During antiquities inspection prior to the excavation, soil fills were removed until ancient architectural remains were revealed after which an excavation square (1.5 × 3.0 m) was opened in the northeastern corner of the room (Fig. 3). The strata presented below are from the earliest to the most recent.
Stratum IV—The Fatimid period (eleventh century CE). A wall (W2; length 3.5 m, width 0.7 m, preserved height 0.8 m) aligned north–south was exposed; it was built of roughly hewn stones bonded with gray mortar. In W2 was a blocked and plastered arch with a low span (Fig. 3: Section 1–1). An earlier wall (exposed depth 1.2 m; Fig. 4) built of fieldstones bonded with hard, light gray plaster that protruded 0.4 m from the line of the wall probably served as a foundation; however, this could not be ascertained due to the limited scope of the excavation. Brown-gray earthen fill (L14) abutted this foundation and yielded numerous ceramic finds dating to the Abbasid (ninth–tenth centuries CE) and Fatimid (eleventh century CE) periods. A Seleucid coin (second century BCE, IAA 158797) was also recovered from this stratum. Apparently, W2 continued north and south beyond the limits of the room and the excavation.
Stratum IIIb—The Mamluk period (thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE). The top of W2 was destroyed, and one of the rooms in the khan was constructed on top of it (W11, W12, W18, W19; Fig. 3). A tamped soil level (L6, L16) was found between the foundation of W2 and the foundations of W11 and W12, and above it was soil fill that covered the remains of the top of W2 (L4, L8, L9, L17). A coin (IAA 158796) dating to the fourth–fifth centuries CE was found in this stratum. The southern and northern sides of the room in the khan were covered by a barrel vault and a cross-vault respectively. The vaults were constructed of fieldstones and gray mortar containing black and white inclusions. The walls of the room were built of square roughly hewn medium-sized stones bonded with gray mortar with black and white inclusions. At the top of W12 was a course of ashlars whence the cross-vault sprang.
The opening of the room facing the courtyard was in the center of W18; a step on the inside of the doorway connected the level of the courtyard to the floor of the room (Fig. 5). A window above the opening facing the courtyard served for ventilation and allowed light to enter the room. It was impossible to determine if the window dated to the time the room was constructed—in the Mamluk period—or later. The original threshold stone and the room’s floor were not preserved. A joint was discerned at the point where W2 and W12 met, where W2 was preserved to a height of nine courses (Fig. 6).
Stratum IIIa—The Mamluk period. An installation delineated by two dressed stones in secondary use (W10) and filled with small fieldstones (L13) was found in the northeastern corner of the room. Another installation built of a row of fieldstones bonded with gray mortar containing black and white inclusions (L3) was constructed next to W12.
Stratum II—The Ottoman period (fifteenth–twentieth centuries CE). The floor of the room was raised with soil fill to the present threshold level (the fill was removed during antiquities inspection).
Stratum I—The modern era (twentieth century CE). A new entrance threshold was built of concrete.
The Khan Courtyard
Two trial trenches were documented in the khan’s courtyard.
Trench I. Several phases were discerned. The floor of the courtyard consisted of medium-sized flagstones with small wadi pebbles in between (L21; Fig. 7); it was founded on top of a fill of brown-gray soil and stones (L20). Potsherds dating to the Mamluk period were collected below this floor.
It is possible that a drainage channel (L22) that severed the bedding of the courtyard (L20) was installed when the courtyard was paved or during a later phase. The channel, aligned north–south, was covered with stone slabs and its sides were built of dressed rectangular stones (inner width 0.4 m, outer width 0.8 m, depth 0.25 m, exposed length 1 m; Fig. 8); it was covered with gray-brown earthen fill (L23). At some point, the channel ceased to be used and filled up with an accumulation of loose gray soil. A new floor of limestone slabs (L24) was constructed atop the earlier floor during the twentieth century.
Trench II. Remains of the earlier floor of the khan’s courtyard (L21) were exposed. Below these remains was the top of another channel that ran parallel to Channel 22 (L25; Fig. 2).
The ceramic finds from the excavation date to the Early Islamic, Crusader–Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods and include bowls from the ninth–tenth centuries CE (Fig. 9:1–3), a Kellia Coptic painted bowl (Fig. 9:4), a lid (Fig. 9:5), a krater (Fig. 9:6)—all from the ninth–tenth centuries CE, a Serçe Limani Ware bowl from the eleventh century CE (Fig. 9:7), bowls from the mid-twelfth–mid-thirteenth centuries CE (Fig. 9:8–10), an Aegean Ware bowl from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Fig. 9:11), a fry-pan from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Fig. 9:12) and the upper part of an Ottoman samovar (Fig. 9:13).
Despite the limited scope of the excavation, it was possible to ascertain that during the Fatimid period (eleventh century CE) there was a building in the compound, of unknown purpose. There may have been a connection between the building and the adjacent covered passageway and market to its south (Burgoyne suggested it antedates the Crusader period). The khan was erected later, on the remains of the ancient building, during the reign of Sultan Barquq. The channels exposed in the courtyard of the khan could not be dated with certainty to the Mamluk period. They probably postdate it.