In Sq 1, a soil fill (L109) yielded a bowl from the late tenth–early eleventh century CE (see Fig. 7:1). Beneath the fill were two superimposed plaster floors (L103, L117), which were preserved across half of the square and abutted a robbers’ trench (L115; Fig. 3). Early Islamic pottery (not drawn) was retrieved from the matrix of the floors and from the underlying fill. In Sq 2, five courses of a wall built of roughly dressed stones were unearthed (W108; Fig. 4); its foundations were not excavated. Five plaster floors placed one on top of the other abutted the northeast side of the wall (L105, L111, L112, L114, L116; Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 5) and yielded Early Islamic pottery (see Fig. 7:9, 10). An Early Islamic bowl (see Fig. 7:2) was recovered from the fill excavated beneath Floor 105 (L110). Sq 3 yielded the remains of an ashlar-built pilaster (W107): two foundation courses that carried two wall courses (Figs. 2: Section 2–2; 6). Fatimid pottery (from the second half of the tenth century–late eleventh century CE; Figs. 7:5–8, 11, 12) was collected while excavating the fill around the pilaster (L106) as well as on the surface within the area of the square (L102; see Fig. 7:3, 4).
Three coins were also recovered on the surface: an anonymous Umayyad coin (697–750 CE; IAA 161534; L100), a Mamluk coin (second half of the fourteenth century CE; IAA 161535; L102) and one from the British Mandate period (1927–1946; L101).
The excavation yielded pottery from the Early Islamic period (Fig. 7).
Bowl 1, a Luster Ware bowl, is coated with opaque white glaze with golden, slightly greenish stripes. The bowl has a very elongated rim that is turned upward and outward and a carination near its base. Bowls of this type, which date from the Fatimid period (late tenth–eleventh centuries CE), were imported from Egypt and regarded as the most highly prized, expensive vessels during the Early Islamic period (Mason 1997
Bowl 2 has a monochrome green alkaline glaze. This type of vessel dates from the early ninth–eleventh centuries CE and is extremely common at excavations in Ramla (Kletter 2005
: Fig. 11:3) and elsewhere (Stacey 2004
: Figs. 5.25:2, 3; 5.27:1, 4, 5).
Bowl 3 has an opaque white glaze and no underglaze slip. Undecorated bowls of this type are imitations of Chinese imports (Cytryn-Silverman 2010:112) and date from the ninth–eleventh centuries CE. In Ramla, they occur mainly in eleventh-century CE strata (Kletter 2009: Fig. 5:3, 4).
Frying pans 4 and 5 have a dark brown or purplish brown glaze in the lower part of the interior of the vessel. This type of pans, which superseded the nonglazed frying pans, seem to have appeared during the tenth century CE and continued to be in use until the Crusader period. Frying pan 4 has a simple rim and thumb-indented ledge handles; this type is rare in Ramla and has been discovered only in a few excavations (Toueg 2012: Fig. 7:2
). Frying pan 5 has a thickened, folded-over rim and no handles; this type is common in excavations in Ramla (Avissar 2006
: Fig. 5:9).
Jar 6 is a ‘Jerusalem Jar’ of a type that is well levigated and well fired. Such jars are usually made of light brown or pinkish clay and date from the ninth–tenth centuries CE. They are the commonest jars found in excavations in Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010
: Pl. 9.8:3), where some are locally imitations made of buff clay. The jars continue a stylistic tradition that began in the sixth or early seventh centuries CE (Magness 1993
:227–230, Form 6).
Jar 7 has a grooved neck and is of a type that first appeared in the Byzantine period and continued to be manufactured throughout the Early Islamic period. These jars differ from traditional zir
jars since they lack a prominent ridge at the base of the ridged neck and do not produce a metallic ring. Similar vessels have been found in excavations in Tiberias (Stacey 2004
: Fig. 5.34) and Caesarea (Arnon 2008
Jug 8 has a particularly thin wall and is of a type often referred to as ‘Egg Shell’. These jugs are smaller than simple jugs, with a rounded body and a very wide rim. They often have one handle, with or without a knob above it, and rare examples have two handles. In Ramla, these types appear in late ninth–early tenth-century CE strata and continue throughout the Fatimid period (Avissar 2006
: Fig. 4:13).
