Archaeology is increasingly becoming an organized battery of specialized disciplines. Today, new excavations such as Tel Hadid incorporate specialists with expertise in various areas, including ceramics, glass, religious and cultic objects, plant remains (e.g., seeds and pollen), and zoological remains (e.g., bones and fur). Some experts specialize in historical periods, such as the Late Bronze Age or Roman period. Others focus on technology and can catalog the data and even reconstruct the site in virtual reality. What follows is a series of short, specialized reports that gives BAR readers an in-depth look at Tel Hadid to understand this site like the experts do.—B.C.

Hunting for Hadid

Ido Koch

During the early years of Christianity, scholars, such as Eusebius (260/265–339/340 C.E.), “rediscovered” the land of the Bible and identified numerous biblical places in the settlements of their times. They identified Haditha (Greek: ’Αδɩθά or Αδɩθα)—Tel Hadid—as the site of Adithaim, a town in the allotment of Judah (Joshua 15:36). The famous Madaba Map (part of a mosaic floor from the sixth-century C.E. church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan) similarly features a village west of Jerusalem with the caption “Adiathim that is now Aditha.” This identification was seemingly accepted not only by scholars but also by the local people—members of the Christian community seeking their biblical roots.

However, biblical Adithaim should be sought in the Judean Shephelah, south of the Lydda Valley. Clearly, this confusion was fueled by the phonetic similarities between the names.

A different identification of Hadid, proposed centuries later, has become the consensus. Isaac HaKohen Ben Moses (1280–1355 C.E.), a Jewish scholar better known by his pseudonym Ishtori Haparchi, traveled seven years across the Holy Land and documented his insights on the local topography and toponomy in his book Kaftor VaFerach (literally, “Button and Flower”). There he wrote that the village of Haditha, located on top of a round hill two hours by foot east of Lydda, is biblical Hadid.

Archaeological Surveys

Omer Ze’evi-Berger

In 2018–2019, we carried out a detailed survey of Tel Hadid, focusing on two main goals: (1) collecting period-indicative artifacts, mainly pottery, and (2) documenting all features (e.g., walls, fences, cisterns, and presses) found around the site. We divided the site into sub-units based on topography, vegetation, access, and visible landmarks. And we digitally recorded everything, enabling us to track and communicate our progress and mark special points of interest.

The artifact survey involved collecting all surface finds, washing and counting them, and then dating diagnostic sherds, and retaining them for publication. Interestingly, our preliminary results suggest that despite some representation of all periods in all of the survey units, the lower mound has a strong Iron Age II signal, whereas the upper mound is dominated by a Hellenistic signal. Byzantine, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods have a strong representation throughout the site.

A smaller team conducted the feature survey. We gave each installation a feature number and recorded and measured it. Then we built a 3D model of each installation through photogrammetry, using Agisoft Photoscan software, and drew it to scale. Our ultimate goal is to develop a detailed map of the site and its features. To date, we have documented 182 features, including cisterns, caves, tombs, presses, terrace walls, and plot fences.

We hope that the two approaches, in combination, will provide us with a holistic view of what is above ground at Tel Hadid. This in turn might help us determine where to excavate and develop elaborate research questions relating to the formation processes of the site, the relationship between the various rock-cut installations, and the relationship between the site and its environs through the ages.

The Byzantine Period

Ruthy Lewis

The Byzantine period (the fourth–seventh centuries C.E.) was a time of growth and prosperity in the southern Levant. Major transformations, most notably Christianization throughout the land, had a profound impact on the demography and resulted in modifications of various practices, including burials, and the construction of religious buildings, such as churches and monasteries.

The majority of finds from the Byzantine period at Tel Hadid have been identified through surveys and brief excavations. Notably, these include a mosaic floor southeast of the upper mound, depicting a Nilotic scene (a scene inspired by the Nile River in Egypt) and featuring dedication inscriptions, and several agricultural installations, including wine and olive presses.

In 2019, we excavated a large wine press, located in the center of the lower terrace, northwest of the mound. We uncovered small portions of a mosaic floor found in situ, a section of a floor made of broken pottery sherds and plaster, and, in the center of the wide surface, a square screw base made of stone. To the east, we unearthed an intermediate vat with a partially preserved mosaic floor, as well as channels connecting the wide surface, the intermediate vat, and the large collection vat.

We also unearthed a Byzantine burial complex with 17 arcosolium tombs (from Latin meaning “arched throne,” an arched recess used as a tomb). The burials contained numerous human bones and a variety of material remains, including ceramic vessels, such as fourth-century C.E. oil lamps, a glass juglet pendant, a silver cross, various pieces of jewelry, and a coin attributed to Emperor Constantine (fourth century C.E.). The silver cross within the burial attests to a Christian population. Nonetheless, this does not rule out the possibility of several different religious communities coinhabiting the site.

The Byzantine tombs at Tel Hadid are congruent with the ones uncovered at other sites in the region. Together, they attest to the region being inhabited by a Christian population.

Glass Objects

Ruthy Lewis

During the salvage excavations at Tel Hadid in the 1990s, more than 2,000 glass sherds were uncovered from a variety of contexts, such as terrace fills, burials, topsoil, and pits. The glass assemblage consisted of a range of vessels, including beakers, bottles, wine glasses, beads, and bracelets, all dating from the late Hellenistic period (second–first centuries B.C.E.) to the modern era.

The earlier glass finds consist mostly of body sherds from unsecure contexts. Nonetheless, archaeologists uncovered a significant number of intact and restorable glass items, including Roman period (37 B.C.E.–325 C.E.) candlestick bottles and a unique glass chalice from burial contexts. Candlestick bottles of various shapes and sizes were popular burial goods throughout the Roman Empire, especially in the southern Levant, from the late first to the mid-third centuries C.E. Other noteworthy finds include an early Islamic (seventh-century C.E.) molar bottle, a juglet-shaped pendant of the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh centuries C.E.), fragments of bowls from the late Hellenistic/Early Roman period (first century B.C.E.–first century C.E.), and an intact fourth-century C.E. trail-wound base of a small bowl.

Most of the indicative glass finds (i.e., handles, rims, bases) date to the Late Roman–Byzantine periods (fourth–seventh centuries C.E.). Of particular importance is a pit near a Byzantine wine press complex that contained a variety of wine glasses, a few sherds of window glass, and some oil-lamp fragments, all dated roughly to the sixth century C.E. These glass objects, along with some restorable ceramic vessels, allow archaeologists to securely date the pit to the Byzantine period. The assemblage might suggest that there was a church in the nearby vicinity of the press.

Like any other man-made material, glass is invaluable for archaeological research. Its permutable nature creates a typology and makes it helpful for the dating of a site. Further, chemical analysis can trace its origins. The glass finds from Tel Hadid show that the inhabitants of the site had access to trade and possessed the means to acquire glass objects and to incorporate them into their daily lives.

Olive Oil Industry

Débora Aymbinderow

Archaeologists exposed 25 rock-hewn olive presses, spread over an acre along the southern slope of the lower terrace at Tel Hadid. They revealed three additional olive presses in the structures along the northern slope (where the cuneiform tablets were found)—one cut into bedrock and two movable installations in association with the buildings. The installations on the southern slope largely appear alone or in pairs.

These installations should be dated to the Iron Age IIC (700–586 B.C.E.), most probably the seventh century B.C.E.

Composed of a large beam to which weights would be attached to increase pressure, the presses had a central collecting vat cut into the rock or into a stone boulder. A narrow shallow channel encircled the pressing surface and led into the vat through a hole. A shallow, usually circular, curved surface—used for crushing the olives prior to pressing—was cut in the rock near the vat. Archaeologists exposed a rock wall with a niche for the press-beam near some of the installations. The beams of movable installations were probably set within built walls.

The olive oil industry at Tel Hadid was based on earlier production methods developed in the Kingdom of Israel. Yet the installations’ seventh-century B.C.E. date, the presence of deportees at the site, the Assyrian administrative system as reflected in the clay tablets, and the historical context as a whole point to a provincial economic enterprise. By constructing these olive-oil extraction installations, the Assyrians aimed to exploit the olive groves located farther to the east, on the highland of the province, for the benefit of the Assyrian empire.

Cult Objects

Alexandra Wrathall

During the excavations conducted at Tel Hadid in the 1990s, a pit was uncovered in a natural crevice in the bedrock. The pit revealed a unique and complete ceramic assemblage, including dozens of chalices and a donkey-shaped vessel—a prized discovery giving archaeologists a glimpse of life at Tel Hadid in the late Iron Age IIA (c. ninth century B.C.E.). The assemblage raised questions about the nature of the site—and the pit—in the Iron Age II.

Studies have revealed that this was a refuse pit, created for the deposition of cultic vessels. A cultic refuse pit contains a specific “type” of ancient refuse:

(1) artifacts associated with cult and ritual practice (e.g., serving vessels, figurines);

(2) ceramic vessels usually found intact or completely restorable; and

(3) animal remains (understood in relation to consumption, feasting, or offerings).

The key element that identifies the Tel Hadid pit as a refuse pit is the presence of intact or completely restorable vessels, as well as the apparent cultic nature of its contents. How and why were the ceramic vessels deposited in such a way?

Cultic refuse pits relate to sacred ritual practices and the waste generated by them. The Roman practice of favissae (singular: favissa) helps us understand these pits. The Roman author Varro first employed the term favissae in the first century C.E. to describe rock-cut chambers near a temple close to the Capitoline Hill in Rome. The subterranean chambers stored votive objects, cultic figurines, and votive lumber no longer in use. Indeed, the rooms were allocated for refuse—but for a specific type of refuse that was meaningful to the individuals who deposited it.

In the study of earlier periods, such as the Iron Age II, the more contextually appropriate term “cultic refuse pit” is used instead of the term favissa. A cultic refuse pit reflects a similar concept to a favissa: the intentional deposition of a specific type of refuse, which is, for the individual depositing it, distinct from routine, daily refuse.

The Intermediate Bronze Age

Noa Ranzer

The earliest remains unearthed at Tel Hadid hark back to the Intermediate Bronze Age (the second half of the third millennium B.C.E.). That period was previously considered to be an “interlude”—a short and obscure period that had little in common with the periods preceding and following it. However, excavations conducted at Intermediate Bronze Age sites throughout the southern Levant have revealed major regional differences between the inland areas, the coastal plain, and the Negev.

Regional differences are evident in the pottery, the type of sites (small v. large, etc.), and the trade networks in which every region participated. For example, while sites in the Jezreel Valley of Northern Israel revealed pottery vessels imported from Syria, the people of southern Israel were probably more involved in trade with Egypt. In general, there is little evidence of strong social stratification in the Intermediate Bronze Age.

People occupied the region of Tel Hadid as early as the Early Bronze Age II (2800–2500 B.C.E.). But during the Early Bronze Age III (2500–2200 B.C.E.), such sites as Tel Dalit, Tel Bareket, and Tel Burnat were abandoned or diminished in size. Intermediate Bronze Age remains, including pottery, tombs, and architecture, have been found throughout the region at sites such as Lod, Beth Nehemiah, and Tel Hadid.

The Intermediate Bronze Age finds from Tel Hadid—uncovered by the previous salvage excavation project—include potsherds and installations, mainly silos and other features carved into rock. The fertile soils in the region around the site are conducive to agricultural activity, which is consistent with the storage installations from Tel Hadid.