Welcome to Israel Antiquities Authority
The sites documented in the Archaeological Survey of Israel are published on the website where they are displayed in survey squares of 100 sq km (10 × 10 km). The list of maps is presented below in alphabetic order, according to their names and numbers as recorded in Yalquṭ Ha-Pirsumim. The survey maps can be seen on the right side of the screen against the background of an aerial photograph. The sites (marked with yellow dots) can be accessed by zooming in on the screen and a description of them will appear by clicking on the dots. The introduction to each map and search options are also displayed.
Introduction to the Golan Survey
Sixteen surveys have been or will be published that cover the Golan and Mount Hermon within the area of the State of Israel. They are: Ḥammat Gader, ‘Ein Gev, Nov, Ma‘ale Gamla, Rujem el-Hiri, Giv‘at Orḥa, Qaṣrin, Qeshet and Har Peres. The following surveys are in preparation: Ashmora, Har Shifon, Shamir, Merom Golan, Dan, Birket Ram and Har Dov.
As is customary, each survey comprises an independent unit, in each of which the sites and findings are described. Each individual survey includes a geological introduction and a description of the history of settlement in the various periods. The information is accompanied by detailed maps of the periods.
However, the nature of the publication is such that it presents a fragmented picture due to the arbitrary division of the maps, a picture that does not correspond to landscape units or settlement distribution. That is the reason for this general introduction, which provides a full picture of the entire region in the various periods. The maps of the periods appended to the introduction, highlight and emphasize the dynamics of settlement over the generations in the entire region.
Because the historical background of each area is presented in the individual surveys, to avoid repetition, I have made do with a brief description of the events there, and refer readers to this introduction, which expands on the historical and archaeological sources for the history of the Golan.
The bibliography contains the main research sources on the Golan, where interested readers can find additional information and details that go beyond the scope of this publication.
Editor: Ofer Sion
Text Editing: Ruti Erez Edelson
Table of Contents
1. The History of the Research
The Golan was first surveyed between 1884 and 1886 by Gottlieb Schumacher, who created the region’s first detailed map (Schumacher 1888). Schumacher carried out his survey at a time when the archaeology of the Land of Israel was still in its infancy and the use of pottery for dating sites was still unknown. Thus, the information that can be gleaned from this survey is fairly limited. The importance of Schumacher’s survey is that it was the first, and particularly because of the description of the Golan at the end of the 19th century, a period in which the Bedouin tribes had begun to settle down.
At the time of Schumacher’s survey, in 1885, Sir Lawrence Oliphant also surveyed a number of sites in the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley in the southern Golan. Among these sites are Khisfin, the synagogues at Umm el-Qanaṭir, Khirbet ed-Dikke and el-Ḥuseniyye (Oliphant 1884, 1886).
A large cemetery, dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods, was excavated in 1936 at Khisfin by "a team of excavators headed by Prince Mijem
el-Shalan of the ‘Annezzeh bedouin tribe”; which seemed more like grave robbery. Six years later, additional tombs were uncovered with the assistance of antiquities merchants, the Dahdah brothers.
The Syrian Department of Antiquities worked to save the findings from the tombs. Findings from 54 tombs are documented in the National Museum in Damascus, each apparently a single burial. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the excavations, there is no information about the precise location of the tombs, their structure, the find-spots of the artifacts and of the human remains (Weber 2006:64).
Four figurines from Khisfin on display at the National Museum in Damascus were published by T.R. Weber (2006:64–68). In 1942 and 1962, excavations were carried out at Fiq and el-‘Āl, but none of the findings were published (Dentzer 1997:89).
In 1968, the Golan was surveyed by two teams headed by Claire Epstein and Shmariya Guttman (Epstein and Guttman 1972). Epstein and Guttman continued their surveys in 1969, discovering additional sites; however, these surveys were not published. These surveys were undertaken during the first period of re-acquaintance with the Golan, at a time when some of the characteristics of the region were unknown. They focused on villages and ruins and did not cover the entire area. The publication of the first stage of the survey does not deal with the environmental conditions, while, as noted, the second stage was not published at all.
From 1968 to 1970, dozens of sites were examined in the survey of abandoned Syrian villages under the direction of Dan Urman. Emphasis in Urman’s survey was on architectural findings and locating reliefs and inscriptions. Almost no pottery was collected. The survey was never published, but it served as raw material for Urman’s book (1985).
Meanwhile, Yitzhaki Gal conducted a site and landscape survey, in which he described many sites (Axelrod 1970). From 1983 to 1987 Moshe Hartal conducted an extensive survey of the northern Golan, where numerous sites were discovered and a fuller picture emerged of the development of settlement in the region from prehistoric times to the present (Hartal 1989).
The Mount Hermon sites were surveyed from 1983 to 1989 by Shimon Dar (1978; 1993). Some of the surveyors focused on a certain subject or number of subjects in this area. C. Epstein surveyed and excavated dolmen fields (Epstein 1985) and sites from the Chalcolithic period (Epstein 1998). The synagogues were surveyed by Z.U. Ma‘oz (1981, 1995) and Zvi Ilan (1991: 61–113). Chaim Ben David (1998) surveyed the Golan’s oil presses, excavated ‘Ein Nashôt and Giv‘at HaYe‘ur and also surveyed the Jewish settlements in the lower Golan (Ben David 2005). A survey of the Byzantine villages was conducted by C. Dauphin and S. Gibson (1992–1993). Partial surveys were conducted by A. Golani (1990) and L. Vinitzky (1995). O. Zingboim (2001) surveyed ancient cemeteries in the southern and central Golan. He also conducted development surveys in various places in the Golan. S. Friedman surveyed settlement sites in the southern Golan (still unpublished).
Hundreds of inscriptions were revealed by the various surveys; most were on tombstones. Others included dedicatory inscriptions – on buildings, milestones and boundary stones. Urman published the Hebrew and the Aramaic inscriptions (1984, 1996) and a selection of the Greek inscriptions were published by Gregg and Urman (1996), C. Dauphin (Dauphin, Brock, Gregg and Beeston 1996) and L. Di Segni (1997).
In 1993, then-director of the IAA, Amir Drori, initiated a survey in the central and southern Golan in order to complete the methodical survey of the Golan. The Survey was headed by M. Hartal, district archaeologist of the Golan at the time. The southern Golan was surveyed by a team headed by H. Bron and E. Kelmachter (1997). The team surveying the southeastern Golan was headed by D. Goren and Y. Ben-Ephraim headed the team that surveyed the central Golan (1997). Participants in the field survey were R. Bar-Nur, A. Elrom, Y. Sheffer, I. Abu-Awad and V. Bar-Lev, with C. Epstein, O. Marder and M. Hartal acting as advisers. The field survey took place from 1993 to 1998 and was completed in 2001 by M. Hartal and R. Bar-Nur. Y. Ben-Ephraim coordinated the findings of his surveys with those of the southern teams, but the material did not reach the publication stage.
In 2010, I was given the task of publishing the survey. Since much time had passed since the conclusion of the work, and there were previous surveys that had not been published, I decided to publish most of the information that had been collected about each site in surveys conducted in the Golan over the past decades.
In preparation for publication, more than 20,000 pictures taken during the surveys were scanned, from the first surveys by Epstein and Guttman and to the present. Some sites were re-photographed. The manuscripts of the unpublished surveys were also gathered, including phase 2 of the Epstein-Guttman survey, the village survey directed by Urman and Golani’s survey. I once again went over all the pottery that had been collected in the various surveys and I prepared the pottery tables for each site whose findings justified this. The publication is based on the notes of Y. Ben-Ephraim, which were completed according to other surveys. The prehistoric sites were described by O. Marder.
2. Geography of the Region
2.1 Northern Transjordan
Northern Transjordan is covered with basalt flows, some of which rise as cones of volcanic ash; however, they are not uniform; a number of different areas can be seen, each with its own characteristics.
2.1.1 The Golan Heights – a plateau extending from the foot of Mount Hermon in the north to the Yarmuk River in the south and between the Jordan River in the west to the Ruqqad River in the east. In the northeast, the plateau reaches a height of 1,000 m above sea level, and the ash cones rise to a height of 1,200 m and more. It slopes gradually southward to a height of c. 300 m. On the west it is bounded by the steep slopes descending to the Hula Valley, the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee, which are approximately 200 m below sea level (see below, 2.2)
2.1.2 Naqura – East of the Golan a broad plateau, 500–700 m above sea level, extending as far as Jebel el-Druze. The basalt covering of the plateau has eroded and created large areas of fertile agricultural, soil, low in stones, especially suited for the cultivation of cereals. Wadi a-Zidi is the southern boundary of this area. It passes north of Boṣra and enters the Yarmuk northwest of Dar‘a. The northern border is Wadi a-Dahab, which emerges from the southern edges of the Leja (see below 2.1.4). Jebel el-Druze (see below 2.1.5) and the Leja are the boundaries of Naqura on the east and the north. West of Leja the Naqura Plateau extends northward to al Sanamayn. To the south, it gradually merges with the Jordanian desert. Due to the relatively low precipitation (200–350 mm per year), water is the main problem for settlement in large parts of this region.
2.1.3 Jadur – northwest of el-Sanamayn Jadur is the name of the land that rises gradually to a small lava field at the foot of Mount Hermon. It differs from Naqura in its rocky ground and its altitude – 600–900 m above sea level. Volcanic ash cones, such as Tell el-Mal and Tell el-Ḥara, rise as much as 1,000 m above sea level. This area is largely an extension of the landscape unit of volcanoes and valleys of the northern Golan (see below 2.2.8).
2.1.4 Leja – an area of approximately 1,000 sq km between Shahaba, Buraq and Izra‘a, covered with fissured basalt almost without soil; the basalt creates alternating scatterings of large boulders and irregular basalt mazes. The area looks like a desert, but it served as pastureland and a hideout for highway robbers. In the southern part of the Leja are a number of basins of fertile agricultural soil without rocks. The settlements in this area are divided between those on the perimeter of the Leja, which enjoy protection and the fertile soil (el-Mismyah, Buraq, Dakir, Khalkhala, Shahaba, Najran, Azra‘, Khabab, and others) and those within the Leja, mainly in the south near the fertile basins (Damiat el-‘Alyam, ‘Arieka, Jarin, Lubin, Ṣuar and others).
2.1.4 Jebel el-Druze (Jebel el-‘Arab, Mount Ḥawran) – created from an accumulation of basalt flows rising about 1,000 m above sea level, and a peak of 1,860 m. The level area on the peak extends over an area of 30 x 60 km. The almost flattened peak, at a height of 1,500 m, is located in the northern half, and is surrounded by many ash cones. The steeper slopes of the mountain are located on the eastern and western sides, with fertile, arable soil. Because of its height, the mountain is forested and has abundant water at the top. Its slopes are the eastern extent of permanent settlement in the lava country and they create the boundary between the “desert and the sown.” South of the peak plain the slopes are more moderate and they descend to the plains of Tzalhad and Boṣra and south to Umm el-Jimal. This area is sometimes called “southern Ḥawran” and it is suitable both for grazing and winter crops. The western part of Jebel el-Druze is rainy and utilized for agriculture. The western slopes, at 1,000-1,300 m above sea level, feature a band of oak forests. Grapes and fruit trees can be cultivated from 950 m to the peak, while cereals and legumes are cultivated on the slopes. South and east of the mountain the area is suitable for sustaining nomads only.
2.1.5 eṣ-Ṣafa and Ḥara – East of Jebel el-Druze is a broad region, covered with basalt flows. It is arid, with an annual rainfall of only 200 mm, which declines as one moves east. In most periods nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes made their homes there. Seasonal agriculture is possible in the streambeds and in the portions nearer to Jebel el-Druze (Ard el-Bataniya).
2.2 Landscape Units of the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon
The survey was conducted in two different geographical regions: the Hermon and the Golan. The character of the Hermon greatly differs from that of the Golan. The Hermon is mountainous, and consists mainly of sedimentary rock, while the Golan is a plateau covered with volcanic rock. Because only a small part of Mount Hermon is within the boundaries of the State of Israel, and because it was surveyed at the same time as part of the Golan Heights survey and revealed evidence of cultures similar to those of the northern Golan, both of these regions were included in the survey. The following aspects will be described below: landscape units, geological and climatological characteristics and their impact on human settlement in the various periods (see map 1).
2.2.1 The Hermon – the southern part of the Anti-Lebanon range. The ridge is c. 50 km long and c. 25 km wide and its highest point is 2,814 m above sea level. The Hermon, which is built mainly of limestone and dolomite, is largely a broken anticline, both on its edges and within it. The limestone and dolomite of the Hermon date from the Jurassic period (170 million years before present). Two parts of the Hermon ridge are included within the State of Israel the Shiryon spur in the east, whose peak is snow-covered, at a height of 2,121 above sea level; and the Sion spur in the west, whose highest point is 1,548 m above sea levels. Naḥal Sion separates these two areas.
The stream pattern in the region (the Naḥal Sion and Naḥal Govta, among others) was determined mainly by the geological faults. Lacking springs with regular flows, the streams are seasonal, their flow dependent on the extent of melting snow. The higher area – above 2,000 m above sea level, is snow-covered for most of the winter. Rainfall is greater here than anywhere else in the country, reaching an annual average of 1,600 mm in part of the highest area of the mountain. Karstic activity is prominent in the landscape, appearing in two main phenomena – dolinas and numerous rills and gullies.
The thin vegetation is apparently the result of human intervention, by deforestation and over-grazing. In the high zone (above 1,800 m above sea level) the dominant vegetation is alpine.
Settlements developed on the Hermon only in the area under the snow line. Small villages and farms were built in this area, whose inhabitants cultivated small plots in the valleys or on top of the spurs. Due to the forested nature of the area, the soil potential and the severe climate, the Hermon was inhabited only during periods of intense settlement.
Settlements in the area were first established at the beginning of the Roman period and were abandoned at the beginning of the Byzantine period. After hundreds of years of abandonment, a number of ruins were re-inhabited at the end of the 19th century or the 20th century, mainly by seasonal settlements of the neighboring villages.
Baniyas Plateau – A plateau 300–450 m above sea level, constituting an intermediate step between the Golan and the northern Hula Valley. The plateau is cut by the Naḥal Sa‘ar. This area is covered with basalt, on which shallow, lithosol basalt soil was created.
The surface declines toward the Hula Valley in two natural terraces, whose western slopes are particularly steep. This phenomenon is particularly prominent at Mitṣpe Golani and Giv‘at ‘Azaz. The main water channel in this area is the Naḥal Pera‘, to which a number of large springs drain, the largest of which are ‘Ein Abu Suda and ‘Ein ‘Azaz. A forest-park of Mt. Tabor oak, which in the past covered the whole area, was largely decimated and replaced with Ziziphus lotus and herbaceous species. Due to the relative low elevation of the Baniyas Plateau, the climate is moderate.
‘Ein Quniyye Hills – A hilly region 400–880 m above sea level covering c. 6 sq. km. Spurs consisting of sedimentary rock are typical of the area. These spurs constitute intermediate terraces between the Baniyas Plateau on the west and Har Qeṭa‘ in the east.
The northern part of the region consists of hard limestone of the Hermon Formation. These rocks create the Nimrod Fortress Spur. This spur, which bounded on the north by the Naḥal Govta and on the south by the Naḥal Naqib, descends gradually to ‘Ein Pamias. The spur is very rocky and is uncultivated in the main. Over time, brown-red terra rosa soil developed on it. Olive groves are now planted on the southern, moderate slope of the spur, while thick natural woodlands grow on the northern, steep part. Dwarf-shrub steppe grows in areas were the natural woodlands have been decimated. The Nimrod Fortress was built atop the spur and a fortified encampment was established to its east.
The area south and east of the Nimrod Fortress spur is built of soft marl rocks and limestone. The soil created on top of them is light rendzina – undeveloped and relative poor. The areas covered with this soil were once utilized to raise winter cereals.
In other parts of the area light-brown rendzina soil was created. This soil is developed and rich in organic material. It is cultivated, particularly on the slopes below the village of ‘Ein Quniyye, where orchards of deciduous species, olives, figs, pomegranates and prickly pear have been planted. Small plots are used to grow vegetables and in the past, they were also used to raise tobacco. A good many of these areas are irrigated with spring water, which emerges at relatively high altitudes and therefore is easy to use for irrigation.
The layers of marl created many large and small springs, which emerge at the eastern edges of the region. There are 18 springs in the village of ‘Ein Quniyye, some in the ‘Ein Quniyye Hills. The largest of these are ‘Ein a-Shalala (1.1 million cu m of water per year) and ‘Ein Ḥammam (23,000 cu m of water per year).
The entire area is drained by two streams – Wadi Naqib and Masil ‘Eisha. Wadi Naqib creates a deep, steep channel south of the Nimrod Fortress. The wadi passes through very porous karstic limestone, and therefore, other than a number of instances of flooding, hardly any water flows through it on the surface.
Masil ‘Eisha with descends from ‘Ein Quniyye in the southern part of the area and passes through marl rocks and therefore the valley created here is broader. The stream flows throughout most of the winter and spring, and when the water of ‘Ein Ḥammam, which feeds the stream, is not diverted for agriculture, it flows in summer as well. This was apparently the situation during the Roman period, when the stream provided water for an aqueduct that led it to the nearby city of Paneas.
There were once a number of small settlements in the area. Today the Druze village of ‘Ein Quniyye is located there.
2.2.4 Har Qeṭa‘ – Built of a band consisting of a series of broad, flat terraces, created between layers of sedimentary rock. The area is located between ‘Ein Quniyye on the west and Ya‘afuri Valley on the east. In this band, which is 2 km wide and has an area of c. 10 sq km, dolomite rocks were found, along with sandstone, marl and shale from the Cenomanian Phase and the Lower Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. Among the sedimentary rocks remnants of ancient volcanic eruptions can be seen, from the Lower Cretaceous period.
The varied geological structure can also be observed on the surface. The alternating hard and soft rock and the incline of the strata create an elongated ridge on a northeast–southwest axis. Its peak, at 1,173 m, is located southwest of the town of Majdal Shams. The ridge descends in a series of terraces via Har Qeṭa‘ (1,115 m above sea level). On the peak of Har Qeṭa‘ is the community of Nimrod and the site of Khirbet el-Ḥawarit (1,020 m above sea level).
This ridge is surrounded on all sides by steep slopes: to the south above the Naḥal Sa‘ar, to the west above ‘Ein Quniyye, on the northwest above the Naḥal Ḥazur and to the northeast above the Ya‘afuri Valley. Small streams emerge on these slopes due to the layers of marl. Atop the sandstone is ḥamra soil that has eroded down. This soil is quite poor and therefore until recently most of the ridge was not cultivated and was covered with dwarf-shrub steppe and annual vegetation. There is also much less pasturage on the ridge than in the basalt areas to the south. In recent years, plots have been created for cultivation by the Druze by adding soil brought from other areas, which has made possible the cultivation of cherry and apple trees in large areas.
This area, which, as noted, was soil-poor, was almost unsettled throughout history. The main settlement here was Khirbet el-Ḥawarit, which is located near springs and a valley that could be easily cultivated. The inhabitants of this area utilized the marl and sandstone, creating manufacturing center for pottery. The workshop from the Roman period found here is a link in the chain of pottery production that began in the Early Bronze Age and continues at Rashia el-Fuḥar to this day.
2.2.5 Ya‘afuri Valley – triangular in shape, with its base at Birket Ram and its apex at at ‘Ein Sa‘ar. It is c. 2 sq km in area. The upper portion of the perennial Naḥal Sa‘ar passes through the center of the valley. The average annual flow volume of ‘Ein Sa‘ar is 6.47 cu m. ‘Ein Mushreifa (annual flow volume 1.6 million cu m) emerges on the eastern edges of the valley. Smaller springs – Neba‘ Sa‘ar – also emerge on the western edges of the valley.
The valley is covered with a thick layer of brown Mediterranean accumulative soil – young soil that eroded and collected in the valley and is suitable for field crops and orchards. Today the valley and its slopes are planted with deciduous species. There are currently no settlements in the valley but in the past there were three. The largest of these – Khirbet Sa‘ar – was located in the middle of the valley. The two smaller sites are on the eastern edge of the valley – Khirbet el-Baqi and an unnamed ruin found recently on the border with Syria. The tomb of Nebi Ya‘afuri, who is a sacred figure to the Druze, is located in the valley, hence, its name.
2.2.6 Har Ram – A mountainous area of c. 6 sq km, which rises east of the Ya‘afuri Valley, where sedimentary rocks are exposed from the Cenomanian to the Eocene. A good deal of the area consists of dolomite rock; but on the southeastern and northeastern edges limestone, chalk, marl and flint were also exposed. The upper part of Har Ram is built of cover basalt, much older than the basalt of the northern Golan.
Three mountains rise in this area: Sḥyta (1,127 m above sea level), Ram (1,202 m above sea level) and Tell el-Manpukha – the highest of them all (1,210 m above sea level), and the highest peak in the region in general. Between the mountains are small, arable valleys. The region is drained mainly to the west, by seasonal streambeds that pass through the valleys and drain into Wadi el-Shar‘ani and the Naḥal Sa‘ar.
Terra rosa and rendzina soils were created on the sedimentary rock, while on the basalt slope, lithosols were created – young, poor soils, which are typically very stony and suitable only for grazing.
Brown Mediterranean soils accumulated in the valleys, which are suitable for field crops, and in places where the soil is deep, for orchards as well. This area has been prepared for cultivation by the Druze and numerous deciduous orchards have been planted there. The only community in the area was the Druze village of Sḥyta, which was built on an ancient site. This village was abandoned after the Six-Day War and its inhabitants moved to nearby Mas‘adeh.
2.2.7 Odem Flow – A very dominant landscape component in the northern Golan. This extensive area is covered with basalt flows from the foot of Mount Odem and flowed west to the Hula Valley, north to the Naḥal Sa‘ar, east to the Buq‘ata Valley and south to the Quneṭra Valley.
The area is completely covered with flows of ‘Ein Zivan-type basalt. These flows create rocky, stepped plains covered with poor soil and large quantities of rocks. A number of ash cones protrude from it, the largest of which is Mount Odem. In the western part of the flow are a number of large craters (“jubas”), which were created by volcanic eruptions.
There are hardly any water sources in the area of the flow. Except for two small springs, most of the springs emerge along its edges. The combination of poor soil and lack of water turned the Odem Flow into the one with the low settlement potential of the entire Golan (see below, Chapter 3). Indeed, throughout most periods there were no settlements here at all. Only in the Late Roman and the Byzantine period were the first settlements built here, as part of the extensive work of preparing land for cultivation and the digging of wells and cisterns. During this period the Odem Flow saw only two settlements: Sukeik and Ra‘abne. Other settlements, including Bab el-Hawa, were built on the edges of the flow, taking advantage of the springs in that area and the nearby soil.
Most of the area of the Odem Flow is above 700 m above sea level and consequently the climate is cold, the winds are strong, and snow falls almost every year.
2.2.8 The Volcanos and the Valleys – These extinct volcanoes, with fertile valleys in between them, are located on the basalt plateau. The ash cones of the volcanos consist of scoria and tuff. They are arranged in two parallel lines on a northwest–southeast axis. On the slopes of the ash cones the soil is of the tuff regosol type – shallow and suitable only for grazing; and Mediterranean tuff soil – intermediate soil; usually deep and suitable for all crops, including orchard species. The slopes are covered with herbaceous species and shrubs and in a number of places, patches of woodland species. Vineyards and fruit orchards are planted on the lower part of the slopes.
The ‘Ein Zivan lava flows emerged from the ash cones (see above, 2.2.7). The flows are densely covered with woodland species – oak and terebinth, which survive to this day; because the area was mainly used for grazing and was little farmed. In the areas between the ash cones, which were not covered with young ‘Ein Zivan basalt, valleys were created where Muweisse basalt was exposed, on which brown, basaltic Mediterranean soil was created with few rocks. Soil of this type is good for agriculture and suitable for most crops. In contrast, on the slopes of the hills surrounding the valley the soil eroded away and the remaining poor soil is found in fissures and pockets between the rocks and is not arable.
As noted above, the valleys are arable and the settlements were usually concentrated on their edges. The most important of these valleys are: Wadi Abu Sa‘id; the Buq‘ata Valley; Marj el-Qatarna and the Quneṭra Valley. The latter is the largest of these valleys. It is 6 km long and 1–2 km wide, with an area of c. 10 sq km. Most of the Quneṭra Valley is covered with tuff, on which tuff regosol developed and red Mediterranean tuff soil – fertile and arable soils. Due to drainage problems a swamp developed in the northwestern part of the valley, which was flooded in winter.
In the southeastern part of the volcanos and the valleys is the Bashanit Ridge. This ridge consists of ‘Ein Zivan basalt on which is a line of ash cones, the central of which is Mount Ḥazak. The ‘Ein Zivan flows emerged from the ridge and covered the areas west and north of it. The soil created on the slopes eroded away leaving behind basaltic lithosol. On the moderate slopes of Bashanit Ridge brown Mediterranean soil accumulated, very stony and difficult to cultivate. For this reason most of the ridge is not cultivated and there are large areas covered with Mediterranean woodland species – Kermes oak and Bossier oak.
At the southern end of the landscape unit are the volcanos of Har Peres and Giv‘at Orḥa. The northern end of the unit consists of relatively young volcanic rock – Kramim basalt and Birket Ram tuff. Sedimentary rock is also exposed there, mainly limestone and chalk. Wadi Abu Sa‘id drains this area, running through its eastern part in a broad valley surrounded by rounded hills with moderate slopes. On the western side, the stream deepens and creates a valley with steep slopes, which flows into the Naḥal Sa‘ar north of Mas‘adeh.
The volcano landscape unit is located in the higher part of the Golan, in the area 700–1200 m above sea level. Most of which is more than 800 m above sea level. Due to the height, temperatures are relatively low, winds are strong and there is a large amount of precipitation (700–900 mm per year), with snowfalls almost every year.
However, despite the great precipitation, water sources in the area are few. Birket Ram is the largest such source, containing 1–5 million cu m of water. However, its geographical location at the bottom of an enclosed crater made it difficult to utilize in the past.
The springs in this unit are few, and most run dry in the summer. Only in the southern part of the unit are springs more plentiful and their flow volume greater. The water table in the northern part of the unit is high and can be relatively easily accessed by digging wells.
2.2.9 The Northern Plateau – descends from a height of 800 m above sea level in the east, at the foot of Mount Avital, to 500 m above sea level in the west. In the west it is bounded by a system of faults that create the slope of the Hula Valley and the landscape unit of the Hula Valley streams. In the north, the plateau is bounded by the Odem Flow (see above, 2.2.7) and in the south it is incorporated into the central plateau, with no clear boundary dividing them.
The northern plateau is covered by Muweisse basalt flows on which good arable soil developed, as well as by Dalawa basalt flows, on which rocky, poor soil developed. Above the basalt plains a number of ash cones rose, the most important of which is Tel Shiban.
On the edges of the Odem Flow, near Wasit and Summqa, springs flow that provided water to the area year-round. Another group of springs is found near ‘Aliyqah and additional springs emerge in the streambeds.
This area has the smallest amount of trees anywhere in the northern Golan. It seems that the area was once covered with a forest-park of Mount Tabor oaks that was decimated long ago.
The climate varies according to height above sea level. The upper part of the plateau is in the snow zone, while most of the area has a more moderate climate.
2.2.10 The Hula Stream Basins – are located at the foot of a steep slope descending from the northern plateau, from 500 m above sea level to the Hula Valley, 70 m above sea level. The streams, which descend from east to west are relatively short (3–7 km) and parallel to each other. In the eastern, higher parts, they flow through shallow valleys; but when they reach the steep slope in the Hula Valley they create deep valleys and sometimes even canyons. These valleys impede north–south movement.
2.2.11 Naḥal Meshoshim and Naḥal Yahûdiyye Basins – located on a flat plateau descending moderately from 500 m above sea level, northeast of Qaṣrin; to the southwest, to a height of c. 130 m below sea level, in the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The area is drained by Naḥal Meshoshim and its tributaries, the largest of which is Naḥal Zavitan. The streams dig deeply and create deep valleys, and in certain portions even canyons. Because of the area’s topographical structure, Naḥal Meshoshim is relatively long – c. 15 km, and flows parallel to the Jordan River, unlike most of the other streams in the Golan.
Naḥal Yahûdiyye flows parallel to Naḥal Zawitan, the former beginning at the foot of the Bashanit Ridge. Upper Naḥal Yahûdiyye and its tributaries flow through shallow valleys; but the lower part of the stream creates a high canyon. The stream channel is narrow and surrounded by cliffs and steep slopes. The streams in the area flow year-round. Precipitation ranges from 600 mm per year in the Qaṣrin area to c. 450 mm in the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley.
This unit is bounded on the south by a long geological fault – the Sheikh ‘Ali Fault – which caused a drop in the surface to the north. The area is covered mainly with rocky Dalawa basalt, with large quantities of stones and shallow soil. The stones atop the Dalawa basalt were used as building material in the villages, many of which were built on the edges of the region, as well as for dolmens. Stones had to be removed so the land could be worked. These stones were gathered into heaps and also served for the construction of walls around agricultural plots. The land that developed on the Dalawa basalt is suitable for raising olives, and most of the olive orchards in the region were planted here. The areas that were not cultivates in this unit are covered with forest-park, in which the space between the trees – Mt. Tabor oak and terebinth – is relatively great. In the upper part of the region are remnants of a forest and of extensive pasturelands.
2.2.12 The Central Plateau – This area declines from 750 m above sea level in the east to c. 400 m above sea level in the west. It ends in the west at the top of a steep cliff. The streams here flow year-round in shallow channels. In the western part of the plateau they descend in waterfalls into steep canyons, which impede movement from north to south.
The area is mainly covered with rocky Dalawa basalt but there are also a few narrow flows of Muweisse basalt, on which arable soil developed. The ancient cover basalt was exposed in the western part of the central plateau.
Precipitation ranges from 700 mm a year in the east to 500 mm in the west. There are remnants of a forest in the area as well as pasturelands.
2.2.13 The Beteiḥa Streams – West of the central plateau a steep slope descends from 500 m above sea level to the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) valley, at 130 m below sea level, north of the Sea of Galilee. The slope consists mostly of cover basalt.
In addition to Naḥal Meshoshim and Naḥal Yahûdiyye, the Daliyyot and Sfamnun streams also flow through the Beteiḥa Valley. Naḥal Batra, which flows into Naḥal Daliyyot, this unit’s main stream, flows along the Sheikh ‘Ali Fault and divides the Beteiḥa streams from the Meshoshim and Yahûdiyye drainage basin.
Naḥal Daliyyot dug itself beneath the basalt layers and exposed limestone of the Gesher Formation; continental sedimentary rock of the Herod Formation and chalk of the Maresha Formation. As opposed to the basalt, the sedimentary rocks eroded rapidly, creating a valley about 2 km wide. The stream dug deeply, in a series of waterfalls. In the eastern part its slopes are steep and almost unsuitable for habitation except for the Gamla spur and Ḥorbat Daliya. In the western part of the stream moderate terraces were created on which settlements were built.
Naḥal Sfamnun flows parallel to and south of Naḥal Daliyyot. All the streams drain into the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley. The areas between the streams and the moderate terraces are covered with forest-park consisting of Mount Tabor oak and terebinth.
2.2.14 the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley – six streams drain into this valley: the Jordan, Meshoshim, Yahûdiyye, Batra, Daliyyot and Sfamnun. The large quantity of alluvium brought by the streams has gradually filled the northeastern Sea of Galilee and created a valley approximately 12 sq km in area.
The valley is 130–200 m below sea level and its climate is hot. In addition to herbaceous and riparian vegetation, mainly Christ’s thorn jujube grows there. The steams cross the valley and near the Sea of Galilee beach are a number of lagoons and swamps.
2.2.15 Naḥal Samak and Naḥal Qanaf – Two streams that descend from the east, from 360 m above sea level, flowing into the Sea of Galilee at 200 m below sea level. Naḥal Samak creates a valley 4 km wide and 9 km long into which Naḥal Samak flows from the north and Naḥal el-‘Āl from the south. This fertile valley was settled in all periods.
The two streams dug deeply into the basalt layers and exposed thick layers of Maresha chalk and continental sedimentary rock of the Herod Formation. The rock is soft and erodes easily; consequently creating broad, deep valleys surrounded by slopes whose northern parts are cliff-like and covered with basalt and whose southern parts, covered with sedimentary rock, are more moderate. There is good, arable land at the bottom of these valleys. Small streams emerge on the seam between the basalt and the sedimentary rock, which provided water to settlements.
The climate is moderate in the upper part of the landscape unit and hot in the lower part. Roads ascending to the plateau pass through this unit.
2.2.16 The Sea of Galilee Cliffs – This series of cliffs and steep slopes, 300–400 m high, were created as a result of the Jordan Valley fault. Under the cover basalt, layers of a variety of sedimentary rock are exposed, of the Herod, Fiq and Sussita formations. These created steep slopes and the settlements in this unit are usually concentrated on the lower part of the slopes.