Jug 9 is a simple jug—the most common type found in every excavation yielding Early Islamic-period finds (Arnon 2007
: Fig. 1:7). Many similar vessels have been recovered from workshops throughout Ramla, indicating that the town was a major production center for this type of jug.
Handle 10 belongs to a barbotine-style jug: a very large jug adorned with various applied decorative motifs. Such vessels have a wide mouth, up to 20 mm across. They probably imitate vessels of the Sasanian tradition. These jugs are very common throughout the country, and parallels have been found at numerous sites (Avissar 1996
:159, Type 7; Kletter 2005
: Fig. 16:3, 8; Cytryn-Silverman 2013
: Fig. 7.5:7, 7.6:7). At most of these sites they are dated to the early ninth–mid-tenth centuries CE. In Ramla, these types continue into the Fatimid period.
Vessel 11 is a glazed chamber pot. Chamber pots are deep, with very straight sides and a ledge rim. They do not have a uniform shape or size. Some are glazed. This chamber pot has a green monochrome alkaline glaze without an underglaze slip. Similar chamber pots have been found at other excavations in Ramla (Arnon 2007
: Fig. 3:8), and they usually appear in strata from the Fatimid period.
Vessel 12 is an almond-shaped lamp—a type that was very common during the entire Early Islamic period; its date is the Abbasid and Fatimid periods. These lamps have a reticulated pattern. Parallels have been retrieved from many other excavations in Ramla (Kletter 2005
: Fig. 21:3, 4), where they occur principally in tenth–eleventh-century strata, although their manufacture may have started in the late ninth century CE.
The Glass Finds
Two glass fragments—a bottle and a bottom—were recovered; both date from the Early Islamic period. The bottle (rim diam. 17–18 mm; Fig. 8:1; L109, B1022), made of greenish blue glass, was found in the fill beneath a plaster floor and had an irregular infolded rim and a cylindrical neck. Bottles of this type are characteristic of the Early Islamic period, and have been found at previous excavations in Ramla, for example, to the north of the White Mosque (Gorin-Rosen 2010
: Pls. 10.1:13; 10.2:8; 10.6:3, 4).
The bottom (diam. 75 mm; Fig. 8:2; L106, B1006) is colorless and probably belonged to a bottle. It was retrieved from the foundation trench of the pilaster in Sq 3. The vessel bears a high-quality cut decoration: a linear pattern around the lower part of the body; and a geometric design, probably a quadrangle, on the underside of the bottom. Various cut decorations are characteristic of vessels from the Abbasid–Fatimid periods, and a bottle with a cut quadrangle on its underside was recovered from the Serçe Limani shipwreck, which sank shortly after 1025 CE (Lledó 2009
:256–258, Fig. 21-3:GW1854). Nevertheless, vessels adorned with similar motifs on the underside are rare among the finds published in Israel. A similar specimen was discovered in an excavation on Danny Mass Street in Ramla, alongside other glass vessels from the Abbasid–Fatimid periods; the vessel is adorned with cut decoration: a linear pattern around the lower part of the wall, and a star-shaped polygon on the bottom underside (Katsnelson 2016
:66, Fig. 2:9, and see therein examples from Beirut and Fust
). The discovery of the two finds from Ramla may suggest that vessels adorned with this type of cut decoration were produced in that city during the Abbasid–Fatimid periods.
Five metal objects were discovered: a small item, a hook, a key, a decorated item and a spoon. Three of the items are described below:
1. This is a small, rounded and flat object (8.24 g, diam. 1.9 mm; L106, B1011; Fig. 9) made of lead and bearing traces of Arabic inscriptions on both sides. The inscriptions can be read in more than one way:
Side A, Option 1: Row 1 — عبيد (the name ‘Ubaid); Row 2—an illegible word.
Side A, Option 2: Row 1 — ﻋﺑﺪ (the name ‘Abd); Row 2 — ﺍﻠﻠﻪ (‘Allah).
