Scanty remains from this period, which could not be integrated into a coherent plan, were unearthed throughout the excavation. The fragmentary preservation of the Hellenistic remains could be explained by secondary use of Hellenistic masonry for medieval construction, namely a Crusader-period basement (thirteenth century CE) that was built into the earlier strata and Ottoman-period digging activities. The remains, found in some trenches throughout the excavation, comprised mainly dark brown accumulated soil mixed with numerous potsherds from the Hellenistic period. Two coins dating to the second century BCE were found in these trenches.
Crusader period (mid twelfth–early thirteenth centuries CE)
The twelfth century CE remains were also quite scanty, although they included, in addition to earth fills that contained potsherds, several segments of walls, floors and a water channel. However, no cohesive plan of the surviving architecture could be formed, mainly because of late Crusader (thirteenth century CE) construction and Ottoman-period activities at the site. The fragmentary remains do seem to correspond to the general outline of domestic Crusader houses in medieval occupation layers elsewhere in ‘Akko (ESI 20:11*–16*). The remains included a thick floor, composed of beaten earth and plaster, to the east of W207. This floor apparently belonged to a twelfth-century CE building that was destroyed by later construction. Two other floor segments of a similar nature were found to the west and south. Although these were c. 1 m lower, they seem to date also to the twelfth century CE. The difference in height can be explained by the slope toward the sea, resulting in terraced buildings. The floor segments in the south and west are connected to two stairs that ascend to the south and to another small portion of a plaster floor, whose remaining parts extend below the southern balk of the excavation. Part of a plastered water channel, oriented north–south and covered with stone slabs, was found in the western segment of the floor, in close proximity to the northern and western balks.
These floors were dated to the mid twelfth–early thirteenth centuries CE primarily on account of the pottery finds. Noteworthy were an outstanding number of fragments of “Aegean Ware” glazed bowls, found in the fill above the south and west floors. This fill also contained stone chips that stemmed from activities of later stone robbers.
Crusader period (thirteenth century CE)
The remains of what seems to have been a massive building (exposed area 6 × 11 m) were excavated. The building remains covered most of the excavation area and continued beyond its boundaries. This building was apparently several stories high and its construction quality exceeds that of residential buildings. The excavated remains were only the foundations and the basement of the building, which were insufficient for identifying its function. The building’s position in the stratigraphic sequence and the artifacts recovered from its excavation indicate that it was built sometime during the thirteenth century CE and was destroyed at the end of that century.
The building clearly cancelled the previous twelfth-century CE structure and was built into and occasionally above it, with an artificial fill on the western side. The remains of the massive building included three substantial square pillars and part of their foundations, which were incorporated in the basement construction and had apparently supported the upper stories of the structure. The basement (6 x 6 m) and only its eastern (W207) and northern (W116) walls were preserved. The northern wall consisted of monolithic pillars every 3 m and was built of roughly dressed local kurkar stones and some mortar added for consolidation between them. Wall 207 was built in a similar manner, with roughly dressed local kurkar stones and mortar and its face was completely plastered. The western wall of the basement (W112) survived partially in its northern section, and was missing its southern section. The southern wall was completely robbed during the Ottoman period, as evidenced by a very obvious robber trench. Only one pillar, adjacent to W207, survived, indicating that the construction of this wall might have resembled that of the northern wall. The northern wall continued to the west for at least 3 m more, indicating that the basement must have continued in that direction. However, the Ottoman-period intrusions have destroyed any such remains. The surviving basement room was divided into two parts by a partition wall (W218) that was plastered and built similarly to W207; the southern floor was 1 m higher than the northern one and both floors had a plastered surface. The eastern side of the basement’s northern part was covered and sealed with a collapse of building stones, some of them well-dressed ashlars and others roughly dressed stones. The collapse also contained charred beams, indicating that the building was violently destroyed by a fire before the walls collapsed. Excavating the stone collapse revealed the floor, which was overlain with fragments of pottery, glass vessels and window panes, all dating to the thirteenth century CE. Excavation in the southern side of the basementֹs northern room, where part of the floor was missing, yielded various stone and marble finds that were cracked and protruded from the floor level. Further excavation below the floor revealed a hoard of approximately 300 colored marble finds, most likely spolia (Fig. 3).
The marble artifacts were found in two main groups, an eastern and a western one. The eastern group was placed clearly below the floor and parallelto W207's foundations (Fig. 4). This group included carefully placed rows of mainly small marble tiles, slabs and a cross. The western group comprised a larger variety of objects (Fig. 5), including well-carved lintels placed parallel to each other and above them small columns placed side by side and end to end. In addition, large slabs were placed almost perpendicularly, to create support for the smaller slabs that were placed above. The small columns, overlain with slabs of various sizes and sawed marble columns, were lying above a c. 0.25 m thick fill of brown earth that was apparently placed to protect the objects below. The marble hoard appears to be spolia from Roman and Byzantine buildings that was intentionally collected. The marble was imported from Greece (cipollino verde, verde antico, portasanta) and from Asia Minor (greco fetido, pavonazzetto, occhio di pavone, breccia coralline, alabatro fiorito), as well as some red porphyry from Egypt. The soil below the floor and in between the marble finds contained thirteenth century CE ceramic finds, clearly indicating that the marbles were hoarded during the thirteenth century CE.