The streams along the slopes are short and have small drainage basins. An exception to this is Naḥal Sussita, which begins under the community of Afiq. The eastern part of the stream cuts into the continental sedimentary rock of the Herod Formation and creates a fertile valley. In the center is crosses a fault like between Maresha chalk and limestone of the Sussita Formation, where a short portion of the stream is a narrow, steep channel. Farther on, parallel to Sussita’s northern slope, the stream widens and has areas suitable for settlement and agriculture.
In the northern part of the unit, north of Kursi, and in the southern part, in the southwestern corner of the Golan, the slopes descend in a series of terraces that made settlement possible and a road to be built up to the Golan.
2.2.17 – The Southern Plateau – a flat area that descends from 450 m above sea level in the north to 330 m above sea level in the south. The plateau is bounded on the east by the deep valleys of Naḥal Ruqqad and Naḥal Meyṣar; and in the west, by Naḥal Samak and Naḥal ‘Ein Gev and by the slopes descending to the Sea of Galilee. On the south the plateau ends with the steep slope descending toward the Yarmuk River.
2.2.18 Naḥal Ruqqad – This stream begins at the foot of Mount Hermon in the north, where it flows through a shallow, almost imperceptible channel, while its southern portion flows through a valley 200 m deep and 2–3 km wide. Continental sedimentary rock of the Herod Formation is exposed on the slopes; Susita limestone and chalk from the ‘Adulam Group. The stream bed bears remnants of the Ruqqad basalt flow, created from lava that flowed through the steam bed.
The slopes of the valley are quite steep but it has moderately sloped terraces and areas suitable for agriculture.
2.2.19 – Naḥal Meyṣar ¬– this stream descends from the southern plateau to the Yarmuk in a southeasterly direction. The stream digs its way under layers of cover basalt and exposes rocks of the Herod Formation and chalk of the Maresha Formation and the ‘Adulam Group. The rock is soft and erodes easily, consequently creating a valley 6 km long and 4 km wide, with moderate areas that lend themselves agriculture. Small springs emerge from the seam between the basalt and the sedimentary rock. The climate is moderate in the upper part and hotter in the lower part. The combination of agricultural soil, water and a comfortable climate is suitable for settlement and the valley was settlement throughout almost all periods.
The chalk rock is suitable for quarrying and therefore this landscape unit contains many winepresses, caves and rock-cut tombs.
2.2.20 The Yarmuk River – A long stream that cuts into the border between Syria and Jordan. Only the lower part of the stream is within the boundaries of the State of israel, after the Ruqqad flows into it. In this portion of the stream it creates a deep, wide valley, which, like the Ruqqad, cuts into the cover basalt and the rocks of the Herod, Sussita and Maresha formations and chalk of the ‘Adulam Group. In the streambed are remnants of two basalt flows. The more ancient one is Yarmuk basalt; above it is Ruqqad basalt. As it flows, the Yarmuk creates a small valley in which the hot springs of Ḥammat Gader and el-Mukheiba emerge. Opposite Ḥammat Gader the stream flows through a deep canyon until it emerges in the Jordan Valley.
3. Settlement Potential in the Golan
“According to the nature of the soil, the Jaulan may be divided into two districts: (1) stony in the northern and middle part, (2) smooth in the south and more cultivated part” (Schumacher 1888:11). In this single sentence, Gottleib Schumacher expressed the great difference in settlement potential between the two parts of the Golan.
3.1 The Northern and Central Golan
This settlement potential of this area is relatively low, mainly limited by a lack of soil and water. The lack of good soil for agriculture is common to most of the landscape units in this area; most of it is suitable for grazing only. Areas with soil are limited and a major investment is required to rid the land of rocks and upgrade it.
The lack of water is also a limiting factor. The area in general gets a great deal of precipitation, and in the northeastern part precipitation is very great, and is therefore suitable for rain-fed agriculture. However, in fact, the amount of water available to farmers is much smaller. The great fluctuation in precipitation from one year to the next and its fluctuations over the season often cause major damage to farmers. A few drought years in a row can lead to the abandonment of the region.
Despite the major precipitation, the area lacks major water sources. This is because the basalt flows create shallow water tables where the emerging springs are small and usually run dry in the summer. The basalt rocks are also hard and difficult to quarry and are therefore unsuitable for digging cisterns. That is the reason that cisterns and wells are rare in this area. Most of them are located in the villages of the Circassians, who came to the Golan in the 1870s from an entirely different type of region.
A good deal of the area once bore thick forests, which had to be cut down and to take advantage of the soil. This was only worthwhile in areas where the forest covered good, arable soil. The marginal areas remained forested or were deforested in times when a population boom required additional agricultural areas.
The major advantage of this area, however, is its excellent pasturelands. The northern and central Golan are considered the richest grazing area in all of southern Syria. As noted above, most of the area is not suitable for agriculture and therefore extensive portions remained uncultivated. Moreover, the area’s large quantities of precipitation assured good pasturage year-round.
The height differences between the western and eastern parts of this region were also advantageous to herders. Vegetation grew at different rates, which allowed for a longer grazing season. When pasture ran out in the lower part of the region – in late spring or early summer, the shepherds could lead the flocks up to the higher parts, where extensive pasturage remained. The small springs, while not abundant enough for farmers, were useful to shepherds for watering their cattle, sheep and goats.
It is therefore not surprising that the region attracted nomadic tribes from the Bashan and the Hauran. Nomads in such numbers constituted a continual threat to farmers and during periods when the central government was weak, this state of affairs could lead to the abandonment of permanent settlement in the area.
3.2 The Southern Golan
The plateau in this area is narrow and bears ancient eroded cover basalt that created deep soil with few rocks. This area is suitable for field crops and was cultivated extensively for long periods. Most of the settlements were built along the edges of the plateau, freeing much of the area for cultivation. The plateau is bounded on the east and the west by broad, arable stream valleys and small springs that made irrigated farming possible.
The climate in the southern Golan is more moderate than in the north. Since this area is lower than the northern Golan, it suffers less from frost. The amount of precipitation is smaller than in the north but it is sufficient to ensure the growth of winter wheat each year. The combination of good soil and a moderate climate led to continuous settlement throughout almost all periods. The stream valleys became preferred areas of settlement. They were very densely settled for much of their history and in a number of periods, settlement concentrated only there. The settlements in the southern plateau, which were fewer but larger, were farming settlements whose inhabitants lived permanently on their land.
Pastureland on the southern plateau is meager compared to the center and north and so throughout all periods it was less attractive to nomadic tribes, although they were present to some extent.
4. History of Settlement according to Archaeological Findings
A detailed description of the types of settlements in the different periods, in the context of geographical location, is presented in the introduction to each individual survey. This chapter will present the general picture of settlement in the Golan and the Hermon. Discussion is based on the analysis of the surveys of the central and southern Golan that have been published on this website. The description of settlement in the northern Golan is based on publication of the Northern Golan Survey (Hartal 1989).
For the reader’s convenience I have minimized notes directing to earlier studies. All the documents and publications, including references to additional sources, are included in the Bibliography.
4.1 The Chalcolithic Period
4.1.1 Central Golan – This region saw a major wave of settlement in this period (see map 2). One hundred and eighty sites were surveyed, 135 of them in the central Golan, where a Chalcolithic culture was revealed that had been previously unknown to research. There were small, unwalled settlements in this area, most of which were built in streambeds, which in this area were shallow. Such a streambed is known locally as a masil. The Chalcolithic culture of the Golan has been extensively studied by C. Epstein, who surveyed dozens of site and excavated many of them (Epstein 1998).
The dwellings in these settlements are uniform. They are of the broadroom type and include two rooms, one larger than the other; the latter, usually in the west, apparently served for storage. Most are built as chains of houses, parallel to each other. In a number of cases walls were found that connected the chains of houses and created a sort of courtyard.
In many houses small basalt pillars were found, the top of which was convex, and bore a relief of a nose, eyes and sometimes a male goat’s horns and beard. These reliefs have been interpreted as house gods.
The uniformity of the houses attests to an egalitarian society with no wealthier class. It seems that the inhabitants were farmers who worked small plots of land in the masils (see above), which have water even in the summer months. Epstein believed that this was the period in which the olive was domesticated. The inhabitants also raised sheep and goats and possibly cattle as well. The settlements were mainly established on virgin ground. Their inhabitants came from outside the area and just as they arrived, they disappeared. Most of the settlements from this period were abandoned and never rebuilt. Their remnants remained exposed on the surface. There was practically no cultural continuity between the Chalcolithic period and the Early Bronze Age.
4.1.2 In the Northern Golan – Thirteen sites were found in the northern Golan from the Chalcolithic period. Findings from this period are very meager and were discovered during earthworks that revealed potsherds that could not be seen on the surface. Other sites may have been covered up and disappeared. The sherds found in the northern Golan are similar to those in the center; they apparently belong to the same period. However, the paucity of finds makes it difficult to determine this with certainty.
4.1.3 In the Southern Golan – Here, the Chalcolithic culture was different. There are fewer sites in this area than in the central Golan – only 32 – and they were widely spaced. The pottery resembles that of the Jordan Valley, although pottery was also found that is typical to the central Golan. As opposed to the central Golan, the sites in the southern Golan were not extensively researched and information about them is limited.
4.2 The Early Bronze Age
4.2.1 In the Early Bronze Age I – Settlement in the Golan was renewed at this time (see map 3) and site distribution is completely different than during the Chalcolithic period. This is testimony to the lack of settlement continuity between the two periods.
In the southern Golan 17 sites were found from the EB I, apparently all villages built in streambeds. In the central Golan, 15 widely spaced sites were found. Only three of these were found on the central plateau; the rest were in the streambeds. In the northern Golan, four sites from this period were found, all on the slopes facing the Hula Valley.
4.2.2 In the Early Bronze Age II–III – The distribution of settlements changed at this time (see map 4). Only 12 settlements from the EB I continued in existence.
There were 24 settlements in the southern Golan, 43 in the center and 41 in the north. Most of the settlements were apparently unwalled villages built on level areas and in the stream valleys. The EB II–III is the only period in the history of the Golan in which there was an apparently uniform culture throughout the Golan.
4.2.3 The enclosures – Among the dozens of sties from the Early Bronze Age discovered in the Golan, a number of sites are prominent that were not previously known. These sites have been dubbed “enclosures” (enclosure = Mitḥam in Hebrew)
Three of the sites, Mitḥam Iṣḥaqi (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 60), el-Bardawil (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 43) and Leviah (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 94). They are located on spurs surrounded on three sides by cliffs and steep slopes, whereas the fourth side, which could be easily accessed, was enclosed with a broad wall, built of large fieldstones. At Gamla (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 42), which is situated on a steep spur, excavations revealed remains of structures from the Early Bronze Age. This site may also have been a “mitḥam”; however, no remains of a wall enclosing the spur have yet been found. Three sites – esh-Sha‘abaniyye (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 44), ‘Ayit Enclosure (Qeshet Survey, site no. 62) and Mitḥam ‘Ani‘am (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 81) were surrounded by similarly built walls. In two sites, Ḥorvat Zawitan (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 2), and ed-Dura (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 41) a moat was dug across the spur as an alternative to a protective wall.
All these enclosures were found in the central Golan, east of the Sea of Galilee, at an altitude of 220–550 m above sea level. In the first surveys, no remains of structures were found and so these remains were called, as noted, “enclosures.” Initially it was proposed that they had been built as protection for nomads and their flocks in wartime. Later surveys uncovered wall traces revealing the presence of a settlement at these sites.
In excavations at Mitḥam Leviah, the largest of these sites, remains of structures were found within the walls from all periods of the Early Bronze Age (Paz 2003), Based on these findings, all the enclosures are now identified as fortified cities; however, this identification raises a number of questions.
The economic potential of the central Golan is quite limited. The land in the area is rocky and unsuitable for agriculture. The main livelihood was the raising of cattle and sheep and goats, which enjoyed the rich pastureland. This area could not economically support cities and indeed, until Second Temple times when olive cultivation expanded there were no cities in this area.
If all of these enclosures contained cities, it is unclear what their economic basis was. Moreover, four of the sites (Gamla, ‘Ayiṭ, Ani‘am and Mitḥam Iṣḥaqi) are only 1.5–2 km apart, which limits their economic options even more.
It is also important to note that these enclosures differed in their plan and location from the known Early Bronze Age cities in this country. Such enclosures were found in marginal areas of the Lower Galilee and Samaria and in all of them there seemed to be no proportion between the walls surrounding the enclosure and the meager, if any, remains within them.
4.2.4 Pottery Industry – At the foot of Mount Hermon, particularly around ‘Ein Quniyye, evidence was found of pottery manufacture typical of this period – metallic pottery. These vessels made of well-fired clay and were used in the northern and central parts of the country. At the site of ‘Ein el-Raḥman (Dan Survey) an accumulation of jar sherds was discovered, some of which were decorated by cylinder stamps. The sherds were found in a trench created during road building. Basalt potters’ wheels were found on the surface.
At the end of this period all the settlements in the Golan were abandoned.
4.3 The Intermediate Bronze Age
Some 30 sites were found from the Intermediate Bronze Age (see map 5). Most of these revealed sherds only. The density of settlement in this period was very low. Twelve sites each were found in the central and the southern Golan. In the north, six sites were found.
As in other periods, the area filled with nomads or semi-nomads, who took advantage of the abundant pasturelands. Their presence was signaled by the thousands of dolmens scattered across the Golan (see below, Chapter 5).
Numerous shaft tombs were found at 14 sites, in the limestone areas of the southeastern Golan – nine in the Ḥammat Gader Survey area and four in the ‘Ein Gev Survey area. These tombs were not excavated and therefore their dating is uncertain.
Shaft tombs were in extensive use during the Intermediate Bronze Age. The Intermediate Bronze Age is typified by a large variety of tombs, usually individual tombs. These characteristics are typical both to dolmens and shaft tombs, although these two types of burials are very different in their form and construction techniques.
4.4 The Middle Bronze Age II
4.4.1 Before discussing the finds from the period, its name must be clarified. The Middle Bronze Age was once divided into two sub-periods – “Middle Bronze Age I” and “Middle Bronze Age II.” Since the Middle Bronze Age I was very different in its characteristics from the Early Bronze Age that preceded it and the Middle Bronze Age that came after it, its name was changed to the “Intermediate Bronze Age.”
Following this name change, the next period was called the Middle Bronze Age II without there being a Middle Bronze Age I (see the table of chronological periods in the The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Stern 1993). To correct this situation, in recent years the name of the first part of the Middle Bronze Age II was changed to the Middle Bronze Age I, and the name “Middle Bronze Age II” was taken as the name of the second part of that period. The name change is logical; however, it can cause confusion in terms of earlier publications and therefore we continue to use the former terminology.
4.4.2 During the Middle Bronze Age II, settlement was renewed in the Golan. Remains from this period were found in 138 sites (see map 6). Sixty-four sites were found in the southern Golan, 58 in the central Golan and 16 in the northern Golan.
Most of the settlements are concentrated in three dense settlement clusters in the stream valleys. In the Yarmuk and Naḥal Meẓar that flows into it, 22 sites from this period were identified. On the terrace below Mevo Ḥamma a concentration of five sites were found in an area of 1 sq km. In the Naḥal Samak basin, 25 sites were found and in the Beteiḥa basin, 37 sites were found from this period. Additional sites are scattered across the plateaus.
The finds from this period have still not been thoroughly studied, but it seems that these sites represent cities, villages and fortresses. The distribution of the sites in dense clusters may perhaps attest to different political unites in the southern Golan at this time.
4.5 The Late Bronze Age
4.5.1 Settlement continued during the Late Bronze Age in the stream valleys, but the numbers dwindled greatly. Only 14 sites were found in the southern Golan, all in the valleys of Naḥal ‘Ein Gev, Naḥal Samak and Naḥal Kanaf (see map 7). At Tel Hadar (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 89) on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, an administrative center was founded. The site was surrounded by a wall or two walls. In excavations at the site, two floors were found, bearing tools and abutting the wall. On the northeastern side part of a well-preserved round tower was found. The settlement was destroyed around 1500 BCE (Kochavi 1996:190). Remains of four sites were found in the Naḥal Samak basin, one of which was on the Kinnar Beach (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 73), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and three sites were found at a point with a controlling view of the stream valley. Few sites were found on the southern and central plateau. Two were found in the Har Peres Survey area, and one site each in the Rujem el-Hiri and Qaṣrin Survey areas. No sites were found from this period in the Nov or Qeshet survey areas. In the northern Golan, 15 sites were found from the Late Bronze Age, some of which featured only dolmens. Among the settlements of the southern and northern Golan was an area in the central Golan that had practically no settlements. It is possible that the settlements in the southern Golan belonged to the kingdom of Geshur and those of the northern Golan to the kingdom of Ma‘acah (see below, 9.2).
4.5.2 The steep decline in the number of settlements left large areas without settlements. As in other periods, these areas seem to have been in the hands of nomads or semi-monads. While these people left no remains of buildings, they did leave their imprint on the area.
Between Rujem el-Hiri in the south and ‘Ein Zivan in the north are large stone heaps covering dolmens. These dolmens are built of relatively small stones arranged in rows slanting inward and forming a kind of false dome, at the top of which a large stone slab was placed. In two of these heaps, sherds were found from the Late Bronze Age. These heaps are usually surrounded by smaller dolmens built in the usual manner. It seems that these were dolmen fields, built in the Late Bronze Age, and that they served as burials for nomads (see below, 5.1).
4.5.3 The tomb in the middle of Rujem el-Hiri (Hebrew: Galgal Refaim) is built in a fashion similar to the heaps described above, and excavations revealed finds from the Late Bronze Age. There is no doubt that this site was in use at that time and therefore it is presented here. However, scholars are divided on the question of whether this was secondary use of an ancient structure or whether the structure was first built in the Late Bronze Age.
Although no finds were discovered that dated it to a period other than the Late Bronze Age, a number of dates have been proposed. Michael Freikman (pers. comm.) suggested that it be dated to the Chalcolithic period. Mataniya Zohar, Moshe Kochavi and Yonatan Mizrachi dated (below) the construction of the curving walls to the Early Bronze Age. Zohar (1992) also believed that there was a monument of some kind in the center of the structure. Kochavi posited that the central heap was built in the Early Bronze Age and that the finds within it attest to secondary use in the Late Bronze Age (Kochavi 1993). Mizrachi proposed that the heap was built in the Late Bronze Age in the center of the circles, which themselves were built in the Early Bronze Age (Mizrachi 1992). Moshe Hartal (1991) suggested that the entire complex was built in the Late Bronze Age (See below, 5.1.1).
The function of the structure is also unclear. Yehoshua Yitzhaki (1993) suggested that it served as an astronomical observatory. According to Aveni and Mizrachi its purpose was to forecast the first rain (Aveni and Mizrachi 1998). Hartal (1999) proposed that the site served as a cult center for a pastoral population.
4.6 Iron Age I
During the Iron Age I the number of settlements increased in the Golan (see map 8). In the southern Golan, 20 sites from this period were found, in the center, 24 and in the north, 31 sites. Most of the sites were found in areas not settled in the Late Bronze Age and most were situated in stream valleys.
Near the shore of the Sea of Galilee were two administrative centers, Tel Hadar (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 89). At Tel Hadar settlement was renewed in the twelfth century BCE. In the eleventh century, the settlement expanded and served as a walled administrative center. It contained large storehouses in which taxes were collected from surrounding settlements. It seems that this was one of the administrative centers of the Land of Geshur (see below, 9.2.1). The settlement with its storehouses was destroyed in the eleventh century BCE by a major conflagration (Kochavi 1996: 190–192). In the early tenth century BCE, the fortified city at Tel ‘Ein Gev was founded (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 68).
The densest cluster of settlements was in Naḥal Samak. Six sites were found there, which were apparently villages. A fortified settlement, at el-Khashash (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 15) protected the entrance to the stream valley from the direction of the Sea of Galilee. This period was the height of the development of this settlement.
There were only a few sites on the plateau at this time, some of which were apparently fortresses. Remains of fortresses from this time were found at Tel Abu Zeitun (Nov Survey, site no. 24) on the southern plateau while Meẓad Yonatan (Qeshet Survey, site no. 62) was on the central plateau. Sites were also few in the Meshoshim-Yahûdiyye basins as well as the central plateau. It seems that these areas were still under the control of nomads or semi-nomads and the fortresses were apparently intended to control them.
During this period on the northern Golan, small sites were established, apparently of nomadic settlements, perhaps of the Ma‘acah tribes (see below, 9.2.1). In Wadi Balua‘ (Shamir Survey) remains were found of a fortress. There may also have been fortresses at other sites on hills controlling the roads and near water sources. The sites – Ṣurman (Har Shifon Survey), Somaka (Shamir Survey) and Miṣpe Golani (Dan Survey) – suggest the possibility that there too, there were fortresses.
4.7 Iron Age II
During the Iron Age II the number of settlements grew. In the southern Golan the number increased from 20 to 39. In contrast, the northern Golan saw a sharp decrease in sites from 27 in the Iron Age I to 18 in the Iron Age II (see map 9). The reason for the decrease might have been the abandonment of small settlements that are typical of the beginning of the sedentary process, and consolidation into larger settlements.
In Naḥal Samak about half the Iron Age I settlements were abandoned and four new settlements were built, on hills with a controlling view of their surroundings and convenient to defend. Tel Sorag (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 89), as was the city at Tel ‘Ein Gev (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 68).
Sherds from the Iron Age II were also found at controlling points at the Ṣuqye Kawarot (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 111); at Rujem Fiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 66). At Maṣokey Onn Fortress (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 2) and forts may also have been built at ‘Uyun Umm el-‘Azam (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 27).
The change in settlement distribution reflects a change in the geopolitical situation at that time. During the Iron Age II the region was under the control of the Arameans and became the battleground between Israel and Aram (see below, 9.9.2). It was only natural for settlements to have been established in easily defensible locations and that fortresses were built as protection against invasion.
In the ninth century BCE settlement was renewed at Tel Hadar (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no.89). Atop the ruins of public buildings a planned domestic quarter was built with streets, colonnaded structures and silos. During the last phases of the settlement in the eighth century BCE it served as a fishing a farming village and not as an administrative center. The settlement became more densely populated and the inner wall was done away with (see above, 4.5.1).
In Naḥal Meyṣar (Ḥammat Gader Survey), which was farther from the area of the battles, a number of smaller settlements were built, some of which continued settlements from the Iron Age I and others that were built during the Iron Age II.
New settlements were established in the central plateau (Rujem ae-Hiri and Qeshet surveys) and in the Meshoshim- Yahûdiyye basins (Qaṣrin Survey). These were apparently nomadic settlements. It seems that the process of sedentation, which began in the northern Golan during the Iron Age I, spread during the Iron Age II to the central Golan as well.
4.8 Iron Age III
The campaign of Tiglath-Pileser III against Israel in 732 BCE brought about the destruction of the settlements in the Golan. All the permanent settlements in the central and northern Golan were abandoned, leaving the area devoid of permanent habitations. The settlements in the southern Golan were also damaged and abandoned (see below 9.2.3)
Remains from the Iron Age III were found at only four sites (see Map 10). Three of these were built at controlling points in the area of the Ḥammat Gader Survey and one site was built in the area of the Ma‘ale Gamla Survey. With most of the Golan now devoid of permanent habitations, it seems that, as in other periods of settlement gap, the area was taken over by nomads and semi-nomads.
4.9 The Persian Period
In the northern and central Golan, the settlement gap persisted into the Persian period, however; in the southern Golan in this period settlement began again. Remains from the Persian period were found at 12 sites, most of which were in the southern Golan (see Map 10).
In the excavations of Tel ‘Ein Gev (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no.68), only pits were found from this period. At Tel Sorag (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 89) settlement was renewed and excavations revealed buildings and silos; the site may have been a village.
Sherds from the Persian period were also found at Ṣuqye Kawarot (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no.111) and in Naḥal Samak (‘Ein Gev Survey, site nos. 30 and 39). In Naḥal Meyṣar (Ḥammat Gader Survey 39, 56 and 67), in the Yarmuk Valley (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 24) and on the southern plateau (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 66; Nov Survey, site nos. 14 and 23). Ḥorvat Boṭma (Har Peres Survey, site no. 2) is the northernmost site were remains from the Persian period were found.
4.10 The Hellenistic Period
During the early Hellenistic period the Jordan River was the eastern boundary of permanent settlement. There were no such settlements anywhere in the Golan and those that have been found seem to have been inhabited by nomads or semi-nomads. The nomads only began to become sedentary in the Late Hellenistic period, in the second half of the second century BCE (see map 11).
4.10.1 The Hermon – Four sites were found from the Hellenistic period at the foot of Mount Hermon, that is, in the area of hills south of the mountain ridge. The mountainous bloc of the Hermon still had no permanent settlement. On Mount Snaim (Dan Survey) a cult enclosure was found that included enclosures adjacent to the cliffs, where coins were found dating to the second and first centuries BCE. It seems that the site served as a cult site frequented by Itureans (see below, 12.1) even before they began to settle at the foot of Mount Hermon and in the northern Golan.
Near the enclosure an Iturean settlement developed where coins were also found from this period. In excavations and in a survey no pottery vessels were found from the Hellenistic period. The vessels published by Dar (1994: Pls. 1¬¬–7) are today defined differently.
4.10.2 The Northern Golan – Remains from this period were found at 48 sites. This is double the number of sites in the area during the Iron Age. During this period the northern part, with its volcanic peaks and valleys, was settled for the first time, relatively densely.
In 34 sites (nearly 3/4 of the northern Golan's sites) Golan Ware became common (see below, 6.1). These sites were situated mainly on the low hills at the base of the Hermon and the area of the volcanic peaks and valleys. The sites were not situated by water sources, nor were cisterns found near them due to the hard-to-quarry basalt rock on which the sites were built.
These were small sites, measuring between 1 and 5 dunams. They remains of unwalled settlements in each of which were remnants of a number of structures. The structures were built of fieldstones or slightly worked stones. The walls were one stone thick.
The settlements were concentrated in clusters between 200 and 1,000 m apart. At Khirbet Zemel (Merom Golan Survey: 13) one such site was excavated, uncovering a large structure built in the second half of the second century BCE. The site was abandoned after a few decades (Hartal 2002:75–122).
The area in which these small sites were found was not settled either before or after them which made it possible to discern them. Otherwise, they would have disappeared under remains of later settlements.
The inhabitants of these hamlets did not leave clear testimony of their identity, but the similarity in time and space between them and the historical sources regarding the Itureans indicate that the inhabitants were part of the Iturean tribes (see below, 12.1, 13.1).
4.10.3 – In the western part of the northern Golan 13 sites were found from the Hellenistic period that did not contain Golan Ware. In a ruin on a steep hill east of Buq‘ata (Birket Ram Survey) no remains of Golan Were found (but only Hellenistic pottery). This site, which is surrounded by sites with Golan Ware, served as a fortress, perhaps an administrative outpost in the heart of the Iturean settlement.
The rocky Odem lava flow (see above, 2.7), separates these two groups of sites – the sites with and without Golan Ware. The lava flow was densely forested and remained unsettled until the Late Roman period.
4.10.4 The Central Golan – The 12 western sites in the northern Golan (the 13th site is located in the eastern part of the area, in the heart of the Iturean territory, see above) belong to a group of 97 settlements that extends across the central Golan. Some of the sites were built on ridges or low hills. They were surrounded by broad walls encompassing a few remnants of construction and apparently used as farms or enclosures.
The dating of these sites is problematic given that they all revealed sherds from a number of periods, and without excavation the construction cannot be attributed to one of them. Most of the sherds from the Hellenistic period that were found at these sites were produced locally rather than imported and are of low quality. Other sites revealed sherds only and the character of the settlement is unclear.
The sites extend across the area in a pattern similar to that of the Iturean settlements in the northern Golan (see above, 4.10.2). It sees therefore that the sites in the central Golan may also be attributed to sedentary processes of nomads living in the area in the early Hellenistic period. Their material culture differs from the sites in the northern Golan and they therefore seem to have been part of a different ethnic group. The historical sources give no indication of the identity of these inhabitants, which we term Syrians (see below 13.2).
4.10.5 -- At the end of the Hellenistic period the region was conquered by Alexander Jannaeus (83–80 BCE, see below, 9.3.4). The picture of settlement on the eve of the Hasmonean conquest revealed by surveys is one of meager settlement that could not withstand the might of the Hasmonean army.
Following the conquest, the area was settled by Jews and it is interesting therefore to study the fate of the Hellenistic settlements that preceded them. Analysis of the findings at the sites and their history in the Roman period indicates that the area east of the Waterfalls Road had no Jewish settlement and the original settlers continued to live there (see details in the introduction to the Qeshet and Rujem el-Hiri surveys).
West of the waterfall road settlement changed. Half the sites were abandoned and did not continue in existence in the Early Roman Period. In most of them only local pottery was found and none was known later as a Jewish settlement. It therefore seems that in those locales settlement ceased to exist after the Hasmonean conquest. In the other half of the sites settlement continued unbroken into the Roman period. In some of them, synagogues were later built. These settlements were apparently inhabited by Jews.
According to Flavius Josephus (War 1, 105; Ant. 13, 394) Gamla (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 43) was a fortress conquered by Jannaeus. In excavations at the site no remains of a fortress were found, but hundreds of Seleucid coins were found, attesting to the existence of a settlement at this time. In contrast, hardly any sherds were found from the periods prior to the Hasmonean conquest. Gamla seems to have been another of the Hellenistic settlements defined as a fortress due to its natural fortifications.
4.10.6 In the Southern Golan – Remains were found from the Hellenistic period at 43 sites. In this area settlement was renewed as early as the Persian period (see above, 4.9) and expanded in the Hellenistic period. At three sites, Kafr el-Mā (Nov Survey, site no. 33), el-‘Āl (Nov Survey, site no. 34) and Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95) remains were found attesting to an Eastern cult, the type typical of the Bashan at this time. These findings postdate the Hellenistic period but seem to reveal the presence of a Syrian population (see below, 13.2), apparently associated with settlement in the Yarmuk River valley at that time.
In the excavations at Susita (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 81) sherds were found on the rocky surface dating from the end of the fourth and early fifth centuries BCE. The finding shows the possible presence of a military outpost. The city was apparently founded in the mid-second century BCE and became the region's main city.
In eight of the sites in the Susita area remains of ashlar construction were found. Such construction was also found at three sites in which sherds were not found from the Hellenistic period. At Height Point 108 m (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 20) a fortress was excavated built with ashlars. Ma‘oz, who excavated there, associated the ashlar construction with a fortress built during the Seleucid period.
As a polis, Hippus-Susita also controlled the southern Golan. Under its control were a number of Jewish towns, known as the "prohibited towns" in the territory of Susita (see below, 10.1, 11.1, 13.3.1). Ma‘oz (1986:83–84) posited that these cities were founded after the conquest of Alexander Jannaeus, that is, at the end of the Hellenistic period.
4.11 The Early Roman Period
One hundred and ninety-five sites from the Early Roman period were found in the surveys (see map 12). At this time the entire Golan was one political unit under Herodian rule (see below 9.44.2–9.4.9). However, the population was varied – Jews, Itureans and Syrians (see below, Chapter 13).
4.11.1 The Hermon – During the Early Roman period there were 11 sites on Mount Hermon. At that time, the Iturean settlements continued to exist in the Hermon foothills and for the first time, permanent settlement began in the mountainous part of the Hermon. This period was apparently the time when the process of Iturean settlement was completed (see below, 12.1,13.1); after the establishment of the city of Paneas, permanent settlement also penetrated areas that had not been previously settled. The Iturean settlement near the cult site at Mount Snaim was also apparently founded at this time.
Numismatic evidence indicates that worship at the cult enclosure continued until the first century CE. Three coins from this period were the latest found in the enclosure. The cult enclosure was replaced by a new enclosure, which was built at the foot of the Iturean settlement (see above, 4.10.1). The enclosure was surrounded by a wall; within it two shrines were found that showed Roman influence in their construction. The shrine was apparently established sometime during the first century CE, perhaps at the time of Agrippa II.
4.11.2 The Northern Golan – During the Early Roman period there were five settlements in the northern Golan. In 17 of these, settlement persisted from the Hellenistic period; the rest were founded at this time, some on earlier sites. The sites were scattered across the entire area except for the Odem lava flow.
Golan ware was found in 38 of the Early Roman sites. In 13 of these, settlement continued from the Hellenistic period, while about 20 of the Hellenistic sites were not settled in the Early Roman period. In 13 sites from the Early Roman period no Golan ware was discovered. In about half of those, settlement continued from the Hellenistic period; the other half were settlements founded during the Early Roman period.
Iturean settlement apparently continued without interruption. The Iturean sites were found mainly in the eastern part of the area, but the Itureans continued to penetrate the void in the center of the region in the Hellenistic period. A few Iturean settlements were also found in the western part of the region.
4.11.3 Paneas – at the end of the first century BCE Philip, son of Herod the Great, founded a city at Baniyas called Paneas or Caesarea Philippi. A mixed city, with pagan shrines as well as a Jewish community, Paneas served throughout the entire Early Roman period as the capital of the tetrarchy of northern Transjordan (see below, 9.4.3).
