the process of excavation, meaning that few new architectural units were uncovered.

Area SA-M (Mark Iserlis, assisted by Shai Gelibter )
The uppermost remains in Area SA-M were a small stretch of water-channel and a small pit linked to the Early Islamic citadel, and poor remains of Hellenistic period houses. Below these was a layer of deteriorated mudbrick and beneath that—a dense series of deposits that attest to an uninterrupted period of activity during the Early Bronze Age III (about 2800-2700 BCE). These layers extend over a large area, with only a very patchy wall and some chunks of dried or burnt clay indicating that there were some semi-permanent structures or lean-tos in what was otherwise a large plaza facing the north wall of the Circles Building. At the bottom of all of these layers was a hard yellow layer – evidently the original floor of the plaza, which went with the staircase leading to the western street.


View of the Granary and the Islamic period bath above it, looking toward the east

Fig. 1 Area SA-M general view.

Fig 2. Close-up of Area SA-M excavation
  The plaza deposits contained alternating layers of washed-out mudbrick and gravel composed of huge quantities of flint-knapping debris. There were also traces of hearths, with portable andiron fragments, burnt pottery, and large quantities of animal bones, some of them in partial articulation (that is, remains of carcasses, including pig, cattle, and equids). Pottery was for the most part Khirbet Kerak Ware, along with a few vessels in the local tradition. All of this seems to point to some kind of patterned use of the plaza, either for ceremonial consumption of meat, or for the refuse of ceremonial activities, all conducted by people who made and used Khirbet Kerak Ware.

Area SA-S (Sarit Paz, David Wengrow)
In Area SA-S we identified two phases belonging to the earlier part of the EB III and two or three phases belonging to EB II. The EB II remains adjoin the beautifully paved western street, effectively proving it to be earlier than the  

adjacent Circles Building. They included several floors and a deep pit filled with refuse and charred remains. This pit was closely studied by the radiocarbon study team from the Weizmann Institute's Kimmel Center for Archaeological Sciences (Johanna Regev, Lior Regev and Elisabetta Boaretto), in the expectation of obtaining reliable radiometric dates for this phase of EB II.

The EB III remains included another segment of the fine pebble floor uncovered in 2009, a small brick-walled room, and a pit cut into it after its collapse in the Khirbet Kerak Ware phase. Finds from the pebble floor included more fragments of Egyptian artifacts, including calcite bowls and undecorated palettes. The original room represents the final phase in a long sequence of domestic construction and repairs beginning in EB II.

View of the Granary and the Islamic period bath above it, looking toward the east

Fig. 3 Area SA-S pit with Weizmann flags

As noted above, the high resolution of our excavation has allowed for new types of analysis to be carried out. A study of the flint artifacts and debris, by Ron Shimmelmitz, has identified small but significant differences in the technique used by the people associated with KKW, in Area SA-M, and those residing in the houses in Area SA-S. Hundreds of seeds, both from domestic crops and wild taxa, were recovered and are presently being studied by Alice Berger, under the supervision of Dorian Fuller (UCL). Quantities of animal bones and bone chips are slated for study during the coming years, as are the fish-bones and mollusks. All of these will enable us to piece together an unrivalled picture of the differences and similarities between people of differing cultural orientation occupying neighboring spaces in a single site.

Fig. 4
Gold nail, copper pin and votive KKW bowl from SA-M

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