The Roman Period. The excavation clarified that the gate was constructed on a stone base, at the top of a deep channel’s bank (Fig. 2). The southern wall of the base was built to a great height (in excess of 2.8 m), owing to the depth of the channel. This wall consisted of six courses of roughly hewn stones bonded with gray mortar, which were set on a two-level stepped foundation. The eastern wall of the base was built in a similar manner; however, it was not as high toward the north, in accordance with the depth of the channel. The western wall of the base curved in keeping with the wall of the western tower. Only a small portion of the western wall was exposed because of later construction above it.
A probe trench (Fig. 3) was excavated east of the base, near the Byzantine-period wall. Alternating layers of dark soil and sterile sand were exposed in the trench. Remains of a plaster coated terracotta pipe were discovered beneath the foundation of the city wall. The pottery recovered from the trench dated to the Early Roman period.
A vault spanning the wadi channel was built 0.65–1.50 m south of the base of the gate. Layers of fill consisting of soil and stones were discovered in the probe trench, excavated between the base of the gate and the vault. A few potsherds from the Roman period were revealed in clay soil at the bottom of the trench; no potsherds were discovered in the upper part of the trench. The vault (length 16 m, width c. 5 m) was built of ashlars in the Roman period and nine of its courses were exposed (Figs. 4, 19). The vault’s foundation was set inside a foundation trench, dug into dark clay soil. The northeastern side of the vault leaned against a large basalt boulder, which increased the structure’s ability to withstand floodwaters. The northern wall of the vault was entirely exposed and only the center of the southern wall was exposed. It seems that the original height of the vault reached the level of the gate and it was undoubtedly used as a bridge in the entrance to the city. Beyond the gate, the vault is three times as long as the gate passage width and an entrance plaza had possibly existed on both sides of the gate. The western side of the vault is obscured today by a thick wall from the Fatimid period; a bridge was built on its middle part in the Abbasid period and a wall of arches from the Abbasid period was built on its eastern part (below).
The Byzantine Period. The area south of the gate also laid outside the city precincts in this period. The gate continued to be used with minor changes and it seems that the vault to its south was used as well. The most important change in this period was the construction of the city wall, in which the gate was incorporated. The section of the city wall exposed in the excavation was part of a long wall that began at the shore of the Kinneret in the northeast, continued beneath the Jordan River Hotel toward the ridge west of Tiberias, encircled Mount Berenice, descended to the region of the gate and returned to the Kinneret. It appears that this city wall was founded during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the sixth century CE (Procopius, On Buildings V, 9, 21). The wall encompassed an extensive area in the Byzantine period; however, it is known from excavations conducted in different parts of Tiberias that many sections of this area were uninhabited and the city itself was significantly smaller than the walled-in area.
The wall in the excavation area (exposed length 60 m, width c. 1.5 m) was revealed along the northern bank of the wadi channel, west and east of the gate. The inside of the wall, built of partly worked stones and bonded with hard mortar, was exposed in the segment west of the gate. The outer surface of the wall was built of basalt ashlars (Figs. 5, 6). Some or all of the stones used in the wall’s construction were in secondary use. The foundations of the city wall were built on a base of large fieldstones and hard gray mortar. During the Abbasid period, a structure was built in the wadi channel adjacent to the wall in the western part. The wall section east of the gate was built of two bottom courses of ashlars and courses of roughly hewn stones above them (see Fig. 3).
Further east, the wall was built on a slope. The outer surface consisted entirely of ashlars (Fig. 7). Incorporated in the second course from the top were two tombstones with Latin inscriptions (Fig. 8), which were removed in 1941 and show that this wall segment was probably built after the second century CE. Remains of white plaster were preserved on some of the wall’s stones, indicating that bright white plaster had been applied to the wall.
A square tower (5×5 m; Fig. 9) was revealed at the eastern end of the excavation. Its exterior side was built of ashlars and the interior consisted of a core of roughly hewn stones and fieldstones bonded with hard mortar. Remains of white plaster were also preserved on the tower’s stones and numerous plaster fragments were discovered at the foot of the tower.
