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Archaeology in Israel: Tel Burga

During May-June 2004, salvage excavations were undertaken at Tel Burga (Kh. El Bureij, Israel Grid Coordinates 14700-21425), located one kilometer east of Binyamina, at the request of the Israel Electric Company, prior to the construction of two new electric pylons. The excavations were financed by the contractor and were directed by Amir Golani on behalf of the IAA.

The site is surrounded by an artificial earthen rampart that stands out above its immediate surroundings, mute testimony to the strong fortifications that ringed the ancient settlement that covers an area of about 250 dunams. Several surveys have combed the site and a small excavation at its western edge has revealed a portion of the city gateway. The earthen ramparts were raised in the Middle Bronze Age IIA (20th-18th centuries BCE) when settlement flourished in the Sharon Plain and several sites such as Tel Aphek (near Rosh Ha'Ayin), Tel Poleg, Tel Burga and Tel Zeror were all fortified with earthen ramparts.

The excavations consisted of two large squares, positioned in the center of the area for the planned electric pylon.

Square A

Positioned in the southwestern portion of the site, this square revealed meager and eroded remains of a habitational level along with two tombs dated to the MB IIA period.

Tomb 1 included three nearly complete skeletons laid closely together in a contracted position, two with their heads towards the south and one with its head towards the north. Anthropological examination revealed that two of the individuals were relatively young adult males while the third, whose sex is uncertain was slightly younger.

Tomb 2 was constructed with a large deep pit dug down over 1.5 m intro the ground that was lined with stone walls preserved to 8-9 courses of fieldstones forming a square structure measuring 3 x 2.8 m. The tomb was apparently roofed over in the past by wooden beams that have since deteriorated, and earth. Entrance into the tomb from the west was gained by means of a vertical pier dug into the earth, at the bottom of which were found crushed ceramic vessels along with bones. The entrance itself was blocked up with stones. Inside the tomb were found the scattered remains of five individuals none of whom were articulated. In addition, at least 25 complete pottery vessels, a few precious stone beads and two faience scarabs with a geometric design on their base were retrieved from this burial level.

At a later stage, a portion of the tomb was used again for burial. On its western side a wall was built directly upon the earlier burial remains creating an individual burial cist measuring 2 x 0.5 m. Within this cist the skeleton of a young male was found lying upon its right side in a contracted position with the head towards the north. At his feet was a complete upright store jar with a small dipper juglet within.

Square B

Positioned in the northern portion of the site, this square revealed two architectural phases dated to the MB IIA period, covered over by 1.8 m of alluvial soil. The early phase was only partially revealed and included a few wall fragments along with an associated beaten-earth floor.

At a later phase the area was filled over and the earlier remains partially covered. Two large walls forming a corner of a large building were revealed. The walls were sunken into the ground, cutting into remains of the earlier habitation. Outside the building a portion of a stone pavement was found.

Excavations did not reveal any remains earlier or later to the MB IIA period, indicating that the tel and the earthen ramparts surrounding it are of a one period site.

Sources: Israel Antiquities Authority