During the reign of Agrippa II the city expanded and suburbs were added to it, some of which were above the spring that provided the city with water. To ensure water supply to these suburbs an aqueduct was built that channeled water from a stream on the east.
4.11.4 In the Central Golan – A total of 73 sites were found. At the end of the Hellenistic period the region was conquered by Alexander Jannaeus, after which Jews began to migrate to it (see above, 4.10.5). Jewish motifs are rare before the Late Roman period and therefore Jewish settlement in the Early Roman period cannot be directly identified. However, the sites where no pagan findings were discovered, and which were later known to be Jewish, were probably settled by Jews as early as the Early Roman period.
In the eastern part of the central Golan 32 sites were found that were not settled by Jews after this time; they were probably not settled by Jews during the Early Roman period. These settlements continued to be inhabited by Syrians, who had settled there during the Hellenistic period (see below, 13.2).
In the western part of the region 27 sites were found with later evidence of Jewish settlement. The most important of these was Gamla, where excavations unearthed a synagogue, a ritual bath and stone vessels typical of Jewish settlements. Gamla was the only city that fought the Romans during the Great Revolt, after which it was destroyed and abandoned.
Bethsaida, a large village settled by Jews was located near the Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee, received the status of a polis and was named Julias. This site was outside the survey area.
4.11.5 In the Southern Golan – During this period there were 60 sites in the region. The southern Golan served as the administrative outpost of Sussita, which was liberated by Pompey and joined the alliance known as the Decapolis (see below, 9.4.1).
Two aqueducts were built at this time, which brought water from Naḥal el-‘Āl to the city. The city was settled mainly by pagans although there was also a Jewish community there.
Evidence of pagans was found at a number of sites (see below, 12.2). At Kafr el-Mā (Nov Survey, site no. 33) a statue of the Arab god Shadrafa was found, dated (tentatively) to the first century CE.
A list of "prohibited towns" in the territory of Sussita appears in the ancient rabbinic sources. These towns were inhabited by Jews, and although they were located in a mainly pagan area, they were bound by the laws of the sabbatical year and tithes. Some of these towns can be identified by their name, which has survived to this day (see below, 11.1, 13.3.1). Others have been identified by stone vessels found there, evidence that they were settled by Jews.
4.12 The Middle Roman Period
4.12.1 The Middle Roman period began in 100 CE after the death of Agrippa II and the annulment of tetrarchy of northern Transjordan (see below, 9.4.8). The dating of the sites to this period is based mainly on the finding of Kfar Ḥananya-type vessels (see below, 6.2).
In the northern Golan almost no vessels of this type were found so it is almost impossible to differentiate between the Middle Roman and the Late Roman periods at the various sites. To fill the gap in the information, we included in the map of the period the sites in the northern Golan and Mount Hermon that were settled both in the Early Roman and the Middle Roman periods, on the assumption that settlement in these towns was continuous. It is possible that a few of the settlements in the Late Roman period were already settled in the Middle Roman period; however, as noted, this cannot be proven. This period saw a slight rise in the number of sites – to 209 (see map 13).
4.12.2 Mount Hermon and the Northern Golan – Ten sites were found on Mount Hermon from the Middle Roman period. At this time the Iturean temples that had been established in the Early Roman period continued in operation. The Iturean settlements on Mount Hermon seem to have continued, but as noted above, information on this period is limited.
In the northern Golan the number of settlements rose to 60. The city of Paneas-Caesarea Philippi, lost its position as capital of the tetrarchy of northern Transjordan, when the tetrarchy was split up. However, it seems that this change did not affect the development of the city. Its cultic area, near the cave, was expanded and temples and open courtyards were added. Suburbs were built around the center of the city with spacious houses.
A pottery industry developed during this time in Paneas and nearby Ḥawarit. The pottery was marketed throughout the Paneas district, that is, the northern Golan to Mount Peres in the south. These vessels replaced the Kefar Ḥananya ware (see below, Chapter 6). In the second century BCE a road was built from Paneas to Damascus, which passed south of Naḥal Sa‘ar, through the Odem Forest and Buq‘ata, and forts were built along the road. As noted above (4.12.1) there are still no tools to define the ceramics of this period and therefore it is unclear whether the beginning of settlement at the Odem lava flow began as early as this period orin
the Late Roman period.
4.12.3 Central Golan – There were 79 settlements in the central Golan during this period, in which two separate populations developed. Jews inhabited the western part. As noted above, Gamla, which was destroyed in the revolt, was not resettled; its lands were apparently confiscated and four pagan communities were built on them. However, it seems that damage to Jewish settlement in the Golan was limited. Most of the sites that had been settled by Jews in the Early Roman period continued in existence in the Middle Roman period as well, and a number of new settlements were founded (see the introductions to the Qaṣrin and Ma‘ale Gamla surveys). Meanwhile, the city of Julias-Bethsaida declined in importance and seems to have ceased to exist.
In the eastern part of the region nomadic tribes became completely sedentary. Beginning in the Hellenistic period small villages were established, some of which belonged to the district of Paneas. Iturean settlement apparently did not reach this area.
Along the Lawiye Spur and the central plateau, another Roman road was built, along which fortresses were established and milestones installed.
4.12.4 The Southern Golan – During the Middle Roman period there were 58 sites in the southern Golan, with Hippus-Sussita maintaining its centrality. The number of settlements rose, especially in the stream valleys, whereas in the southern part of the plateau the number of settlements was small.
The fate of the Jewish towns in the Sussita region (see below 13.3.1) is unclear during this period. Ma‘oz (1986:82–83) posited that the Jews abandoned the area during the time of the revolt, which would mean that these towns were not inhabited by Jews during the Middle Roman period. However, only one of the sites that was identified as Jewish – Lower Wadi es-Sufera (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 4) did not continue to exist in the Middle Roman period. At other sites: Nov (Nov Survey, site no. 23), ‘Ein ‘Uwenish, Kfar Ḥaruv (‘Ein Gev Survey, site nos. 25 and 113) and Khirbet ‘Ayun (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 60) settlement continued at this time and the population was apparently Jewish.
4.13 The Late Roman Period
During the Late Roman period there were 307 settlements on the Golan (see map 14) – more than in any other period on the Golan.
4.13.1 Mount Hermon and the Northern Golan –The Late Roman period saw settlement flourish in the northern Golan (see map 14). The number of settlements rose to 70 in the northern Golan and 19 on Mount Hermon. Most were inhabited by Itureans and only on the western edges did settlement continue in which Golan Ware was not found (and were probably not inhabited by Itureans).
4.13.2 During the Late Roman period the city of Paneas reached its greatest extent. It covered about 750 dunams ¬– most of the Baniyas plateau. During this period the aqueduct underwent renovations, which allowed it to continue in use until it became blocked with silt.
The city was a prosperous one. In addition to temples it had a colonnaded street, public buildings and spacious dwellings. Farms and grand villas were situated two–three hours' walk from the city; their owners would have enjoyed the pleasures of big-city life.
4.13.3 During this period, or perhaps as early as the Middle Roman period (see above, 4.12.2) settlement began on the Odem lava flow, which had not been settled before. The northern part of the flow was inhabited first, apparently following construction of the road from Paneas to Damascus.
The only settlement in the area, Khirbet Ra‘abneh (Dan Survey) was built near this road, perhaps developing from one of the forts that guarded it (see above 4.12.2. This settlement was large compared to others of the period, with an area of about 60 dunams.
The main limitations of the Odem lava flow, apparently preventing people from living there before this time, were a lack of soil and water. Suitability of the area for habitation t required a major investment in terms of clearing forests, removing rocks and constructing terraces to level the fields. These operations were likely to have been beyond the abilities of small farmers. It seems that such work was carried out in an organized manner and centrally financed. This is indicated by the large size of the agricultural terraces, the maximum size they could be considering the lay of the land, and the fact that they are not sub-divided, as would be expected in the case of with plots belonging to small farmers. It is therefore possible that there was a large estate at Ra‘abneh, all of whose lands were under single ownership. To overcome the lack of water, numerous cisterns were dug, some of which were particularly large.
4.13.4 Central Golan – The Late Roman period was a prosperous one in the central Golan as well, with 136 sites all in all. The Jewish settlements, which began after the conquest by Alexander Jannaeus developed and flourished. The area was agricultural, but the villages were relatively small. It seems that the size of the villages was restricted by the small volume of the springs, which was insufficient for larger settlements. The area's development was stable, but there was also a dynamic involved – new settlements were founded, but some of the veteran settlements were abandoned. The inhabitants' livelihood was based mainly on olive cultivation and olive-oil production. The eastern part of the region, where olives were not raised, developed more slowly and consisted of small villages and farms. All the settlements of the area were rural – there were no urban centers.
The Roman road, which was built in the Middle Roman period, continued in use during the Late Roman period as well; there were forts along the way to secure it.
4.13.5 Southern Golan – The number of settlements in the southern Golan also grew, reaching 82. Hippus-Sussita continued to be the central city of the southern Golan and flourished, as did Paneas in the north. The settlement pattern of the Middle Roman period persisted into the Late Roman period. However, as in the central Golan, there were changes in the distribution of settlement; some were abandoned and others were established.
In the third century CE the Roman Empire was struck with an economic crisis (see below, 9.5.2). However, its impact on this region was apparently marginal, as most of the settlements persisted into the Byzantine period and the number of those abandoned equaled the number of new ones established. Some new locales may have been established in the wake of recovery from the economic crisis.
Nevertheless, the crisis seems to have weakened the settlements and the Jews may have left their cities in its wake. In any case, during the Byzantine period there is no evidence of Jewish presence in the Sussita area. In the sites in the southern Golan, such as Khirbet ‘Ayun (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 60), el-‘Āl (Nov Survey site no. 34) and Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri, site no. 147), inscriptions were found attesting to the settlement of Roman army veterans.
At Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey site no. 95), eṣ-Ṣufeira (Rujem el-Hiri site no. 146) and el-‘Āl (Nov Survey site no. 34) findings attest to pagan cult. The findings at el-‘Āl are quite diffrent from those in the neighboring sites – Afiq in the south and Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 147) in the north. No symbols or inscriptions were found attesting to the presence of Jews or Christians. The finds apparently attest to pagan settlement.
At Ḥammat Gader the large bathhouse continued to operate and a town grew up around it providing services for the many visitors.
4.14 The Byzantine Period
During the Byzantine period the number of settlements declined to 229 (see map 15). The weakening of settlement in the Golan was not uniform. There were only six sites on Mount Hermon, while in the northern Golan there were 40 and 104 sites in the central Golan. A major difference can be seen between the western and the eastern parts of the region (see below 4.14.2): Stability was preserved in the southern Golan, where 79 settlements were found (see below, 4.14.3).
4.14.1 Mount Hermon and the Northern Golan – Security worsened in this area during the Byzantine period and settlement on the Hermon ceased almost completely. The temples stopped functioning and settlements were abandoned or declined in size. Finds from this period are very meager. The settlements may have continued in use on an agricultural seasonal basis.
Paneas also suffered during this period although until the fifth century it continued to serve as the region's central city. A large basilica was built in the center of the city, apparently a church. According to Ma‘oz, the temples continued in use alongside the basilica. Excavations in the city revealed a huge conflagration that destroyed the city's main street of shops. This fire apparently marked the end of the city. The suburbs were also abandoned at this time and the aqueduct went out of use. South of Naḥal Sa‘ar a wall was built for the first time to protect that part of the city; however in most of the site there were no remains from the late Byzantine period. The villas around Paneas wer also abandoned. At el-Naqra, above the Sa‘ar Waterfall, a fortress was built. Paneas is mentioned by travelers in the Byzantine period, but as the headwaters of the Jordan, not as a city. This was the period during which the production of pottery ceased at Baniyas and Ḥawarit.
Rural life was also compromised at this time. The information gleaned from the survey is not clear enough to determine the date of the change, but the number of settlements declined from 69 to 40. The decline is particularly sharp in Iturean sites. But together with this major decline, it can be seen that in the sixth century a number of sites were established in this area – Quneṭra, Bab el-Hawa, Ra‘abneh and Za‘ura, where Ghassanids lived (see below, 13.4). The decline in security at this time does not seem to have been connected to the Ghassanids, but rather they penetrated an area that was already compromised, as can be seen by the excavations at Bab el-Hawa.
4.14.2 Central Golan – The Byzantine period was the height of Jewish settlement (see below, 12.3) in the western part of the central Golan. The villages were prosperous and well built. Magnificent synagogues were built in most of the villages, which also attests to economic prosperity. It seems that the source of wealth of the Golan’s Jews was the sale of oil produced from the many trees that grew in the region. In settlements where there were no olive presses, there were also no synagogues. It may be assumed that there is a connection in that respect – that the settlements that did not produce oil did not have the resources to build elaborate public buildings.
In the eastern part of the central Golan, crosses and tombstones were found at some sites, attesting to settlement by Christians (see below, 12.4.2). As opposed to the prosperity in the area of Jewish settlement, the eastern part of the Golan saw a decline in the number of sites. The finds from the survey are insufficient to determine a date for the decline, but it appears that undermined security in the northern Golan (above 4.14.1) affected this area as well. In any case, at the beginning of the Early Islamic period no permanent settlements remained in the eastern Golan, and it may be assumed that the decline began in at the end of the Byzantine period.
In the fifth century a new ethnic element penetrated the area where settlement had weakened. In the landscape unit of the volcanoes and valleys (see above 2.2.8), large and well-established villages were built. In Ḥorvat Boṭma, Rafid and ‘Ashshe (Har Peres Survey, sites 2, 5, and 8) and in Ṣurman (Har Shifon Survey) villages were constructed in high-quality Hauran style, of roughly dressed stone and ashlars (see below, Chapter 8). Some of the houses are decorated with reliefs and carvings. Decorative crosses were abundant in these villages and inscriptions in Greek were also found. Construction and decorations of buildings resembled those in the Bashan and Hauran regions of that period. It seems that these sites were settled by Ghassanids – Arabs who converted to Christianity and settled in the Bashan, whose center was in Jabiya near the eastern border of the Golan (see below, 12.4.4, 13.4).
4.14.3 The Southern Golan – Sussita (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 81) remained the main city and its administrative region extended throughout the southern Golan. Aqueducts built in the Roman period continued in use in the Byzantine period.
Christianity spread mainly in the vicinity of Sussita, and in the city itself were at least eight churches. At Kursi (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 14) a monastery was built with a church, an olive press, a bathhouse and other elements. Apparently there were churches at Bney Yehuda, Afiq and Kfar Ḥaruv (‘Ein Gev survey sits, 61, 95 and 113 respectively); they are attested to by crosses, chancel columns and inscriptions (see site descriptions). The findings at Kfar Ḥaruv show that this settlement, which according to ancient sources was a Jewish town in the area of Susita, because a Christian town. Crosses adorned burial caves as well; one of these caves was excavated at Bney Yehuda and the other south of Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 100).
In the eastern part of the region remains were found in Duweir a-Luz, in the Ruqqad Valley (Nov Survey, site no. 39), and remains of a church in Kafr el-Mā (Nov Survey site no. 33), At KHisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey site no. 147) three churches were found. Two, built as basilicas, have been partially excavated. The mosaic floor of a church was found at a site very close to Khisfin (Northeast) (141). The character of the site remains unknown; it may have been a neighborhood of Khisfin or a monastery.
Remains were also found at Khisfin of buildings constructed in Hauran stype (see below, Chapter 8). This site was especially rich in decorated architectural items. The similarity between these finds and the finds at sites in the eastern Golan (see above, 4.14.2), which were identified as Ghassanid sites attest to this site being the westernmost Ghassanid site.
Near Khisfin remains were found of a cemetery with numerous tombstones in Greek, apparently of Christians. At the rest of the sites, including el-‘Āl (Nov Survey, site no. 34), in which numerous architectural and artistic elements survived, no ethnic or religious identifiers of the inhabitants were found. On the one hand there is no evidence of Christian habitation and on the other hand they do not feature Jewish motifs. The findings in this topographical cell are very different from those in areas nearby to the northwest.
According to the survey findings it seems that most of the area was rural and that no Christians had settled there. Thus, the identity of the inhabitants at this time can only be speculated upon. It cannot be ruled out that descendants of inhabitants from the Roman period lived here, Jews and perhaps pagans as well. It is therefore possible that the Jewish settlement in this part of the Sussita area was more prolonged than had been previously thought; however, as noted, there is no proof.
At Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95), architectural remnants were found attesting to the presence of a synagogue here. Lintels decorated with reliefs of menorahs as well as a column incised with a menorah and an inscription reading Ana Yehuda Hazana (I am Yehuda the cantor) were found here (see site description).
At the cemetery west of Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 100) where a cave was found decorated with a cross, another cave was found with a menorah carved at the entrance. This is the only testimony to the use of a cemetery by Jews and Christians together.
Afiq is the only site in the southern Golan in which evidence was found of a synagogue, although it is not included in the Jewish towns in the Sussita region (see below, 13.3.1). Settlement there began during the Middle Roman period and reached its zenith in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods; the Jewish settlement and the synagogue should be attributed to this period.
4.15 The Early Islamic Period
4.15.1. The number of settlements declined precipitously during this period (see map 16). Most of the sites of this period were concentrated in the southern Golan – 18 during the Umayyad period and only 8 during the Abbasid period (see map 16).
The population of Sussita (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 81) was mainly Christian and the city had many churches. Its status seems to have declined and it was mentioned only once in Islamic sources, by the name Susya. The aqueducts to the city apparently went out of use during this time and their stone segments were used to connect the Berenike aqueduct to Beit Yerah (Yardena Alexandre, pers. comm.). Without aqueducts a city could not exist at that site, and it may have been abandoned even before the 749 earthquake. The latter wrought major destruction in the city, which was not re-inhabited.
In the Naḥal Samak estuary, at Kursi, the monastery continued to exist (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 14). It, too, was destroyed in the 749 earthquake. Islamic sources mention a monastery at the foot of Aqabat Fiq (see below, 9.7.8) but so far, no remains have been found.
4.15.2. Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey,site no. 95) now supplanted Susita in importance, becoming the main settlement in the southern Golan in the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Ma‘oz proposed that a lintel decorated with a circumscribed menorah attests to the presence of a synagogue at the site in the Umayyad period. Numerous tombstones with Arabic Kufik inscriptions were found at Afiq. These inscriptions are dated to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Similar tombstones were also found at neighboring Bney Yehuda (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 61).
4.15.3 Afiq is situated on the edge of the main road between the Hauran and Akko, the road known as Darb el-Haurana, which was built by ‘Abd el-Malik. Two milestones, placed near the site, were found in secondary use in houses in the village of Fiq. The road replaced the Roman road, which had been built in the second century CE and apparently served until the end of the Byzantine period. The road ran along the southern plateau and included an ascent built at its southern end known as ‘Aqabat Fiq.
4.15.4 At Ḥammat Gader, the great bathhouse continued to operate. Near ‘Ein el-Jarab (the spring that is now used for bathing) paved squares were built along with a building with a mosaic floor, apparently for the use of bathers in the hot springs. The great bathhouse was destroyed in the earthquake of 749; however, the installations near ‘Ein el-Jarab, albeit not as grand, were expanded and took its place.
4.15.5 During the Early Islamic period, Tiberias was the capital of Jund Urdun and at this time flourished and reached its zenith. Considering that the southern and central Golan were close to Tiberias, it might have been expected that the city's prosperity would have had a positive impact on these regions. In the southern Golan a good many sites were indeed found, although fewer than during the Byzantine period; however, findings at these sites were very meager.
4.15.6 The decline in the number of settlements in the central Golan was much more marked and remains from this time were found at 10 sites from the Umayyad period and five from the Abbasid period. Most were Jewish sites that apparently had continued in existence from the previous period.
In the excavations at Umm el-Qanaṭir (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 103) and Qaṣrin (Qaṣrin Survey, site no 41) evidence was found of the use of the synagogue during the Umayyad period. At Deir ‘Aziz (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 77) remains of a synagogue and were found as well as findings from the Abbasid period.
Surveys revealed sherds from the Umayyad period at Ḥorvat Ḥoḥ (Ma‘ale Gamla, site no. 51). At Ahmadiyye (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 30) and at Ḥorvat Kanaf (but not at the synagogue excavations) (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 67) sherds were found from the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. At el-Bir (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 15), ‘Asâliyye and Yahûdiyye (Qaṣrin Survey, site nos. 75 and 116 respectively) sherds were found from the Abbasid period.
In the eastern part of the central Golan, which was not settled by Jews, no sites were found from this period.
4.15.7 This was also the situation in the northern Golan. Settlement in this area, which declined at the end of the Byzantine period, may have been mainly taken over by nomadic tribes at this time. Thus it seems that the decline in settlement was not the result of the Islamic conquest.
At the foot of Mount Hermon, three sites were found from this period. At Baniyas, which greatly declined during the Byzantine period, a few sherds were found from the Umayyad period. The city revived during the Abbasid period and continued to exist in the period that followed. Three more sites were found near the road from the Bnot Ya‘akov bridge to Quneṭra.
4.16 The Crusader and Ayyubid Periods
4.16.1. Generally speaking, the surveys did not reveal remains of the Crusader period in the Golan (see map 17), and thus it seems that there were no permanent settlements in the region at that time. This finding conforms to the historical sources that describe the Golan as a buffer zone between the Muslims and the Crusaders. Nevertheless, a more detailed study of the medieval ceramics, which was usually identified in the survey as Mamluk, might possibly reveal smaller sites in the area that were not found in the survey.
4.16.2 The only settlement in the area from this time is Baniyas, at the northwestern end of the Golan. Settlement there was renewed in the Abbasid period and in the Fatimid period Baniyas protected the road that passed from the northern Land of Israel to Damascus. The city was surrounded by walls and towers and contained a fortress. Throughout most of this time Baniyas remained under Islamic control, except for two brief periods when it was transferred to the Crusaders (see below, 9.8).
In the 13th century the Nimrod Fortress was built opposite Baniyas. As opposed to what was commonly thought until fairly recently, the fortress was not built by the Crusaders, but rather by the Ayyubids, to protect Damascus from the Crusaders (see below 9.9).
During that period Khan el-‘Aqaba was built at the top of ‘Aqabat Fiq, on the ascent built ‘Abd el-Malik.
4.17 The Mamluk Period
After a long gap, permanent settlement was renewed during the Mamluk period. One hundred and ninety one sites from this period were found in the Golan, 64 of them in the northern Golan, 89 in the center and 38 in the southern Golan (see map 18).
4.17.1 The administrative center of the Golan in the Mamluk period was in the north – the city of Baniyas and the Nimrod Fortress. The fortifications at both of these sites were strengthened and new buildings were built. Sultan Baibars granted the Nimrod Fortress as a private estate to Bilik, his personal mamluk and ally (see below 9.10.3), and the entire Golan may have belonged to Bilik.
4.17.2 The Mamluk conquest brought with it a period of stable government, after which the Golan underwent a period of abrupt change. After a long period without permanent settlements or with only meager habitations, dozens of new settlements were built. Remains from the Mamluk period were found all over the Golan, most of which were villages and farms. Sherds from the Mamluk period were also found in cattle pens in the central and northern Golan, apparently showing that they were in use at that time.
4.17.3 Most of the Mamluk settlements were built over the ruins of ancient sites and the new inhabitants made secondary use of the stones. The houses that were built Hauran style during the Roman and Byzantine period were relatively well preserved, their stone roofs protecting them from collapse. It seems that the Mamluks found structures with relatively high remaining walls and they renovated them to a form similar to the original, using elements they found among the ruins.
4.17.4. Some of the sites from the Mamluk period are distinctive in their thick accumulation of tell soil. This is a phenomenon that is unknown either before or after this period. At eṣ-Ṣalabe (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 11) remains were found of a mudbrick house whose remains had disintegrated into what is known as “tell soil.” It is therefore possible that such soil is the result of the disintegration of mudbrick structures.
Due to the wide availability of basalt in the Golan, throughout most periods the houses were usually built of such stone. The only exception is the Beteiḥa Valley, where villages from the modern period were also built of mudbrick. If mudbrick houses are not properly maintained they cannot survive the weather in the Golan. This seems to have been the case with such structures in the Mamluk period. It may be assumed that the inhabitants of the Mamluk sites brought with them a tradition of construction in mudbrick and that when these buildings were destroyed the tell soil accumulated. In many cases the accumulated soil covered early remains at the site, which were found only at the edges of sites or in military trenches built by the Syrians.
4.17.5 In addition to the fortified city of Baniyas and the Nimrod Fortress, other fortified sites were found. Near Nebi Ḥazuri (Dan Survey) an encampment was found surrounded by walls (Dar 1994:269–284). Gutman, who first discovered it, noticed that it was located on a back slope that could not be seen from the Nimrod Fortress, but it did have a view of the fortress and it also controlled the road to it. These characteristics led Gutman to dub the site "the siege camp." It is unclear whether the camp was indeed built to besiege the Nimrod Fortress and there is no such allusion in the historical sources. Gutman also reported the remains of fortifications at Khirbet Ḥawarit (Dan Survey), which controls Naḥal Sa‘ar and ‘Ein Quniyye. These remains have been destroyed and can no longer be seen. It seems that these two sites were part of a line of fortifications to which a small tower found between them also belongs. The fortification line probably protected the road from the Land of Israel to Damascus. However, the historical sources do not mention this line and therefore it is unclear who built it and why.
At Ghadir en-Naḥas (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 34) – a site built above the Iris Waterfall, a hill was found surrounded by streams on three sides and protected by walls built of fieldstones and roughly hewn stones. The site apparently served as an encampment for a police unit and was not intended to protect the kingdom from outside invaders.
4.17.6 During the Mamluk period, a network of mail roads was developed, along which caravansaries and rest stops were built. In the southern Golan, Darb el-Haurana, which was built by ‘Abd el-Malik during the Umayyad period (see above, 4.15.3) continued in use. Also continuing in use were a caravansary built at Ḥanot Orḥa (Khan el-Jūkhadār; Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 19) near the eastern border of the Golan, Khān el-‘Aqabeh (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 70) at the top of ‘Aqabat Fiq – the ascent in which the road to the Jordan Valley was located.
A new road was built during this time, from Damascus to Tzfat via Quneṭra. The road crossed the Jordan River over a bridge, built for the first time during this period and known as the Benot Ya‘aqov Bridge (Rosh Pina Survey, site no. 109). Khân Benât Ya‘kûb (Rosh Pina Survey, site no. 112) was built.
4.17.7 Settlement did not flourish for long in the Mamluk period. At the end of that time, all the permanent settlements in the region were abandoned and it returned to Bedouin control. Absent excavations, the end of settlement cannot be determined, but it was probably brought on by a weakening of the central government that led to the undermined of security.
4.18 The Ottoman Period
Findings from the Ottoman period are very meager. Most of the sherds identified by surveys as Ottoman are from the end of that period. Settlement distribution in this period can be reconstructed based on written sources, which we will discuss in the chapter on history (see below 9.11 and maps 19 and 20).
In the southern Golan were apparently farming settlements whereas central and northern Golan were inhabited by tribes of Bedouins and Turkmen (nomads of Turkish origin). The latter established small temporary villages, which Schumacher called "winter villages." These villages were usually built over ruins whose stones the Bedouin utilized to build structures used to store feed and grain as well as for protection against the severe winter storms. The Bedouin usually preferred to live in tents and if they moved some distance from these villages they would abandon them and build others instead. Indeed, Schumacher reported quite a few destroyed winter villages.
Druze settled at the foot of Mount Hermon, at Majdal Shams and ‘Ein Quniyye. The Druze village of Buq‘ata was founded only in the 19th century.
The second half of the 19th century saw the beginning of Bedouin and Turkmen settlement. In the 1880s the Turks brought the Circassians to settle in the Quneṭra Valley and along the Bashanit Ridge. The Circassians established villages that were better built than what had been the norm for the Golan. The Circassians, who were experienced fighters, suppressed the Bedouin and brought security to the area. This led to the strengthening of settlement, which continued into the 20th century.
5. The Dolmens
Dolmens are ancient elements that are very common in the Golan. Their main area of distribution is in the central Golan, between Nov in the south and Naḥal Gilbon in the north, and between the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley in the west to the Bashanit Ridge (see map 19) in the east. There are thousands of dolmens in this area, clustered in groups and extending across rocky ridges. Dolmens are situated near rocks suitable for their construction and do not seem to be associated with settlement sites or water sources. A small number of dolmens are also found east and north of this area.
The dolmens are megalithic structures that served for burial. The entire construction was done out of field stones. They consist of a burial chamber built of large stones and roofed with large slabs that weigh a few tons each. Many dolmens are surrounded by one or more low walls and covered with a heap of rocks.
The dolmans of the Golan are divided by Epstien into six types (Epstein 1985):
1. Trilithon – this is the smallest dolmen (see Fig. 1). It has two subtypes:
A. A structure built on the surface consisting of two upright slabs roofed with a large stone. The burial chamber is open on both sides. Sometimes the floor is paved with rough stone. The chamber is about 2 m long and 1 m wide. The burial chamber is low, usually about 1 m high (see Fig. 2). The chamber has the form of a table, hence the name dolmen, which in Breton means “stone table.” The burial chamber is not covered with a stone heap
B. Similar to type 1A, but the uprights are longer and are not roofed. The burial chamber is often surrounded by a heap of stones or a stone fence (see Fig. 3).
The trilithons are common between Gamla and Barak Hill as well as at Bab el-Hawa, north of Naḥal Gamla.
3. Rectangular burial chamber, built partly below ground. Each longitudinal wall is built of one or two stone slabs and a similar slab closes one of the narrow sides. The entrance, on the other narrow slide is narrowed by two doorpost stones, set at right angles to the longitudinal walls, and narrowing the passage. A large roofing stone is set on and supported by a protruding intermediate course and is set atop a similar roofing stone over the entrance. The burial chamber is surrounded by a low stone heap built of two concentric walls – one internal and one external – with a fill of stones between them (see Figs. 16–20). Dolmens of this type are not common; a few were found near Rasem el-Kabesh and at Height Spot 488 m, near Rasem Kharbush.
4. Almost rectangular burial chamber. Longitudinal walls and roof as in type 2 but each of the narrow ends is enclosed with an upright stone slab. The corners of the burial chamber are rounded and the chamber is surrounded by a stone heap. The corridor opens toward one of the longitudinal walls near the northeastern corner (see Figs. 21–30). Dolmens of this type were found at Deir Saras and the Yahûdiyye Forest.
5. Rectangular to oval burial chamber, broad in the center, built partly below ground (see Fig. 31). There are two subtypes:
A. Oval burial chamber closed on one side by an obsidial wall built of three to five courses of medium-sized stones. The longitudinal wall is built in a similar manner, with each course protruding slightly inward relative to the one below it. The chamber is roofed by a single stone slab set above a small stone above the trance. The entrance is blocked by a stone heap (see Figs. 32, 33).
B. Burial chamber whose longitudinal walls are built of two or three upright stone slabs and one of the narrow sides is enclosed with a similar slab. The entrance to the chamber, on the other narrow side, is low and supported by two doorposts on the interior. The cell is roofed with three or four medium-size roofing stones set alongside each other. The roof stone above the entrance is much lower. The burial chamber is covered with a steep, well-built stone heap (see Figs. 34, 35).
Dolmens of this type were found in the Yahûdiyye Forest and at el-‘Arba‘in.
6. This type of dolmen is the largest in the Golan. It consists an almost rectangular burial chamber, broader in the center; four to six uprignt stone slabs in each longitudinal wall, above which are additional protruding courses. Inside, an upright stone slab closes one of the ends. Three to five horizontal roofing stones set one atop the other and rising as stepped courses from the two narrow sides to the center of the chamber. At the top of the stepped courses is a keystone. Above the entrance and above the enclosed side, the lowest of the roof stones are placed directly on the stones of the walls. Some use of plaster was observed in the joints (see Figs. 36–44). Dolmens of this type are found only on the spur between Naḥal Batra and Naḥal Yahûdiyya. When they were first discovered, by Epstein's survey team, they looked to the team like Syrian tanks, and so they were dubbed "tank dolmens."
7. These dolmens are similar to type 2 except for the addition of a narrow corridor leading to the burial chamber. The length of the corridor varies to a maximum of the length of the burial chamber itself. The general form of the chamber is bottle- or pear-shaped. The burial chamber is bounded by two concentric walls, the interior of which abuts the entrance to the corridor (see Figs. 45, 46). Dolmens of type 7 are common in the central Golan. One of them, which was found near Rujem el-Hiri, was recently excavated by Michael Freikman, who identified it as type 7.
Dolmens were built in various places under various conditions, first and foremost the presence of suitable building stones. The dolmens in the Golan are built mainly of basalt, as are those extending across the Korazim Plateau west of the Jordan River. The preference was for Dalawa basalt, which erodes into large blocks of stone that are suitable for building the dolmens. However, dolmens have also been found made of Cover basalt, Muweisse and ‘Ein Zivan basalt. In places where the stone blocks were not large enough, the walls of the burial chambers were built of medium-size stones that were set in a number of courses.
Contrary to the common impression that dolmens were always built of basalt, in the northern Golan, east of Shamir, dolmens were found that were made of limestone; one of these featured two adjacent burial chambers (see Fig. 47). The builders in these cases apparently preferred limestone although the dolmens are located in areas were suitable basalt was present. Limestone dolmens are also found in the eastern Upper Galilee. Thousands of dolmens were found in Transjordan, most of them built of limestone or sandstone. Only in northern Jordan, in the area known as the Black Desert (which is at the southern end of the Hauran basalt) were basalt dolmens found.
Most of the dolmens were built on slopes, which made it easier to set the roofing stones in place by lowering them down the slope, and obviated the need to lift the stone above the walls. Most dolmens are partly dug into the ground, which had two advantages: a) greater stability to the walls so they did not collapse when roofing stone was set over them: b) Greater ease in installing the roofing stone; the stone heap that surrounded the chamber also made this work easier.
5.1 Dating the Dolmens
Dolmens are not unique to the Golan and Transjordan. They are common in many countries, from France and Britain to Japan, and were apparently used over thousands of years. Dolmens seem to have developed spontaneously in different places and periods, and direct influence from one country to another has not been observed.
Dolmens, which stand exposed on the surface, were mostly robbed in antiquity and contain no finds. Without datable finds various, dates have been proposed ranging from the prehistoric and pre-ceramic periods to the Intermediate Bronze Age (for the various dating proposals see Hartal 1987:56–57; Vinitzky 1992:101).
Stekelis was the first to be able to date the dolmens of the Land of Israel based on finds found within them – in the case of sandstone dolmens east of the Damya Bridge, where tools from the Early Bronze Age I were found (Stekelis 1965).
Epstein excavated 34 dolmens found at nine sites in the Golan: the Yahûdiyye Forest, Wadi Batra, Deir Saras, Giv‘at Bazak, Kipat Nesharim, Zenobar, Rasm Khrbush, Qaṣrin and Rasm el-Kabesh (Epstein 1985). At Rasm Khrbush a dolmen was excavated that was built over the ruins of a Chalcolithic dwelling and use was made of one wall of the house as one of the walls of the dolmen (see Fig. 7). The survey revealed a few more dolmens that were built over the remains of Chalcolithic dwellings at other sites. This finding shows that dolmens post-date the Chalcolithic period.
The dolmens' floors were paved with medium-size fieldstones that were laid over a foundation of earth and stones above bedrock. The deceased were laid on this flooring together with burial offerings, remains of which were found scattered as a result of natural and human disturbances. Earth and stone debris had accumulated above the floor to a height of about 0.50 m. The main finds on the floor were from the Intermediate Bronze Age (see Fig. 48:1–5). In addition to clay vessels common metal items were found – (see Fig. 48:6), pins and copper rings. Flint tools were also found, both in the debris and on the floor. Near Kipat Nesharim (Qub‘at Qar‘a) Epstein excavated two dolmens in which tools were found both from the Middle Bronze Age IIA and IIB (see Figs. 48:9–12) and from the Late Bronze Age. Weapons from the Late Bronze Age were found by Moti Aviam in a nearby dolmen (see Fig. 48:13).
The earliest find in a dolmen is dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age and therefore Epstein proposed that the dolmens were built in this period and that a number of them continued in use in later periods. Survey finds at two dolmens that had been cut through were dated to the Intermediate Bronze Age (see Fig. 48: 7, 8). A similar date was proposed by Dan Bahat (1973), who excavated a number of dolmens at Shamir. This period is typified by major investment in tomb construction, mostly single tombs, and in wide variation in types of tombs. The dolmens therefore mesh well with the general picture of the period.
In the survey of the northern Golan, dolmen fields were observed that were somewhat organized. In the center of the field were large dolmens, around which smaller dolmens were arranged. Sherds were found from the Late Bronze Age in two of the larger dolmens (Hartal 1989:119–121).
At Avital Junction, a relatively large dolmen was found whose burial chamber was built of medium-size stones arranged in a number of sources. Each of the courses protrudes slightly inward relative to the one below it, creating a false arch. The burial chamber is roofed with a large stone slab and surrounded by a stone heap which is bounded with one to three well-built perimeter walls. A number of dolmens of this type were found between Avital Junction in the north (see Fig. 49) and Rujem el-Hiri in the south. The burial chamber at Rujem el-Hiri also belongs to this type.
On the stone heap of the dolmen at Avital Junction sherds were found resembling tools from the Late Bronze Age found in Epstein’s excavations of the dolmens at Kipat Nesharim (see above). The burial chamber at Rujem el-Hiri was robbed in antiquity, but jewelry from the Late Bronze Age was found in the corridor leading to the chamber. Sherds from the Late Bronze Age were also found in a dolmen in the Mas‘adeh Forest. There is therefore no doubt that dolmens continued in use in the Late Bronze Age. However, without excavation it cannot be determined whether they were all in secondary use (as at Kipat Nesharim) or whether some were built at this time.
The survey made clear that that there were hardly any permanent settlements in the Late Bronze Age and the area was under the control of nomads or semi-nomands. It is possible that these are the people who used the dolmens for burial (see above, 4.5).
Vinitzky (1992) who studied the dating of dolmens in the Galilee and the Golan, posited that dolmens were built by sedentary inhabitants near their habitations. He found an overlap between the distribution of sites from the Early Bronze Age II and III and the distribution of dolmens and therefore proposed dating the dolmens to this period. In support of his theory, he cited the dolmens excavated by Stekelis (see above) near the Damya Bridge that were built during the Early Bronze Age I. In addition, in the area of the dolmens distribution no sites were found from the Intermediate Bronze Age, whereas in the southern Golan, where sites were found from that period, burial was in shaft tombs.
Vinitzky's dating, which has been generally accepted by scholars, seems to have been based on meager data. The basic assumption of Vinitzky's dating is, as noted, that the dolmens were built by sedentary inhabitants of nearby settlements. However, the dolmens are scattered over a wide area, which would have required transporting the deceased over long distances. It is more reasonable that a cemetery that belonged to a settlement would have been as close as possible to it and built densely, for convenience in burial. A good example of this is the cemetery from the Early Bronze Age I found at the foot of Mitḥam Leviah. Dolmen-like cist tombs were found in that cemetery; however, they are much smaller and close to one another.
Scattered cemeteries are suitable for nomads, who in any case do not permanently inhabit an area. If indeed the dolmens were built by nomads, there is no significance to their proximity to sites unless it can be proven that their dating is the same as that of the sites.
With regard to Vinitzky's theory regarding the dating of the dolmens – the earliest finding in dolmens excavated by Epstein is from the Intermediate Bronze Age. Sherds were also found from the Intermediate Bronze Age in dolmens used for secondary burial in later periods. In contrast, sherds from the Early Bronze Age were not found in the dolmens. The social character of the burial – mass burial in the Early Bronze Age – is completely different. There is therefore no reason to date the dolmens to the Early Bronze Age merely because of their proximity to sites from that period.
Settlements from the Early Bronze Age II–III are found throughout the Golan, as are dolmens. However, no link has been found that could connect the two phenomena. It should also be mentioned that a number of sites were discovered in the surveys in which dolmens were found that had been built on the remains of dwellings from the Early Bronze Age.
During the Early Bronze Age I settlement in the central and northern Golan was very sparse (see above, 4.2.1). Apparently most of the population during this period was nomadic or semi-nomadic. It cannot be ruled out that some of the dolmens were built at this time, such as at Damya; however so far no evidence of this has been found.
5.2 Dolmens in Jewish Sources and Popular Tradition
Dolmens are not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but it is possible that the stories of tribes of giants, and of Og, king of the Bashan, have their origin in the impression the large dolmens made on the Israelites. The Israelites almost certainly knew of the dolmens, since they were already very ancient by their time, but they did not know their origin. It is only natural that they would attribute them to giants, because the dolmens are built of gigantic stones, which it appeared an ordinary person could not have lifted.
The dolmens are mentioned in the Mishnah and the Talmud. In a discussion of idol worship, the worship of Merculius, apparently Mercury, is mentioned: "And thus are the stones of a Mercules way-mark arranged: one at each side, and a third on top of both" (Babylonian Talmud ‘Avodah Zara 50a; Baba Metzia 25b). This is a precise description of a trilithon. The cultic activity was not making offerings, but throwing stones at the Marculius stones: "He that throws a stone at a Merkolis…that is how it is worshipped “ (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7, 6). What we have here therefore is a cult focusing on a dolmen surrounded by a heap of stones.
According to the Talmud, the cult of Merculius was common until the time of the Hasmonean King Jannaeus (Babylonian Talmud, ‘Avoda Zara 50a). The cessation of the cult of Merculius may be connected to the conquest of by Jannaeus of Transjordan and the Golan, and the pushing out of pagans from those regions (see below 9.3.4). Even after most of this area reverted to pagan hands with the conquest of the land by Pompey (see below, 9.4.1) this cult was apparently not renewed. That is also the period in which the dolmens apparently began to be destroyed and the stones were used to pave "roads and streets" (‘Avoda Zara, ibid). We glean this from the talmudic discussion of whether Israelites could also use the stones of a Merculius house, i.e., a dolmen.
The Arabs have two traditions about the source of the dolmens. In the Golan and northern Transjordan they are called kubur bani israil, that is, the tombs of the ancient Israelites. In contrast, in southern Transjordan, in Ammon and Moab, they are called beit el-ghol, with the belief that they served as demons' dwellings.
6. Pottery of the Roman and Byzantine Periods
Pottery that was in use in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods was numerous and varied. Much of it was found throughout the survey areas, but four families of vessels have significance in reconstructing the history of the Golan (Hartal 2006: 263–273).
6.1 Golan Ware
The most prominent pottery in assemblages in the northern Golan, from the Hellenistic period to the end of the Byzantine period, are large pithoi. They typically have a relatively narrow opening; low neck, sack-shaped body and are handmade; two large loop handles and a pointed base. Their fabric is rough with many inclusions and well-fired. The Golan pithoi are common in the northern and eastern Golan as far as Har Peres. But they are quite rare in the central and southern Golan.
6.2 Kefar Ḥananya Ware
Numerous high-quality vessels were made at Kefar Ḥananya. The most common are cooking vessels – pots and bowls. Manufacture of Kefar Ḥananya vessels began in the first century BCE and continued until the second half of the fifth century CE. The same type of ware was also found in the Golan and the surveys revealed evidence of a number of manufacturing centers (Adan-Bayewitz 1993, 2003).
Kefar Ḥananya ware constitutes a major component in the findings of surveys and excavations of sites in the Galilee, the central and southern Golan; they constitute one third of the entire finding. In the northern Golan they are rarer. Many vessels of the early type of Kefar Ḥananya ware are found at many sites in the northern Golan, albeit in relatively small numbers. However, vessels of types whose manufacture began in the second century CE were almost absent in the northern Golan.
6.3 Baniyas Ware
A pottery manufacturing center was found at Baniyas. The vessels were made of local clay, soft to semi-hard, light red to yellowish-red with small inclusions. From this material, mainly bowls of various sizes and lamps were made, and, in smaller quantities, cooking pots, jugs, basins and jars. Baniyas vessels were found in large quantities in excavations at Baniyas itself and in smaller quantities on Mount Hermon, the northern Golan and the northern Hula Valley, the region in which Baniyas was the center of settlement.
Baniyas ware appear for the first time, according to the excavations at the site of the city, in the mid-second century BCE, when the city was at its zenith. Their manufacture grew during the flourishing of the temples – in the third and fourth centuries CE. The workshops produced vessels mainly for use in the local temples – especially small bowls, which were found in large quantities in the temple and are almost entirely absent in the findings elsewhere. These bows served, according to Andrea Berlin, as open lamps (Berlin 1999). The use of Baniyas vessels ended in the fifth century CE.
6.4 Ḥawarit Ware
Another pottery manufacturing center was at Kirbet el-Ḥawarit at the foot of Mount Hermon above the Druze village of ‘Ein Quniyye north of Naḥal Sa‘ar. At Khirbet el-Ḥawarit cooking vessels – pots, bowls and lids, were manufactured, along with jugs (many with pinched lip), deep, bell-shaped bowls, basins and Golan pithoi. Most of the vessels were complementary to the production at Baniyas. Some of them, particularly the bell-shaped bowls, were apparently manufactured especially for use in the temple and were virtually absent from other sites. Production of Ḥawarit ware began in the early third century CE and continued into the mid-fifth century CE (Hartal, Hudson and Berlin 2008).
The study of pottery from the sites of the northern Golan during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods shows that throughout most of this time the vessels used in the northern Golan were very different than those common in the central Golan and the Jewish Galilee. The Golan pithoi, which were common in the northern Golan from the mid-second century BCE, were almost absent from sites in the central Golan. Other vessels, which were manufactured during the Hellenistic period from Golan clay, did not reach the central Golan.
In the first century BCE and the first century CE, Kefar Ḥananya ware was common in the central Golan and constitutes a major component of the assemblage in the region. Such vessels were also found in the northern Golan, but in much smaller numbers. In the mid-second century CE use ceased entirely of Kefar Ḥananya vessels in the northern Golan. During that time manufacture began of Baniyas vessels. It was at that time that vessels began to be manufactured at Baniyas and shortly thereafter, at Kh. el-Ḥawarit.
In both manufacturing centers, and especially at Khirbet el-Ḥawarit, cooking vessels were produced that took the place of the Kefar Ḥananya vessels. These vessels were hardly used in the central Golan, were the use of Kefar Ḥananya vessels continued. Only for a short time, in the fourth century CE, were vessels imported from the northern Golan to Jewish settlements such as Qaṣrin and Dabyyeh.
In light of this information it may be stated with certainty that the material culture of the northern Golan differed from that of the central Golan and that there was almost no economic connection between these two neighboring regions, at least as far as pottery was concerned.
What was the reason for this disconnect? The Golan pithoi, which were large, coarse storage vessels, were, naturally, in local use and their commercial range was limited. Apparently these vessels were manufactured by the Itureans and were in use during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It seems, therefore, that the main factor in the distribution of Golan ware was ethnic, although a few of these vessels were also found at sites in the central Golan.
The explanation for the distribution of the three other families of vessels is more complex. In the first century BCE, Kefar Ḥananya vessels were common in the central Golan; they were the most important component in the pottery assemblages in the region.
In the first century CE the Golan Heights was part of a single political unit under the control of the Herodian rulers. Kefar Ḥananya vessels were common during this time both in the central Golan, were they were found in larger quantities because of their proximity to the source of production, and in the northern Golan. In the beginning of the second century control of the region was split between two provinces. The central Golan was annexed, beginning at this time to Provincia Palaestina, while the northern Golan became a part of Syria and later to Provincia Phoenicia.
Shortly after the administrative division took place, workshops were established at Baniyas and Khirbet el-Ḥawarit, and their products began to be marketed in the northern Golan. Baniyas and Ḥawarit ware were distributed in Phoenicia and Kefar Ḥananya vessels in Palestine. Duties may have led to an increase in the price of the imported vessels, and a reduction of commercial feasibility of commerce in vessels manufactured in neighboring province. Because similar vessels of similar quality were manufactured in both production centers, there was no economic logic in importing vessels from outside the province.
The boundary between the sites containing the northern pottery and those with central Golan pottery thus reflects the border between the provinces. This border passed diagonally from south of the Hula Valley to Mount Peres. At ‘Ashshe (Har Peres Survey, site no. 8) east of Mount Peres, where Golan pithoi and Ḥawarit where were found, a boundary stone was also found (see below, 11.3), which indicates that the border of the province of Phoenicia passed there. At neighboring Ḥorvat Boṭma (Har Peres Survey, site no. 2), Kefar Ḥananya vessels were common including those of type 1E – the most common type of cooking bowl in the Kefar Ḥananya assemblage from the third to the fifth centuries CE. Northern vessels were found there in small quantities. It seems therefore that the border did indeed pass between these two sites.
After some 300 years, pottery production at Baniyas and Kh. el-Ḥawarit ceased, apparently in the mid-fifth century CE. At the end of the Byzantine period Ḥawarit ware was replaced by cooking vessels of unknown origin. These vessels were also used at this time in the Upper Galilee. Also appearing in the Galilee alongside the cooking vessels were black pithoi, which continued the tradition of the Golan pithoi. Petrographic examination of these pithoi revealed that they originated in southern Lebanon. It is thus possible that the production centers at Baniyas and Khirbet el-Ḥawarit were replaced by centers in southern Lebanon. Such a production center operates to this day in Rashya el-Fukhar.
7. Agricultural Installations
7.1 Olive-oil Presses
Olive cultivation and olive oil production was the most important branch of agriculture in the Golan during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Remains of olive-oil presses in the Golan have been studied by Ch. Ben David (1998), who documented them at 60 sites. In subsequent surveys remnants of oil presses were found in 20 more sites (see Map 20). However, the increase in numbers of sites where presses are found does not change Ben David's published conclusions, which are summarized below.
The olive-oil press includes devices to crush and press the olives. The crushing device hardly changed over these periods and consists of a crushing basin in the center of which is a socket for a vertical axis to which a stone wheel – the crushing stone – is attached. The crushing stone is moved under human or animal power.
In contrast, the pressing device changed considerably. During the Early Roman period a beam was anchored to a wall. Stone weights were attached to the beam, which pulled it down and exerted pressure on baskets – aqalim – containing the crushed olives.
Three beam-and-weight oil presses were found in the Golan; two at Gamla (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 43). They are dated to the first century BCE and the first century CE. The third oil press was found in Naḥal ‘Ein Gev (Giv‘at HaYi‘ur, ‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 67), dated to the first century CE.
At Naḥal ‘Ein Gev a direct screw press bed was found from the fourth century CE. In this type of device, pressure on the baskets was exerted by means of a large wooden screw, which replaced the beam and weights of the first century. In the excavation at ‘Ein Nashôṭ (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 15) an oil press was found from the fourth and fifth centuries with a direct screw press bed. Beams and weights were found at a number of sites alongside which were direct screw press beds. The screw press apparently replaced the beam-and-weight device.
Most of the sites were remains of oil presses were found are in the southern Golan and in the western part of the central Golan. A few oil presses were also found in the northern Golan. They are prominently absent in the eastern Golan, including at major sites such as a er-Ramthaniyye and Ḥorvat Parag (Qeshet Survey, site nos. 8 and 85), Ṣurman (Har Shifon Survey) and Quneṭra (Merom Golan Survey).
Significantly, the eastern part of the Golan rises to 600¬–1000 m above sea level, while most of the oil presses are found at sites below 500 m above sea level. However, it should not be concluded from this that olives cannot be cultivated at the higher altitudes, because evidence exists of olive cultivation at heights of 700–1000 m above sea level, and remains of oil presses have been found in the northern Golan and on Mount Hermon. It seems that the main reason for the lack of olive cultivation in the eastern Golan is the type of soil. In that region, most of the soil developed on Muweisse basalt; this soil contains few stones and is suitable for field crops. The main disadvantage of this soil is its poor drainage. Olives, which make do with small plots of land, are very sensitive to water-drenched soil.
Soil type is apparently not the only factor in differing distribution of oil presses. In the Ashmora and Har Shifon surveys are extensive areas covered with Dalawa basalt and yet hardly any oil presses were found in these areas. This is particularly significant in light of findings at Ḥorvat Dvora (Ashmora Survey, site no. 35), in this area, in which eight oil presses were found. In contrast, at nearby Deir Saras and Na‘aran (Ashmora Survey, site nos. 36 and 49), no oil presses were found. The differences between these sites indicate that another factor was at work with regard to olive cultivation. Ḥorvat Dvora was a Jewish settlement, while the other two sites were Christian. Although oil presses are found at Christian sites too, especially in nthe southern Golan, these sites usually feature a single oil press per site, which apparently sufficed for local consumption. Exceptions in this regard are Deir Qeruḥ and Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site nos. 63 and 147), where two oil presses were found at each site; and Mazra‘at Quneṭra (Rujem el-Hiri survey, site no. 84) and Bney Yehuda (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 61), with three presses each. In contrast, two oil presses were found in each if 10 Jewish settlements in the Golan; in each of two settlements, three presses were found; and in each of two other settlements, five were found. In one settlement, nine presses were found. Two oil presses were also found in Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95), which had a mixed Jewish and Christian population.
A third type of press consisted of a beam pulled downward by a screw attached to the end. Such presses were used only on Mount Hermon and at its foot. At Khirbet Ra‘abneh (Birket Ram Survey), which is 920 m above sea level, remains of an oil press were found including a crushing basin and a screw base. Two oil presses with a crushing basin and a beam press and screw were found at Lower Meghar Shab‘a Farm (650 m above sea level) and at Qala‘at Busṭra (786 m above sea level).
At higher sites: Kfar Dura (1000 m above sea level), Bir an-Suba (1350 m above sea level) Har Agas (1350 m above sea level) and Ḥawarta-Migdal Naqar (1400 m above sea level) screw bases were found but no crushing installations. Dar (1994) published these as remains of oil presses; however, the lack of crushing basins casts doubt on their identification as such. It seems that the beam press and screw were used to produce juice from other fruits.
7.2 Wine presses
Wine grapes were also cultivated on the Golan. Certain sites have been marked on the map of the winepresses where evidence of grape cultivation was found. In the southern Golan, especially in the area of the Ḥammat Gader and ‘Ein Gev surveys, dozens of rock-hewn wine presses were found (see map 21). This area features chalk and limestone outcroppings in which winepresses could be hewn. All the winepresses found in surveys are small; no large winepresses, which would have been used for industrial wine production, were found; thus it seems that these installations were for local use.
Hewn winepresses are not commonly found in most of the Golan, as the region’s hard, fissured basalt rock is not suitable for hewing treading floors. However, the soil and the climate in these areas is suitable for the cultivation of grapes and it seems that viniculture was common even in areas were winepresses were not found. Indeed, the architectural motif of the grape vine and clusters is the most common in places where no remnants of winepresses were found (Hartal 2006:306–308). As treading floors could not be hewn in the basalt, they were constructed instead.
It is very difficult to identify built winepresses because after they are abandoned they look like the remains of ordinary structures. In the northern Golan a number of such winepresses were found that were for the production of dibbes (grape honey) by the 1960s. The built press is surrounded by low walls and paved with stone slabs. The collection vat is at a lower level.
In the treading floors of many winepresses outside of the Golan were small screw installations for pressing the juice after the treading. A number of screw bases were found in the surveys, none in situ and none connected to olive presses. It may be assumed that they were used in built winepresses and attest to the existence of such presses, even when the structure itself was not found. There were probably more such screw bases that remained embedded in winepress floors and were subsequently covered and not found in the surveys.
In the central Golan another kind of installation for the pressing of fruit juice was found. These consisted of a large block of basalt, frequently the roofing stone of a dolmen, which was partially leveled and into which a short channel was carved, apparently to channel liquid to jars that were placed at the foot of the block. All of these devices were found in areas outside of sites themselves. These installations were identified by Ben-Efraim (2005) as small winepresses, which were used to produce small quantities of wine, apparently right in the vineyard.
7.3 Flour Mills
Flour mills were operated by water, which was captured at a point upstream and flowed through a channel more moderately sloped than the stream. At the point where the height difference between the channel and the stream was greater than 4 m, the mill was built. The water flowed by means of a feeder channel a few meters down through a chimney where it operated a paddle wheel located under a vault beneath the grinding chamber. The wheel was turned by means of a pole attached to the top millstone, which turned above the base stone and ground the kernels. These mills, which apparently originated in the Land of Israel, allowed efficient milling even when water was not abundant.
The Golan's the numerous streams and steep topography makes it very conducive to the operation of mills. Indeed, most of the mills were found in stream valleys or near the outlets of the Hula Valley and the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley (see map 22). A few mills were found on the southern plateau, where they took advantage of small water sources and local height differentials.
The dating of the mills is problematic. Many of them were used over a long period and to the present time. It seems that the basic structure of the mill has not changed for a long time and so it is impossible to date them at this time.
8. Hauran-Style Construction
During the Roman and Byzantine periods many structures were built in the Golan in a style originating in the Hauran, hence the name of the style. Such structures are found almost everywhere in the Golan and even at Korazin west of the Jordan.
This construction method cannot be attributed to a particular ethnic group, and is found in Jewish communities (such as Qaṣrin) and Christian communities (Deir Qeruḥ, for example). However, the widest distribution of Hauran-style buildings is found in the eastern Golan, which was settled by Ghassanids (see below 12.4.4). Sites in this part of the region featured well-preserved Hauran-style buildings. Among these sites are Ḥorvat Boṭma, Rafid, Ḥorvat Parag, er-Ramthaniyye, Ṣurman, Quneṭra and Bab el-Hawa.
The earliest structure roofed with stone beams is the olive press at Gamla from the first century CE. However, it seems that use of this construction style spread only in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, in which it became very prevalent throughout the Bashan and the Hauran.
8.1 The entire structure was made of local basalt. The walls (with an average thickness of 0.80 m) were of dry masonry, consisting of two faces of roughly hewn basalt or basalt ashlars. Among the ashlars, medium-quality and high quality cutting can be distinguished. The wealthier houses were built of high-quality ashlars. Houses of this type were found at Rafid (Har Peres Survey, site no. 5). Structures of the three qualities of stone-cutting – roughly cut and high-quality ashlars, can be seen in the Hauran and the Bashan.
8.2 A dearth of trees in the Hauran and the Bashan on the one hand, and the tendency of basalt to crack and create long beams on the other, contributed to the special roofing of the buildings. The roofing was made of basalt beams that usually rested on corbels that protruded from the wall (see fig. 50). Most of the corbels were made of roughly hewn stones and in a number of houses, from ashlars. The length of the stone beams limited the space that could be roofed to 4 m, but this length could be doubled by constructing a central arch.
The stone beams laid on the arches protruded on either side and served as corbels (see fig. 51), rows of which made it possible to increase the roofed spaces. The beams were laid on the corbels in a crisscross manner. In the finer houses the beams were finely hewn, but they were usually rough-hewn. Above the stone roof a thick layer of compacted soil that sealed and insulated the roof.
The Golan was forested, and so stone beams were a kind of imitation of wooden beams. In the northern Golan there were no suitable stone beams for roofing and so wood was used.
8.3 Doorways and Windows were only in the front wall. The Lintels were made of long stone beams. To avoid breaking these beams, small windows or relieving arches were built above them. The outer doorways were built of ashlars cut as frames, with sockets for the door hinges and grooves for locks (see figs 52, 53). The doors opened inward and were locked from within the house. The original doors, which would have been made of woods, did not survive, but their shape can be gleaned from stone doors discovered at Kafer Nafakh (see fig. 54). Unlike in the Hauran, where stone doors were also used in dwellings, it seems that in the Golan such doors were used only for burial caves. In any case, none of these doors was found in situ.
8.4 The great weight of a stone roof required solid walls. For this reason there were few windows in the structure, as these inherently weaken the walls. The windows were usually built above the doorway lintel and also served to lighten the weight on the lintel (and see above). The most common windows were wade by leaving out one stone above the doorway lintel or in the front wall.
The windows were usually square (see fig. 52). In some cases they featured a built frame like the doorways. Some of the windows had an arch-shaped lintel and in one case a round window was found. There were usually no additional windows in the side walls or the back wall of structures; this, the house as quite dim inside.
The finer houses sometimes featured windows with carved stone grills. At Ṣurman (Har Shifon Survey) a well-carved window grill was found made of a stone slab (25 x 84 x 89 cm). The inner part was hewn as a trough to a depth of 20 cm, so that the thickness of the outside was only 5 cm. The outside of the grill was decorated with a wreath relief within which was a rosette with depressions. Between the leaves were six holes with a diameter of 8 cm to admit light into the structure (see fig. 55). The grill was found in secondary use in the minaret of a mosque. In Jaba, c. 10 km northeast of Ṣurman, in Syria, three similar windows were found. Similar stone grills were also found at sites in the Hauran.
8.5 At Rafid, a number of houses were found in whose façade was a round or arc-shaped niche (see fig. 56). Such niches were common in houses in the Roman and Byzantine period in the Bashan and Hauran, but were not found in sites in the Golan. Apparently pithoi containing drinking water were placed in them, a custom that remained common in Golan villages until the mid-20th century. In the courtyards of dwellings small shade structures were built in which large jugs were placed containing water for domestic use.
8.6 Steps, which were frequently built in the façade, were made of stone beams inserted into the wall and protruding from it without support. In many cases two flights of stairs ascend from the center of the structure. Such steps were found in the Golan only at Rafid (see Fig. 56). The steps led to a doorway in the second floor, if there was one, or to the roof. Balconies were also built in this way opposite doorways in the second floor. In the Bashan and the Hauran porticos were built in the façade of some of the buildings. The porticos were fronted by columns and roofed with stone slabs. Such porticos were not found in the Golan.
8.7 The basic unit of the structures included a high front room whose ceiling was supported by a central vault. Behind it were two narrow, low rooms, which created two half-stories and opened onto the front room. The front room was the main room in the house and was double or triple the size of the back rooms.
The roof was supported by one or more arches, which allowed flat roofing of a large area despite the limitations of the length of the basalt beams (see fig. 57) and see also the description of the roofing above). The roof was frequently supported by built pillars or columns (see figs. 58, 59).
The simple arches are built of roughly hewn stones or ashlars of the same width. They rest on built pilasters or in some cases on columns. Some structures featured well-hewn ashlars (see Fig. 60). These arches rested on built pilasters at the top of which was a console that expanded diagonally upward and from which the arch itself sprang. Such arches were often decorated with reliefs (see Fig. 61).
8.8 The front room was separated from the back room by a fenestrated wall (see Fig. 62) at a height of 0.60–0.70 m above the floor. The windows along the wall were separated by monolithic stone piers. Above them a solid wall rose to the ceiling. The main purpose of the fenestrated wall seems to have been to provide light and ventilation to the back room, which had no windows. The quality of the windows' construction is not uniform. Some are built of roughly hewn stones and others of ashlars.
Fenestrated walls had other uses as well, depending on the role of the back room. In many places the ground floor of the building served as a barn or a stable and troughs were installed in the windows. The front room in this case was used for the storage of animal feed and the farmer's tools. Troughs were found at Rafid (Har Peres Survey, site no. 5) and at Ḥorvat Parag (Qeshet Survey, site no. 85) in an area suitable for the raising of horses. In contrast, at other sites – at Bab el-Hawa (Merom Golan Survey) and at Khirbet Namra (Birket Ram Survey) in the northern Golan, no troughs were found in windows, which in those cases were apparently used as wall closets.
Windows without troughs were also found at Qaṣrin (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 44), at Deir Qaruḥ (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 63) in the central Golan and at Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 47) in the southern Golan.
8.9 The doorway to the back room was also situated in the fenestrated wall. This doorway was built without a specially designed frame. The door, if there was one, would have been placed in a wooden frame. The ceiling of the back room was frequently lower than that of the front room and an upper room was built above it, entry to which was via an opening in the fenestrated wall (see Fig. 63). The doorway to the upper room was built with a frame designed to allow door to be installed and locked. No windows were installed in the walls of the upper room which was lit only via the doorway and was fairly dim. It seems that the upper room was used as a bed chamber.
None of the houses surveyed in the Golan were found to have steps leading to the upper room; access to it was probably via a wooden ladder. A unique staircase, hewn from a single block of stone, was found not in situ at Ḥorvat Parag (Qeshet Survey, site no. 85, Fig. 46). It may have been used as a staircase to the upper room; however, absent parallels we cannot know for sure.
The inner walls also featured wall closets, built as square niches, similar in size to the windows in the fenestrated wall (see Fig. 64). Such closets were incorporated into the fenestrated wall or another wall.
8.10 Many structures consist of a number of basic units, sometimes built side by side, with each one having a separate outer doorway; sometimes a number of units are arranged around a central courtyard. In other cases the structure is built to a height of two stories; in the Hauran three-story structures were also found.
The ground floor in the two-story buildings was used to house work animals and store animal feed and the harvest, to protect them from the climate and and robbers. The upper floor was used by the inhabitants of the dwelling and guests. In the Golan, evidence of a second story was found only in Rafid.
8.11 Décor of the buildings was fairly modest. Most of them featured no decoration at all while in some, the lintels were adorned with reliefs and crosses. In the Bashan and the Hauran the windows sometimes featured decorated frames; however, in the Golan no decorated windows were found.
In the front rooms of the more lavish structures the lower part of the arches and the corbels supporting the roof were sometimes decorated at the corners. No decorated arches was found in situ in the Golan, but many arch stones were found in secondary use. A console decorated with the relief of a grapevine was found in Quneṭra (Merom Golan Survey) and a console decorated with a cross was found at er-Ramthaniyye (Qeshet Survey, site no. 8). Dozens of arch stones featuring spectacular reliefs were found, some in facades and some in a band featuring a vine along the outer edges of the arch; these were found in the Golan. These were the main decorative element in the houses.