The city wall west of the tower was breached and almost entirely destroyed to its foundations. It is unclear when this occurred, although the breach existed when the wall was uncovered in 1941. The core of the wall in the breach was built of large fieldstones bonded with hard mortar, which contained small light brown potsherds that are mostly unidentifiable, but their fabric resembled that of the potsherds from the Byzantine period and seems to corroborate the dating of the wall to this period.
The Umayyad Period. Construction outside the gate had begun in this period. West of the gate and c. 1.9 m south of the city wall, three columns were discovered, 2.7 m apart (see Fig. 5). They were preserved one–two column drums high and were set on plain bases. A layer of soil, which contained a large amount of ash and potsherds from the Umayyad period, abutted the columns. A wall built next to the columns in the Abbasid period disturbed the remains dating to the Umayyad period. Nevertheless, it seems that the columns were not part of a building; rather they were placed parallel to the city wall, as part of a promenade that ran along the wadi channel.
Sediment began to build up on the bottom of the channel in this period. The reason behind it seems to be an accumulation of boulders next to the southern wall of the vault, at the time when the vault from the Roman period was still in use. The vault was destroyed at the end of the period, in the earthquake of 749 CE.
The Abbasid Period. The city of Tiberias expanded greatly during this period and the gate no longer served its original function, although the structure continued to be used. Buildings whose walls were founded on vaults and retaining walls were constructed on either side of the wadi channel. A new vault, used as a bridge, was built on the middle part of the vault remains from the Roman period, which had been destroyed in the earthquake (Figs. 4, 10). The vault was apparently built of the rubble taken from the ruinous vault of the Roman period, but the quality of its construction was poor. The sides of the vault from the Abbasid period sloped more steeply than those of the vault from the Roman period because a thick layer of sediment had accumulated in the wadi channel and it was therefore necessary to raise the vault, which caused the bridge to be c. 1 m higher than the gate. The bridge was paved with basalt flagstones (Fig. 11). The road on either side of the bridge was unpaved. East of the bridge, in the area where the Roman-period vault had stood, three arches of ashlars were built (Fig. 12). One of the arches was built on a pillar consisting of a column drum topped with an inverted base of a column. The columns probably supported a floor that was laid on wooden beams and was used as a plaza east of the bridge. A vault (length 12 m; Fig. 13), built of ashlars and roughly hewn fieldstones, was just to the west of the bridge. The walls discovered north of the wadi channel indicate that a building was probably constructed above the vault, which facilitated the flow of water in the channel. Alluvium that contained potsherds from the Abbasid period had built up inside the vault. West of the vault and on the northern bank of the channel, a structure that was supported on the city wall and its southern wall extended down, as far as the bottom of the channel (Fig. 6), was built. Remains of other buildings were discovered on the southern bank of the channel.
At the foot of a waterfall in the western part of the channel, ashlar-built pillars that were part of a bridge from the Abbasid period (Fig. 14), atop which one of the city’s streets had passed, were exposed. The springing of the vault is visible at the top of the northern pillar. The southern pillar was preserved ten courses high.
No building remains were discovered in the wadi channel east of the bridge and the vault. The channel in this area was lined on both sides with massive retaining walls that were built of fieldstones and bonded with hard mortar (Fig. 15). Protruding stones were incorporated equidistant in the walls; they were usually integrated in pairs, one above the other (Fig. 16). In the eastern part of the channel ashlar-built arch pillars, constructed at set intervals (Fig. 17), were discovered. It seems that the retaining walls were built to prevent the ground from sliding into the wadi channel and blocking it. The channel continued to the east, as far as the Kinneret and today, it is completely blocked with alluvium.
The Fatimid Period. The complex from the Fatimid period was a direct continuation of the Abbasid-period construction. Tiberias continued to prosper and remains from this period were discovered almost everywhere in the city. The principal change in the excavation area was the destruction of the vault from the Abbasid period.
