Tel Bareket, located at the northwestern end of the Judean Shephelah, near the eastern edge of the Ayalon River basin, is one of the important sites that were excavated in the center of the country in recent years. A fortified urban settlement existed at the site throughout the Early Bronze Age 2, at the end of which it was abandoned. The site consists of an upper tell in the west and a lower terrace to the east of it. In salvage excavations that were conducted on the bottom eastern terrace of the tell, c. 6 dunams (out of a total of 30 dunams) of a well-planned settlement were exposed.
An analysis of the buildings and the finds at the site already make it possible, at this intermediate phase of processing the material, to evaluate the planning of the site and several aspects stemming from it being a planned urban settlement. Because no excavations have been conducted yet on the upper part of the tell, the data presented below relates only to the lower city on Tel Bareket.
The beginnings of the settlement on the lower eastern terrace of Tel Bareket were in a small, open settlement that was founded at the start of the Early Bronze Age 2. The settlement established itself along the highest topographic points, in the southern and central parts of the terrace. No remains from this settlement phase were found in the other areas that were excavated.
In the next phase of the habitation at the site the urban settlement was established. In its strong systemof fortifications one can discern a number of important components beyond the practical aspects of defending the settlement: first, the city wall is extremely wide and sturdy (up to 3.5 m in width) and the massive towers to protect the gateway passage are located at the most elevated and protected point topographically, above the precipitous slope on the southern side. In contrast, the wall in the northern part of the city, which continues along a relatively moderate slope and is more accessible, is not as impressive and in places reaches a maximum width of only 2.5 m. The gateway passage in this region is simple and no towers or defensive measures were discovered in the wall. Is this an ideological matter which is aimed at an outward demonstration of power, maybe toward a competing city (the contemporary fortified settlement at Tel Dalit to the south?).
The building complexes within the settlement: building complexes were excavated in four different areas. It was ascertained from these areas that clear differences exist between the various parts of the settlement, from a standpoint of planning, quality of construction and the nature of the finds. These distinctions are likely indicators of socio-economic differences between the residents of the various quarters. Such diversity attests to the social complexity in keeping with the character of urban settlements, contrary to the opinions of various scholars who believe urban settlements did not exist in the Land of Israel at this time.
The southeastern quarter (Area I) includes typical broad houses of the period, with alleys between them, and relatively modest finds. It seems that there were one or two building phases here.
The northwestern quarter, next to the city wall (Area MLV), is built in a somewhat less ridged manner, and the buildings follow the line of the city wall and the winding street that connects the different parts of the quarter. Thus the shape of the built units is not uniform. There exist several construction phases in this region, indicating that it was used for a prolonged period of time, with modifications that were made and additions were built over the course of time. The finds that were discovered in the buildings in this area bear witness to the residents’ high socio-economic status.
The upper terrace of the northwestern quarter (Area ML1) is different than the lower one. This quarter is characterized by rectangular dwellings that have a uniform plan consisting of a large room adjacent to a small room. The regularity of the construction in this area is manifested in Building 399. Only in this building and next to it were signs of activity from the Early Bronze Age 3 discovered. In contrast to the winding street in the northern quarter, here the area was bisected by a straight road oriented in an east west direction.
The town planning in the fortified settlement at Tel Bareket apparently reflects functional aspects that take into account the topographic conditions and defense requirements, along with socio-economic aspects (expressed by differences inside the site in the construction methods and finds) and ideological aspects (expressed in the construction of the fortification as an blatant demonstration of power and by the nature of the architecture in different parts of the site).