Jezreel Valley Regional Project Archaeology and History of a Regional Landscape

2010 Summer Season at Tel Megiddo East

Preliminary Web Report on the 2010 Excavation Season at Tel Megiddo (East) and 'Ain el-Qubbi

Matthew J. Adams

Jonathan K. David

Robert Homsher

Version: November 9, 2010

The 2010 season was the JVRP's pilot season, conducting exploratory excavations of the ostensibly massive settlement extending eastward from Tel Megiddo,1 which includes the sites of 'Ain el-Qubbi and Tel Megiddo East (Fig. 1).2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

The sites east of Tel Megiddo were first explored by G. Schumacher (1908: 161-165). In addition to work at Horvat Muzzav, he also conducted brief mapping of the (Ottoman?) ruins on the east bank of the Wadi 'Ain el-Qubbi at the western edge of Tel Megiddo East. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute expedition excavated Early Bronze Age I (and other) material on the eastern slope of the tel, the "Megiddo Stages" (Engberg and Shipton 1934). In the 1970s, A. Raban visited all of the sites in the vicinity of the tel for surface collection (Fig. 1) and consulted local residents about illicit discoveries in the vicinity (Raban 1999). He identified Tel Megiddo North, ‘Ain el-Qubbi, Edh Dhahar, Tel Megiddo East, ‘Ain el-Qubbi South, and Tel Megiddo South as locations of dense EB I and Roman-era sherds. Taken together, these sites cover an extensive 125 acres (50 ha). Though the survey was inconclusive about their contiguity, Raban speculated that all of these concentrations may delineate a large unwalled settlement contiguous with the EB I remains from the tel (Raban 1999: 86*).

Renewed excavation by the Megiddo Expedition of Tel Aviv University revealed of a massive monumental temple complex dating to the late 4th/early 3rd millennium BCE (Finkelstein and Ussishkin 2000; Finkelstein, Ussishkin, and Peersman 2006; Adams, in press). The complex consists of an artificial platform with a revetment established by a stone wall 4 m in width. This platform supports the largest single edifice of the period in the entire Levant, the “Great Temple.” This massive, broad-room temple is approximately 50 m wide and more than 30 m long and is meticulously engineered such that the thicknesses of walls and their distance from each other are exact in every dimension.

This EB Ib temple lent credibility to Raban’s hypothesis that a large settlement existed at Megiddo during that period. As part of the Megiddo Hinterland Project, these sites were resurveyed in more detail (Finkelstein et al. 2006). The spread of EB I pottery was confirmed, but the results still left the question of contiguity with each other and the tell in question. To address this question, the Megiddo Expedition conducted a magnetic survey of portions of the settlement (Fig. 2) and determined that, indeed, the entire scatter was one massive site (Eppelbaum and Itkis 2000). With this apparent confirmation, greater Megiddo immediately became the earliest and largest major settlement in the southern Levant. Ultimately, Finkelstein and Ussishkin concluded that the temple remains on Tel Megiddo served as the cultic acropolis for the sprawling Early Bronze Age settlement to the north, east, and south (Fig. 2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excavation Methodology

The 2010 excavations by the JVRP were designed to ground-truth the results of the walk-over and magnetic surveys conducted east of Tel Megiddo. Work began with the installation of a 5 m by 5 m grid over the excavation area. We located the 1000x, 1000y point near the location of a prominent flag pole, and extended the grid westwards toward the tel (Fig. 3).

In order to optimize our resources for this test season, we established two lines of 5 m by 1.5 m excavation trenches designed to transect two different portions of the site toward the tel (Fig. 3, red arrows indicate location and direction of transects). This technique allowed us to cut small incisions into the site in order to assess the type and extent of the archaeological remains.

At Tel Megiddo East, four trenches exposed a sample of remains across 100 meters. Here we designed the transect to cross through the highest portion of the site (near 1000x, 1000y) and to intersect the Megiddo Expedition's magnetic survey "Area C" (Fig. 3).

At 'Ain el-Qubbi, six trenches exposed a sample of remains across 175 meters. This transect crossed through a local high point (north east of "Area A"), through the "Area A" of the Megiddo Expedition's magnetic survey, across the current bed of the spring ('Ain el-Qubbi), and up to the closest point to Tel Megiddo east of the main highway (Fig. 3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results

*We present here our preliminary results in list format. A formal excavation report will be published as a journal article sometime in 2011/12.

1. In all areas of excavation, at both Tel Megiddo East and 'Ain el-Qubbi, we encountered a 20 cm to 80 cm deposit of dark silty earth, the upper portions of which constituted the modern plow-zone. This deposit yielded fairly significant quantities of pottery and lithics. In almost every excavation unit, the ceramics of this deposit were 10-20% Roman and 70-80% Early Bronze Age I (often with up to 5% Chalcolithic). These ratios are very similar to those reported by Raban (1999) and Finkelstein et al. (2006) for the surface surveys of this area. We can conclude, therefore, that the surface sherd survey was little more than a sample of this deposit. As we shall see below, this deposit is not representative of the remains which it covers.

We do not yet have any conclusive ideas about what this deposit is, or when it was placed. Currently, we presume that the dispersal of this pottery-filled earthen layer is related to Medieval, Ottoman, or modern agricultural activity in the vicinity. Still, this begs the question of the origins of the soil used to expand the agricultural zone. Presumably, this transported soil was brought from a nearby site occupied during the EB I and the Roman periods. It clearly can not be derived from Tel Megiddo, in which case this deposit would contain material from the other periods represented on the tel (MB, LB, Iron, etc.).

