About eighty pit, cist and gabled graves were exposed, and 92 deceased were counted, most of whom were buried at a depth of 0.6–1.6 m below the gravestones (Fig. 2). All the graves were oriented in a general east–west direction, whereby the faces or bodies were turned to the south, which is in accordance with the Muslim burial tradition in Israel (Canaan 1927
:25; Halevy 2007
:188–189). The burials were crammed together, as at the sites on Yonatan Rat
osh Street and the Qishle. Some of the earlier graves were disturbed by the later ones; these were used a second time, whereby the original bones were pushed to the sides of the pit. Later construction and paving destroyed most of the gravestones and tombs, but barely damaged the main burial layer.
. The bases of some thirty gravestones were exposed near the surface. These include the bottom frames of rectangular or stepped structures, which were very common in Muslim burials (Fig. 3). The frames were built of dressed stones, reinforced with plaster and packed with soil layers and stones in the middle. A single epitaph, dating from 1827 CE, was found on a stone integrated in secondary use as part of the inner wall of a cist tomb (L149). Another Muslim gravestone, probably from this cemetery, was found in the area where the Manshiya neighborhood once stood (Buchennino 2011
). Seven other gravestones from the late Ottoman period, of unknown origin and which may have belonged to this cemetery, are kept in the storerooms of the former Yafo Museum of Antiquities (Sharon 2017
Gabled Graves. Fourteen cist graves covered with gabled roofs were exposed. The roofs were built of two rows of dressed stone slabs set at a 45° angle and reinforced with plaster (Fig. 4). The deceased were placed in rectangular burial pits lined with stones bonded with plaster. The earthen floors of the pits were level. Fragments of wooden coffins were discovered in ten of the gabled graves (L129, L145, L153, L156, L158, L209–L211, L424, L443; Fig. 5), and remains of decorated fabrics interwoven with copper threads were found in four of them (L129, L158, L209, L210). Based on the carpentry technique of these fabrics and the metal nails found in these graves, the coffins can be dated to the end of the nineteenth or the beginning of the twentieth century CE. Strips of fabric forming a hexagram resembling the Star of David were incorporated in two of the coffins (L129, L158). However, the possibility that Jews would be buried in a Muslim cemetery during a period when a municipal Jewish cemetery was operating in Yafo (in the southern part of the city, on what is today Rabbi Yehuda Me-Raguza Street) is extremely unlikely.
Cist Graves. Approximately fifty cist graves were found (Fig. 6). Their construction technique is identical to that of the gabled graves, but they are not all well-built. There is also a marked diversity in the covering stones: most of the graves were covered with thin kurkar slabs and coarse-faced beachrock, but a few were sealed with slightly thicker slabs of similar sizes, with their sides dressed at right angles.
Pit Graves. Fourteen pit graves dug between the cist graves or near the surface were exposed. Some of these graves were covered with coarse slabs of beachrock. Others did not have covering slabs; these slabs were either not preserved or were never used, in which case the deceased were covered only with soil. There was an apparent preference for interring infants and young children in pit graves (Fig. 7), although adults were also found in them. Presumably, many of the human bones found with no proper burial context had originated from pit graves destroyed during the later construction at the site.
The Deceased. In many tombs, skeletons survived in full or partial articulation (Fig. 8), or bones from an original burial were moved to one of the corners of the pit. Based on these bones, it was possible to formulate a demographic analysis of the deceased and identify burial customs. Conversely, in the other tombs, including the completely preserved gabled tombs, only small disintegrated fragments of bones were found. No significant signs of trauma were detected, but due to the constraints of the excavation, it was only possible to conduct an anthropological examination in the field, without a thorough review of the finds under laboratory conditions. Fifteen adult males, eight adult females and twenty-five children or infants were identified, which is a typical age and sex distribution of a civilian population. Twenty-seven individuals died during the second decade of their lives, eighteen between the ages of 20 and 40, six between the ages of 40 and 50, and only two lived beyond that. The low life expectancy and the high percentages of child and infant mortality are reminiscent of assemblages from ancient periods, and probably reflect the poor sanitary situation in Yafo, as evidenced by the testimonies of foreign visitors throughout the nineteenth century and the frequent epidemics that struck the city.
Jewelry. In many of the tombs only bones were found, although the bodies had likely been wrapped in shrouds in accordance with Muslim tradition. Some of the tombs contained simple jewelry, particularly glass and copper bracelets (Fig. 9), some of which were found on the arms. Beads, earrings, fragments of bracelets, pendants and rings, including seal rings, were found near the surface or above the burial layers. It is reasonable to assume that some of these originated from tombs that were not preserved.
Ceramics. A small quantity of sherds belonging to ceramic jars, jugs and bowls and pseudo-porcelain bowls that are characteristic of the late Ottoman period was found. Most of the pottery sherds recovered from the site were storage vessels from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, as well as fragments of imported Crusader-period bowls. These assemblages have no connection to the burial layer. Similar assemblages, usually lacking any architectural context, characterize many sites along the periphery of Tel Yafo and the lower city.
. Approximately ninety coins were found. A field examination dates most of them to the late Ottoman period. Several are from the Crusader period or earlier. Testimony of Muslims living in the Ottoman period reveal that it was customary to leave coins on graves as charity (Granqvist 1965
:72–73), and it is known that they were also used as jewelry. There is no other evidence in the area that links the coins to the graves.
Military Items. Dozens of lead musket balls, two fragments of cannonballs, an Ottoman uniform button and a French uniform button from the end of the eighteenth century CE were found. The last item, as well as some of the armament items, may be attributed to the siege of Napoleon, at which time a secondary French force attacked from this side of the city.
The excavation provides important knowledge about Muslim burials in Yafo during the late Ottoman period, and indirect information about the Muslim population of the city, its prevalent religious traditions, and the sanitary conditions in the city. The information corroborates other data known from written and illustrated sources and from archaeological finds from nearby sites, which relate to this cemetery. An analysis of the military artifacts may supplement our knowledge regarding the role of the site during the Napoleonic siege of Yafo in March 1799 and subsequent conflicts between Ottoman officials. The earlier finds augment our understanding of the activities near the built-up area of the city and its changing boundaries over time.