9. History of the Region – Historical Documentation
9.1 The Late Bronze Age
The 14th-century el-Amarna documents contain two letters apparently describing events in the Golan. In letter no. 364 the governor of Ashtarot complains that the governor of Hazor had taken three cities from him. This letter indicates that Ashtarot bordered on the kingdom of Hazor. Nadav Naaman (1975) proposed that the event took place in the southern Golan. According to Ma‘oz, the southern Golan did not belong to the kingdom of Hazor and in his opinion the event happened in the central Golan (Ma‘oz 1986: 145–146). However, there are no remains of this period in the central Golan, which was apparently a buffer zone between these two political units. Sites in the northern Golan were likely connected to Hazor and it is therefore possible that the cities conquered by the governor of Hazor were situated at Naḥal Qanaf, on the northern border of the southern unit.
Another letter from the el-Amarna Archive (no. 256), from Mutbalu governor of Pahil to the Egyptian commander Ianhamu
"…-Marduk has returned home, hurried forth from the city of Aštarti, now that all the cities of the land Gari, (namely), Udumu, Aduri, Araru, Meštu, Magdalim, Hinianabi, Zarki, are hostile. Hawini (and) Jabišiba are conquered…"
The cities mentioned in the letter are in the area between Pahil and Ashtarot and therefore it has been proposed that they are in the southern Golan. This identification has found support in the identification of Hawini with Khirbet ‘Ayyun in one cuneiform symbol and that it should have been read Ga [Sho] Re, i.e., Geshur. His proposal has been accepted by most scholars although it has no proof) (Na’aman 2012). Ma‘oz (2006) and Epstein (1993) proposed identifications of the location of all the cities mentioned in the letter. Their identifications are based mainly on the preservation of the names.
Below are their proposals:
Udumu – ‘Ein Umm el-Adam (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 4). Remains were found at this site from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age II; however, not from the Late Bronze Age. Epstein stated that at the Metsukei Onn Fort (Ḥammat Gader, sherds were found from the Middle Bronze Age; in the published survey (Epstein and Gutmann 1972: 290, site no. 193) sherds are mentioned from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age I, but not from the Late Bronze Age. In a renewed sorting of the sherds they were dated to the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age III.
Aduri – Tel Abu Mador (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 39). Finds were discovered at this site from the Late Bronze Age.
Araru – Tel ‘Ein el- Ḥariri (Rujem el-Hiri). Body sherds were found at this site from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age II. No findings were discovered from the Late Bronze Age.
Meštu – Shuayyif (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 84). Remains were found at this site from the Middle Bronze II to the Iron Age II and therefore this identification is suitable, at least in terms of the period.
Magdalim – Ma‘oz proposed identifying this city with Khirbet Majdñlyª (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 127) or Bjūriyye (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 130). At the first site, settlement started findings were discovered from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age, but not from the Late Bronze Age. Epstein proposed identifying Magdalu with Tel el-Fakhuri (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 9) or with es-Sfeira Fort (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 104). Both sites revealed findings from the Middle Bronze Age II; however, not from the Late Bronze Age or from the Iron Age.
Hinianabi – Nab (Nov Survey, site no. 23). Remains were found at this site from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age II, but not from the Late Bronze Age.
Zarki – ‘Ayun a-Taruq (Nov Survey, site no. 32). Findings were discovered at this site from the Middle Bronze Age II to the Iron Age I and therefore in terms of the period, this identification fits.
Hawini – Khirbet ‘Ayun (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 60). This site revealed finds from the Middle Bronze Age II and the Iron Age I and II. The lack of findings from the Late Bronze Age might be coincidental.
Jabišiba – Abila, in Transjordan (the only city identified in Transjordan and not in the Golan).
Of all the above-mentioned identifications, only three of the settlements, Aduri , Meštu and Zarki, and possibly one other settlement, revealed findings from the Late Bronze Age (on early identifications see Epstein and Ma‘oz, above).
9.2 The Iron Age
9.2.1. Two kingdoms are mentioned in the biblical period in the Golan – Geshur and Ma‘acah. The Bible describes the realm of Og, king of the Bashan:
…and the border of Og king of Bashan, of the remnant of the Rephaim, who dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled in mount Hermon, and in Salcah, and in all Bashan, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and half Gilead, even unto the border of Sihon king of Heshbon (Joshua 12:4–5).
And describes its boundaries: “…and Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah…” (Joshua 13:11)
The Israelites conquered: “all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei—the same was left of the remnant of the Rephaim—for these did Moses smite, and drove them out” (Joshua 13:12).
The half tribe of Manasseh received the Bashan and settled in its fertile expanses: “Jair the son of Manasseh took all the region of Argob, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called them, even Bashan, after his own name, Havvoth-jair, unto this day” (Deut. 3:14).
However, there was land that remained unconquered: “Nevertheless the children of Israel drove not out the Geshurites, nor the Maacathites; but Geshur and Maacath dwelt in the midst of Israel unto this day” (Josh. 13:13).
According to the sources cited above, it seems that the territories of Geshur and Ma‘acah were located west of the Bashan, between Gilead and Mount Hermon, i.e., in the Golan Heights. The sources do not state that Geshur and Ma‘acah were located in the Golan. The name "Ma‘acah" survived at the site of Abel Beit Ma‘acah in the northern Hula Valley, and it may indicate that Ma‘acah was the more northern of the two kingdoms. Geshur is usually identified in the southern Golan, among other reasons based on Mazar's correction of the "land of Ga-Re" in the el-Amarna letter, to the "land of Ga [shur] Re" (see above).
In contrast, the location of the city of refuge Golan is described in a number of places in the Bible:
Then Moses separated three cities beyond the Jordan toward the sunrising; that the manslayer might flee thither, that slayeth his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in time past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live: Bezer in the wilderness, in the table-land, for the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites. (Deut. 4: 41-43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:27), and in greater detail: "Unto the sons of Gershom were given, out of the family of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with the open land about it, and Ashtaroth with the open land about it (1 Chronicles 6:56).
From this description it is clear that the city called Golan was in the allocation of the half-tribe of Manassah, in the Bashan, and thus, that it was not in the area of Geshur and Ma‘acah, the present-day Golan Heights.
David (1004–965 BCE) found refuge in Geshur from Saul (2 Sam. 15:7) and also married Ma‘acah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur. This marriage produced David's third son, Absalom (2 Sam. 3:3), who also found refuge in Geshur, for three years: “But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And [David] mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years” (2 Sam. 13:37–38; see also 2 Sam. 14: 23, 34).
These are the first sources that describe Geshur as a kingdom. It seems that the inception of this kingdom was in the eleventh century BCE. At Tel Hadar on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 89) an administrative center, surrounded by a double wall, was established, containing storehouses in which taxes were apparently stored that were collected from the entire region. This center was destroyed in a powerful conflagration at the end of the eleventh century. Shortly thereafter, two walled cities were built, at Tel ‘Ein Gev (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 68) in the south and at Bethsaida (Capernaum Survey) in the north; the latter may have served as the capital of this kingdom.
David fought the Arameans and placed troops in Damascus (2 Sam. 8:5; 1 Chron. 18:6). It seems that the kingdom of Geshur did not join the Arameans and was allied with David. In contrast, Ma‘acah joined the Aramean alliance against David (2 Sam. 10:6). During the time of Solomon Aram-Damascus freed itself from Israelite control and became a sovereign kingdom (1 Kings 11:23-25), annexing Aram-Zobah, Arab Beit Rehov and Ma‘acah.
9.2.2. After the split of the united monarchy into Israel and Judah, the Arameans began to attack the kingdom of Israel. Around 886 BCE, Ben Hadad Iaunched a campaign against Israel: “And Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali” (1 Kings 15:20).
The war took place in the Hula Valley near the Sea of Galilee, and in the Galilee, and the army apparently passed through Ma‘acah in the northern Golan.
Toward the end of the reign of Ahab (854 BCE), an important battle took place near Afeq:
And Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. And the children of Israel were mustered, and were victualled, and went against them; and the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Arameans filled the country. And a man of God came near and spoke unto the king of Israel, and said: 'Thus saith the LORD: Because the Arameans have said: The LORD is a God of the hills, but he is not a God of the valleys; therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thy hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.' And they encamped one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel slew of the Arameans a hundred thousand footmen in one day. But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and the wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand men that were left. And Ben-hadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber. And his servants said unto him: 'Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings; let us, we pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save thy life.' So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said: 'Thy servant Ben-hadad saith: I pray thee, let me live.' And he said: 'Is he yet alive? he is my brother.' Now the men took it for a sign, and hastened to catch it from him; and they said: 'Thy brother Ben-hadad.' Then he said: 'Go ye, bring him.' Then Ben-hadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into his chariot. And [Ben-hadad] said unto him: 'The cities which my father took from thy father I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria.' 'And I[, said Ahab,] will let thee go with this covenAnt.' So he made a covenant with him, and let him go (1 Kings 20:26—34).
The battle apparently took place near Afiq in the southern Golan (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95). At the site itself, which preserved the name, no findings were discovered from the Iron Age. D. Ben-Ami (2002) proposed that the battle in the upper part of Naḥal ‘Ein Gev near Tel Sorag (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 89) and that Tel Sorag was the location of Afeq. However, excavations at the site failed to confirm this identification. Afeq, it seems, should be identified at Tel ‘Ein Gev (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 68), where remains were found from the relevant period. Following the battle, Ben-Hadad made changes to his kingdom. He did away with the sovereign kingdoms, among them apparently Geshur and Ma‘acah, and organized the state in districts, appointing governors to lead them (1 Kings 20:25).
In approximately 850 BCE Stratum 6 of Bethsaida was destroyed and a new city was built on its ruins – Stratum 5 – under Aramean influence, as attested by a massebah found at the city gate.
In the late 40s of the ninth century BCE, King Hazael rose to power in Damascus, which led to the dissolution of the alliance that had fought Assyria in 853–845 BCE. The end of the alliance led to struggles between Damascus and Israel.
In 841 BCE, Shalmanessar conducted his third campaign to southern Syria, opposed only by Aram-Damascus. His victory inscription states that he struck Hazael at Mount Snir (Mount Hermon); that he besieged Damascus and then continued to the Hauran and to Mount Ba'el-Rosh, opposite the sea. Damascus was not destroyed in this battle and Shalmanessar returned in the 21st year of his reign and fought the cities surrounding Damascus.
With the Assyrian threat lifted, Aram-Damascus' imperial period was launched, during the reign of Hazael and after the reign of Ahab. Aram-Damascus spread south and conquered areas of the kingdom of Israel and Transjordan and even reached Gath on the border of Judah (2 Kings 10:33; 12:18—19).
After the campaigns of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari, the kings of Israel – Joash son of Jehoaz and thereafter, Jeroboam II, defeated Ben-Hadad III and liberated the portions of the Israelite kingdom that had been under Aramean control.
At Bab el-Hawa, in the northern Quneṭra Valley, a fortress was excavated that had been destroyed in a major conflagration. The destruction of the site, based on historical evidence, may have taken place during the time of Shalmanessar III, who reached southern Syria; however, it could also have happened as a result of internal struggles between Aram-Damascus and Israel, or perhaps as the result of a local event. It seems that after the destruction the site was only sporadically settled.
9.2.3 In 732 BCE, Tiglath-pileser III launched a military campaign, conquering the northern part of the Land of Israel.
In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29).
It is unclear whether the war was also fought in the Golan; however, the impact on settlement in the area was dramatic. The settlements at Tel ‘Ein Gev (perhaps the biblical Afeq, see above) and Bethsaida (see above) were destroyed. All the permanent settlements were abandoned that the Golan was left almost empty of permanent settlements for hundreds of years, until the mid-second century BCE (see above, 4.8)
9.3 The Hellenistic Period
9.3.1 There were almost no permanent settlements on the Golan during the Early Hellenistic period. Following the decisive battle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, which took place in 200 BCE¸ Antiochus III defeated the Ptolemaic general Scopas, bringing southern Syria and the Land of Israel under his control (Polybius, Historiae XVI, 18—19). The battle took place near Paneon, the sacred cave to Pan at Panias, apparently at the foot of ‘Azaz Hill (Dan Survey).
Since the area where the battle was fought, on the edge of the northern Golan, had not yet been settled, in theory the battle would not have had immediately impacted settlement in the area. However, in the long term, the stabilization of Seleucid rule had a major effect on the region. That is because while the Ptolemies did not invest in development of this area and saw it only as a buffer zone between themselves and the Seleucids, the new rulers saw it as an integral part of their kingdom. Therefore, despite the political instability, the Seleucid period in the Golan was one of economic prosperity and settlement growth.
9.3.2 During the second century BCE settlements were established in the Golan Heights for the first time in the Hellenistic period and, apparently toward the end of the second century, the city of Hippos-Sussita (see above, 4.17.8). The Itureans settled at this time in the northern Golan (see below, 12.1), while the Syrians settled in the central and southern Golan (see above, 4.10.4 and below, 13.2).
9.3.3. Judah the Maccabee's Campaign in Gilead – In 164 BCE, Judah the Maccabee responded to a call for aid from Jews of the Gilead, who were under siege at the fortress of Dathema (1 Macc. 5:9–13). According to the description in 1 Maccabees, Judah and Jonathan his brother crossed the Jordan and for three days they marched through the desert, where they met Nabateans who reported to them on the situation of the Jews in Gilead that:
…many of them were shut up in Bosora, and Bosor, and Alema, Casphor, Maked, and Carnaim; all these cities are strong and great." Judah went by way of the desert to Bosroa and conquered it in a surprise attack. From there he went by night to the stronghold (Dathema?), fought the army of Timothy, which then fled to the temple of Carnaim. Judah conquered the city and burned the temple, gathered the Jews of Gilead and led them to Judah. On his way he sought to pass through Ephron, which did not allow him to do so, and so he destroyed that city as well and crossed the Jordan opposite Beth Shean (1 Macc. 5:24–54).
A parallel, but not identical description of these events appears in 2 Maccabees (12: 10–31). At the beginning of the campaign Judah and his forces were attached by Arabs (Nabateans?), whom he defeated and made an alliance with. A great deal of space is devoted to the battle for Caspin, described as a fortified city surrounded by walls and glacis and noting that so many of the city's defenders were killed in the battle that the nearby lake ran red with blood. From there, Judah's army advanced 750 stadia further to the fortress and to the Jews, whom were called Toubiani. Timothy was not there, but he left behind a strong garrison, which was destroyed by Judah's forces. Judah conquered Carnaim and the temple of Atargatis. From there he passed through Ephron, took it and continued to Beth-Shean. The description on 2 Maccabees exaggerates the strength of the cities and the numbers of their inhabitants and soldiers. Notable, the geographical knowledge of the writer of 2 Maccabees is imprecise and difficult to depend on.
Most of the identified places are located in the tributaries of the Yarmuk – an area that was settled as early as the 3rd century BCE. An exception is Caspin, which has been identified with Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 147) in the southern Golan.
This identification, first proposed by Schumacher, has been accepted by most scholars (for a summary of the research, see Cohen and Telshir 1999: 137—139). Nevertheless, this identification is quite problematic. Almost no remains were found at Khisfin from the Hellenistic period. Moreover, according to 1 Maccabees, Caspin should be sought between Bosora and Carnaim, that is, east of Sheikh Sa‘ad. Settlement in the southern Golan began only a short time before Judah's campaign, and perhaps thereafter, and therefore there is no explanation for Judah's presence at the site at this time. The site is part of the territory of Susista but the city is not mentioned in connection with Judah's campaign, although the campaign may have taken place before Sussita was founded.
Alema, also mentioned in Judah’s campaign, has been identified at Kafr el-Mā (Nov Survey, site no. 33). The same reasons presented for not identifying Caspin with Khisfin apply in this case as well. This identification is not accepted by scholars; Alema should apparently be identified with Alma, in the southern Bashan.
9.3.4 The Conquest of Alexander Jannaeus – at the end of the second century and early first century BCE, the Nabateans grew stronger in the southern Hauran, as did the Itureans in the northern Golan and in Lebanon (see below, 13.1). Between these two peoples was an extensive area, which included the Golan, Sussita, the Bashan, Trachonitis and the northern Hauran, most of which had no permanent settlements. This area was a focus of attraction to the Jews in the subsequent centuries. There seems to be little to recommend the view of some scholars that the area was the scene of conflict between the Nabateans and the Itureans.
The Jews penetrated the area of northern Transjordan for the first time during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus. As early as 101 BCE Jannaeus was active south of the Yarmuk River. After a 10-month siege, he conquered Gadara, the first of the Decapolis cities to fall to him.
Jannaeus' second military campaign, from 83 to 80 BCE, was critically important for the history of the region. In 83 BCE, Tigranus, king of Armenia, invaded Syria and put a stop to Nabatean influence in Syria. Jannaeus took advantage of the situation and annexed Gilead and Golan. During this campaign, which lasted three years, he conquered Pella, besieged Gerasa and took it without a battle"He also cnnqnerecl Gnulanc and Sclcueeia and took the so-calkd 'Ravine of Antiochus'. He further captured the strong fortress of Gamala and dismissed its commader, Demetrius, in consequeence of numerous accusations." (War 1, 105; see below, 10.3). A parallel passage in Antiquities 13, 393–394 mentions the city of Dios instead of Pella.
Syncellus, a Byzantine-era chronicler, presents a description of Jannaeus' kingdom that differs from that of Josephus, and is based on a different source. Syncellus conflated Alexander Jannaeus' conquests into one campaign in Transjordan, from south to north, including also the area of Beth-Shean, Samaria, Mount Tabor and Geva (Syncellus, Chronographia 558–559). In our area there is no overlap between Josephus' list of cities and that of Syncellus – the latter does not mention the Golan and its cities: Golan, Seleucia, the Ravine of Antiochus and Gamla.
In contrast, Syncellus does describe the conquest of Sussita and Philoteria, south of the Sea of Galilee, two cities that are not mentioned by Josephus. It seems therefore, that the two lists complement each other. Syncellus did not distinguish between Jannaeus' various campaigns.
Jannaeus' wars were divided into two phases, different in their character. In the first he completed the conquest of the cities of the Decapolis north of the Yabok. Gadara was captured in 101 BCE. It seems that destruction in these cities was relatively minor. Their inhabitants continued to live in them, or relocated close by. In any case, none of these cities became Jewish and most of them were restored with the Roman conquest. In the second phase, Jannaeus acted against the cities in the Golan. These cities were not Hellenistic polei; in their character they apparently resembled the cities that Judah Maccabee had conquered 80 years before. These cities became Jewish and were not restored in the time of Pompey (see below 9.4.1).
Relations between Jannaeus and the Itureans seem to have been good and Jannaeus apparently did not invade them. He therefore took over the southern Golan (the area of Sussita) and the central part of the region (Golan), while the northern Golan (later the area of Paneas) remained under the control of the Itureans (on the administrative division of the Golan Heights, see below, Chapter 11).
Following Sussita's conquest by Jannaeus, Jews settled its agricultural hinterland, as attested by the list of prohibited towns in the territory of Sussita. "Prohibited towns" is a term in Jewish law meaning cities populated by Jews who were required to follow the laws of fallow land and tithing although they were in an area populated mainly by non-Jews, which would usually exempt them from these obligations (see below, 13.3.1). The list therefore shows that this was mainly a non-Jewish area that included well-off Jewish settlements. Indeed, in the Early Roman period there were in the area of Sussita more than 60 settlements, only eight of which were Jewish. The Jewish towns took the best agricultural land, perhaps because they had been established in a period of strong Jewish rule, i.e., the period of Jannaeus.
The district of the Golan, which was inhabited by small villages, became a source of attraction for a Jewish population and soon became a clearly Jewish area. While this is not specifically mentioned in the ancient sources (that is also the case for Jewish settlements in the Galilee), it may be deduced from later developments – none of the cities of the Golan was restored by Pompei and Gabinius; the cities of the Golan appear on the eve of the Great Revolt as clearly Jewish cities (War 2, 574, see below, 9.4.7).
Jewish settlement in the Golan should be seen in the context of the situation in Judea. Jewish settlement in the small areas of Judea expanded rapidly. On the eve of the Hasmonean revolt, overpopulation meant that some of the inhabitants were landless. These individuals formed the reservoir from which the Hasmoneans drew their soldiers, and in exchange for participating in the battles, they received land in the conquered areas. Jewish settlement in the Galilee also began to expand at this time. Jewish settlement that had developed in the Golan resembled such settlement in the Galilee during this time. There are many similarities in the material culture and behavior of the Jewish settlements in the Galilee and Golan. And because the Jewish-inhabited area in the Golan was relatively small, and close to the Galilee as well, despite the fact that the Golan was a separate administrative region, it is usually considered part of the Galilee. For example, Josephus, who was appointed commander of the Galilee at the beginning of the revolt, was also commander of the Golan.
9.4. The Early Roman Period
9.4.1. The Changes after Pompey's Conquests – In 63 BCE the Romans conquered Syria and the Land of Israel. The Roman general Pompey passed through the lands of Ptolemy son of Minaos, the Iturean ruler and confirmed his continued rule (below, 13.1.5). The fate of the Hasmonean kingdom was harsher. Pompey took away its independence and cut its territories (Ant. 14, 74—76; War 1, 155-157). He took from the Jews the cities that had conquered and liberated and restored the Hellenistic cities that had not been completely destroyed by the Jews (Ant. 14, 74–76; War 1, 156–158).
Pompey's actions on the Golan Heights differed from one district to another. The Hellenistic city of Sussita, which Jannaeus had conquered, was torn from the Hasmonean kingdom together with its rural hinterland. The city was restored and its autonomy was renewed (Ant. 14, 75; War 1, 156). Later it was numbered among the cities of the Decapolis. In contrast, the cities of the Golan, which had also been conquered by Jannaeus – Golan, Seleucia and Gamla – are not mentioned among the liberated cities, and on the eve of the Great Revolt they appear as Jewish cities (War 2, 574). It seems that as opposed to Sussita, where a considerable pagan population continued to live, the cities of the Golan had become Jewish cities in every way.
The ancient sources do not confirm the claim that Golan was torn from Judea. This fact is very important, as we will see below, in understanding the development of Jewish settlement in the Golan.
It had been widely accepted by scholars that Pompey granted the northern Golan to the Itureans, along with the Bashan, Hauran and Trachonitis. But apparently the status of the Itureans in northern Transjordan did not change at the time of Pompey (see below, 13.1.5). The northern Golan was already in their hands while the district of Golan, as noted, was settled by Jews and remained part of the kingdom of Judea.
9.4.2 Herod – Herod's rule over northern Transjordan expanded over a number of phases, in each of which he received one or more districts until he controlled the whole region. He received the Golan together with the former Hasmonean kingdom because Pompey left the entire region as an integral part of the kingdom. In 30 BE, after the battle of Actium, the territory of Sussita was also given over to Herod (Ant. 15, 217; War 1, 396). The background to this annexation is unclear; Herod's activities in this district are also unknown.
In 23 BCE, after Herod suppressed Zenodorus' bandits (see below, 13.1.7), he received the Hauran, the Bashan and Trachonitis (Ant. 15, 343; War 1, 398) and focused his main activities in this area. He tried to get the bandits to settle permanently, to persuade them to make their living as farmers rather than robbery. In the first years he was ostensibly successful. The bandits were afraid to act and Herod's status rose. In light of his achievements, in 20 BCE, he received Zenodorus' lands – the district of Paneas and Hulata (Ant. 15, 359—360); War 1, 399; Cassius Dio, Historia Romana, Book 9, 3) – thus completing his control of over the entire region.
In gratitude to Augustus, Herod's patron, the latter built an impressive shrine to the emperor at Paneas (Ant. 15, 363–364; War 1, 404–406). None of Herod's other activities in the Paneas district are known. It will be recalled that this area was already settled in the mid-second century BCE, apparently by Itureans.
Over the years it became clear that the bandits in Trachonitis had only been superficially suppressed. These people, who were used to a life of robbery, found it difficult to settle down permanently on poor lands, which did not provide them the income they were used to. And so, in 12 BCE, when a rumor spread of the death of Herod, the people of Trachonitis rebelled. The revolt was put down by the garrison Herod had stationed there; however, 40 of the ringleaders fled and found refuge with the Nabateans and continued their attacks on Herod's kingdom (Ant. 16, 130). Unable to persuade the Nabateans to give up the culprits, he invaded their territory, conquered the fortress and captured the bandits (Ant. 16, 271—285).
To prevent further rebellion Herod settled 3,000 Idumeans in and on the borders of Trachonitis (Ant. 16, 285). But the people of Trachonitis joined the Nabateans and wiped out the Idumean force (Ant. 16, 292).
After Herod was finally able to suppress this rebellion he established a military colony in the Bashan headed by Zamaris and his army (Ant. 17, 23–28). Zamaris, a Jew from Babylonia who headed a Jewish force of mounted archers, was brought to the Bashan by Herod and given exceedingly good conditions, including free land and exemption from taxes. These conditions attracted many Jews to the region, and for the first time in centuries permanent settlement was established. The Babylonian force justified the investment in it. Trachonitis did not rebel again and relative security was restored to the region.
This state of affairs insured security for caravans and pilgrims coming from Babylonia and a process of settlement began in the Bashan, the Hauran and apparently Trachonitis as well. The process sped up under Herod's successors. Most of Herod's investment was in strengthening settlement in the Bashan. But he also contributed to the construction of a regional temple in Sia‘ in the Hauran, whose construction was begun by local tribes 10 years before the area came under his control and as completed two years after his death (see below, 13.2).
Echoes of the rule of Herod and his successors are found in Safaitic inscriptions from Transjordan, which mention Herod, Phillip and Agrippa (these inscriptions, in Aramaic or ancient Arabic, are named after the place where inscriptions in these languages were found, in the Safa Desert east of Jebel Druze, see above, 2.1.6).
Herod did nothing in the Golan. The region was already settled by Jews, who came there with the help of the Hasmoneans. These Jews, like their brethren in the Galilee, felt no obligation toward Herod and no doubt retained their association to the memory of the Hasmoneans. The Jews of the Bashan, in contrast, owed their settlements and benefits to Herod, and remained loyal to him and his successors. The difference between the Jews of the Golan and those of the Bashan persisted in the coming generations and reached its height in the Great Revolt (see below, 9.4.7).
9.4.3 Philip and the Establishment of the Tetrarchy of Northern Transjordan – After the death of Herod (4 BCE) his kingdom was divided between his three surviving sons. Northern Transjordan fell to Philip (Ant. 16, 189, 318–219; War 2, 95). Only the Hellenistic city of Sussita, which was annexed in 30 BCE to Herod's kingdom, was torn from his kingdom and annexed to Provincia Syria (Ant. 17, 320; War 2, 97). Philip's tetrarchy covered an extensive area and included the Golan, the area of Paneas, the Bashan, the Hauran and Trachonitis. The population was varied. The western part, in the Golan Heights, was already settled with Itureans, Jews and Syrians. Part of the Bashan was settled with the Babylonian Jews who were concentrated in the military colony of Batira and the surrounding villages. The eastern regions – the Hauran, Bashan and Trachonitis, were populated by Syrians – Arameans and Arabs, who were in the midst of sedentarization. The lack of security in the region until the time of Herod was replaced with stability and tranquility that persisted for more than a hundred years.
Philip controlled his tetrarchy for 37 years (4 BCE–33 CE). He was apparently skilled a governing and he managed to unify his tetrarchy, which its varied population, into a unit marked by security and calm. There is no evidence of conflict among the various components of the population.
Philip's system of governing, his journeys throughout the tetrarchy accompanied by his court and his willingness to hold hearing wherever required, reflects a situation in which most of the population had not yet settled down permanently. Philip's capital was built at the edge of his tetrarchy (see below) and was not accessible to most of the population. In his travels, Philip therefore brought his rule to his subjects (Ant. 18, 106–108).
There were no real cities anywhere in the tetrarchy and so Philip had to establish a new city. In 1/2 BCE, Philip built his capital at Paneas (Ant. 18, 28; War 2, 168) and called it Caesarea. To differentiate it from other cities by that name, it was called Caesarea Philippi.
The place Philip chose for his new city, at the foot of Mount Hermon was near an abundantly flowing spring, extensive lands for construction and a comfortable climate; indeed, conditions were indeed very good here for habitation. Nearby was the temple of Augustus, which Herod had built (see above 9.4.2).
Philip built his capital at the edge of his tetrarchy, distant from its eastern regions. The reason for this was apparently two-fold. First, the location he chose was in an already populated area, while in the eastern parts of the region, as will be remembered, the population had only begun to settle down. Second, it was close to the neighboring tetrarchy of his brother Herod Antipas in the Galilee, as well as to the road to Jerusalem, which pilgrims from Babylonia used frequently.
The city was built in a place that had not been settled before, which made urban planning possible. In surveys and excavations in recent years has become clear that the city consisted of public buildings which included a sacred precinct above the spring, and of other public buildings. These structures were built in the area between the spring and Naḥal Sa‘ar and the bed of Naḥal Gobta and the Baniyas River. Remains of the cardo were discovered in this area as well as a colonnaded structure. These buildings apparently began to be built in the time of Philip. The sacred precinct began to be built near the cave. The public area was surrounded by residential quarters that spread onto the Baniyas plateau.
Since this was a new city, its residential quarters were also built expansively, and including mosaic floors and wall frescoes. Two suburbs of the city, in the east and the northwest, were above the spring, and water was supplied to them by means of a sophisticated aqueduct channeling water from the east, from the springs of ‘Ein Quniyye.
The second city that Philip founded was in the Beteiḥa (Bethsaida) Valley, near the point where the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee. "He also raised the village Bethsaida, situate at the lake of Gennesaritis, to the ststus of a cityby adding residents and stregthening the fortifications He named after Julia, the emeror's daughter" (Ant. 18, 28). In the parallel description (War 2, 168), it states that Julias was located in the lower Golan. Excavations in recent years at the top of a-Tel (Capernaum Survey) revealed a stratum of settlement from the Hellenistic and Early Roman period. This stratum contains houses with broad courtyards, which are not densely constructed and are more suited to a village, where the price of land was low, than to a city. The comparison is intersting between the finds at a-Tel and at Gamla (Gamla Survey, site no. 43), from the same period and only about 10 km away from there as the crow flies. At Gamla the density of contruction was much greater, with the courtyards of dwellings the roofs of the dwellings below them.
Philip died at Julias in 33 CE and "his body was carried to the tomb that he himself had had erected before he died and there was a costly funeral” (Ant. 18, 108). It may be assumed that Philip built his tomb at Paneas, which was his capital and residence, and where many large and fine public buildings were built. It seems therefore that Philip's remains were conveyed in a grand procession from Julias to Paneas, where he was interred.
After Philip died, Emperor Tiberius annexed Philip's tetrarchy to the Province of Syria (Ant. 18, 108). But it seems that Tiberius had planned on only a temporary annexation and therefore he ordered the taxes that had been collected held and not transferred to the capital of the province.
9.4.4 Jesus in the Tetrarchy of Philip – Jesus' main activity in the Galilee and around the Sea of Galilee took place in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. However, some of his activities, among which are those with great importance to Christianity, also took place in Philip's tetrarchy. This area, which was close to Jesus’ realm of activity, served as both a personal and a political refuge for Jesus, apparently because of Philip's congenial nature. Three of Jesus' disciples – Peter, Philip and Andrew, came from Bethsaida (John 1: 45, 21–22) and so it is not surprising that this was the city he preferred in Philip's tetrarchy. The city is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament Mark 4: 35–41, 6: 36; Luke 10:13; Matthew 11:21). At Bethsaida, which is described as a village, Jesus restored a blind man’s sight (Mark 8:22–26). In a deserted place, in the area of Bethsaida, which in this case is described as a city, Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Luke 9:10–17). The event would have taken place in the lower Golan, an area that was settled by Jews.
Jesus also reached the north of the tetrarchy, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, that is, to the area of Paneas. There, he revealed himself for the first time to his disciples as the Messiah, promised Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and made him leader of the disciples (Mark 8:27–33; Matthew 17:13–20). According to the ancient sources, this event took place in the rural area and not in the city. It was an area mainly inhabited by pagans, apparently Itureans; however, there may have been a number of Jewish settlements on the western edges of the northern Golan (see below 12.3.3).
Jesus was also active in the Golan south of Philip's tetrarchy. He came "through the midst of the region of the Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee (Mark 7:31). The meaning here is the area of Sussita, which was the only one of the Decapolis cities on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The territory of Sussita did not belong to Philip, but rather to the administrative area of the Decapolis in the Province of Syria. This was also the area where the "miracle of the swine" took place, at a site called Gergesa, identified with Kursi (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 11) where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man. He sent the demons into a herd of 2,000 pigs that ran down to the Sea of Galilee and drowned (Mark 5: 1–5; Luke 8: 26–39).
9.4.5 Agrippa I – In the first century CE, northern Transjordan was the training ground for Herodian rulers. They were first granted small holdings and the Romans scrutinized the efficiency of their rule. If they succeeded, their area of control was gradually expanded.
When Philip died, his nephew Agrippa was in Rome. He was living a life of luxury there and had become close to the court of Emperor Tiberius. However, near the end of Tiberius' life, Agrippa was thrown into prison for six months (Ant. 18, 143–204). When Caligula came to power (37 CE) he released Agrippa, with whom he was on friendly terms, and granted him Philip's tetrarchy together with the title of king (Ant. 8, 235–237; War 2, 181; Philo, In Flaccus 25, 40).
