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1992 Excavations at WZ 310, Wadi Ziqlab

The text of the preliminary report on these excavations follows.


During the 1987 field survey, Ian Kuijt observed a few sherds of possible Neolithic date eroding from a road cut about 600 m northwest of Tabaqat al-Bûma, and the terrace immediately above this cut was one of the localities for subsurface survey in 1990. The two 1990 test probes revealed tantalizing material that appeared to date very near the conventional boundary between the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic in the southern Levant, including grey or black burnished ware and denticulated sickle blades, but our sample was quite small and the probes were too small for us to identify any architecture. During the 1992 season, consequently, we enlarged our sample of the site by excavating an area of 4.5 m x 3.5 m.

Stratigraphy and architecture

Although isolated "grain-wash" body sherds that occur as surface finds on the south side of the road, opposite locality WZ 310, suggested that there may be an EB IB component on some part of the site, continued excavation revealed that Chalcolithic and probable Early Bronze Age material also underlay fairly thick deposits of Late Neolithic material in our excavation of Area A (which includes probe A from 1990). At first Area A appeared to have no occupation later than the terminal Neolithic. The upper 30 or 50 cm consists of grey, marly slopewash with very few diagnostic artifacts, that overlies a surface (locus A.008) with flat-lying sherds that are probably mid-fifth millennium (uncalibrated) in date as well as stone tumble (locus A.007) that seemed to be from collapsed architecture. Beneath the surface was an ashy lens (locus A.010) over a browner fill (loci A.011 and A.012).
Deposits in and below this fill, however, and in pits (loci A.016, A.017 and A.018) below the ashy layer, began to show large numbers of clearly later artifacts, some belonging to the Early Bronze Age. Among these were two large Canaanaean blades. The most likely explanation is that all of the Late Neolithic material in Area A has been redeposited, probably from upslope, even though we did not detect any mixture of more recent material among it. Some of the material is stratigraphically later than a white, marly, laminated layer that the project geologist identifies as the result of ponding, perhaps behind a wall or other obstruction, and this ponding itself seals the late pits. We hope that deposits a little way up the hill may still preserve some relatively undisturbed Neolithic material, although inspection of the surface and small gullies suggests that they do not.

Apart from the pits that contained post-Neolithic material, Area A architecture was limited to only the small remnant of the corner of a building (locus A.013) most of which had been lost in the road cut, and a possible terrace wall or field clearance (locus A.020), poorly constructed from large stones, that may have been the barrier that collected slopewash and Late Neolithic material behind it.

Pottery and lithics

The most interesting material from WZ 310 pertains to the very end of the Neolithic, but the site also yields artifacts as late as the Early Bronze Age.
From the surface (A.008) down to locus A.012 there were large numbers of artifacts, especially in the northeast corner of the excavation area, that belong to the end of the Neolithic. Principal among these are the grey and black burnished sherds, some showing a gradation from black to red on their external surfaces, and either black or tan sherds with coarsely combed decoration (e.g., A.47.14, A.49.20, A.51.14, A.63.36). In addition there are rare instances of punctate decoration (A.54.6, A.43.3) and red-brown painted decoration. In many instances these closely parallel sherds found in the latest Neolithic deposits at Tabaqat al-Bûma as well as in Late Neolithic components at Batashi, Jericho, Munhatta and Wadi Rabah (Kaplan 1955; Kaplan 1958; Kaplan 1958; Perrot 1964; Kaplan 1972; Kenyon and Holland 1983). An unusual ledge handle (A.68.4) in the hard, black-burnished ware, has an almost rectangular plan with slightly concave sides, and may have broken from a large platter-like vessel.

Here there are also sherds of the Wadi Rabah phase or Early Chalcolithic of vessel types that do not occur in our large sample from site WZ 200. Among these are heavy triangular rims (e.g., A.54.1, A.54.2) and well fired, greenish buff, holemouth rims with an angular interior thickening (e.g., A.47.19, A.53.4).

The lithics also point predominantly to a date late in the Late Neolithic. As at Tabaqat al-Bûma, throughout the Late Neolithic, the bulk of the lithic assemblage represents an expedient technology, with virtually the only "formed tools" being bifacial adzes, chisels, retouched flakes, blade tools, and sickle blades. The sickle blades, in particular, share many similarities with those recovered from WZ 200. Both assemblages are made up of predominantly denticulated and abruptly backed pieces. Lithic tools from both sites are made from a similar variety of local cherts. And also as at Tabaqat al-Bûma, we have as yet identified only one projectile point in the assemblage. As this point is only a fragment, it has limited value as a temporal marker. An intriguing aspect of the lithic assemblage from WZ 310 is the recovery of two Canaanaean blades in the deepest horizons of the site (locus A.019). Closer examination of the nature of the tools from this locus will help clarify to what extent any of the superimposed deposits may have mixed material.


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