Tel Hadid 2018–2019: Preliminary Report

Published in Hadashot Arkheologiyot, Excavations and Surveys in Israel 133 (2021)

In June–July 2018 and June–July 2019, two excavation seasons were conducted at Tel Ḥadid (el-Ḥadita; License Nos. G-41/2018, S-848/2018, G-62/2019; map ref. 1950–60/6520–30; Fig. 1). The excavations, undertaken on behalf of Tel Aviv University and the Baptist Theological Seminary of New Orleans, were directed by I. Koch, D. Warner, E. Yannai, J. Parker and D. Cole, with the assistance of P. Warner (administration), A. Wrathall, O. Ze’evi-Berger, R. Lewis, G.D. Myers, S.L. Fredrickson, N. Ranzer and C. Roden (area supervision), C. Elberg, M. Allwood, A. Etya and N. Kodesh (area supervision assistance), O. Ze’evi-Berger and R. Avidov (archaeological survey), M. Johananoff (metal detection), M.L. Pruit (registration), O. Ze’evi-Berger (drafting), L. Freud, D. Sandhaus and I. Taxel (pottery), and S. Flint, O. Ze’evi-Berger, N. Kodesh, A. Etya and I. Koch (field and studio photography). Students from Tel Aviv University and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary participated in the excavation, together with volunteers from Israel and abroad. The members of the archaeological team stayed at Neve Shalom guest house.

Figure 1: Location Map

Tel Ḥadid (45 dunams; c. 147 m above sea level) lies to the south of Naḥal Naṭuf, one of Naḥal Ayyalon’s tributaries. A wide flat terrace (c. 400 dunams) stretches westward and northward from the summit of the tell. Although rather limited, the previous archaeological research of Tel Ḥadid nevertheless shed light on the site’s history. A mosaic floor dating from the Byzantine period was unearthed to the southeast of the tell’s summit (Avi-Yonah 1972). Salvage excavations conducted on the tell in 1995–1997 (Brand 1996; 1998) prior to the construction of Highway 6 unearthed settlement remains, that range in date from the Intermediate Bronze Age up to the Arab village of el-Ḥadita, which was located on the tell until 1948, and Kibbutz Teḥiya, which occupied the site briefly in 1949–1950. These excavations recovered two clay tablets bearing cuneiform inscriptions dated to the seventh century BCE, which are probably associated with a community of deportees settled there under the administration of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Na‘aman and Zadok 2000). Additional salvage excavations on the tell uncovered remains from the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age II, as well as the Roman and Byzantine periods (Yannai 2012; Nagorsky and Yannai 2016; Torgë 2016).

During the two current excavation seasons, a thorough survey was conducted of the tell, and five excavation areas were opened (AAL, AAU, B10, CC, T1; Fig. 2). The excavation yielded architectural remains and pottery from Iron Age II, the late Hellenistic and the Byzantine periods, as well as pottery from the Late Bronze Age, and the Persian, Mamluk Ottoman and the British Mandate periods. The main objectives of the field work in the 2018–2019 seasons were (1) to document the buildings, rock-hewn features and finds in the area of the tell; (2) to unearth further Iron Age II remains on the tell’s northeastern slope, near the Highway 6 tunnel (Areas A and B of the 1995–1997 salvage excavations); (3) to examine a series of walls surveyed on the tell’s upper northwestern, western and southeastern slopes; and (4) to uncover the components of a large wine-production complex in the center of the low terrace near the summit of the tell. 