One of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project's primary goals is to ground-truth survey and remote sensing results in order to flesh out our picture of the settlement history of the valley. The 2010 season gave us concrete evidence for what many archaeologists have suspected: surface sherd surveys can be very unreliable. To date, scholarly understanding of the settlement landscape and history of the Jezreel Valley is based almost entirely upon this type of survey. Our future research aims at adjusting much of this previous, surface-level understanding.

2. Our units near the high point of Tel Megiddo East revealed a limestone quarry just beneath the earth-and-pottery layer (see #1, above; Fig. 4-5). The portions of the quarry exposed involved the cut-marks of large limestone blocks measuring approximately 40 cm by 40 cm wide (by 25 cm in height), similar size and shape to the quarry marks found on the Eastern Slope of Tel Megiddo by the Chicago "Stages" excavations (Braun in press). The quarrymen were apparently interested in the upper portion of soft limestone, which sits upon a much harder limestone. It is impossible to tell from our excavations how much material might have been quarried away. A date for the quarrying of this material is not possible at this time. The quarry was backfilled at some point after the Roman period, to judge by the sherds from the fill.

The presence of a quarry at this location, where EB surface pottery suggested the sprawl of an early town, was somewhat surprising. It does not seem likely that quarrying activity removed the entire EB town. Rather, we suggest, the EB settlement simply does not exist in this portion of the site (but see #3 below).

Raban (1999: 86*) reports indications of "remains of courtyards or large rectangular buildings" at the approximate locations of the quarry. Granted, any fieldstones have been moved to make use of this field for farming, but we suspect that Raban saw pieces of the quarry partially exposed on the surface in his day. Note especially Figure 5, below, in which it is clear that the rectangular-shaped quarry protrusion at the top of the photograph was exposed in the recent past. It has become dislodged from the quarry by plow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Unit BB-104 was located at Megiddo Expedition's magnetic survey Area C. Here, beneath 1+ m of colluvium (post-Byzantine? deposit), we found our only remains of Early Bronze Age occupation. This was, in fact, our only indication of any settlement activity uncovered during this season. The remains consisted of a portion of a curvilinear wall, with EB Ib pottery  in situ (Fig. 7). With this, we confirm that a portion of the EB I settlement contemporary with the Great Temple of Tel Megiddo did, indeed, extend to the East. It is still unsure whether this is fringe settlement activity, or part of the village proper. In either case, this structure should be seen as contiguous in some way with the EB I remains exposed by the University of Chicago on the eastern slope of Tel Megiddo (Engberg and Shipton 1934; Braun, in press). There, EB I house remains and rock-cut tombs were distributed within large spaces between bedrock protrusions. This may also be the case here at Tel Megiddo East. Additionally, these bedrock protrusions on the eastern slope of Tel Megiddo, were, in some places, disturbed by quarrying activity very similar to that described in #2 above. In future seasons, we plan to expose this portion of the site more fully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. At 'Ain el-Qubbi all six excavation units, both east and west of the spring, encountered a natural marl formation just beneath the earth/pottery deposit (see #1, above). This marl formation (Fig. 4, "calcareous sediment")  appears to be the Paleocene Taqiye formation, part of the Mount Scopus group of marls (Y. Goren, personal communication). As far as we can tell, these portions of the site were never occupied, but it remains possible that later (severe) denudation occurred. This marl formation may have been the source for some particularly calcareous mudbricks known from EB and MB structures at Tel Megiddo, and perhaps the source for the clay used in Biridiya's letters from the Amarna corpus (Goren, Finkelstein, and Na'aman 2004: 243-247).

5. Just east of the spring bed at 'Ain el-Qubbi, we found a portion of a stone aqueduct cut down into the underlying marl formation (Fig. 8). The stone from the aqueduct appears to have been reused from an earlier aqueduct - in this case reused in a somewhat haphazard construction technique. Schumacher (1908: 161-3) reports the discovery of sections of aqueduct that apparently carried water from the spring southward, toward the Roman settlement at Legio. It is possible that our portion of the aqueduct was either a later addition to the main system, diverting water somewhat eastward toward Tel Megiddo East, or a notably later reconstruction of the aqueduct in the post-Roman era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future Work

See the 2011 Season page for updates on our plans for remote sensing, as well as excavation to connect our EB I settlement remains with those on the east slope of Tel Megiddo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

1. Tel Megiddo is under excavation by Tel Aviv University's Megiddo Expedition, directed by Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin - http://megiddo.tau.ac.il/.

2. We would like to thank Kibbutz Megiddo for permission to excavate among their crops. Not only did they provide permission to work on their land, but they also were generous in allowing us the use of their exquisite picnic area, as well as their mechanical equipment for backfilling the excavation units at the end of the season.

 

 

Figure 1. Satellite image of the area around Tel Megiddo showing sites identified by the Archaeological Survey of Israel (after Raban 1999). Image credit DigitalGlobe (eMap International).

Figure 3. Red arrows indicate locations of transectional test excavations through 'Ain el-Qubbi and Tel Megiddo East. White cross indicates the x and y axes of the excavation grid at the 1000x, 1000y point.

Figure 2. Ostensible boundaries of Early Bronze I settlement according to sherd distribution. Shaded rectangles indicate locations of geomagnetic survey.

Figure 4. Satellite image indicating the location of the Tel Megiddo East quarry and the marl deposits at 'Ain el-Qubbi.

Figure 5. Portion of quarry at Tel Megiddo East. Note square shapes of blocks. The two angular blocks just left of the meter stick are the discarded remains of a single block that cracked during extraction.

Figure 6. Portion of quarry at Tel Megiddo East.

Figure 7. Remains from the EB Ib at the site of magnetic survey Area A.

Figure 8. Portion of the aqueduct near the spring at 'Ain el-Qubbi.

Sunrise over Mount Tavor from 'Ain el-Qubbi

 

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