The higher level floor in the southern part of the basement was preserved only in its eastern part due to the Ottoman activities in the western part. A broken and slightly burnt marble slab was found above the floor and no finds were discovered beneath it. Foundation trenches of the substantial pillars were excavated in this part and they clearly contained thirteenth century CE Crusader pottery.
Other remains dating to the thirteenth century CE were found behind the northern wall. This narrow area was not fully understood; however, it contained a thick intense burnt layer with a lot of charcoal, fragments of thick white plaster and numerous fragments of pottery vessels dating to the thirteenth century CE, among them a crushed jar. Due to time constraints, only a limited area was excavated and it is unclear if the remains were in their original position, or if they were moved when the area was disturbed during the Ottoman activities.
It seems that the building was demolished in the summer of 1291, when ‘Akko finally fell to the Mamluk conquerors, as attested by historical sources of the period and by the finds from other excavations in the city. Only the basement and the marble hoard that was buried beneath the floor escaped the Ottoman-period stone robbery.
Ottoman Period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE)
The city was left in ruins until the late seventeenth century CE and regained its full status as a commercial center only during the second half of the eighteenth century CE. At this period it was also fortified, although the excavated area was not included in the walled city. It seems that the Ottoman activity at the site took place only during the massive fortification activities in the early nineteenth century CE. These activities included rebuilding the city walls, construction of the barbicans on the exterior of walls, and the leveling of the area in front of them. Consequently, the site apparently served as a ‘quarry’ for collecting Crusader-period building stones from the ruins that served to build the city walls and extensive work was invested in leveling the ground.
These activities, clearly discerned throughout the excavation, included three main features: (1) A robbery trench of the east–west wall (W237) of the Crusader basement; (2) A trench or a pit that was cut to the west of and parallel to the western wall and contained sand and stone chips, as well as pottery dating to the Hellenistic and Crusader periods and an iron canon ball at its bottom, and (3) Remains of some ashlars, small fieldstones, plaster fragments and stone chips (Fig. 6). These are remains of redressing the stones in-situ, after the Crusader walls were robbed. Above this was a thick beaten-earth and plaster surface, in which lead rifle bullets were found. It seems that this represents one of the leveled areas in front of the city walls and the barbicans, which were meant to prevent the enemy’s cannons from being placed higher than the walls.
It is noteworthy that no Ottoman-period pottery was found, apart from a few tobacco pipes, and the only remains from this period are a cannonball and some lead rifle bullets that assisted in dating these remains.
The results of this excavation, situated in the Crusader–period Montmusard quarter, are consistent with the results of the excavations elsewhere in the quarter, and are in keeping with information from historical sources, regarding the changes that occurred in the city throughout these periods.
Only artifacts from the Hellenistic period were found; the lack of architectural remains precluded us from understanding the nature of the finds from this period. No traces of habitation during the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were found. Only a few scattered potsherds and some coins from these periods surfaced in the excavation.
During the Crusader period (mid twelfth–early thirteenth centuries CE), the excavated area was fully occupied, probably by a domestic unit or units, as attested by the floor segments that were found throughout most of the excavation area and the pottery. However, the plan of this building could not be discerned due to its destruction by the later Crusader construction (thirteenth century CE). This destruction seems to have occurred in the period following the recovery of ‘Akko by the Crusaders in the Third Crusade (1191), when Jerusalem and the hinterland were no longer in Frankish hands. ‘Akko then became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom and consequently, it expanded and grew as new residents arrived. Apparently the property prices rapidly increased as the city became more crowded, and many small buildings in locations throughout the city would be replaced with larger high-rises of three or four stories. It seems that this is the case in the area that was excavated in the Hilmi Shafi Educational Campus. The significant changes that were made to this area included the construction of a massive building, which survived by three substantial square pillars and a basement. The upper structure of the building was not preserved as a result of dismantling the remains from the Crusader-period Montmusard quarter in the Ottoman period. The basement was preserved because the walls collapsed and sealed the floor and its contents. However, according to the finds from the previous excavation and from the current one, it seems that the building had glass pane windows, suggesting that it was a religious or a public edifice. The main contribution of this excavation is undoubtedly the unique hoard of approximately 300 marble items that were exposed beneath the floor of the basement. These items were intentionally buried beneath the floor, because of the high value of marble spolia during the thirteenth century CE. It is known from contemporaneous written sources that during the medieval period, ancient marble architectural fragments were plundered from buildings and ruins to be traded and reused in construction.
It can be assumed that the owner of the hoard, whether he was a merchant or he collected the stones for his own need, was aware of the impending danger and buried the valuable stones until the tension abated. However, he never returned to look for the cache. This is a tangible expression of the dramatic events that occurred in 1291, when Crusader ‘Akko finally surrendered to the Mamluk conquest.
Following a hiatus of c. 400 years, activity at the site was resumed only in the last two centuries of the Ottoman period. At this time, it included mainly the collection of building stones and leveling operations as part of the intensive defensive construction in late Ottoman times. The city boundaries shrank in this period and this area remained just outside of the new city walls.