(Ar., Tell en-Na῾am),

an open-air site astride the Darb el-Hawarneh, the ancient road used as an international highway for trade and cultural diffusion from the Late Bronze Age until the early twentieth century CE to connect the Hauran in Syria with Akko in Palestine (32°43′ N, 35°3′ E; map reference 198 × 235). One of thirteen archaeological sites in a northwest–southeast-trending valley in the eastern Lower Galilee, Tel Yin῾am is adjacent to Wadi Fajjas, near an inland branch of the Via Maris, at the eastern edge of an alluvial fan of basaltic soils that slopes from the Yavne'el scarp on the west side of the Yavne'el Valley. The site was occupied from the Yarmukian Neolithic until the Late Roman period. Although it is frequently identified with biblical Yavne'el/Jabneel (Jos. 19:33), it is not the only Iron Age site in the vicinity. Beth-Gan, which yielded transitional LB/Iron and Iron I material, is another candidate. [See Beth-Gan.] In the Jerusalem Talmud (Meg. 1:1, 70A) biblical Yavne'el, a town at the southern border of the tribe of Naphtali, is identified with Khirbet Yamma, but no Iron Age material has been recovered from that nearby settlement. Early efforts to identify Tel Yin῾am with Yeno῾am in New Kingdom Egyptian sources are now generally disregarded. However, because the site yielded a significant LB II occupation and ended in a fiery destruction, its identification with Yeno῾am, which some scholars believe to have been in the Bashan (Na'aman, 1977), may not be out of the question.

The site's rich alluvial soils and ample water supply from springs and wadis fostered an agriculturally based economy, but its inhabitants also engaged in trade and ironworking at the end of the Late Bronze Age. The site's location accounts for its trade connections and the variety and quality of its material culture.

The earliest exploration of the site was conducted by the Palestine Exploration Fund during the survey in western Palestine in 1873. Aape Saarisalo subsequently surveyed the site and carried out a sondage (which the present excavation identified by loose fill and a metal can in square K10 in the 1920s). He believed Tel Yin῾am to be the key archaeological site in the valley and claimed that it had been occupied during the Bronze and Iron Ages and the Hellenistic, Roman, and Arab periods (Saarisalo, 1927). The site was later surveyed by Yohanan Aharoni and again by Ruth Amiran (Aharoni, 1957). The most recent survey, prior to systematic excavations, was conducted by Zvi Gal. His report (1992, p. 33) relied on the assessment of the site, as of 1981, by the University of Texas, which excavated there, under the direction of Harold Liebowitz, from 1976 to 1981 and 1983 to 1989.

In preparation for those excavations, Liebowitz conducted a sondage on the north side of the mound in 1975. Work was focused on the north and west sides of the mound (areas A and B). Area C, on the south side, which was badly eroded, was excavated for only one season. In 1978 a brief salvage dig was carried out 50 m west of the foot of the mound in area D, a terrace. The final seasons on excavation revised the site's occupational history. It is now known to have had fewer gaps in occupation than originally assumed. Its broad repertoire of pottery and small finds (see below) have helped to define the eastern lower Galilee as a distinct region in the Late Bronze Age, heretofore considered to have been basically unoccupied in that period.

Neolithic and Chalcolithic Periods.

While the material evidence attests to the occupation of the site in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, these levels were not reached in excavation because of the compaction of the soil below the EB I layers. The Neolithic pottery closely parallels assemblages from other Yarmukian sites (Stekelis, 1972), and the serrated flint blades recall sickle blades known from numerous Neolithic sites. The Chalcolithic period is attested primarily by large basalt hammers.

Bronze Age.

The Early Bronze Age IA is best represented in area D (10 × 10 sq m), excavated on the terrace settlement (see above). There, a circular platform identified as a bāmâ was found in association with partially preserved walls. The surface of the area was 10 cm thick and produced a rich, densely packed assemblage of EB IA pottery paralleled at Khirbet Kerak (and some Neolithic pottery), a miniature basalt bowl, a rare ceramic bull protome, and a profusion of animal bones. A less significant EB layer was excavated on the west side of the mound.

The Middle Bronze Age is represented by the southwest corner of an MB fortress temple in a poorly preserved area immediately below the earliest phase of an LB II building in area B. The surface patch yielded an almost intact electrum figurine of a standing goddess that has parallels in silver from a temple at Nahariyah in Israel and at Syrian sites; and a flat, copper/bronze standing figurine with parallels at Byblos. These figurines from Tel Yin῾am were found in association with an MB II cooking pot and the upper part of a large, unusual jar with plastic and incised decoration. The northern part of the structure had been bulldozed by a local farmer prior to excavation; its southeastern part remains unexcavated. Other MB II sherds were found in fills elsewhere in area B.

The tell was abandoned until the latter part of the Late Bronze Age. A ten-room central building (building 1) that served as the residence of the local ruler existed throughout the LB occupation and yielded finds including cylinder seals, a stamp seal, a necklace with a chalcedony lion pendant, and beads (including two gray-and-white barrel-shaped beads), two Egyptian heart amulets, a bronze plow point, an “Egyptian Blue” shallow bowl, basalt bowls, and millstones. [See Seals.]

Additional thirteenth-century buildings abutted building 1; all experienced two phases of occupation. On the cobbled floor of the storeroom of building 2 from the later phase, a dense concentration of sherds was found from which unusually large biconical jugs, store jars, and an unparalleled Mycenaean stirrup jar were restored, substantiating, along with the small finds (see above), the extent of foreign trade in the Late Bronze Age. The floor of building 7 was paved with meter-long flagstones. A 50-cm deep layer of ash, charred wood, fire-cracked rock, and burnt and disintegrated mud brick found on the floors of the major LB buildings was evidence of their violent end. In the final LB phase, room 1 of building 1 was turned into an industrial installation that apparently was a primitive iron smelter, heralding the coming of the Iron Age (see below).

Iron Age.

The reuse in some places of LB walls in the Iron I settlements and floors laid directly above the LB destruction debris suggest that a relatively short period elapsed between destruction and resettlement. The Iron I buildings were sturdily built, and the pottery was of consistently high quality. Though much of the western slope of the mound is eroded, and a significant portion of the Iron I levels was destroyed, the preserved remains attest that the site was continuously occupied throughout the Iron I and into Iron II A (the tenth century BCE).

The courtyard of one of two tenth-century (Iron IIA) domestic buildings in area B yielded an oil press, an olive-cracking installation, stone weights, and olive pits, suggesting the existence of a home industry. [See Olives.] A long room north of the courtyard yielded forty-five loom weights. Unusual small finds include a rare bimetallic knife and a cone-shaped seal that features two rampant longhorns, each with a human figure seated on its back. Only two loci produced rich assemblages of Iron IIC ceramic remains in situ on the mound, although large quantities of sherds were found scattered throughout the area. A homogeneous assemblages of Iron IIC cooking pots, jugs, and store jars was restored from a courtyard and a partially excavated building in area B. Building activity in the Persian period had considerably disrupted remains in that level.

Persian–Roman Periods.

Evidence of a Persian period occupation at the site was found in two phases in areas A and B. The ceramic assemblages reflect local and imported wares, including bowls, jugs, juglets, store jars, cooking pots, and a large pilgrim flask; among the imports were an East Greek painted jug and Attic sherds. The period's most substantial remains were recovered in area B on the tell: a partially excavated building with walls one meter wide and a large stepped podium with a flagsone walkway leading to it. In area A a building with ovens and grain silos, whose dimensions suggest domestic use, was excavated. The site yielded no evidence of occupation in the Hellenistic period but was reoccupied in the Roman period. The domestic structures were comprised of two rooms and appear to have been small. The one exception is a building in area A, on the north. It was partially excavated along with Roman-period buildings in area B. There, because the mound sloped sharply, the western continuation of the walls and floors of several rooms was eroded. Unique to area C are the limestone ashlars used in the building that housed a six-stepped, plaster-lined miqveh. [See Ritual Baths.] Though carbon-14 tests conducted on the plaster from the miqveh's walls suggest a sixth-century date, the pottery is Late Roman. The absence of Byzantine and Arab pottery either in Gal's survey or in excavation leads to the conclusion that the site was abandoned at some time prior to the fourth century.

Bibliography

  • Aharoni, Yohanan. The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in the Upper Galilee (in Hebrew). Jerusalem, 1957. See pages 79, 125, 129.
  • Conder, Claude R., and H. H. Kitchener. The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology, vol. 1, Galilee. London, 1881. See page 417.
  • Gal, Zvi. Lower Galilee during the Iron Age. Winona Lake, Ind., 1992.
  • Liebowitz, Harold. “Tel Yin῾am.” Ḥadashot Arkheologiyot 59 (1976): 29; 63–64 (1977): 29; 79 (1979): 20; 78 (1982): 17; 93 (1984): 24; 94 (1990): 110.
  • Liebowitz, Harold. “Ivory.” Israel Exploration Journal 27 (1977): 53–54; 28 (1978): 193–194; 29 (1979): 229–230; 32 (1982): 64–66.
  • Liebowitz, Harold, and Robert L. Folk. “Archaeological Geology of Tel Yin῾am, Galilee, Israel.” Journal of Field Archaeology 7 (1980): 23–42.
  • Liebowitz, Harold. “Excavations at Tel Yin῾am: The 1976 and 1977 Seasons, Preliminary Report.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 243 (1981): 79–94.
  • Liebowitz, Harold, and Robert Folk. “The Dawn of Iron Smelting in Palestine: The Late Bronze Age Smelter at Tel Yin῾am, Preliminary Report.” Journal of Field Archaeology 11 (1984): 265–280.
  • Liebowitz, Harold. “Tel Yin῾am.” Qadmoniot 19 (1984): 12–15.
  • Liebowitz, Harold. “Yin῾am, Tel.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, pp. 584–587. New York, 1992.
  • Na'aman, Nadav. “Yenoam.” Tel Aviv 4 (1977): 168–177.
  • Saarisalo, Aape. The Boundary between Issachar and Naphtali: An Archaeological and Literary Study of Israel's Settlement in Canaan. Helsinki, 1927. See pages 44–45.

Harold A. Liebowitz