The University of Michigan/University of Minnesota Expedition was in the field at Tel Kedesh from May 20 to July 17, 2000. Our team included roughly 40 student volunteers plus graduate student supervisors, senior staff and specialists. Our work concentrated on the large Hellenistic building at the south end of the lower (south) tel, where we have now exposed about 20% of that 5400m2 structure. We also excavated a step trench on the south slope of the upper (north) tel and continued work on what we had thought was a house to the west of the large Hellenistic building, first excavated in 1997.
The Northern Step Trench (WE 3.2)
In 1999 we had excavated the NE quadrant of this grid to Abassid levels, documenting modern, Ottoman and Mameluk period occupations along the way. In the 2000 season we moved to the SE quadrant of the square, where we found the Abassid architecture at surface and earlier Bronze Age remains which were disturbed by Hellenistic and Iron Age pits. Surprisingly, the first preserved occupation layers below the Abassid architecture proved to be Middle Bronze Age in date.
Coupling this information with the scarcity of Persian, Hellenistic and Roman material from Aharoni’s 1953 excavations on the north side of the tel and the absence of those levels in our 1999 excavations in the saddle between the north and south tels, we have reached the provisional conclusion that the north tel was not occupied from at least the Iron Age through the Byzantine era. Further evidence for this hypothesis is found in the Phoenician sarcophagi visible in the saddle between the two tels. Since neither the Phoenicians, Greeks or Romans normally buried their dead within their settlements we believe that the Persian and Classical period occupation was limited to the south tel, with the northern mound possibly serving as a necropolis.
The Western “House” (CB3.9/WB3.1)
This area, about 10m west of the west wall of the administrative building, was the site of our first test probe in 1997, when we believed it to be a house due to the domestic nature of the vessels and other artifacts found on the floor. We have now opened an area about15x10m large over the northern sector of this “house”, which has compelled a re-evaluation of our original identification. The eastern sector of the building exposed so far is dominated by a large, paved courtyard. The courtyard measures 9m east to west, which would be unusually large for a private house in the Hellenistic era. The restorable pottery and other artifacts previously excavated are almost all crammed in the corner of a room to the west of the courtyard. Consequently we are reconsidering our original identification of the structure as a private house, and are thinking it may instead be a public courtyard surrounded by small shops or storage rooms.
The Hellenistic Administrative Building
The Archive Room and Environs (CB3.8/4.8/4.7)
We excavated the entire 5x5m archive room to the Hellenistic floor level and below, exposing the founding level of three of its four walls and recovering another 700 bullae (seal impressions), resulting in a total archive size of over 2000 bullae in addition to those found in 1999. A well-built stone doorway led from the archive to a corridor about 2.5m wide to its north. We found additional bullae which had been discarded in the corridor. The southern sector of the archive room was disturbed by later activities, both Hellenistic and Roman, but the northern sector was relatively intact. The Hellenistic floor was an ephemeral earth surface recognizable as a floor only by the restorable pots and bullae found on it and mixed with ash. Above the floor lay about 20 cm of bright red decayed mudbrick; above that about 50-75 cm of rubble and very hard, intact, fired mud bricks, among which were found over one hundred roofing nails. It is clear that this layer represents the collapse of the roof and mudbrick superstructure during an intense conflagration.
SW Central Sector (CB2.7)
We opened the southern half of grid CB2.7 to explore the south central sector of the building. Here we found evidence of an interior courtyard to the east of rooms along the west wall of the structure. The courtyard was paved with a pebble and crushed limestone surface, which showed signs of several applications. We made two small probes under the courtyard paving and found no material later than Persian in the small sample of finds recovered. If the terminus post quem for the courtyard is possibly Persian, the terminus ante quem is decidedly late Hellenistic. A small cubicle was built over the courtyard floor and against the wall of the west room. The cubicle was full of pottery including a complete Rhodian amphora and several examples of late Hellenistic Eastern Sigillata A, a ware that is completely missing from the use deposits of the large Hellenistic building.
South Sector (CA9.6/CB1.5/CB1.6)
We opened three grids along the south wall of the building. Here we found evidence of an elaborate drainage and possible entrance system that went through several modifications in the Hellenistic era. It will take considerably more excavation to sort out these phases and understand the sequence in this area, but at present it looks like there may have been a forecourt entrance in the SE.
North and North Central Sector (CB 3.6/4.6/5.6)
We opened two squares in the northern part of the building, one over the north wall (CB4.6) and another 5m south of that (CB3.6). In the northern trench we exposed a narrow room, the walls and floor of which had been disturbed by later building. A limestone paving was partially preserved against the outer wall outside the building. In the southern trench we exposed part of a room with a stuccoed wall and a plastered basin. This room resembles in several ways the central room of the Hellenistic bath at Tel Anafa and appears to have gone out of use at the same time as the archive room. A later Hellenistic (late 2nd-1st c BCE) structure reusing earlier materials was built over the room. This later featured a tabun against its west wall. Finally, we did put one trench outside the building to the north (CB5.6). Here we found evidence of deep Roman era disturbance and an earlier pavement and possible cistern about 2m below the modern surface.
East Central Sector (CB2.4)
We continued work in the four-part complex of rooms previously uncovered in the eastern sector of the building. We cleared two pits in the NE and NW rooms and dug below the founding levels of the walls in the NW room. The pits appear to have been filled in the latest Hellenistic or possibly early Roman use of the site. They contained a good deal of late Hellenistic cooking wares, coins, and stucco stripped from the original building. We also excavated a series of floors in the NW and SW rooms of the complex. These date to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.
These deposits led us to think that the eastern third of the building was a residential, private living space for the Kedesh administrators, based partially on architectural comparanda from other excavated administrative buildings in the Near East. Since we had identified the archive room, storage facilities, and open court of the Hellenistic Administrative Building, we decided at this point to focus on the western sector of the building, which we thought to be the public area, in order to better understand the way the building functioned as a public space, leaving the eastern third unexplored. This seemed the best strategy to focus our research efforts to best exploring one facet of this complex and monumental structure, given limitations of human, financial, and temporal resources. It wasn’t until the excavation season of 2009 that we fully realized our miscalculation.