Figure 2: Map of Excavation Areas

The Survey. A thorough survey of the tell was conducted during the 2018 filed season. It included the collection of surface finds, mostly potsherds, and a detailed documentation of some of the site’s buildings and rock-cuttings, including quarries, agricultural installations and cisterns. The tell was divided into 25 survey units, which comprised 54 sub-units based on topography, vegetation, accessibility and discernible features. Surface finds were collected in 34 sub-units, and buildings and rock-cuttings were fully documented in two additional units. A File Maker-based documentation system was used with the Maprika application, which allows surveyors to track and report their progress and mark points of particular interest. In addition, the GPS-RTK Leica GG03 system was used to establish the exact locations and landmarks. All the finds from the survey were washed and counted; diagnostic potsherds were dated and preserved for future publication. Preliminary data attest to an occupation sequence in all the periods in the survey units. A large number of Iron Age II potsherds were evident on the low terrace, while numerous Hellenistic potsherds were documented on the summit of the tell. The buildings and rock-cuttings that were surveyed were all allocated an identifying number, measured, drawn and recorded on a 3D model using photogrammetric software (Agisoft). To date, 182 walls and rock-cuttings have been recorded in 12 sub-units. 

Area AAL (Fig. 3). The area stretches across the northeastern slope of the tell’s low terrace, to the east of the Highway 6 tunnel’s northern opening. Four half-squares were excavated yielding modern finds—orange marking tape, plastic bottles and coins from the 1980s onwards—along with a mixture of pottery, building blocks, glass fragments, flints, tesserae, bones and coins. Debris from the salvage excavation areas was apparently dumped here during the construction of Highway 6. A soil accumulation on the bedrock in one excavation square contained potsherds from Iron Age IIC to the Hellenistic period. 

Figure 3: Area AAL at the end of Season 2019

Area AAU (Fig. 4) was excavated near Area AAL. Two squares and three half-squares were opened, both because the survey data showed a high concentration of Iron Age II pottery, and because of the area’s proximity to the salvage excavation, especially Area A5 where architectural remains from this period were unearthed. Piles of modern earth and debris that were found near the area are probably related to the salvage excavations and the construction of Highway 6. Surface finds were retrieved from the late Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods, as well as from the British Mandate era. The excavation uncovered layers of tamped earth mixed with late Hellenistic potsherds on top of Iron Age IIC pottery, including complete vessels. 

Figure 4: Area AAU

Area B10 was opened near Area B of the 1995–1997 salvage excavations with the aim of unearthing additional Iron Age II remains. Accumulation layers found in four half-squares contained pottery from the Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, and Byzantine periods. The area had been disturbed by the planting of an olive grove, part of which is still visible to its north. 

Area CC (Fig. 5). The area extends across the center of the low terrace, northwest of the tell’s summit. Preliminary inspections of the tell identified a large rock-hewn complex almost completely buried under mounds of earth, pottery and modern debris. It was assumed to be a Byzantine wine-production complex. A community excavation was conducted in this area in collaboration with Modi‘in Regional Council, with the participation of third- and fourth-graders from schools in Ben-Shemen and Modi‘im-Nehalim and families from the nearby communities. An excavation in the center of a round central space in the complex—possibly the winepress’s treading floor—unearthed a square stone screw base. A deep collecting vat and a mosaic-paved settling basin, both circular, were partially uncovered to the east of the screw base. Hewn channels ran between the central space and the settling basin, and between the settling pit and the collecting vat. The extent of the complex was probably larger than was previously assumed, as additional circular installations were identified around it. The plaster coating on various parts of the complex contained Byzantine potsherds, dating it to this period. 

Figure 5: Area CC at the end of Season 2019

Area T1 (Fig. 6). During preliminary exploration of the site, several walls were documented on the upper northwestern, western, and southwestern slopes of the tell. The sub-units in this area yielded Iron Age II and Hellenistic pottery, as well as a few potsherds from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Following the survey, two excavation squares were opened in the northwestern part of the summit, in a place that had been damaged by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Two wide walls built of two rows of fieldstones formed the corner of a building. Late Hellenistic pottery was found in the space between the two walls. The building may have been constructed at the same time as a building lying to its west. The latter, which was only partially examined, includes a stepped wall built of fieldstones and ashlars.

Figure 6: Area T1 at the end of Season 2019