The Yarmukian Culture in Israel

II. Sites Description, Stratigraphy and Geographical Distribution

In this section the various Yarmukian sites known thus far are presented in accordance with their geographical distribution, from north to south:

Sha`ar Hagolan (Central Jordan Valley)- In Sha`ar Hagolan Stekelis conducted four seasons of excavations in the years 1948-1952. The Yarmukian remains were usually found under 1-1.5 m of later alluvial deposits or a Middle Bronze I (Early Bronze IV) village(28). Additional excavations at the Middle Bronze I village were conducted by E. Eisenberg in the late 1970s(29). The thickness of the Yarmukian accumulation was between 30-60 cm. Stekelis reported remains of two rounded huts, and one grave, however he did not publish a coherent plan of them. In the final report he concentrated mainly on the flint tools and the art objects, and the pottery was mentioned only very breifly(30).

The members of Kibbutz Sha`ar Hagolan were deeply involved in the discoveries of the nearby archaeological site. They carried out intensive surveys and surface finds collections during the years. Yarmukian items were found over a large area of few hundred dunams, indicating that the Yarmukian site occupied a vast area. A local museum dedicated to the Yarmukian culture was built in Kibbutz Sha`ar Hagolan, and it is open to the public(31).

In the years 1989-1990 the site of Sha`ar Hagolan was re excavated by the writer(32). During these seasons 120 sq m were opened in an area at the edge of a terrace near the floodplain of the Yarmuk river, 214 m below sea level. Impressive remains of architecture were discovered. These included one household unit, and a corner of a large well built structure. All the sediment was sieved and the finds include flint, stone tools, pottery, animal bones, art objects and one obsidian blade. In a trench made by a mechanical vessel the thikness of the Yarmucian deposit was 2 m, and virgin soil was not reached. Such a thick deposit of occupation was never reported from any Yarmukian site.

Munhata (Central Jordan Valley)- In this site some 2050 sq m were unearthed, and the following stratigraphy was observed(33):

Layer 1: Early Bronze I settlement.

Layer 2a: Wadi Rabah settlement.

Layer 2b: Yarmukian settlement.

Layer 3: Gap.

Layer 4-6: a typical Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlement.

In the Yarmukian layer the remains of five rounded structures, some 50 pits, and one grave were unearthed. A detailed excavation map has not yet been published, but schemathic plans are available in the pottery report(34). In a preliminary report Perrot suggested a sub-division within the Yarmukian sequence: Sha`ar Hagolan phase and Munhata-Ghrubba phase(35). However, the final analysis of the pottery has demonstrated the homogenuity of the material throughout Layer 2b..

Hamadiya (Central Jordan Valley)- The site is located about 10 km south of Munhata. Surface finds were published in the 1950s by Zori(36), and one excavation season was carried out by Kaplan in 1964(37). About 100 sq m were unearthed in this one layer site, and the report mentions pits, ovens, and fireplaces, but no building remains. Typical pottery, flint, and art objects are breifly mentioned, but no detailed report has ever been published. Outside the excavated area, in one spot of the site surface, a rich concentration of flint items was discovered. The excavator estimates that 300 sickleblades were collected from that spot, and he interprted this place as a sickleblades workshop(38).

Tel Qishion (Lower Galilee)- At this site, located at the upper part of Nahal Tavor, classical Yarmukian pottery was collected on the surface(39), as well as a schematic anthropomorphic statue(40).

Hazorea (Jezreel Valley)- Few sherds with the typical herring-bone incised decoration of the Yarmukian pottery type were reported from this site(41). The pottery assemblage of the so-called "Hazorea Culture"(42), although published apart from the decorated sherds, are typically Yarmukian in form.

Megiddo (Jezreel Valley)- At the base of Tel Megiddo, in Area BB, a Yarmukian settlement was discovered. Its main components: pottery, flint items, and a figurine, were found mixed with later material of Layers XX and XIX, and designated Chalcolithic(43). Further discussions of these remains did not contribute much to the understanding of the Yarmukian layer(44). In Fig. 2 the most characteristic Yarmukian artifacts of Megiddo: pottery, flint items and the figurine, are presented.