Agrippa was in no hurry to return to his kingdom. Only in the second year of Caligula's reign (38 CE) did he leave Roma and return to his capital at Paneas (Ant. 18, 238–239).
Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias were jealous of Agrippa's royal title and in 29 CE they went to Rome to ask for the same title. But Caligula exiled them and transferred Antipas' tetrarchy to Agrippa as well (War 2, 181). This tetrarchy included the Galilee and Perea (War 2, 181). When Claudius came to the throne (41 CE), he confirmed Agrippa's rule and added Judea and Samaria to it, so that Agrippa now ruled almost all the kingdom of Herod the Great (Ant. 19, 274–275; War 2, 215).
Agrippa spent his final years in Judea and his capital Jerusalem. Northern Transjordan remained a remote area of his kingdom, which apparently did not receive much of his attention.
In 44 CE, Agrippa I died after a six-year reign, three years of which were over his expanded kingdom (War 2, 219). His son, Agrippa II, was too young to rule and so Claudius annexed his kingdom to Syria.
9.4.6 Agrippa II – The method of training Herodian rulers (see above, 9.4.5) was renewed at the beginning of Agrippa II's reign. In 48 CE he was given control over Chalcis (Ant. 20, 104; War 2, 223). Four years later, in 53 CE, Claudius took Chalcis from him and gave him Philip's tetrarchy in exchange as well as the kingdom of Lysanias the Iturean (see below, 13.1.6), Abilene and the tetrarchy of Varus. In 61 CE, Nero expanded Agrippa II's kingdom and granted him Tiberias, Tarichae and Perea (Ant. 20, 159; War 2, 252). Agrippa II therefore followed in the footsteps of his father. The rebellion that broke out against the Romans cut short the continued expansion of his kingdom. However, because of his support for the Romans, Agrippa II held on to his kingdom for the rest of his life. His capital was at Paneas, which he expanded and embellished (War 3, 514). The name of the city was changed to Neronias in honor of Nero (Ant. 20, 211). The aqueduct, which supplied water to the northern quarters of the city (see above, 4.11.3) may have been built in the time of Agrippa II.
The period of Agrippa II's reign was one of stability and prosperity in terms of settlement in northern Transjordan. The economic prosperity led nomads to evince an interest in settling down and working the land, a process that continued throughout the first century CE. Excavations at Sia‘ (see above, 13.2.3) and at Boṣra emphasize the importance of the second half of the first century CE in the development of the region. This period of peace was an important step in the agricultural development of the region.
9.4.7 Northern Transjordan in the Revolt – the kingdom of Agrippa II in northern Transjordan was composed of a mosaic of peoples: Itureans in the area of Paneas, Jews in the Golan and the Bashan and Syrians in the Bashan, the Hauran and Trachonitis (see below, Chapter 13).
The population responded differently to the revolt due to its ethnic variety. As would naturally be expected, the Itureans and the Syrians did not take part in it. But even among the Jews there were two groups with opposing views. The Jews of the Bashan, particularly the Babylonians, had settled in the region with the help of Herod and enjoyed special conditions. Even after their tax exemption was annulled, in the time of Philip, they apparently remained loyal to the Herodians. Some of them were drafted into Agrippa's army and were among its leaders. That is, not only did the Jews of the Bashan not revolt, some were among the troops that spearheaded its suppression.
In contrast, the Jews of the Golan – the descendants of the settlers from the time of Jannaeus, had not been supported by Herod. These Jews were no different than the Jews of the Galilee at the time, and certainly had family ties to them as well. They had no special relationship to the house of Herod, and those elements that stirred the Jews of Galilee to rebel against the Romans did the same with the Jews of the Golan. It therefore comes as no surprise that the inhabitants of the northern Golan were the only ones in northern Transjordan to join the revolt.
At first, the Golan was not involved in the rebellion. Agrippa, who apparently depended on the loyalty of the inhabitants of the region, sent two thousand horsemen from the Hauran, the Bashan and Trachonitis to strengthen the "peace party" in Jerusalem. Together with them was the general Philip son of Jacimus (War 2, 421). The army came from the regions that were settled with military men, Babylonians and pagans, who were loyal to the king. It did not include soldiers from the Golan because their loyalty was not ensured. The force that came to Jerusalem joined the war against the rebels but they were unsuccessful and withdrew from the city (War 2, 422–440).
In the first stage of the rebellion were riots and violent incidents between Jews and papgans. After the murder of Jews in Caesarea (War 2. 457) the Jews embarked on a campaign of retribution. A group of Jews struck the villages of the Syrians and the Decapolis cities, among them Sussita (War 2. 458–459) and the Golan. During that time the Golan was settled mainly by Jews and therefore it seems that the Jews struck the villages on its margins, perhaps on the boundary of the area of Sussita. In response to this attack, a massacre was perpetrated on the Jews living in the Hellenized cities. The inhabitants of Sussita and Gadara also killed some Jews and imprisoned others (War 2, 477–478). Some scholars attribute the demise of Jewish settlement in Sussita to these events.
The kingdom of Agrippa was not immune to these events:
In contrast, “Gamala remained loyal to Rome inder the following circumseances. Philip, son of Jacimus, King Agrippa’s lieutenant, after miraculously escaping from with his life from the royal palace in Jerusalem… to one of the villages under his jurisdiction on the conflines of the fortress of Gamala…he wrote a letter…to the younger Agrippa and Berenice which he delivered to one of his freedmen to convey to Varus; Varus having at the time been appointed administrator of the realm by the king and his royal sister…[Varus said] that he had mendaciously reported that Philip was fighting aqgainst the Romans with the Jews in Jerusalem and then put [the freedman] to death…Varus had been led to entertain great expectations by the Syrians of Caesarea [Philippi] who asserted that Agrippa, on the iondictment of the Jews would be put to death by the Romans and that he, as of royal lineage, would succeed him to the throne. As a descendent of Soemus, who had been a tetrarch int eh Lebanon district, Varus royal extraction was universally admitted…Moreover, to ingratiate himself with the Syrians of Caesarea, he put many of the Jews to death.
He had a further scheme of uniting with the people of Trachonitis in Banatanaea [Bashan] in an armed attak on the ‘Babylonian Jews…in Ecbatana. He accordingly summoned twelve of the most esteemed of the Caesarean Jews, and inbstructed them to proceed to Ecbatana and tell their compatriots ion that city that a report had reached Varus that they intended to march against the king; he did not credit this report, but had sent this embassy to urge them to lay down their arms…He further ordered them to send sevent of their leading men to answer the charge which had been laid against them. The twelve, finding on their arrival at Ectabana that their compatriots were innocent of any revolutionary designs, urged them to dispatch the seventy; they, with no suspicion of the fate in store for them, sent them off and the deputies traveled down with the twelve envoys to Caesarea. They were met by the royal troops under Varus, who put them all to death, including the envoys, and proceeded on the march against the Jews of Ectabana. One of the seventy, however, escaped and got ahead of him and brought the news to his countrymen; whereupon, seixing their arms, they withdrew with their wives and children to the fortress of Gamala, leaving their villages full of abunants stores and stocked with many thousand head of cattle.
On hearing of this, Philip also entered the fortress of Gamala...The king, meanwhile, hearing that Varus intended to massacre in one day the Jewish population of Caesarea, numbering many thousands, including women and children recalled him and sent Aequus Moduis to take over the command…The fortress of Gamala and the surrounding district were retained by Philip and thus preserved their allegiance to Rome.” (Life, 46–61; see also War 2, 481–483).
Josephus did not record whether Varus made good on his intention to attack the Jews of the Bashan. Varus may have wanted to hurt the men of Philip son of Jacimus, who were a threat to his standing in the court of Agrippa.
The moment Agrippa's rule over his kingdom stabilized, after he got rid of Varus, the king acted quickly to return the Babylonians to their villages in the Basham (Life 179–184) leaving only a few at Gamla (Life 177). The cavalry from the Bashan which had withdrawn from Jerusalem (2000 horsemen and 3000 infantry), were sent by Agrippa to support the forces of Cestius Gallus in his campaign to suppress the revolt in Jerusalem (War 2, 5000). In the battle, in which Cestius Gallus' forces were repulsed (War 2, 540–555), many of the soldiers in Agrippa's expeditionary force were also killed, because a year later, when Vespasian reached Galilee, Agrippa attached only about 1,000 horsemen and 2,000 infantry troops to the Roman general's forces (War 3, 68).
The fall of Cestius Gallus (War 2, 513–555) changed the attitude of the Jews of the Golan to the revolt. In its wake, Josephus Flavius was appointed commander of the Galilee and the Golan (War 2, 571). At Gamla, Joseph son of the midwife organized groups of young men who encouraged rebellion in the city (Life 185). Along with Gamla, the entire Golan rebelled, as far as the village of Shalem (Life 187), whose location is unknown. Josephus fortified three settlements – Gamla, Sogane and Seleucia (War 2, 574); 4, 2; Life 186–187). The initiative to fortify the cities came from their inhabitants, with Josephus only providing assistance (Life 186).
In the first stages of the revolt, before Vespasian reached the Galilee, Agrippa tried to suppress it in the Golan on his own. At first he tried to take Gamla with a force commanded by Aequus Modius, Varus' replacement. However, he did not have sufficient forces and he made do with a loose siege by placing guard posts at strategic points (Life 114). Later Aequus Modius tried to block the roads to Gamla and Seleucia, to prevent supplies from reaching them from the Galilee. To this end he sent cavalry and infantry forces under the command of Silas, who set up his camp five stadia (0.9 km) from Julias. Josephus, with a force of 3,000 men, tried to lift Silas' blockade. In the ensuing battle, Josephus fell from his horse and his army stopped fighting (Life 394–404). The next day, Silas set up an ambush for the rebels; they were saved from defeat only by reinforcements who arrived from Tarichae (Magdala) (Life 405–406).
The Jews of Paneas also found themselves in difficulty. To prevent them from joining the revolt, the authorities enclosed them within the walls of the city (Life 74). At their request, John of Gischala supplied them with kosher olive oil, at inflated prices (Life 74–76; War 2, 591–592). Josephus treated his as a profiteer, but it seems that John used the money he earned from the deal to finance the rebellion and the fortifications of Gischala.
After Vespasian's conquest of the Galilee, he came with his army for rest and recreation at Paneas, at the request of Agrippa, who hoped to put an end to the rebellion in the Golan with the Romans' help (War 3, 443–445). At this point the struggle on the Golan had reached its height. Sogane and Seleucia had surrendered to the Romans and Gamla remained alone in the battle (War 4, 2). After having taken Tiberias and Tarichae, Vespesian and his three battalions laid siege to Gamla (War 4, 11–13). Josephus describes the siege and the battles to take the city in great detail (War 2, 2–83). After two attempts to break into the city, one of which failed, the city surrendered and almost all the inhabitants were killed by Roman swords or died attempting to escape.
With the fall of Gamla, for all intents and purposes the rebellion in the Golan came to an end. There is no information on additional battled because the other centers of revolt on the Golan had surrendered even before the battle for Gamla. It seems that other than Gamla and its immediate surroundings, the Golan did not suffer at the hands of the Romans and thereafter as well, was a densely populated Jewish district.
After the siege on Jerusalem, Titus and his army came to Caesarea Philippi for rest and recreation, where “they remained for a considerable time, exhibiting all kinds of spectacles. Here many of the prisoners perished, some being thrown to wild beasts, others compelled in opposing masses to engage one another in combat” (War 7, 23–24).
9.4.8. Northern Transjordan after the Revolt – After the suppression of the revolt, Agrippa continued to rule his realm; however, unlike his father, his advancement was stopped and he did not win control of the entire land of Israel. Nothing is known of the events of this period. It seems that the impact of the revolt on the region was marginal. The only district that took an active part in the revolt was the Golan, including Gamla, which was the only city that was conquered. The rest of the settlements were hardly touched.
Ben-David's research (2006) showed that all the settlements in the Golan that were settled in the Early Roman period continued in existence in the Middle Roman period, with the exception of Gamla, which was not resettled after its conquest. Nearby, and apparently in areas that were in its immediate region, three new settlements were established in the Middle Roman period, which were not settled by Jews. The results of Ben-David's research contradict Ma‘oz‘s theory that the suppression of the revolt severely damaged Jewish settlement in the Golan, and led to their abandonment and a settlement gap that persisted until the fourth century CE.
Agrippa II was one of the last of the vassal kings. As early as the time of Vespasian, the districts of Amasa and Comagene, in Lebanon, were transferred to direct Roman rule. The smaller tetrarchies of southern Syria disappeared during the time of Trajan. Until that time, the local rulers served as intermediaries with the imperial rulers and the local population, and at this point their role ended. The process was completed in 106 CE with the annexation of the Nabatean kingdom and the establishment of Provincia Arabia.
The end of the rule of Agrippa II in northern Transjordan – either with his death (100 CE) or some years before – spelled the end of the hegemony of the Herodian house in the region. The Romans did not transfer control to his descendants; rather, the entire region came under direct Roman rule. Northern Transjordan, which for more than 100 years was a unified political entity, was now split between two provinces – the Hauran, Trachonitis and the district of Paneas were annexed to Provincia Syria. The Golan, and apparently also Galilee and Perea, were annexed to Provincia Judaea.
The Golan was the only district in northern Transjordan where the Jews constituted the vast majority of the population. It will be recalled that Jewish settlement in the Golan began in the days of Alexander Jannaeus and it became a Jewish district like the Galilee. This was also the reason it had not been torn from the Hasmonean kingdom when the Romans took over, and was given to Herod at the beginning of his reign. The Jewish inhabitants of the Golan differed in their relationship to the Herodian house than Jews whom Herod had settled in the Bashan, and were close to the Jews of Galilee. This was, apparently the factor that pushed the Jews of the Golan join the revolt, in contrast to the rest of the districts of Transjordan (see above 9.4.7).
The impact of the suppression of the revolt in the Golan was not destructive and the district continued to be settled by Jews. We have no ancient source that explains the Romans' considerations in separating the Golan from the rest of the districts of Transjordan, and we can only speculate as to the reason. It seems that because of the specifically Jewish character and rebellious tendencies of the Golan, the Romans decided that it would be easier to control it as part of Provincia Judaea, where most of the Jews of the land of Israel lived.
While Jews did inhabit other districts of northern Transjordan, they were a minority there and most of them were loyal to Rome. Over time, the Jewish settlement in the Bashan also became a Jewish enclave in the heart of a pagan region, as attested by the Varus affair. The Babylonians were loyal to Herod and the to the Romans and therefore there was no problem annexing them to Syria. When the Golan was separated from the other districts, the border between the Golan and the Paneas district, which was the internal border between Agrippa's two districts became the border between the provinces.
This change sheds light on the considerations in determining the borders. Apparently this determination was based on the demographics and economic factors. In the case before us, we can see how the Romans treated demographics, even in as small a district as the Golan. It cannot be said that these considerations were dominant in every case; however, it seems that the determination of borders was not arbitrary. The new border between Provincia Judaea and Syria was also the border between the Jewish and Iturean settlements in the Paneas disctrict. This move was to have results that impacted the history of the region for centuries to come.
The example of the Golan, which in the first century CE was part of a larger unit and was separated from it at the end of that century, makes it possible to follow changes that took place as a result of the separation. What began as a political division became over the years a barrier that created different material cultures.
9.4.9 The Contribution of the Herodian House to the Development of Settlement in Northern Transjordan
Northern Transjordan was in the hands of Herod and his successors for over a century. During this time the region underwent far-reaching changes that impacted future generations as well.
When Herod was given control of the region, in 23–20 BCE, it contained almost no permanent settlement. Only in the western part, the territories of Sussita, Golan and Paneas, was there permanent settlement, which had begun about 100 years before. The eastern regions – the Hauran and Trachonitis, and apparently the Bashan as well, were populated by nomads and semi-nomads. The inhabitants, particularly in Trachonitis, were bandits and highway robbers who also made their living attacking caravans and settlements in the area of Damascus. Zenodorus (see below 13.1.7) encouraged these listim, and consequently, he lost his hold on these regions. The goal of the Romans was to bring security to this untamed area, but they did not act directly there. Rather, they tasked Herod with the job. At first Herod defeated the bandits of Trachonitis and fought their attempts to rebel. As a second stage, he settled Jews loyal to him, at first in Trachonitis and then in the Bashan. The attempt to settle the Idumeans apparently failed. But settlement of the Babylonians, headed by Zamaris, succeeded in bringing calm to the region. Internal security and public order at the end of the time of Herod, and especially of his successors, allowed the area to develop economically and in terms of settlement. In the first century CE the number of settlements in the Hauran, the Bashan and Trachonitis grew; temples and public buildings were built and agriculture flourished – the Bashan became the breadbasket of Syria while the Hauran specialized in viniculture and the Golan in the cultivation of olive trees.
The capital of the region, Caesarea Philippi, which was built next to the Paneas spring, enjoyed a long period of economic prosperity and influenced the growth of the entire district – northern Golan and the northern Hula Valley,
During the time of Herodian rule, the region underwent demographic changes. The Itureans in the Paneas district lost their independence and gradually their national identity as well. The Jewish settlement in the Golan continued to develop, apparently without the help of the Herodian rulers. The Babylonians who had settled in the Bashan became the backbone of the army, which was loyal to the Herodian rulers and at their disposal at all times. The Nabateans remained beyond the reach of Herodian rule and their influence was relatively minor. Most of the inhabitants of the region were Syrians (see below, 13.2), who during this time lived mainly in the villages. They developed a local culture, which had originated within Syria and on which Hellenistic influence was marginal. Their main temple, at Sia‘ (see below, 13.2.3) was built even before Herod's time, but most of it was constructed in his day or during the time of his successors. Temples were also built in the Hauran, Bashan and Trachonitis.
The Jewish revolt impacted the region only marginally. Of all the districts, only the Golan, particularly Gamla, took an active part. But there was animosity between the pagans and the Jews in other places. The Jews of Sussita were attacked by their neighbors. The Jews of Paneas were besieged and some were killed by the Iturean Varus, with the encouragement of the pagan inhabitants of the city. The Jews of the Bashan, who were loyal to Agrippa, were also threatened with annihilation and they were forced to take shelter in Gamla (see above, 6.4.7). But it seems that in general, the impact of the revolt on the inhabitants of the region was marginal. Except for Gamla, which was completely destroyed, the rest of the settlements continued in existence.
The death of Agrippa II brought an end to this period. Security stabilized the region and the inhabitants grew used to Roman methods of rule. The Romans no longer needed a local ruler to mediate between them and the local population. Agrippa's kingdom was not handed down to his descendants, but rather was in the main annexed to Syria. Only the Golan, the Galilee and Perea were annexed to Judaea. The region was now ready for direct Roman rule, which was the hallmark of the next period.
9.5 The Middle and Late Roman Periods
9.5.1 In the second century CE the Roman Empire knew calm and stability, which brought prosperity to northern Transjordan. The events that shook the land of Israel, especially the Bar Kokhba Revolt, passed over the region. For nearly 100 years (96–192 CE) the Antonine emperors ruled. This was the period of emperors Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. Until 180 CE the regime was typically stable, continuously reformed law and public administration and working for the good of the provinces.
At the time of Emperor Comodos (180–192 CE), the empire declined into total anarchy and near bankruptcy. The economic prosperity that had existed at the end of the first century CE and up to this time ceased. The stability of the second century CE was replaced in the third by internal rebellions and invasions by outside enemies.
After the assassination of Comodus, civil war broke out that went on for four years. Septimus Severus took the throne and established the Severan dynasty after defeating Pescennius Niger, the governor of Syria. To prevent the governors of the provinces from accumulating too much power, as had Niger, Severus divided up a number of provinces, including Syria. Severus assured well-ordered and efficient government for the good of the provinces.
Despite the Parthian invasion of Syria in 162 CE and the struggle between Severus and Niger northern Transjordan remained prosperity until the third century CE. Caracalla, Severus' successor, known for his cruelty, who relied on the army, increased soldiers' salaries and emptied the empire's coffers. At the time of his successors, Macrinus and Elagabalus, the situation in the empire declined. Caesar Alexander Severus' attempt to restore public administration was cut short by his assassination in 235 CE.
9.5.2. The murder of Alexander Severus marked the beginning of a period of anarchy that continued for some 50 years (235–284 CE). Caesars were replaced rapidly and most did not die of natural causes. Among the many who ruled at this time, we mention Philip the Arab, born in the Hauran, who took the throne in 244 and turned his village, Shaba, into a city by the name of Philipopolis. But he also reigned only for a short time, and was killed during a military insurrection in 249 CE. Many legionaries hailed from the provinces and were less loyal to Rome. Military discipline unraveled; the soldiers maintained loyalty to their commanders and not to Caesar, and time and again attempted to have their commanders appointed emperor. The chaos that ensued encouraged outside enemies to invade the empire, causing major economic damage. The maintenance of a large army was a huge economic burden, leading to heavier taxation.
The desperate need for money led to a decline in the silver content of coins and to galloping inflation. Along with inflation came the demand for services as payment and the payment of taxes in kind. The burden of taxation and forced labor led many farmers to abandon their lands and move to the cities, which made life in the cities more difficult. Many farmers lost ownership of their lands and became tenants on their own farms. In addition to these troubles came highway robbery and extortion, as well as natural disasters – droughts and plagues, which reduced the size of the population and increased the burden on those that were left. The crisis led to a cessation of construction of cities and the construction of walls around those that remained.
The economic crisis did not affect all parts of the empire equally, nor all districts in a single province. It is difficult to know what effect the crisis had on northern Transjordan. On the one hand in some areas damage appeared to have been minimal. For example, the survey of the northern Golan revealed that the Late Roman period was one of the most intense periods of settlement in the area. Excavations at Kh. Namra revealed that it was settled precisely at the time of the crisis. At Bab el-Hawa, on the other hand, the situation was different. Apparently in the third century the site was not settled, with settlement being renewed only in the fourth century. In the third century, the pottery industry grew strong in Paneas and Khirbet el- Ḥawarit. The production of pottery in the northern Golan began in the second century and expanded in the third century, persisting until the fifth century. Throughout that period, similar vessels were produced; making it possible to date sites where the pottery was found. The economic crisis may have been a factor leading to the abandonment of the Jewish villages around Sussita, but it seems that this was the end of a process that began with the damage to the Jewish population at the beginning of the Great Revolt (see above, 9.4.7).
9.5.3 The Period of the Tetrarchy –The severe crisis in the Roman Empire in the third century CE was followed by the rise to power of Diocletian, who stabilized the government and created a new ruling structure – the tetrarchy.
At the head of the central government stood four leaders who were placed in charge of protecting and administering the empire – two augusti – Diocletian and Maximian, and alongside and just below them, two emperors, Constantius and Galerius. Diocletian was placed in charge of Thrace, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. The empire as a whole was divided into two parts – east and west, with each side divided into dioceses, each of which included a number of provinces.
Beginning in 284 CE, Diocletian reorganized the administration of the empire by dividing and changing the borders of the provinces, separating military and civil administration, changing the status of the provincial governors, who were no longer to be commanders of legions stationed in their areas, and launching a more active and positive approach to administration.
9.5.4 Boundary Stones – One of the most important aspects of Diocletian's reign was a reform of the tax structure that had been in place since 297 CE according to an edict promulgated in Egypt. The purpose of the reform was to tax agriculture more efficiently, with land taxes based on precise information about land ownership and borders between neighboring communities.
Part and parcel of the tax reform was therefore renewed mapping of the borders of villages and marking them by means of boundary stones. The mapping was apparently implemented throughout the empire, but boundary stones have been found only in the limestone massif of Syria, the area of Damascus, in the Bashan and the Hauran, in the northern Hula Valley and in the northern and southern Golan.
The boundary stones differ in their shape and size. It seems that no great effort was invested in hewing them; the inscriptions were written on elongated fieldstones and sometimes on building stones in secondary use. Instructions for their installation may have been given by censitors (see below) after surveying the area, and were apparently implemented, entirely or in part, by the local community.
The boundary stones were installed especially at sites where a lack of natural markers made the marking of a boundary necessary. The inscriptions vary from stone to stone but they may be divided into two groups: full versions and abbreviated versions. As an example of a full version we will present a boundary stone found east of Quneṭra:
Diocletianus and Maximianus, the augusti, and Constantius and Maximianus, the caesares, order (this) stone to be set up, marking the boundary of the fields of the villages of Sarisa and Berenice, under the supervision of Aelius Statutus, vir perfectissimus
The inscription includes three components. The first specifies the four rulers of the empire; the second notes that the stone marked the boundaries between the fields of two villages; the third notes that the act was carried out under the supervision of Aelius Statutus.
Boundary stones with abbreviated inscriptions included only the second part. For example, a stone found north of Quneṭra: "Stone marking the boundary (of the fields of the villages) of Achana and Sarisa." The first part of the inscription (in its full version) securely dates it to the period of the tetrarchy, between 293 and 305 CE. Of greater importance are the two other parts. The main part provides information on the names of the settlements, which we will discuss in the chapter on the preservation of names (see below, 10.5). But it also supplies information on the method of levying the taxes. Boundary stones were usually placed at the edges of villages and sometimes on the outskirts of estates or cities as well; this indicates that they did not mark individual plots. The boundaries of the villages had to be marked because the village was communally responsible for the payment of its land taxes. It is unclear whether villages in the territories of cities paid their taxes through the arbitration of the city but the long list of cities, based on boundary stones, attests to the importance of the villages in the economic system.
The last part of the inscription in its full version notes the censitor responsible for surveying the land. The censitor was the civilian official in charge of tax collection. The censitor Aelius Statutus is mentioned in boundary stones from the area of Damascus, the northern Golan and the northern Hula Valley. These regions were in the province of Syro-Phoenicia and therefore he was probably connected to that province. The boundary stone from ‘Ashshe (Har Peres Survey, site no. 8) shows that the province of Phoenicia extended as far as Mount Peres.
Boundary stones were erected to mark the boundaries of village farmlands. The full inscriptions seem to have been installed close to roads, where the name of the ruler could be seen without difficulty. In more remote places, it may be assumed that the short versions were deemed sufficient. There were probably thousands of these boundary stones, but less than 50 have so far been found. This may be explained by the fact that they looked no different than ordinary fieldstones, and so they are difficult to identify. Boundary stones were not found in rocky areas where farmland was scarce; apparently in these areas the boundaries were clear and there was no need for the central government to map them. That appears also to have been the case for the territory of Sussita and the Bashan. Only one boundary stone was found in the Golan – at Aḥmadiyye (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 30), near the border of the district of Paneas, possibly because here too, the lay of the land – small plots whose association with their villages was unequivocal, as was the case in the rocky terrain of the northern Golan.
9.5.5 Roman Military Service – The belligerent nature of the region's inhabitants, which had previously found an outlet in robbery and extortion, was now channeled into military service in the auxiliaries or the legions. Inscriptions of soldiers and officers in the Roman army were found in the territory of Sussita: in Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95) an inscription was found from the year 139 CE with the names of soldiers who had served in Syria-Palaestina. This is the earliest known reference in historical documents to the name Syria-Palaestina (Ma‘oz 2006: 54).
At Kefar Ḥaruv (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no 213), an inscription was found mentioning the Tenth Legion, additional testimony of the association of the southern Golan to Provincia Palaestina. At el-‘Āl (Nov Survey, site no. 34) a fragment of a lintel may perhaps attest to the presence of a Roman camp at the site. That site also produced the tombstone of a veteran of the Fist Parthian Legion from 289=225/226 CE, according to the calendar of Susita. At Khirbet ‘Ayun (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 60), an inscription was found mentioning two veterans who had served in the pretorium (military command headquarters). Publications of the inscriptions (Applebaum, Isaac and Landau 1978) identified the praetorium with a military unit known from the mid-fourth century CE, but it is possible that the veterans may have served in a fortified installation in the southern Golan. The inscriptions show a Roman military presence in the southern Golan in the second and third centuries CE. At Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 147) a commemoration inscription was found mentioning a veteran of the Third Legion Cyrenaica who had served in Syria and northern Arabia in the second and third centuries. Khisfin is identified as one of the villages in the territory of Sussita (although according to the survey the site was founded only in the Middle Roman period). If this identification is correct, it would have belonged to Palaestina and not Arabia. No similar inscriptions were found in the central or northern Golan, although they are common in the Hauran.
9.5.6 Rural settlement – The second century CE saw significant development in the region as a result of peace in Syria. The population settled in villages and tribal organization broke down, although people continued to identify themselves by their tribe, in addition to the name of their village. Most of the people who settled down as farmers were proud of their work.
Information about villages is more abundant in the Hauran, Bashan and Trachonitis than in the Golan. Numerous inscriptions were found in those areas, which reveal data about the administration and ethnic makeup of the population. However, the Golan Heights was also typified by a network of villages and it may reasonably be assumed that their internal network resembled those of the Hauran.
According to the inscriptions and architectural findings, the villages seem to have been landed agricultural communities, with no great differences between them in terms of property. The inhabitants lived in large family units, more or less, with a dwelling for each family, and the villages enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, almost that of cities. They had a council that approved laws, a joint treasury, common land and public buildings.
In the second and third centuries, the village officials bore the title strategos. The nature of the position and the name were a vestige of their nomadic phase. It is unclear whether the office of strategos was an elected one or inherited, but it seems to have been a prestigious one. From the mid-third century the character of village officialdom changed and they were thereafter headed by a council that was elected for one year. Direct Roman rule did not greatly impact village life. The inhabitants built their own public buildings, temples and water systems. Roman roads built in the region did not connect the villages to each other.
The villages made their living in farming, with the crops dependent on their geographical location. In the Golan the main crop was olives, as well as grapes, pulses and cereals. Animal husbandry was also widespread, as attested by numerous feeding troughs found in houses.
The villages underwent Hellenization, as shown by inscriptions in Greek found in many of them.The language of the inscriptions is flawed, showing that village life was conducted in koine Greek. In the early fourth century, official use of Semitic languages disappeared almost completely, replaced by Greek, although colloquial use of Semitic languages seems to have persisted in the villages.
9.5.7 Urbanization – The second century saw urbanization come to northern Transjordan. In the Golan Heights there were two cities, Paneas and Sussita, both of which had been established in the first century CE. Both had quite extensive territories. Caesarea-Paneas, which in the first century of the capital of the entire region, was now the capital of the Paneas distrct alone. However, the change did not impact its grandeur or wealth. In the second and early third centuries temples were still being built in the sacred enclosure at Paneas. Julias-Bethsaida, which also had the status of polis in the first century CE, declined in importance and disappeared from the sources.
9.6 The Byzantine Period
9.6.1 The Provinces of Northern Transjordan in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries CE – An imperial edict from the year 409 CE indicates that Palaestina was divided into three provinces. One of these was Palaestina Secunda, which included areas in the Jezreel Valley and the Galilee, west of the Jordan, as well as the Golan and Perea east of the Jordan. Phoenicia was also divided, into two parts – Phoenicia Paralios (coastal Phoenicia) and Phoenicia Libanensis (Lebanese Phoenicia). The information on these administrative divisions in the Byzantine period comes primarily from two lists, one of Hierocles, from the first half of the sixth century, and the other from Georgius of Cyprus, from the second half of the sixth century.
The capital of Phoenicia Paralios was Tyre and it also included Sidon, Beirut, Jebel, Akko and Paneas (Hierocles 715, 7-716, 9; Georgius Cyprus, 967—983). According to this information, Phoenicia Paralios extended along the Phoenician coast and the Lebanese Mountains as far as Paneas. It seems that relations between Paneas and the Galilee and the Phoenician coast led to its inclusion in Phoenicia Paralios.
The territory of Palaestina Secunda included, in northern Transjordan, Sussita-Hippos and Clima Gaulames (Hierocles 719, 12-720, 11; Georgius Cyprus 1028—1041). The territory of Sussita appears as part of Palaestina as early as the Onomasticon of Eusebius. Clima Gaulames was apparently the name of the district of Golan during the Byzantine period.
9.6.2 The Decline in Security in the Northern Golan – The survey of the northern Golan revealed a decline in the number of sites during the Byzantine period. From 69 sites in the Late Roman period, only 40 survived into the Byzantine period (see above 4.14.1). This situation differed greatly from elsewhere in the country where the Byzantine period was the height of settlement, including the central and southern Golan. The central Golan saw a flourishing of Jewish settlements at this time, and the southern Golan was densely settled as well. However, villas from the Late Roman period surrounding Paneas, whose inhabitants enjoyed a beautiful natural setting together with services available from the nearby city, disappeared in the Byzantine period. At that time the fortress was built at el-Naqara (Dan Survey) and walls were built around Paneas. The reason for the decline seems to have been worsening security at that time.