A high fieldstone-built retaining wall (Fig. 18), whose construction used a similar method as that of the retaining walls of the channel, was built on top of alluvium that had accumulated in the vault. The wall obscured parts of the southern wall of the vault from the Roman and Abbasid periods.
Only small sections of buildings, constructed south of the channel, were excavated. These buildings were most likely built in the Abbasid period, but they continued to be used in the Fatimid period. A small drainage conduit was discovered in the northern wall of one of the buildings; it was probably meant to convey the rainwater from the courtyard into the adjacent wadi channel. Next to the wall, a trail of refuse that had been discarded from the building into the channel was discovered. The buildings near the channel were damaged occasionally as a result of the floodwaters. Support walls were constructed adjacent to the damaged walls for reinforcement.
The area of the city was reduced significantly in the second half of the eleventh century CE. The population remaining in Tiberias was concentrated within the Old City of today, which was surrounded by a wall with a moat in front of it. The cause for the reduction in the size of the city is unclear. This was probably a combination of security and economic factors that brought about a gradual decline of the city until most of its area was abandoned.
The buildup of alluvium in the wadi channel was examined in two probe trenches in the excavation, one in the western part of the channel and the other east of the bridge. It was discerned in the trench east of the bridge (Fig. 19) that during the Roman and Byzantine periods practically no sediment had accumulated at the bottom of the channel. During these periods when the channel was outside the city limits, it had apparently a regular flow of flood water. The buildup of alluvium began in the Umayyad period, prior to the destruction of the vault. Settlement in the area outside the city wall also began in this period. It seems that the alluvium accumulation was caused by the narrowing of the channel, which resulted from the construction that occurred in the eastern part of the city. The buildup of alluvium continued in the Abbasid period when construction outside the city wall was expanded. Buildings that were founded on the bank of the wadi channel narrowed the flow of the channel even more. The accumulation of alluvium intensified in the Fatimid period and reached its peak with the abandonment of this part of the city. Bronze bowls, which had been swept by the floodwaters but did not pass beneath the bridge because it was completely blocked (Fig. 20), were discovered west of the bridge. When the wadi channel became blocked, the floodwaters sought new outlets. It seems that at some point the water flowed in the area between the city wall and the blocked wadi channel. The blockage caused the alluvium, brought by the floodwaters, to spread out and cover the remains of the gate and the nearby structures.
The excavations conducted in the area south of the gate from the Roman period revealed a drainage system that was meant to protect the gate and the surrounding buildings. The heart of the system was a wadi channel that descended from the ridge in the west and continued to the Kinneret. It seems that the gate was built next to the channel for the purpose of integrating it in the fortification system. South of the gate, a long vault over the channel was constructed, on which the road from Hammat Tiberias ran, and a gate plaza was probably built. The historical sources indicate that a city wall in the south of Tiberias had already existed in the first century CE; however, the remains of the wall that had been exposed until now are dated to the Byzantine period. This city wall was erected along the northern bank of the wadi channel and incorporated within it the gate from the Roman period. The gate and the city wall served as the southern boundary of Tiberias until the end of the Byzantine period. The area between the city and Hammat Tiberias was uninhabited. The wadi continued to flow in this period and except for the vault, no construction work was done outside the city wall. During the Umayyad period, the city expanded and sediment began to accumulate in the channel and at the end of the period, the vault from the Roman period was destroyed in the earthquake of 749 CE. Tiberias reached its zenith in the Abbasid and Fatimid periods. The deposition of alluvium intensified and the level of the streambed increased steadily. The floodwaters in the channel caused damage to the walls of the buildings next to it. Most of Tiberias, including the region of the gate, was abandoned in the second half of the eleventh century CE. The drainage system was no longer maintained and it was blocked entirely with alluvium. Later floodwaters brought large amounts of sediment that spread throughout the area and covered the gate, the city wall and the nearby structures. This phenomenon continued until the present, when the flooding occasionally created new channels for the water to flow through and revealed sections of the ancient remains and later covered them over again with sediment. The cleaning of the ancient drainage system allowed the floodwaters to flow freely and thus the uncovered antiquities are now protected.