Tell Farah North (Samaria Hills)- In the layer designated "chalcolithique moyen/eneolithique moyen", some typical Yarmukyian artifacts, mixed with those of later periods, have been found. These include jar fragments(45), and denticulated sickleblades(46).

Nahal Qanah Cave (Samaria Hills)- Yarmukian remains were collected in this carstic cave without any stratigraphic context. Well preserved pottery vessels, some with complete profiles, and some flint tools were reported(47).

Habashan Street (the Coastal Plain)- This site is located 500 meters south of the bank of the Yarkon River, nowdays in the midst of Tel Aviv, and probably totally destroyed. Three seasons of excavations were conducted in this site by Kaplan between 1950 and 1952, but he published only very short reports(48). Three occupation layers were unearthed, all without building remains.

They were dated as follows (from top to bottom):

Layer I - Early Bronze.

Layer II - Wadi Rabah.

Layer III- Yarmukian.

The Yarmukian settlement was established above alluvial virgin soil, and the occupation remains consist of some 20 pits. The finds include: pottery, flint objects and figurines, similar to those discovered by Stekelis in Sha`ar Hagolan. The importance of the excavation in Habashan Street is twofold: it enlarges the geographical distribution of the Yarmukian Culture to the Coastal Plain and places it stratigraphically below the Wadi Rabah Culture.

Wadi Muraba`at Cave (Judean Desert)- In the early 1950s, in a cave in Wadi Muraba`at, few pottery sherds with typical Yarmukian shapes and decorations were discovered(49). This material was not found in a stratigraphic context, but mixed with later pottery of the Ghassoulian Chalcolithic Culture.

Yarmukian sites were found in various geographial parts of Israel: The Central Jordan Valley (Sha`ar Hagolan, Munhata, Hamadiya), the Jezreel Valley (Megiddo, Hazorea), Lower Galilee (Tel Qishion), the Samaria Hills (Tell Farah North, Nahal Qanah Cave), the Coastal Plain (Habashan Street), and the Judean Desert (Wadi Muraba`at cave). Almost all these sites were found in the mediterranean climate zone of the country. Wadi Muraba`at is the only site located further to the south, in the arid zone of the Judean Desert. As this is a cave site, and only a few sherds were found, it may represent just one occaisional visit to this place.

Sratigraphically (see Table 1) two Yarmukian settlements were found below remains dated to the Wadi Rabah Culture: Munhata Layer 2b, and Habashan Street Layer III. No Yarmukian remains were found immidiately above Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlements. In Munhata there is a gap in the occupation, and in `Ain Ghazal an addition cultural unit was recognized, termed by the excavators "Pre-Pottery Neolithic C".


28) Stekelis, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1972.

29) Eisenberg, 1980.

30) Stekelis, 1972.

31) Rosovsky and Ungerleider-Mayerson, 1989: 222-223.

32) Garfinkel, 1990, 1992a.

33) Perrot, 1968, in press.

34) Garfinkel, 1992b: Figs. 3-7.

35) Perrot, 1968: 411-416.

36) Zori, 1954, 1958.

37) Kaplan, 1965, 1978b.

38) Kaplan, 1978b.

39) Arnon and Amiran, 1981.

40) Rot, 1976.

41) Anati, 1971; Anati et al., 1973: Pl. XVIII.

42) Anati et al., 1973: Fig. 58.

43) Shipton, 1939: 44-46; Loud, 1948: 60-61.

44) Albright, 1949; Dothan, 1958; Kempinski, 1989: 20-21.

45) de Vaux and Steve, 1947: Fig. 1:34 & Pl. XIV:7.

46) de Vaux and Steve, 1947: Pl. XII:2.

47) Gopher and Tsuk, 1991. Gopher et al., 1990

48) Kaplan, 1954, 1959a: 21-26, 1978a.