No remains were found In excavations at Paneas dating later than the first half of the fifth century CE. Only in a pit, dug in the remains of the temples, were finds discovered from the end of the Byzantine period. The city, which in the first century CE was the capital of northern Transjordan, had become a minor district center and had lost much of its economic power. Paneas still appears in Hieracles' and Georgius' administrative lists of cities (see above, 9.6.1) from the sixth century; however, a perusal of sources from the period reveals its decline. Most such sources, e.g., Sozmenus (378–428 CE), Theodosius (Theodosius 8, written in 518) and Malalas (Chronographia 126–127, written in 565) repeat the story of the statue from Paneas and its remnants, on display at a local church, but it seems that they had not visited the place and did not have the latest information about the city in their day. Only Philostorgius ( 475–476 CE, Historia Ecclesiastica) tells of a visit to Paneas and that he saw the church in which the statue was on display; that is, in the first third of the fifth century there was still a church at Paneas.
The factor that led to the decline of security in the northern Golan is unknown. It seems that the region was struck by raids by an enemy, apparently nomads. Two tombstones found in Quneṭra shed some light on the events. One of these marked the burial of Zenodorus, who fell in battle during his peacemaking efforts in Phoenicia. The second tombstone is of soldiers of Zenodorus who fell in the same battle. The second tombstone bears the date 463 = 461 of the Paneas calendar (Di Segni 1997: 169–174, Nos. 19, 20). Zenodorus, apparently a Phoenician duke, fought an unnamed enemy, perhaps nomads from the east.
The Byzantine street at Paneas was destroyed in a major conflagration in the first half of the fifth century CE. The cause of the fire is still unknown, whether from an earthquake or an enemy raid, or some other source. In any case, the fire led to the abandonment of a good part of the city. The city may have moved at this point to the southern bank of Naḥal Sa‘ar, which is the only part that was surrounded by a wall.
A new ethnic entity came into the picture in the sixth century as a result of the settlement gap created as a result of the decline in security in the Paneas region, the Ghassanids (see below, 12.4.4). The village-dwelling Ghassanids were fairly prosperous. According to the Archimandites' letter (see below 10.6), these villages had monasteries. Most of the villages were in the eastern Golan and were part and parcel of the area of the Ghassanid distribution that is now east of the present-day border with Syria (see below, 13.4)
9.6.3 The End of the Byzantine Period – The second half of the sixth century CE was marked by instability. In 542 and 600 there were outbreaks of plague, which seriously struck the Ghassanids and apparently other population groups in the region. Ma‘oz (2008:73–81) proposed that plagues wiped out most of the labor force, leading to the cessation of oil production in the Golan and of wheat in the Bashan, and eventually brought about the partial abandonment of Jewish settlement in the Golan. The excavation at Bab el-Hawa showed that settlement there ceased at the beginning of the seventh century.
In 613 CE, the Persians invaded Syria and won a battle in the Hauran. A number of monasteries were damaged during the invasion, among them the one at Kursi, but evidence exists of construction and renovation of churches at this time. In 630 CE the region was retaken by Emperor Hierocles, but renewed Byzantine rule did not last long and ended with the Muslim conquest in 634 CE.
9.7 The Early Islamic Period
9.7.1 With the compromise in the status of the Ghassanids in 582 CE (see below,13.4.5), the defense of the empire on the east and south was weakened. When the first Arab armies reached the region – in April-May 634, there was no strong military force to face them. After the Muslims won a battle near Pella in Transjordan, the cities of Transjordan and Syria fell to them, including the Golan, almost without a fight.
In 636 CE, a large Byzantine army attempted to stop the Muslims, and the latter withdrew from the cities they had conquered in Syria. The Byzantine army encamped at el-Yāqūṣa in the southern Golan (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 129). The battle, which took place in the area between the Ruqqad and the ‘Alan valleys, ended in a resounding Byzantine defeat and their final surrender of control over Syria and Palestine.
9.7.2 There are no historical sources that document the administrative division of the Golan Heights during the first period after the Muslim conquest. The first decades after the conquest saw no change in the administration, which continued in the Byzantine mode. Only in 696 CE (about 60 years after the Muslim conquest), did ‘Abd el-Malik institute comprehensive administrative reform, making Arabic the official language of the administration and minting coins with Arabic inscriptions.
The region of Palestine and Syria (al-Sham) was divided into five districts (jund). The Golan was divided into two districts: al-Urdum – the successor to the Byzantine Palaestina Secunda; and the district (jund) of Damascus. In the Muslim tradition about the conquest, whose sources come from the early or mid-eighth century CE, Susya (Sussita) is mentioned as a city in el-Urdun.
9.7.3 Following the decline in population in the central and northern Golan, the Golan and Baniyas districts were apparently united into one district, called el-Julan, and became part of the district of Damascus. Beginning in the ninth century, el-Julan is mentioned in Muslim sources as a district in the jund of Damascus together with el-Hauran and el-Bataniya (Bashan). The area of each of these was much larger than the area of the Golan in the Roman and the Byzantine periods. It seems that the boundaries of the Golan were east of the Golan Heights.
Later, too, the name el-Julan also described the area east of the Golan. According to el-Ya‘aqubi (891 CE), the capital of el-Julan was at Baniyas. In excavations at Baniyas, few finds were unearthed from the Umayyad or Abbasid periods and in the adjacent area only a few sites were found. Therefore the identification of Baniyas as the capital of the Golan seems strange. This is also the only testimony to the city as having this status. The border of el-Julan in the southern Golan can be identified according to el-Ya‘aqubi's description:
…and from the city of Damascus to Jund al-Urdunn four day's journey stations. The first of them is Jasim, that belongs (administratively) to Jund Dimashq; and Khisfin, that belongs (administratively) to Jund Dimashq; and Fiq to which belongs the well known steep mountain pass; from it to the city of Tabariyya, which is the main city of Jund al-Urdunn. (Al-Ya'qubi, Buldan, p. 327; according to Elad 1999: n. 69)
According to this description, Khisfin (Rujm el-Hiri Survey, site no 147) also belonged to the jund of Damascus, and thus to el-Julan. Thus it seems that the border between Jund el-Julan and Jund el-Urdun passed between Khisfin and Afiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95). As mentioned above, Khisfin was the southernmost settlement of the Ghassanids. Apparently, therefore, the Ghassanid territory of settlement and the area that had been previously settled by Jews were unified with the territory of Paneas to create the new district of el-Julan. Ya‘aqubi described el-Julan as "the granary of Damascus." This description does not conform to the central Golan, where the terrain is mostly rocky and where only small plots are suitable for the cultivation of cereals. The description is more suitable to the area east of the Golan – the Bashan, where, like in the southern Golan, there were broad expanses of land where cereals could be grown.
9.7.4 The powerful earthquake of 749 CE led to major change in the settlements of the region. Many settlements, including Sussita and the monastery at Kursi, were destroyed completely and never rebuilt. The synagogues of Qaṣrin (Qaṣrin Survey, site no 47) and Umm el-Qanaṭir (Ma‘ale Gamla Survey, site no. 103) were also destroyed in the earthquake. But it seems that the Jewish settlement continued to exist, perhaps on a smaller scale, at least until the Abbasid period (see above 4.15.6).
9.7.5 In the northern Golan and in the eastern part of the central Golan, the permanent settlements were apparently abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period. Into this vacuum of destruction and abandonment nomadic tribes apparently entered, who controlled the area thereafter for centuries. It seems that these nomads, apparently also including Turkmen, came from outside the region and did not know the names of the settlements and the ruins. As a result, the ancient names of the settlements were forgotten (see below, Chapter 10).
9.7.6 At Baniyas there was apparently a small settlement during the Umayyad period. Its remains were not discerned in excavation, although findings from this period, particularly coins, were discovered in small quantities. It seems that during the Abbasid period the settlement grew stronger. At the end of the tenth century, el-Muqadessi described Baniyasas a city in the district of Damascus:
Baniyasis a city near the border of the Hulah, and lies at the foot of the mountain [of Hermon]. Its climate is softer and pleasanter than that of Damascus. To this place have migrated the greater part of the Muslim inhabitants of the frontier districts, since Tarsus was taken (by the Christians in 965 CE) and the population is still on the increase, for daily men come hither. There is here an extremely cold river, which rises from under the Mount of Snow (Hermon), gushing forth in the middle of the town. Baniyasis the granary of Damascus. Its river irrigates cotton-lands and rice-fields. The city is pleasant to inhabit, being situated lovely villages, and the sole drawback is that the drinking-water is bad. ….The river Jordan rises from above Baniyas, and descending, forms a Lake over against Kadas [the Hulah] (Al-Muqaddasi: 185).
Baniyas is described here as a city in the district of Damascus and the connection with el-Julan is not mentioned. It seems that the city controlled the northern Hula Valley, where there were fields of cotton and rice. The northern Golan, in contrast, apparently remained under the control of the nomads; and in any case does not fit the description of the granary of Damascus. The description of the drinking water of Baniyas as bad is more than a little strange. It is possible that the inhabitants of the city suffered from fever and the ancients attributed it to bad water. According to Muqaddasi, one factor in the expansion of the city was the migration of Muslim refugees from Tarsus. Ma‘oz (1998) associated these refugees with remains from this period discovered in the temple enclosure.
9.7.7 In the Cairo Geniza is a document from 1056 indicating the presence of a Jewish community in Baniyas, which had a court of law. The Jews called Baniyas Medinat Dan. Other documents, which are undated, provide additional information about the inhabitants of the place and their links with other places, and also mention that the city actually had two Jewish communities. An additional manuscript from the Geniza tells of one Ovadia HaGer, a Norman who converted in 1102. In 1121 he arrived at Dan, that is, Baniyas, where he met a Karaite by the name of Shlomo HaCohen, who was a false messiah.
9.7.8 In the southern Golan permanent settlements continued to exist throughout the period. This is an area with agricultural potential through which passed the main road from Hauran to Tiberias. The city of Susiya (Sussita) is still mentioned in the early ninth century as the center of the region, but by that time the city had lain in ruins for 100 years. It is possible that although the city was ruined, its name was preserved as the name of the district, It seems that because of its importance, the region was better protected by the central government. Muslim sources mention a monastery form that period:
This monastery is at the back of ‘Aqabat Fiq, in an area situated between it (= al-‘Aqaba) and the lake of Tiberias, in a mountain, adjacent to the mountain pass (al-‘Aqaba), dug in the stone. The monastery is populated by those (that dwell) in it, and by those Christians that visit it; this is due to its esteemed place in their eyesl while others besides them come to it for pleasure and drinking wine. The Christians claim that it is the first monastery built for Christianity, and that the Messiah, may God pray on him, used to find in it shelter and from it he called the apostles; there is a stone in it, and it was mentioned that the Messiah used to sit on it. And whoever entered this place broke a piece from this stone, in order to be blessed by it. This monastery was built in the place in the name of the Messiah[?], peace be on him (Al-Shabshati, in Elad 1999:75).
According to this description, this monastery was built on the lower portion of the ascent, close to the mountain and not far from the Sea of Galilee. Although the description of its location seems well founded, no remains have so far been found. In this context it is important to note that the large monastery of Kursi was completely covered with alluvium and its remains could not be seen on the surface. The church and monastery were discovered by chance during road construction.
9.7.9 In the second half of the eleventh century Tiberias declined in importance. The city that at its height had extended along the Sea of Galilee from today's city park in the north to the Ganei Menorah Hotel in the south, was mostly abandoned, leaving a much smaller inhabited area in the area of today's old city. The reasons for the fall of the city are not sufficiently clear; however, other cities in the region were also greatly diminished. Roni Ellenblum has recently proposed that the reason for the decline was a series of drought years (Ellenblum 2012).
The fall of the region's main city undoubtedly impacted its surroundings as well. Information from surveys is not complete enough to reconstruct the impact of the crisis on the settlements. Permanent settlements were found only in the southern Golan. It seems that most of them made their living from farming and if the cause of the crisis had been a continuing drought, they might also have been struck. In any case, we have no contemporaneous sources that describe events in the Golan at this time.
9.8 The Crusader Period
9.8.1 During the Crusader period most of the Golan was held by tribes of nomads; apparently the same inhabitants that held it during the Early Muslim period. There were only a few permanent settlements in the Golan at this time and they acted as a buffer between the Franks (as the Crusaders were known) and the Muslims.
In 1099, after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, Tancred went north and established the principality of the Galilee. Tancred conducted a series of raids on the Golan, which was held by a Muslim emir who was subservient to the rulers of Damascus, and whom the Crusaders dubbed "the fat peasant" (Grossus Rusticus). The emir tried to fight back, but was defeated by Tancred. The victory led to an unwritten agreement in which income from the Golan was shared by the Muslims and the Franks.
9.8.2 Schumacher (1888: 215–216) who called the place Qaṣr Bardawil, describes it as:
A small ruin close to the fall of the Wady ed-Difleh, with several building stones and traces of a large building and choked-up cisterns. It is said great caverns are to be found in the perpendicular rock walls beneath the ruin. The position of this 'fortress of Baldwin,' who, according to tradition, gladly tarried here, is an imposing one and is naturally protected; it commands the deep and broad valley, as well as the surrounding plateau.
This description has led a number of historians to conclude that Baldwin built a fortress near el-‘Āl (Nov Survey site no. 34). After the emergency survey it was made clear that the place marked on maps as el-Bardawīl (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 43), remains were found from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age, but not from the Crusader period. From the point of view of Schumacher's descriptions, it seems that he was referring to the nearby village of Jidya (Nov Survey, site no. 15), where a large structure was found. However, no remains from the Crusader period were found at that location either. Moreover, Schumacher apparently did not visit the site, but rather described it from a vantage point on the east side of Naḥal el-‘Āl. It seems, therefore, that there is no basis for the claim that a Crusader fortress was built near el-‘Āl.
9.8.3 The only place that flourished during the Crusader period was the city of Baniyas, which was located at a strategic point between the Frankish kingdom and Damascus and was for most of this controlled by Muslims and subservient to Damascus. In 1126 Baniyas was given to the extremist Ismailiya sect, known as the Hashashim, which advocated the assassination of their opponents as a means to achieve their goals. The sect's leader, Baharam, rebuilt the city's fortifications.
After the death of Baharam, the ruler of Damascus ceased supporting the members of the sect and in 1129 its people were massacred in Damascus. Fearing a similar fate, the leaders of the sect, who lived in Baniyas, turned to the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin II, and proposed transferring the city to him in exchange for a place of refuge in the Latakya Mountains. Baldwin acceded to the proposal and gave the city to a knight by the name of Renier Brus.
Under Crusader control Baniyas became a bridgehead for attacks on Damascus. In 1129 Baldwin launched a failed attempt to capture that city. Between 1129 and 1132, Renier Brus rebuilt the city's fortifications, turning it into a base for his sorties against caravans of Muslim merchants. In response, Shams el-Malk, the ruler of Damascus, attacked Baniyas in Renier's absence. The city's defenders barricaded themselves in the inner fortress but shortly thereafter they surrendered and were taken captive, and Baniyas once again fell to Muslim control.
In the late 1130s, Zengi, the ruler of Mosul, began to unify the Islamic cities against the Crusaders. Ibrahim, ruler of Damascus, spearheaded the opposition to him. The governor of Baniyas rebelled and gave the city to Zengi. In response, an agreement was forged between Muslim Damascus and Fulk, the Frankish king of Jerusalem. Units of the armies of both sides clashed at Na‘aran (Ashmora Survey, Site no. 49) and went out together to besiege Baniyas. The siege lasted about a month at the end of which the city surrendered and was one again brought under Crusader control. Fulk gave the city back to Renier Brus. Good relations prevailed between the Crusaders and the rulers of Damascus for some 14 years thereafter, briefly disrupted during the second Crusade (1148 CE).
In 1153 the rulers of Damascus collaborated with Nur ed-Din, Zengi's successor and attacked Baniyas, but were unable to conquer it. A year later, Nur ed-Din took Damascus. In 1157 the ruler of Baniyas, Humphrey Count of Toron, asked the Hospitallers to help him defend the city. However, a caravan of members of the order was attacked by Nur ed-Din on the way to Baniyas and the Hospitallers annulled their contract with Humphrey. Nur ed-Din besieged the city, but Baldwin III came to its aid and was able to break the siege. Baldwin ordered the fortifications of the city restored and its ruined buildings rebuilt. He then set out to return to Jerusalem but on the way Nur ed-Din ambushed him near ‘Eynan. Baldwin’s army was defeated and he fled to Safed. Nur ed-Din besieged Baniyas anew, but was forced to withdraw when Crusader reinforcements arrived from Tripoli and Antioch.
IN 1164 Baldwin III and his successor, Amalric launched a campaign in Egypt, with the participation of Humphrey count of Toron. Nur ed-Din took advantage of the opportunity and after a brief siege, conquered Baniyas from the Muslims. The Crusaders once again tried to take it back, but were unsuccessful. The last attempt, which failed after a 15-day siege, was made by Amalric in 1174.
9.8.4 In the winter of 1178–1179, Baldwin IV built a fortress (Meṣad ‘Ateret) at the Ya‘akov Ford (Rosh Pina Survey, site no. 143) over the Jordan River. Near the place where the Benot Ya‘akov Bridge was later built. Saladin el-Ayubbi, who took over Egypt and Syria, regarded the fortress as a threat to Damascus and tried to prevent its construction. After the first phase of the fortress' construction was completed, the Crusaders, headed by Baldwin IV, raided the Turkmen and Bedouin tribes near Baniyas. Forces from Saladin's army came to his aid. The king was wounded and died later at the Honin Fortress. On August 25, 1179, Saladin besieged Meṣad ‘Ateret at the Ya‘akov Ford, His forces gathered on the Golan and from there they mounted their attack on the fortress. Excavations there showed that was never completed; only a wall and one tower were built. The fortress was taken after a five-day siege and all its defenders were massacred.
Eight years later, in 1187, the Crusaders were roundly defeated at the Horns of Hattin, and their entire kingdom, except for Tyre, fell to the Muslims.
9.9 The Ayyubid Period
9.9.1 In the early thirteenth century the Crusaders managed to reestablish their kingdom, albeit on a smaller scale — the second Crusader kingdom included only the coastal plain and the Galilee coast. The rest of the country remained under the rule of the Ayyubids, Saladin's successors.
To prevent more Crusades, the Ayyubids began the systematic destruction of the Crusader fortresses that had fallen to them. The city of Baniyas, which for 40 years during the twelfth century had been under Crusader control, did not return to them and came under control of al-‘Aziz ‘Uthman, one of the younger sons of Sultan Almalaq el-Adel, Saladin's brother and successor.
9.9.2 In 1227, the Crusader threat against the Ayyubids was renewed when the army of the German Kaiser Friedrich II came to the country. The Ayyubids feared that the Crusaders would try to take Damascus and to prevent this, they built the al-Ṣubayba (Nimrod Fortress) for the first time. Under pressure of time, at first a small fortress was built in the eastern and higher part of the spur. Al-‘Aziz ‘Uthman quickly built what was later to serve as the fortress' donjon. The inscription in one of the tower walls commemorates the construction of the fortress in AH 625 (1227–1228 CE). In the end the Ayyubids gave Jerusalem to Friedrich II. The danger that Friedrich would attack Syria and Damascus abated, and he left the country in 1229.
The tangible threat to Damascus made clear the necessity to fortify the approaches to it. In contrast to the scorched-earth policy and destruction of fortress in the western Land of Israel, the fortresses east of the Jordan were restored. New fortresses were built at Ba‘albek in the Beqa‘ Valley in Lebanon; at Baṣra in the Bashan; at ‘Ajlun in the Gilead; and at Mount Tabor. The Nimrod Fortress was built as part of this process.
9.9.3 Immediately after Kaiser Friedrich left the country, the Ayyubids began enlarging and strengthening the fortress. As shown by the inscriptions found there, the work was done by al-‘Aziz Uthman, governor of Baniyas. The fortress was expanded westward and reached its present-day size. Construction, which was underway for a year, was completed in 1230 CE. The fortress was built under time constraints, which accounts for the quality of construction. The important parts of the fortifications – the corners of towers, doorway frames and firing slits were built of well-cut ashlars – while the walls were built of roughly hewn stones. The towers were roofed with vaults built of small stones. This construction method, which was common in Crusader fortresses, was rapid and inexpensive but it did not compromise the strength of the structure.
9.9.4 In 1250 CE, the Crusaders attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the fortress. Seven years later it fell to another enemy, the Mongols. These were tribes originating in the Asian steppes who in the thirteenth century, led by Genghis Khan and his successors, spread to many countries – from China in the east to Europe in the west and to Persia and Iraq. Their invasions spread terror because they were accompanied with destruction, massacres and looting.
In 1260 the Mongols invaded Syria and Palestine. Damascus soon fell to them and they moved on, reaching Nablus, Jerusalem and Gaza. The Ayyubids, who were divided and militarily weak, could not stand up to them and surrendered their fortresses, including al-Ṣubayba. The fortress seems to have been handed over without a battle, since most of the Ayyubid structures are standing to this day.
9.10 The Mamluk Period
9.10.1 Mongol hegemony in Syria was short-lived. The first military force that was able to combat them on equal terms and overcome them was that of the Mamluks, who were not a people, nor were they a dynasty like the Ayyubids. In fact, their origin was similar to that of the Mongols.
The Muslim rulers of Egypt would purchase as slaves young boys who had grown up in the steppes of Asia. The severe conditions in their homelands steeled them physically to a high level of endurance and when they came to Egypt, they underwent harsh military training after which they were converted to Islam and liberated. They became the best of the Muslim soldiers. Because they had been cut off from their families, they were loyal only to their overlords, and their gratitude for having been converted from idol worship to Muslims with equal rights made them zealous for their adopted faith.
They were called mamluks (meaning "enslaved") and for many years they constituted the backbone of the Muslim army. In 1250, during the Crusader invasion of Egypt, which the sultan had been unable to stop, the Mamluks took over and crowned one of their own as sultan. They quickly took over all the key military and civil positions and instituted a strong and well-organized state.
Fear of a Mongol invasion of Egypt promoted the Mamluks to set out against them. Their army, headed by Sultan Qotuz, conquered Gaza and advanced to Palestine. In early September 1260, in the Harod Spring (‘Ein Jalud) in the Jezreel Valley the Mamluks defeated the Mongols in a decisive battle. Following the battle, the Mongols left Syria and the entire area came under Mamluk control.
A month later, the Mamluk amir Beybars made himself sultan, following the assassination of the previous sultan. From then until his death in 1277, Beybars expanded his kingdom, constantly battling the Crusaders and eating away at their realm. He continued the Ayyubid policy of utter destruction of the coastal cities that fell to his control – Haifa, Caesarea, Arsuf and Jaffa. In contrast, he strengthened the fortresses in the interior of the country, among them al-Ṣubayba. His reign was marked by numerous construction projects ¬– religious institutions, bridges and fortresses.
9.10.2 Roads in the Golan – Three roads went through the Golan. In the southern Golan, Darb el-Haurna (see above, 4.15.3) continued in use. Two caravansaries were built along this road: Khan el-Jūkhadār (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no. 99) and Khan el-‘Aqabeh (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 70), which was built at the top of the ‘Aqabat Fiq.
The main road went through Quneṭra (Merom Golan Survey). Where a caravansary was also built, to the Benot Ya‘aqov Bridge, along which another caravansary was built, Khan Banat Ya‘aqub (Rosh Pina Survey, site no 112). This road was very important because of the rise in the importance of Safed during the Mamluk period. Until that time, the Jordan River was crossed where the channel widened at the foot of Meṣad ‘Ateret, which was called Vadum Ya‘aqub (the Ya‘aqub Ford). It was only possible to cross here in the summer when the water level was low. In the winter, crossing was nearly impossible. To insure a connection in all weather conditions, a bridge was built over the river, the Benot Ya‘aqov Bridge).
The northern road went from Damascus to S‘as‘a in the area of Syria (between Damascus and Baniyas) where there was also a caravansary. From there the road went along the foot of Mount Hermon to the foot of the Nimrod Fortress, to Baniyas and on to Tyre.
9.10.3 According to the Mamluk system of government estates and fortresses were commonly granted to military leaders. To prevent too much power concentrating in the hands of the Mamluk emirs, every few years the estates they were granted changed. Amir Badr al-Din Bilek el-Hazandar was the personal mamluk of Baybars and was appointed "vizier of the sultan." Relations between the two were close and it seems that in constrast to usual practice, Beybars gave Bilik the Nimrod Fortress – el-Ṣubeyba, as well as the city of Baniyas and the entire northern Golan as his private estate. This was an unusual act in Mamluk feudalism, and was carried out in exchange for Bilik's loyalty over the years. Bilik initiated and executed extensive building activities in the fortress, including the construction of towers, a gate, a governor's palace, soldiers' quarters and a mosque. Under Bilik's rule, el-Ṣubeyba served as the administrative center for the northern Golan. It is unclear whether the entire Golan was under Bilik's control, or only part of it.
9.10.4 The surveys revealed that settlement in the Golan flourished at this time like never before. After centuries in which there had been almost no permanent settlements in the region, dozens were founded, mainly over the ruins of abandoned settlements from the Roman and the Byzantine period. Historical information about settlements in the Golan during the Mamluk period is very meager.
9.10.5 Bilik did not rule long at the el-Ṣubeyba. A few days after Beybars died (1277), Bilik died of poisoning. In the years following his death, commanders who were appointed by the sultans ruled el-Ṣubeyba. The fortress declined in importance with the defeat of the Crusader kingdom (1291). In fact, it was no longer needed, because there was no longer an enemy in the west who could endanger Damascus. But human nature being what it is, recognition that security was indeed sustainable was slow to come and so the Mamluks took care to maintain the fortress. We have little information about the fortress. For a time after the Turks conquered the country, the fortress was abandoned entirely and was used as shelter for shepherds. Finds discovered in excavation show that it was abandoned in the seventeenth century.
9.10.6 The Mamluk settlements also did not last long. As the strength of the central government declined, damage was done to the settlements in the region and with time most of them were abandoned. We still lack detailed research on the Golan in the Mamluk period and so we do not yet know when and why the settlements were abandoned. It is possible that Bedouins took over the region as the central government weakened.
9.11 The Ottoman Period
9.11.1 The central and northern Golan, which Schumacher called the "rocky Golan" or "Ard el-Rabia‘ (land of the pasturage), are marginal in terms of agriculture. However, they are blessed with excellent pasturelands. These were an attraction to shepherds and cattle herders including many nomads. During the period in which the central government weakened, the Bedouin took over the area, and put the permanent settlements at risk. There were a number of "settlement cycles" in the history of the Golan, which began when nomads became sedentary, continued with the establishment of permanent settlements and was followed by the abandonment of the settlements and the renewed takeover by nomads. Such a settlement cycle came to an end during the Mamluk period, and thereafter, until the nineteenth century, the “stony Golan” remained under the control of nomads.
9.11.2 At the beginning of the Ottoman period the Golan belonged to two different administrative regions – the northern Golan belonged to Waliyet al-Sham (the district of Damascus) containing the districts (nahiyeh) of Hula (the Hula Valley) and Shara (the northern Golan). The central and southern Golan belonged to Kadeh Khoran (the term Kadeh is parallel to waliyeh = district), which included the districts of the Beteiḥa, and to the east, Jidur, Julan Ghrareb (southern Golan) and Julan Sharqi (eastern Golan, east of the Ruqqad Valley).
9.11.3 The Turkish tax rolls from 1596 (Hütteroth and Abdulfatah 1977) name 23 villages in the southern Golan, with a population of 964 farmers (see map 23). In the central Golan there were 11 villages with a population of 304 people, and an additional 10,603 Bedouins. There are no data for the northern Golan, but it seems that the situation there was similar to that in the central Golan. Thus it emerges that 90% of the inhabitants of the Golan were nomads (Bedouin and Turkmen). Most of the farmers lived in the south, where no Bedouin were recorded as living, while in the central and northern Golan the Bedouin constituted 97% of the population.
9.11.4 Descriptions of travelers through the Golan in the first half of the nineteenth century vividly illustrate the Bedouin control of the region. Seetzen, who toured the Golan in 1805, related that he had trouble finding a guide due to fear of the Bedouin. In his tour he found a desolate area, almost bereft of population. At the end of his visit he was robbed by his guide. (Seetzen 1854:342-344).
Burckhardt, who visited the Golan in 1810 and 1812, tells of a few permanent settlements at the foot of Mount Hermon (Baniyas, Gobta, Majdal al-Shams) and in the southern Golan (Kfar Ḥarib, Fiq and Jibin). The farmers in the villages worked only a small part of the agricultural land and broad areas remained uncultivated. Quneṭra was abandoned and there was not even one village between it and the Benot Ya‘aqov Bridge (Burckhardt 1822:36–47, 276—284, 313—315).
Wilson, who traveled the road from the Benot Ya‘aqov Bridge to Quneṭra in 1843, described an incursion of the el-‘Anazah tribes, which came in their thousands from the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates area. Between Na‘aran and S‘as‘a, Wilson counted 35,000 camels. According to the Turkish soldiers, the Bedouin robbed a number of caravans on their way to Damascus. The few people living in Quneṭra complained that the governor of Damascus could not protect them from the Bedouin (Wilson 1847:316–324).
A similar picture emerges from descriptions of other travelers: Thomson describes a journey the length of the Golan, through an area entirely under the control of the Bedouin and with no villages (Thomson 1886:432–436). During the visit of Travis Drake (1872) Quneṭra had only the encampment of the ‘Arab el-Fadil tribe (Drake 1872:181–182). Jenner, who toured the Golan in 1872–1873, encountered a large encampment of the el-‘Anazah tribes, who had come from the area of Aleppo in Syria. According to Jenner, just before his visit, the Bedouin had attacked a number of villages in the area and had killed a Turkish officer who had come with his troops to the aid of the villages. Following this incident, the governor of Damascus sent Ḥamid Sa‘ad Pasha to the region (Jenner 1874:229–230).
These descriptions reveal a clear picture of the Golan until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The area was under the almost total control of the Bedouin, with permanent settlements only in the southern Golan and at the foot of Mount Hermon. Every year in the spring the area would be flooded with el-‘Anazah tribes, who robbed the few inhabitants. The central government was weak and unable to stand up against them.
9.11.5 The Druze apparently reached the Golan in the eighteenth century. During this time the Druze began to move from Lebanon to Mount Hauran, which was later called Jebel Druze. Some of the migrants stopped at Mount Hermon and established the village of Majdal Shams. According to local tradition, the original Druze settlers topped first at Khirbet el-Ḥawarit (Dan Survey). The Druze asked the notables of the settlement of Jubata ez-Zeit (Dan Survey) permission to live at Majdal Shams (Birket Ram Survey). The notables agreed, on condition that they kill a certain robber who had been plaguing the Golan for some time. The two clans ambushed the miscreant and killed him. They then received permission from Jubata and went to live in Majdal Shams. Burckhardt, who visited the foothills of Mount Hermon in 1810, wrote that Majdal Shams is inhabited by Druze along with four or five Christian families (Burckhardt 1822:45).
Another village at the foot of Mount Hermon was established at ‘Ein Quniyye (Dan Survey). It was first mentioned by Seetzen as a village where Druze and Christians live together (Seetzen 1854:335). At Mas‘adeh there was a seasonal village (mazra‘ah) belonging to Majdal Shams (Robinson 1867:399), which developed into a village in its own right only in 1948. There was only one Druze village on the Golan itself – Buq‘ata (Merom Golan Survey). In 1884 Schumacher found 35 houses, inhabited by 160 residents (Schumacher 1888:115). Relations between the Druze and their Bedouin neighbors were tense, with occasional armed clashes. In the northern Golan, there were two villages inhabited by Alawites (an ethnic religious group that emerged from Shi‘ite Islam) – ‘Ein Fit and Za‘ura (Dan Survey). They are both mentioned for the first time by Seetzen (1854:335).
9.11.6 In 1878 the Turkish government began to make things more difficult for the Bedouin. As Schumacher wrote:
Thanks to the vigorous action of the Turkish authorities during the last thirty years, this nuisance has been put a stop to successfully. The fighting tribes were threatened with extermination, which was, in fact, in part actually effected; a better administration was given to the Jaulan and the Hauran, and grants of Government with officials and soldiers were founded. Consequently, the traveller of to-day, provided with letters of recommendation from the Government, can travel through the whole countries of wide Jaulan and Hauran unmolested. (Schumacer 1888:51–52).
Schumacher also wrote that the ‘Arab en-Nu‘em tribe, whose center was around Har Peres in an area outstanding for its good pastureland and abundant water, were ordered to evacuate those lands in favor of Turkish military animals. There is no evidence that the Bedouin attempted to oppose this edict.
9.11.7 To stabilize the security situation in the Golan, the Turks brought Circassians to the area, who settled in the fertile lands in and around the Quneṭra Valley. The Circassians were Muslims from the Caucasus, who had migrated from their homeland after it was taken over by the Russians in 1864. The Ottoman Empire, which ruled most of the area south of Russia, and saw the Circassians as fierce and experienced warriors, took them in their territories and encouraged them to settle in problematic frontier areas. They were settled first in the Balkans and then on the Ottoman Empire's Christian borders. In 1878, after Bulgaria won independence, the Circassians were moved from the Balkans and dispersed throughout the empire. Most settled in Turkey; some returned illegally to the Caucasus and some came to the Middle East, to the Golan among other areas.
