Tell el-Wawiyat, Israel

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Tell el-Wawiyat, 1987*

The second season of excavation at Tell el-Wawiyat took place from 10 May to 10 June, 1987, on behalf of The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem; and the American Schools of Oriental Research. The excavation is co-directed by J.P. Dessel, Beth Alpert Nakhai and Bonnie L. Wisthoff. The principal investigator is W.G. Dever. Staff in 1987 included E. Greenberg, Margaret Tell and Sara Tuttle (area supervisors); Susan Henson (zooarchaeologist); W. Hunter (photographer and draftsperson); Lona Greenberg (laboratory assistant); J. Zias (anthropologist) and Arlene Rosen (geomorphologist). The excavation staff stayed at Kibbutz Beth Rimmon. Labor was supplied by workers from the village of Rummanah. Thanks are due to J.D. Seger and the Lahav Research Project, Sharon Herbert and the Tel Anafa Excavation Project, Trude Dothan and A. Mazar of the Hebrew University, and S. Gitin of the Albright Institute

A preliminary survey of the Beth Netofah Valley took place in December 1987, led by H. Joffee, assisted by Daphna Strauss and D. Rabin.

During the 1987 field season, excavation focused on the Iron Age IA, Stratum III settlement at Wawiyat. Probes were made into the earlier Late Bronze and Middle Bronze Age settlements at the site, as well as into sterile soil and into the outer wall surrounding the tell.

Iron Age I

One goal of the 1987 season was to finish excavating the M-N Building in the north-western part of the settlement, and the K-L Complex near its eastern edge. These two structures comprise what is so far known of the main phase of Iron Age occupation at Wawiyat.

The M-N Building

This building was partially excavated in 1986, and in 1987 work continued with the goal of completing its exposure. Squares M9 and N9 were opened to the west of last year's excavation in Squares M 10 and N 10. The building's external dimensions are at least 8 m. (cast-west) x 9.62 m. (north-south), although its western and northern limits are not yet clear. Following the primary Iron Age IA (Stratum 111) occupational phase, there is evidence for a later, Iron Age IB (Stratum II) re-use of this structure.

The southern, formal entrance to the building was marked by a thickening of the stone walls on either side of the entryway, while a second entrance was indicated by a break near the northern corner of the western wall. The southern portion of the western wall was revetted, to compensate for the steep slope of the tell at that point.

The M-N Building was subdivided into four main areas. Immediately inside the main southern entry was a large room with a beaten earth floor. A narrow north-south wall divided the northern end of this room into two chambers. The western one, paved with a surface of cobbling and plastered flagstones, contained a three sided bin constructed of stone slabs. The eastern chamber had a beaten earth floor. North of them was a corridor, running east-west along the northern end of the building and terminating at the western entrance. Further excavation must clarify the significance of the continuation of the northern exterior wall past the western exterior wall.

The ceramic and artefactual assemblages in the M-N Building point to a domestic function for this structure. Examination of the pottery indicates an Iron Age IA date for the building's primary occupational phase, while certain structural changes suggest a later, Iron Age 113, reoccupation.

The K-L Complex

In 1987, excavation of this complex focused on exposing its eastern and southern edges, while continuing in the north-eastern room of the building (located primarily in Square L 13). It was in this room that the tabun, jar stand and column base of the 1986 season were found. In 1987, the eastern wail of the building, at the eastern extremity of the tell, was partially excavated. Evidence suggests that this wall was at least partly formed by the rebuilding of an earlier, similarly positioned wall. Parts of the articulated skeleton of a cow with butchering marks on its legs rested on the flagstone paving of a small ante-room in the south-western comer of this large room. Flagstone paving was found in its southeastern comer as well.

As indicated in the 1986 report, this complex continued to the south. Excavation in 1987 took place in the room directly south of the flagstone paved areas described above (Square K13). In this room, which had a beaten earth floor, a pair of low contiguous east-west walls adjoined a single north-south wall. A large circular stone bin, with a projected radius of 2.5 m., was set into the corner thus formed. How far this southeastern room, or the entire K-L Complex, extended to the south is not yet certain.

Pottery in the south-eastern room, less abundant than that found in the rooms to its north, likewise dates from the Iron Age IA. As in the north-eastern room, an unusual array of artefacts was uncovered. The debris layer over the floor included a bronze spearhead, a delicate basalt bowl on tripod legs, the lower half of an Astarte plaque figurine, a steatite jewellery mould, and a fragment of gold leaf.

Earlier Periods

Stratified Late Bronze Age 11 (Stratum IV) remains were found in a small area, bordered by the eastern wall of the M-N Building and the northern and eastern baulks of Square N10. In 1986, a plaque figurine of a mother holding a child was found on an LB 11 surface in this area. Below this surface, three additional beaten earth surfaces dating from the LB If were excavated in 1987.

The largest assemblage of LB 11 pottery found at the site came from the fill beneath the Iron Age IA surface in the north-eastern room of the K-L Complex (Square L13). This, together with the evidence for a pre-Iron Age IA wall under the building's eastern exterior wall, suggests the presence there of a LB 11 building.

A second MB IIC (Stratum VI) infant jar burial was found in Square L10, lying not far from the one excavated in 1986. The 1987 storage jar contained the skeletal remains of two children, who died at approximately three and five years of age. Along with these primary burials, the jar contained four small, complete ceramic vessels and a basalt pestle.

The Deep Probe

A deep probe was excavated in Square L14, on the eastern extremity of the tell, with the goal of reaching sterile soil and determining the tell's basal level. The results of this probe confirmed the overall stratigraphic picture of the site, and revealed Middle and Late Bronze Age deposits, Unfortunately, their exposure was quite small.

The Boundary Wall System

Tell el-Wawiyat is ringed on all sides by an elevated rise which gives the tell its distinctive shape. On its northern and western perimeters, extant stone walls can be seen. Excavation in the northern Square P10 and the eastern Square L14 indicated that the walls encircling the tell were constructed no earlier than the Iron Age IB, and probably much later. The construction of this late boundary wall increased the area of the tell, limited in the Iron Age IA and earlier to only the eastern plateau, by approximately one-third. Since the 1986 excavation of Square L7, in the tell's western depression, revealed an absence of cultural deposits in this region, it seems likely that the area enclosed by the boundary wall was used to safeguard livestock or to mark out territorial claims.

One more season of excavation at Tell el-Wawiyat, as well as additional exploration of the Beth Netofa Valley, is planned.

* Cf. IEJ 37 (1987), pp. 181- 185.

(Communicated by J.P. Dessel, Beth Alpert Nakhai and Bonnie L. Wisthoff. IEJ 40/I [1990])

 

The University of Arizona  /  W. F. Albright Institute  /  American Schools of  Oriental Research