Side B: A three-line inscription stamped in the center — ﺍﻠﻠﻪ / رﺳﻮﻞ / محمد (‘Muhammad / the messenger of / God’); and an inscription around outer edge: ﺑﺴﻢ ﺍﻠﻠﻪ ﻻ ﺍﻠﻪ [ﺍﻻ ﺍﻠﻠﻪ ﻮﺤﺪﻩ] (‘In the name of Allah there is no God [but Allah] alone’).
Based on the words inscribed on Side B, the object is either a bulla, a weight or possibly a coin. The text is written in cursive Umayyad script, which may date from the Umayyad or the early Abbasid period (for a comprehensive description of most of the 250 seals found in Israel, see Amitai-Preiss 2007:44–175, although no comparable seal is found among them). To date, bullae and seals are rarely found in excavations. The excavations to the north of the White Mosque yielded a lead bulla bearing the name ‘Abd or ‘Ubaid (Amitai-Preiss 2010:265, 267, Photo 1.1). This inscription is also incomplete and not fully decipherable, and thus it is impossible to tell whether the two inscriptions are identical. In any case, if this is a bulla, it is only the second one found in Ramla.
2. This is a bronze hook (5.2 cm long, 1.7 cm wide; Fig. 10; L100, B1003), which either served to hold an object or belonged to weighing scales.
3. This decorated bronze object—either an ornamental item or the lid of a small box (Fig. 11; L104, B1010)—was discovered along with pottery dating from the Fatimid period. The object is rhomboid and has a hole in the center with a bronze thread strung through it from the visible, upper side to the hidden, inner side. The item is probably not a piece of jewelry because the thread is positioned in the center of the object and not near the upper edge, as it would be if it were a pendant. In the center is a heraldic-like pattern, symmetrically engraved on either side of the item’s center, where the upper end of the thread is. The decoration consists of an outward-curving motif that may have eyes at the top. The body is striped, like a stylized snake. All the patterns on the surface of the rhomboid are stylistically similar: they comprise lines and clusters of three or less concentric circles intended to fill the available space, although they are not symmetrically placed on either side of the stylized snakes.
Various aspects of the decoration engraved on this item appear on finds from the Fatimid period. A metalwork hoard found in Tiberias contained vessels with incised concentric circles, such as the base of a candlestick (Khamis 2013:142, No. 85; 254, No. 85), and a deep bowl forms this hoard exhibits on its interior stylized snakes between palmettes (Kahmis 2013:167, No. 260; 316, No. 260). The bodies of the stylized snakes are decorated with diagonal lines both on the bowl from Tiberias and on the object from Ramla. Most of the items found in Tiberias were locally made, with a few imported from Damascus. The workshop in Tiberias operated until the
Turkmenian conquest in 1073 CE, when it was transferred to Caesarea and continued production for another twenty years or so (Lester 2011, Vol. 1:253–254).
The excavation yielded an intact unfired cartridge (L101, B1009; Fig. 12) in good condition, with an unperforated primer. The cartridge (7.92 × 57 mm), a Mauser type, was manufactured by Königliches Munitionsfabrik of Spandau, Germany in April 1917, and is from Series S67 (67% copper, 33% zinc). Ammunition of this type was supplied to the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and finds from archaeological excavations indicate that it was the most common type of ammunition in the Turkish army in the region during the years 1917–1918. Since the cartridge was unfired, it was probably collected from some battlefield by the local population.
The excavation adds information to the history of settlement in this part of the town during the Early Islamic period, indicating that it began in the Abbasid period and continued until the late Fatimid period. The area was subsequently abandoned and was not resettled. Excavations conducted in the immediate vicinity provide no evidence that can explain the reason for this abandonment; it is possible that one of the two earthquakes that struck the city in the eleventh century was responsible for this. Several nearby excavations (Toueg 2007
; Toueg 2016
) yielded remains that attest to a wealthy population that resided in this part of the city. The pilaster built of high-quality ashlars probably provides further evidence of this.