As brave warriors, the Circassians were able to push the Bedouin to the rocky western edges of the Golan. Schumacher describes the process, as well as the Bedouin response: "Voe to you Circassians. You rob us of all of our memorials, our consecrated places, and drive us back into the stony wilderness, but – Allahu Akbar!" (Schumacher 1888:69). However, the Bedouin could not overcome the Circassians, and they never returned to the fertile areas.
Restrictions on the Bedouins’ freedom of action compromised one of their main livelihoods – robbery, and the relative security made possible the establishment of permanent settlements. Among these, Circassian villages were particularly prominent, built on the higher part of the plateau than were the Muslim farming villages. At Schumacher’s time, the Circassians accounted for about a quarter of the Golan's inhabitants. For the first time in a long time, the number of permanent settlers equaled the number of nomads.
9.11.8 Gradually, the nomads also began establishing permanent settlements (see map 24). At the time of Schumacher, about one quarter of the Turkmen became sedentary and the rest continued their nomadic life. The Bedouin themselves, including the el-‘Azneha tribes, began to settle down as well. This was a gradual process that persisted into the first half of the twentieth century. Due to the harsh winter climate, the Bedouin built "winter villages":
As, however, the tent is not able to withst and the effect of the weather, especially the snow and cold, the inhabitants of these tent villages have erected out of the ruined old places which cover north and west Jaulan, and upon the sites of them, wretched low stone huts with wooden roofs. Here they store the in-gathered pasturage and barley, as well as the straw during the rainy season, and take refuge therein during the fierce winter weather. These winter villages consist of from 6 to 30 huts, which in summer are completely deserted; they are closed up by a wooden door made out of a strong oak, and serve only as haunts for the wild cats and foxes. Schumacher 1888:55).
In 1929, the archaeologist Pesah Bar-Adon was staying at Bab el-Hawa (Meron Golan map) together with a Bedouin tribe. There was still a winter village there, which he describes thus:
The ruin serves the 'clan' – about ten black tents – of ‘Arab el-Amir Fa‘ur, a trib of el-Fadil, who are named, after the ruin, ‘Arab Bab el-Hawa'. At the top of the ruin itself are 'stone houses' for the winter. The 'houses' are arranged out of the many scattered stones of the ruin as low fences coated with clay, with clay roofs of poles. These 'houses' are used mainly for cattle in the winter, which is usually harsh, being that not a year passes in which it does not snow there (Bar Adon 1933:187).
If the Bedouin had to change their location, and perhaps also for other reasons, they did not hesitate to leave their winter villages and establish new ones instead. In a number of places Shchumacher describes ruined huts and "modern ruins". A similar picture emerges from the description of the farming villages. The farmers preferred to build new houses instead of renovating ones where the roof had caved in (Schumacher 1888:43). This phenomenon makes it more difficult for researchers to calculate population size according to the number of settlements and houses. It should therefore be taken into account that not all the ruines discovered in surveys, even if their dates are contemporaneous, were populated at the same time.
9.11.9 Schumacher's population figures give us a clear picture of the population, its various ethnic components and different types of sites in his time.
Ethnic Group Population
Druze 160 (in Buq'ata)
Arab farmers 3075
Type of site Number of sites
Winter villages 52
Sheikhs' tombs 29
9.11.10 At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries CE, Bedouin and Turkmen settlement expanded and was encouraged by the Turkish government. The good grazing lands around Tel Fares that had been under the control of the ‘Arab en-Nu‘em tribe, were confiscated in 1884 by the government for the use of military livestock. And indeed in 1913 Schumacher encountered herds of Turkish army mules near ‘Eynot Feḥam (Qeshet Survey, site no. 66), as well as Turkish soldiers harvesting hay. In 1898, Schumacher found a Bedouin tribe by the name of ‘Arab el-Khawashmi, which had not been present in the Golan beforehand. This tribe was given lands by the government on condition that they settled permanently and re-settle the Khan el-Jūkhadār area (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no 19). A similar policy was enacted with regard to the Circassians.
Meanwhile, the number grew of ruins that became villages settled by Bedouin, Turkmen, Circassians and Kurds. Some of the villages belonged to wealthy effendis, who invested in the construction of barns, flour mills and sometimes planted trees. Thus landowners from Damascus planted some10,000 dumans of olive trees near Kefar Ḥarib (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 113). ‘Ali Mansur Pasha, the owner of the lands of ‘Aliyqah (Ashmura Survey, site no. 26), took pride in the fruit trees he planted.
During the process of settlement changes took place in the composition of the population in some of the villages. Khushniyye (Qeshet Survey, site no. 37), which was still a winter village of the ‘Arab el-Ja‘atin tribe in 1898, was described in 1913 as a the largest Circassian village on the Golan; el-Faraj (Ḥorvat Parag, Qeshet Survey, site no. 85) was settled by Kurds; ‘Ein el-Warda (Har Shifon Survey) was settled by a Brdouin tribe that had been previously unknown in the area – Arab el-Bahatari. ‘Ein ‘Eiysha (Har Shifon Survey) was settled by a Turkmen tribe – Arab a-Zabakliya. Na‘aran (Ashmora Survey, site no. 49), which was ruined in 1884, was settled jointly by Turkmens and Bedouin; At Juweize (Har Shifon Survey) Circassians and Turkmens settled alongside each other and at Fazara (Qeshet, map 11) – Circassians and Bedouin.
9.11.11 The Circassian villages expanded and developed, but some were also abandoned, such er-Ruḥineh (today east of the border in Syrian territory) and the western village of Mumsiyeh (Har Shifon Survey), whose inhabitants suffered from malaria. These villages were rebuilt in areas distant from sources of sickness. Schumacher's descriptions reveal that the use of tile roofs, which was so common in the Circassian villages, was gradually introduced. In 1884 such roofs were not yet in use. Even in 1913, few houses were roofed with tiles. Thus it seems that the Circassians did not bring the method of tile roofing from their home country, but rather adopted it after they arrived in the Golan, perhaps under the influence of the Jewish and German villages.
9.11.12 Jews were also part of settlement in the Golan. At the end of 1885 an attempt was made to settle at er-Ramthanieyye (Qeshet Survey, site no. 8) by the Beit Yehuda association from Rosh Pina. There were about 30 families who were members of Beit Yehuda – young people who knew the conditions in the country and spoke Arabic. They would normally go out to the site once every two weeks to work their lands. They lived in a large stone building on a hilltop (see below, 12.4.4). However, they failed to obtain a kushan (title) to the land and they left the place after two years. After er-Ramthaniyye was abandoned, most of the members of Beit Yehuda left the group; only about 18 remained. They managed to purchase land at Bir esh-Shqūm in the southern Golan (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 59) and with the help of Sir Lawrence Oliphant, they established a settlement that survived for 32 years, and was described by Schumacher in 1898. He told of the purchase of land by Jews from Safed and about the Baron Rothschild's plan to purchase additional lands. In 1913, things deteriorated in the settlement, which contained only 15 Jewish homes. In 1920, after the events at Tel Hai, two members of the last families left at the site were murdered, and the settlement was abandoned. More extensive Jewish settlement took place in the Hauran, beyond the boundaries of the Golan.
9.11.13 Members of the Bahai sect settled at a-Samra on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the landowner planted deciduous fruit trees and groves.
9.11.14 The rows of pear cactus around the villages were planted only at the beginning of the twentieth century, as they are not mentioned before 1913. That was the time when the first eucalyptus trees were planced. In 1913, Schumacher mentions a large eucalyptus tree at ed-Dura (Qaṣrin Survey, site no.41), and a eucalyptus grove at Ṣemaḥ.
9.11.15 The Turkish government built a new caravansary at the Benot Ya‘akov Bridge. A new, good road was also built, called Darb el-Karrosa, by the administration of Jewish colonies in the Hauran; and another road was built from ‘Almin to Sanaber (Qaṣrin Survey, sites no. 49 and 22). At Quneṭra (Merom Golan Survey) a new bridge was built, as well as a road to Khan Arnabe, today east of the border in Syrian territory, and to Damascus. However, with the construction of the railroad across the Yarmuk River, the importance of Darb el-Hauran – the road through the southern Golan – declined. The cereals of the Hauran were brought to the markets of Acre and Haifa from then on by train and caravans ceased. In contrast, Ṣemaḥ increased in importance because of the railway.
9.11.16 A number of factors working in tandem led to a slowdown in settlement. The year 1913 was a difficult one in the Golan. According to Schumacher's descriptions there was apparently a lack of water, perhaps due to a drought. A plague of voles attacked the harvests, and a lack of food in the desert led to a migration of Bedouin tribes from the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, the first among them the Ruwala, who came with tens of thousands of camels and pitched their tents within the villages. The camels decimated the harvests, damaged the fruit trees and emptied the water reservoirs. The Arab farmers were helpless; however, the Ruwala's attempt to penetrate the grain fields of the Circassians was met with staunch resistance and rifle fore. The Bedouin fled and apparently did not return there again (Schumacher 1917: 144, 146–147).
The early nineteenth century saw similar migration waves; but at the end of the century the government managed to rein in the nomads. It seems, therefore, that harsh conditions of want in the desert were what forced the Bedouin to seek food in fertile regions, and except for the Circassians, no one could withstand their onslaught.
9.12 The French Mandate
9.12.1 Following World War I the League of Nations ratified the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed between Britain and France. The agreement divided up the southern Ottoman Empire between these two countries. Britain received Palestine (on both sides of the Jordan River) and Iraq; France received Syria, which at that time included Lebanon.
The French reached Syria armed with their experience from their rule in Algeria – control typified by suppression by force of the population. Their method was to divide and conquer, strengthening minority groups to weaken the strongest group in Syria, the Sunni Muslims. They did so by dividing Syria into six states, each of which received certain powers, thus weakening the link between all parts of Syria. This move was welcomed by the minorities, whose status improved through their cooperation with the French.
9.12.2 In the first years of their mandate, relations between the French Mandate and the small Druze community were good. The French recognized the supremacy of the el-‘Aṭrash family – the strongest of the Druze families, and appointed Salim el-‘Aṭrash as the governor of Jebel Druze. In 1923, el-‘Aṭrash resigned due to health problems, and when no agreed-on successor could be found, a French governor was appointed who did not respect the community's extreme conservatism. In February 1925, a delegation from the community went to Beirut to meet with the commissioner, but instead of meeting with him, they were jailed. This act pushed Suleiman el-‘Aṭrash, the leader of the anti-French faction of the family, to plan a rebellion, which won widespread support at the time among the Druze.
The revolt began in 1925, led by Suleiman el-‘Aṭrash, and reached its peak when the Druze were successful, toward the end of the year, in driving the French soldiers from their positions on Jebel Druze. The Druze villages on the Golan also took part in the uprising. To suppress it in the Golan, the French sent a military contingent that took up a position in the Nimrod Fortress. To allow vehicles and cannons to enter the fortress, the southwestern courtyard was closed off and a dirt road was built that passed through an opening broken through the fortress wall.
The fortress bears more evidence of the French stay. A firing slit from the Ayyubid period, located in the western wall near the entrance road, was reshaped for the use of guns rather than bows and arrows. In one of the structures in the fortress, a glass bottle was found a few years ago with a letter written by a French soldier with the list of the names of his comrades in the unit.
9.12.3 The location of the Nimrod Fortress did not suit the needs of the French, as it did not afford a view of Majdal Shams. Apparently for this reason, they abandoned the fortress and built a new fortification east of Za‘ura, near ‘Ein el-Mghara. This fortress, Qala‘at Za‘ura or Qala‘at el-Mghara (Dan Survey) was apparently abandoned after the uprising was quelled.
9.12.4 The French left little impact on the Golan. The Bedouin apparently continued their process of permanent settlement there, a process that continued throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1945, 149 villages were counted in the Golan, which had 43,707 residents; 69 ruins were also counted.
9.13 Syrian Rule
9.13.1 Syria received independence in 1946. Two years later, the Golan served as a bridgehead to the Syrian invasion of Israel. After Israel's War of Independence and until the Six-Day War, for almost 20 years, the Golan was a frontier and border zone between Syria and Israel. The Syrians built a series of fortifications along the border, behind which they built army camps. A few roads were also built for the army and villages developed near the camps that supplied their needs. Villages were also built whose residents served in the Syrian positions. However, the impact of this activity on the region was nominal.
9.13.2 In the twenty years of Syrian rule, process of Bedouin settlement, which had begun at the end of the nineteenth century, continued (see map 25). In 1953, there were still Bedouin tribes in the Golan. In the northern Golan the ‘Arab el-Fadil tribe was situated, with its center at Waset. The Bedouin sought to maintain their nomadic traditions, but their territories were limited by the development of farming and construction of army camps, which pushed them spontaneously into permanent settlement, without government intervention.
The Bedouin maintains his herds and his tent but he builds a small hut without windows and with a flat roof, next to which the tent is placed, which is used when the weather is comfortable. In the snow season the building holds the animals and the people together. After he has decided his location in this way, the Bedouin begins to raise vegetables in small plots, which usually do not belong to him, but are an area that belongs to no one. The bond between him and his cultivated plot is not strong, and when the nearby grazing lands are depleted he does not hesitate to abandon the hut and the plot and wander with his flocks to a place rich in greenery. In the harvest season he returns to his plot and then he finds it trampled by animals. If a number of poor agricultural years come, he cuts the link to his land, but if he is blessed with a good harvest, he can find encouragement in this and become sedentary (Bagh 1958: 413).
9.13.3 The process of Bedouin settlement on the Golan Heights at the end of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries consisted of a number of phases. The first was the "winter village" (see above 9.11.8), where they stored their possessions and used as shelter for themselves and their animals during storms. The rest of the time, they lived in their tents. The tent encampments were small and consisted of about ten tents (see Bar-Adon's description, above 9.11.8). The encampments were usually scattered randomly. In the second phase, the Bedouin moved to small villages and began a sedentary life (see above, Bagh's description, 9.13.2). In 1953, farmers constituted 88,5% of the population of the Golan, and a good many of them were Bedouin who had settled permanently (Bagh 1958:413).
9.13.4 On the eve of the Six-Day War there were 273 settlements in the Golan (222 of which were in territory conquered by Israel). These included one city – Quneṭra, which had 25,000 inhabitants and 162 villages. In 29 of these there were more than 1,000 inhabvitants; in 130 of them, more than 300 inhabitants; 60 settlements had less than 100 inhabitants and 19 were seasonal settlements (Kipnis 2005:130).
9.13.5 The distribution of settlements was clearly divided along ethnic lines. The Druze lived at the foot of Mount Hermon and only one settlement of theirs was in the northern Golan. The Alawites lived in two villages southeast of Baniyas (above 9.11.5), and a third village, Ghajar, on the banks of the Hatsbani. The Circassians were distributed along and south of the Quneṭra Valley. The Bedouin of the Talwiyyeh tribe settled in the Beteiḥa Valley; other Bedouin settled down in the northern and central Golan, while farmers continued to live in their village in the southern Golan (Kipnis 2005: 131).
9.13.6 The development of the villages was spontaneous, without government intervention. Families expanded their households to meet the needs of natural growth. Seasonal villages and farms developed and became villages. In most of these villages there were no paved streets. The family units included courtyards surrounded by stone fences within which were dwelling rooms, animal shelters and storerooms. The courtyards featured ovens for cooking and baking and large water storage jars.
Most of the construction was of poor quality. In the Beteiḥa Valley most of the houses were built of mudbrick. In other areas they were built of the stones of ruins or roughly hewn stones. The roofs consisted of wooden beams covered with a thick layer of earth, or of tin or straw. Some houses used concrete as an adherent and some had concrete roofs. The houses had no running water or toilets. The furniture was nominal and poor. The Circassian villages were different. Their houses were better built and some were roofed with tiles.
9.13.7 The limited network of paved roads was intended for the army and only the villages located next to it benefited from it. Dirt roads led to most of the villages; sometimes these were only donkey paths. There were few vehicles and people moved between villages mainly by animal power or on foot.
9.13.8 In the 1960s the government began to invest in improving the situation in the villages. Schools were built – simple structures consisting of a number of rooms and apparently only at the elementary-grade level. Electricity and phone lines were installed in a small number of villages. Generators were installed in others, while yet others were left without power.
The government also established two water systems. The northern one provided water from the springs of Mazra‘at Beit Jinn (at the foot of Mount Hermon in Syrian territory) to Qunteiṭra and its surroundings. The southern system provided water from the Jokhadar Springs to the southern Golan. Water towers were built in the villages and faucets for water distribution were installed, but not all houses had running water. The system supplied water to only about 40% of the villages. The rest continued to bring water from springs and streams and store it in courtyard storage areas.
10. Settlements Names – the Problem of their Preservation
A geographicel-historical analysis is based mainly on historical sources. To draw the most from each source, its historical background must be understood, along with the course of events and their impact, and the identification of settlement sites mentioned in the court. An essential tool in identifying settlements is the preservation of ancient names in contemporary ones. Descriptions of settlements, their location and connection with other settlements serve as additional tools.
Names are very often preserved in the Land of Israel, allowing numerous settlements to be identified from Bible days to the present. However, in the region under discussion, ancient names mainly in the southern Golan, as opposed to the center and the north. Thus, it is difficult to identify sites mentioned in historical sources (see map 26).
10.1 The Territory of Sussita
The Hellenistic city of Susita-Hippos (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 85) was located on a hill on the western slopes of the southern Golan, and the entire southern Golan came under its control. It is indetified with a site called in Arabic Qul‘at el-Ḥuṣn, the fortress of the horse, which preserves the ancient name both in Arabic and in Aramaic. The ancient name is preserved in a large ruin called Susya, located between Susita and Afiq. The ruin was described by Schumacher (1888: 244) and its remains have since disappeared.
In the Tosefta (Shvi‘it 4,11), the Jerusalem Talmud (Demai 2, 22d) and in the Rehov synagogue inscription is a list of "The forbidden towns in the territory of Susita: ‘Aynush, and ‘Ainḥarah, and Dambar, ‘Iyon and Ya‘arut and Kefar Yaḥrib and Nov and Ḥspiyyah and Kefar Ṣemaḥ, and Rabbi permitter Kefar Ṣemaḥ.
‘Aynosh – el-‘Awānīsh (‘Ein Gev Survey site no. 25),
Dambar – el-Mabra (West) (Ma‘aleh Gamla Survey, site no 96);
‘Iyon – Khirbet ‘Ayun (Ḥammat Gader Survey, site no. 60),
Kefar Yaḥrib – Kfar Ḥarb – Kefar Ḥaruv (‘Ein Gev Survey site no 113),
Nov – Nab – Nov (Nov Survey, site no. 23);
Ḥspiyyah – Khisfin (Rujem el-Hiri Survey, site no 147), but the finds were incompatible (see below, 13.3.1).
10.2 The Eastern Coast of the Sea of Galilee
Names of settlements were also preserved on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Kfar ‘Aqabiyah is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Nazir 9, 57d and in the inscription from the Ḥammat Gader Synagogue. The name was preserved at Kafer ‘Aqab (Ma‘aleh Gamla Survey, site no. 74), near the Kinar Recreation Village.
Khirbet Kursi (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 11) near the estuary of Naḥal Samak into the Sea of Galilee, apparently preserves the name Kursai or Kursi (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah 11b; Jerusalem Talmud, Mo‘ed Katan, 3, Halakha 5, 2c). East of the ruin, remains were found of a monastery dedicated to the Miracle of the Swine, which took place at Gergesa (Luke 8:26–39).
10.3 Central Golan Heights
In the center and north of the Golan Heights the picture is different. Almost all the names of settlements known from the historic soulrcs and inscriptions have disappeared and the names have not been preserved to this day. In the following, the settlements known from the sources will be mentioned, along with their proposed current identifications.
10.3.1 Golan – Appears in the Bible as the name of a city of refuge in the Bashan (Deut. 4:43; Joshua 20:8; 21: 27, 1 Chron. 6:56). The city is mentioned as a place near which Alexander Jannaeus was ambushed by the Nabatean King Oboda I (Ant. 13, 375; War 1, 90). The last time it is mentioned as a city it appears as one of the cities conquered by Jannaeus (Ant. 13, 393; War 1, 105). After Jannaeus conquered Golan, it disappears from the sources and the name Gaulanitis (Γαυλανίτιδας) was given to the administrative region of what is today the central Golan Heights. Josephus discinguished between the Upper Golan, the location of Sogane (War 4, 2) and Lower Golan, the location of Julias-Bethsaida (War 2, 186: 4, 2, see also below 11.2.1).
During the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud the settlement Golan was unknown. Its name may have been distorted and mentioned as Goblana (Jerusalem Talmud, Megilla, 3, 5, 73d), Gaulana (Jerusalem Talmud, Avoda Zara 2, 41c) and Gablan (Mishna Sota 9, 15). It seems that the sages no longer knew the location of biblical Golan and proposed identifying it with other places, such as Seleucia, Boṣra and Dabura.
The distortion of the name Golan in Jewish sources is surprising but because of the continuity of Jewish settlement in the Golan and because in the fourth century Eusebius still notes, “…it is a very large village called Gaulan in Bashan. And the district is called by the name of the village” (Eusebius, Onomastikon 64.1.6). That is, a settlement exists in the heart of the district that is named after the district. During the Arab period, the name was given to the entire Golan and to quite a large area east of it, preserved in Arabic as Jaulan. But the name of the city of Golan has disappeared and its location is unknown.
10.3.2 Flavius Josephus recorded a number of names of settlements in the central Golan. In Jannaeus’ campaign in Transjordan in 80–83 BCE, Golan was conquered, along with Seleucia, the Ravine of Antiochus and Gamla (Ant. 13, 394; War 1, 105).
Seleucia is mentioned again, at the beginning of the Great Revolt, as a naturally well-fortified village near the Hula Lake (War 4, 2; Life 187). The accepted identification is with Selukyye-Qaṣabiyye el-Jadideh (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 58), but that locale is distant from the Hula Lake and archaeological findings there do not confirm the identification. It is more likely that it is Dardara or Khirbet el-Jalabineh (Ashmora Survey, site nos. 20 and 37). Both of these sites are protected and overlook the Hula Lake.
Ravine of Antiochus is described as a settlement near a narrow streambed, apparently the mountainous Jordan. At both ends of the streambed are sites that could be the Ravine of Antiochus: Meṣad ‘Ateret (Rosh Pina Survey, site no. 143) in the north and Bethsaida (Capernaum Survey) in the south. Both revealed evidence of a settlement from the Ptolemaic period.
Gamla is described as a city in the Lower Golan (War 4, 2). The city was conquered by Jannaeus (Ant. 13, 394; War 1, 105) and became the capital of the Golan. The city was destroyed during the Great Revolt (War 4, 1–70), and was never again resettled and its name was forgotten.
When settlement was renewed on the ridge above ancient Gamla a few centuries later, during the Byzantine period, the name Gamla was not preserved. Nor was the name of the Byzantine settlement; the site is known today as Deir Qeruḥ. Gamla is a good example of the difficulty in using preservation of names to identify ancient settlements. A village called Jamla, located east of the Ruqqad, ostensibly preserved the ancient name of Gamla and led for many years to a mistaken identification of the site of Gamla. The city was identified, based on its description and its location (War 4, 2, 4–8) on the a-Salem spur (Gamla Survey, site no. 43), where the ancient name was not preserved. Extensive excavations have proven this identification with certainty.
10.3.3 In his description of the Great Revolt in the Golan, Josephus mentions the following settlements:
Sogane – A village in the Upper Golan, fortified at the beginning of the revolt (War 4, 2; Life 187). Many scholars have proposed identifying this site with Yahûdiyye (Qaṣrin Survey, site no. 116). This identification is based on the name of the place, which attests to a Jewish settlement and on the remains of a wall described by Schumacher. However, it lacks sufficient support. The name of the village does show a local tradition that this was a Jewish site. However, Yahûdiyye is one of dozens of Jewish sites in the central Golan, and the wall Schumacher described is no more than a stone fence. Ma‘oz proposed identifying Sogane at Khushniyye (Qeshet Survey, site no. 37), but findings there are not suitable and it is located in the territory of Paneas and not what was then considered the Golan (see below, Chapter 11). Z. Ilan proposed Sogane’s location at Sir Sujan (Dan Survey) in the northern Golan, based on the preservation of the name. However, findings at that site are meager and do not predate the Late Roman period; moreover, the ruin is also located in the territory of Paneas rather than the Golan.
Shalem – Mentioned as the farthest extent of the spread of the revolt in the Golan (Life 187). Its location is unknown.
10.3.4 Bethsaida – The fishing village of Bethsaida was located near the Sea of Galilee (Ant. 18, 28; Life 406; Pliny Historia Naturalis V, 71), not far from where the Jordan River enters the Sea of Galilee (War 3, 515; Life 399). The settlement was granted the status of polis by Philip and its name was changed to Julias (War 2, 168; Ant. 18, 28). A battle was fought nearby between Josephus and the army of Agrippa II (Life 398–404).
Bethsaida is mentioned frequently in the New Testament (see above, 9.4.4) as the location of a number of Jesus’ miracles and the hometown of some of his disciples and apostles (John 1: 42; Luke 9:10; Matt. 11:21; Mark 8:22, inter alia). The accepted identification of the site is at et-Tell – the large archaeological mound in the northern Beteiḥa Valley. Other proposals include el-Mas‘udiyye and Beit HaBek on the Sea of Galilee shore (Capernaum Survey). Et-Tell has been excavated in recent years under Rami Arav, revealing remains from the late Second Temple period that support this identification. However, the character of the settlement uncovered does not conforim to the description of the site as densely populated and in this case as well, the name was not preserved.
10.3.5 Synagogues – Remains of synagogues were found at many sites in the central Golan, attesting to a region densely populated with Jewish settlements in the period of the Talmud and the Mishnah. The names of the sites are mostly Arabic: Umm el-Qanaṭir, Aḥmadiyye, ‘Asaliyye, el-Aḥsaniyye, Qaṣabiyye, Jarabâ, Dabiyyeh, eṭ-Ṭaybe, eṣ-Ṣalabeh, er-Rafid, ed-Dikka, Zomemira, Waḥshara, Zeita, Ḥokha (Ḥorvat Ḥoḥ), el-Khasha, Yahûdiyye. Two of the sites bear the prefix Deir (monastery): Deir ‘Aziz and Deir er-Rahib – according to Schumacher, this was apparently the name of the site now known as ‘Ein Nashôt. Two more synagogues were found at sites without names, and are now called Khirbet Zawitan and Khirbet Batra.
Only three of the 25 sites bear names that are not classically Arab: Qaṣrin, Dabura and Kanaf. Thus most of the names of places where synagogues are located in the central Golan did not preserve their original names; rather, they have the Arabic names given them in the subsequent centuries. The only synagogue in the southern Golan was in the town of Afeka, whose name is preserved at Fiq (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 95).
10.4 The Northern Golan
The northern Golan was part of the Iturean kingdom, which Josephus called the territory of Zenodorus. The only settlement mentioned there is the city of Paneas. The site was first mentioned as Paneon, nearby which a decisive battle was fought between the Seleucids and the Ptolomies in 200 BCE (Polybius, Historiae XVI 18–19). In the year 1/2 BCE, Philip, son of Herod the Great, built a new city called Caesarea (Ant. 18, 28) and to differentiate between it and the coastal Caesarea, it was called Caesarea Philippi, or in Jewish sources Qisarion. The name Paneas was distorted by the Arabs and is preserved today in the name Baniyas. This is one of the few places in the northern Golan with continuity of settlement, according to both literary sources and archaeological findings.
Another name in the northern Golan, which is known from Josephus’ writings is Phiale, a lake east of Paneas, considered at the time to be the source of the Jordan (War 3, 509–510).The early name was not preserved and the lake is known today as Birket Ram. Near Paneas was the site known as Tarnegola [which is above] Caesarion, mentioned as the boundary point of the territory possessed by the returnees from Babylon (Rehov Inscription, lines 18–22; Jerusalem Talmud Demai 2, 1, 22d). The location of Tarnegola is unknown as is whether it was a suburb of Paneas or a cultic site.
10.5 Boundary Stones
Boundary stones are an important source of place names from the Roman period in the Golan. During the time of Diocletian (end of the third century) the lands in the region were re-divided. Boundary stones were placed at the edges of village lands with inscriptions stating “This stone separates the villages of X and Y” (see above 9.5.3). The boundary stones are very important for our subject because they document the names of villages in the Roman and Byzantine periods. Indeed, almost none of the place names inscribed on boundary stones in the northern and central Golan survived to the present day.
The names that appear on the boundary stones from the northern Hula Valley and the Golan, appear in the list below. The list contains only boundary stones on which names of villages survived. In every inscription the name of the place where it was found and the name of the names of the villages.
1. Baniyas – Panion and the city
2. Jisr el-Ghajar – Chrisimianos estate
3. Ma‘ayan Barukh – Mamcia and Beth Aḥun
4. Tel Tanim – Beit a[ḥun] ?
5. Shamir – Galania and Rama
6. Shamir – Migrame and Galania
7. Shamir – Galania and Migrame
8. Shamir – Galania and [O]se[a] (?)
9. Shamir – Betoco[…] and Belo[…
10. Lahavot Habashan – Dera and Migrame (?)
11. Lahavot Habashan – Dera and Osea
12. Lahavot Habashan – Osea and Perise
13. Lahavot Habashan – Osea and Perise
14. Quneṭra – Sarisa and Berenike
15. Quneṭra – Achane and Sarisa
16. Quneṭra – Sarisa and Achane
17. El-Aḥmadiyye – Arimos and Eusom
18. ‘Ashshe – Agrippina and the fields of Rhadanos
19. Between Afiq and Kefar Ḥaruv – Kafar Harib
Cross-referencing the names on the boundary stones from known locations makes it possible to reconstruct the names of villages in the region from the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century CE.
A good example of this are three boundary stones from the Quneṭra area (14–16). South of Quneṭra a boundary stone was found that had been placed between Berenike and Sarisa (no. 14). In the Quneṭra Valley, north of the city, a boundary stone was found that had been placed between Achane and Sarisa (no. 15). A third boundary stone was found in Quneṭra which also bore the names of Sarisa and Achane (no. 14). Because these three stones, on both sides of Quneṭra, all bear the name Sarisa, there is no doubt that this was the ancient name of Quneṭra (Merom Golan Survey). Berenike was apparently the ancient name of Ṣureman (Har Shifon Survey) and Achane was apparently the ancient name of Khirbet el-Makhphy or Bab el-Hawa (Merom Golan Survey). As noted above, none of the names survived in the area.
A similar picture could emerge from the Hula Valley if reliable information can be had about the find-spots of boundary stones. In inscriptions 3 and 4, the name of the village Beit Aḥun appears, whose location was probably at Tel el-Betikha -Tel Beit Ahu (Metula Survey). In the area of Shamir-Lahavot Habashan, the names of villages appear, north to south (inscriptions 7–13):
Galania – Khirbet Sumin – Giv‘at Sefer,
Migrame – Sheikh Muḥamad – Giv‘at Yardenon,
Dera – el-Hamra,
Osea – Ḥiam el-Walid,
Perise – Lahavot Habashan.
The boundary stone found at el-Aḥmadiyye (no. 17) is incised with the names of the villages of Arimos and Eusom. One of these is certainly the former name of el-Aḥmadiyye and the other might be Qaṣrin (Qaṣrin Survey, site nos. 30 and 44).
At ‘Ashshe (Har Peres Survey, site no. 8) a boundary stone (no. 16) was found that mentions Agrippina, perhaps Grofina, a site on the list of places where torches were lit to announce the New Moon (Mishna, Rosh Hashana 2, 4; Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 22b) or a settlement named after King Agrippa in the area. Here too, the ancient name was not preserved.
Except Panion (no. 1), none of the names of the settlements incised on boundary stones of the northern Hula Valley and the northern and central Golan were preserved. In contrast, on the only boundary stone in the southern Golan on which the name of a settlement was preserve, which was found between Afiq and Kfar Ḥaruv (no. 17) the name Kefar Ḥarib appears – Kfar Ḥaruv (‘Ein Gev Survey, site no. 113). This inscription proves that ancient names were preserved in the southern Golan.
10.6 The Letter of the Archimandrites
A letter written in 570 CE mentions dozens of places where Monophysite priests lived (see below, 13.4.4) in Syria, apparently reflecting the areas of settlement of the Ghassanids in the sixth century CE. Most of the places are identified around Damascus and in a radius of about 20 km from Jasm in Bashan. However, it has been proposed that some of these places are in the northern Golan.
Surmnin – This site has been identified with Ṣurman (Har Shifon Survey), which was indeed settled in the Byzantine period and contains clear evidence of Chrisitan settlement. However, according to the boundary stone found between it and Quneṭra, it seems that at this time is was called Berenike (see above)
Kfr Za‘ura is identified with Za‘ura (Dan Survey) was settled in the Early Roman and the Late Roman periods and revealed little from the early Byzantine period. The findings from the site are therefore not compatible with the date of the letter, unless the remains of the Byznatine settlement are covered by the ruins of the present-day village.