Tel Bet Yerah (Khirbet el-Kerak)

Southern Levant
Geographical Area: 
Jordan Valley
-200.00 m

Low hill between Lake Kinneret and the Jordan River

Numerous excavations between 1933 and 1995 (esp. by B. Mazar, M. Stekelis, P. Bar-Adon, P. Delougaz, and N. Getzov).
Renewed excavations by R. Greenberg, from 2003.

Tel Bet Yerah is located at the northwest corner of the Kinrot valley, on a low hill that originally rose about 12 m. above the ancient sea level. Currently trapezoidal, about 1100 m long and 150-400 m wide with a total area of approximately 25 hectares, it is clear that the mound was originally larger, and that a portion of it has eroded into Lake Kinneret. The geologic substructure of the site consists of Lisan marl belonging to the Kinneret Fm, capped by rendzina soil (Hazan et al. 2005). This lacustrine formation is composed of marl laminae overlying coarse clastic deposits and cross-deposited layers coarse sand and shells.

Ten periods of occupation spanning four millennia have been uncovered in more than twenty different excavations at the site. The main sequence of settlement spans the Early Bronze Age (3600-2400/2300 cal BC). Following a long period of expanding village settlement (Periods A, B), a planned fortified town was built at the site (Period C; c. 3050 – 2850/2800 cal BC). Following a crisis of uncertain cause and extent, the town was rebuilt (Period D; c. 2800 – 2400 cal BC), with new fortifications and some changes in the town plan. At this time, a new ceramic tradition was introduced to the site, accompanied by new patterns of spatial organization. The pottery has come to be known as Khirbet Kerak Ware (KKW), and its affinities with the Kura-Araxes traditions has been long established.

In contrast to other sites, the KKW is well-established at the site, yet coexists with a viable indigenous tradition over several stratigraphic phases. There are indications that the manufacturers and consumers of this ceramic tradition were, however, gradually absorbed into the local population, and KKW appears to decline well before the abandonment of settlement in Period E.

The KKW repertoire includes bowls, cups/goblets, kraters, lids, and stands, as well as some hybrid forms, highly burnished in red-only or red-black hues. Decorations include both prefired and lime-filled incisions as well as bossed patterns. Andirons are common, either large and unburnished with occasional anthropomorphic decoration or small and burnished. No KKW cooking wares have been identified.

47 KKW vessels and sherds were sampled at Tel Bet Yerah, alongside a very large sample of the local-tradition Early Southern Levant (ESL) pottery.

Noteworthy Non-pottery Finds: 
Fortifications, paved streets, Circles Building, domestic units; refuse areas with traces of wattle and daub and burnished clay installations.
Storage Location: 
Israel Antiquities Authority
Hebrew University Study Collection
Israel Museum
Tel Aviv University

Esse 1991.

Greenberg et al. 2006.

Getzov 2006.

S. Paz. 2009.

Iserlis 2009.

Iserlis et al. 2010.

Regional Map: