Based on accounts of nineteenth-century CE travelers and maps from this period (George Fink—1800, Map of the British Royal Corps of Engineers—1842, the British Admiralty Map—1862 and Sandel—1880), fruit trees were planted in the excavation area. At the end of that century, well-houses were constructed and in 1915, a broad boulevard was paved in the area – Jamal Pasha Boulevard – at the behest of Yafo’s governor Hassan Beq, which constitutes the basis for the route of today’s Jerusalem Boulevard.
Twenty-three excavation squares were opened in three areas (A, B, C laid out from south to north; Figs. 1, 2). Six squares (A1–A6) were excavated in Area A, on Jerusalem Boulevard from the corner of Yehuda Ha-Yammit Street to the corner of Ben Zvi Road; a single square (B1) was opened in Area B, on Jerusalem Boulevard north of the Ben Zvi Road corner; and twelve squares (C1–C12) were excavated in Area C, on Jerusalem Boulevard near the corner of She’erit Yisrael Street. Potsherds dating to the Iron Age and the Persian period, remains of walls from the Hellenistic period, a road from the Byzantine period, building remains, remains of Jamal Pasha Boulevard and remains of the boulevard’s drainage system, all from the Late Ottoman period, were exposed.
The Hellenistic Period
Remains of walls in the southeastern part of Square B1 (W13, W14; Fig. 3) were exposed. Wall 13 (length 1.87 m, width 0.4 m, height 0.2–0.4 m), oriented northeast-southwest, was built of medium and large kurkar blocks (0.2 × 0.3 × 0.4 m and 0.18 × 0.20 × 0.20 m respectively), without mortar. The wall curved to the west and its continuation was W14, built of small and medium roughly worked kurkar stones (0.16 × 0.16 × 0.20 m), without mortar. Its continuation to the west was damaged by the installation of modern infrastructure. The limited excavation area and numerous modern disturbances ruled out the possibility to connect the wall sections into a coherent plan. The walls may have belonged to a residential building, but could, more likely, be part of an industrial structure, since they were built in a curve and on the outskirts of the city. The fill next to the walls and above them contained potsherds that dated to the Hellenistic period (below). Remains of walls from the Hellenistic period were uncovered in excavations on Yehuda Ha-Yammit Street (HA-ESI 122), Jerusalem Boulevard (Permit No. A-5773), the Ganor Compound (HA-ESI 121), Beit Eshel Street (Permit No. A-5455) and Rabbi Haninah Street (HA-ESI 120). Based on the finds from these excavations, it seems that mainly farmhouses were built on the edge of the city, as was the case in the nearby sites at Tel Aviv until Tel Michal in the north (Tal and Fantalkin. 2009. In The Secret History of Tel Aviv – What Happened Here During 20,000 Years? Catalogue of Exhibition in the Land of Israel Museum. Tel Aviv: 93–102.
The Byzantine Period
Remains of a road dating to the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh century CE) were exposed in Squares A1, A4 and B1, c. 2 m below the modern street. The road was partially preserved owing to damage caused by the installation of modern infrastructure (c. 0.78 m wide), laid in the western part of the squares, which severed the antiquities remains along the entire length of the excavation.
A section of the road was exposed in Square A1 (L118; 1.03–1.60 × 4.60 m, thickness 0.27 m; Figs. 4, 5). The road consisted of three layers of densely packed small (0.05 × 0.07 × 0.09 m) and medium (0.10 × 0.17 × 0.27 m) fieldstones, without mortar. Wadi pebbles and basalt fieldstones were incorporated among the stones. The three stone layers were founded on a deposit of dark brown soil that contained numerous body fragments of vessels that dated from the Persian until the Byzantine periods (L121; Fig. 4: Section 1-1).
The continuation of the road was revealed in Square A4, c. 35 m north of Square A1 (L133; 1.10 × 1.10–1.60 m, thickness 0.13 m; Fig. 6). The road was built in a similar manner but had only one layer of stones. It was discerned in a probe excavated south of the road that it was founded on sandy soil (L113; Fig. 6: Section 1-1), which contained potsherds from the Iron Age and the Persian period (below), as well as body fragments of ribbed jars that are common to the Byzantine period.
Another section of the road was exposed in Square B1, c. 220 m north of Square A4 (L111; 0.90–1.49 × 5.90 m, thickness 0.16 m; see Fig. 3). The road was built of fieldstones, as in Squares A1 and A4, and consisted of a single layer. A probe excavated south of the road revealed that it was founded on a layer of brown soil, which contained fragments of pottery vessels from the Hellenistic period and body sherds of ribbed vessels from the Byzantine period (L117; see Fig. 3: Section 1-1).
It should be noted that Squares A2 and A3 were located along the course of the road, but the road itself was not preserved in them, except for layers of brown soil with a multitude of pottery vessels and scattered fieldstones (L108, L116; see Fig. 4).
The construction method and materials used to build the road are completely identical in all of the squares. Despite the distance between the three sections of road, their absolute elevations are similar. The road was paved in the eastern part of the city; based on the ceramic artifacts recovered from the roadbed, it can be dated to the Byzantine period when Yafo was a prosperous and important city, not just a port city, but also a destination city for Christian pilgrims. Excavations conducted in recent years in the vicinity of the flea market, the clock-tower square and the Ganor Compound, exposed streets, structures, including public buildings, and a bathhouse, as well as winepresses and numerous industrial installations (HA-ESI 121). These finds point to an urban complex and extensive activity in the Byzantine period, not just on the tell and its immediate surroundings, but also at a considerable distance away. The multitude of winepresses and industrial installations shows that widespread industry associated with the agricultural activity existed in the eastern part of the city during the Byzantine period. It is reasonable to assume that the vineyards for the wine industry were planted east of the industrial installations.
The Ottoman Period
Remains dating to the Late Ottoman period (nineteenth–twentieth centuries CE) were uncovered in the center of the excavation and its northern part. Remains of a building and of Jamal Pasha Boulevard and its drainage system were discovered.
Sections of walls (W10, W11; Fig. 7) were exposed in Square A5, c. 0.5 m below the modern asphalt street. Wall 10, in the middle of the square and oriented north–south, was built of small and medium fieldstones (0.08 × 0.12 × 0.14 m and 0.12 × 0.16 × 0.19 m respectively) that were bonded with gray mortar mixed with crushed shells. The eastern side of the wall was coated with a whitish turquoise-colored plaster. The middle of the wall was severed by modern infrastructure (width c. 2.3 m). The section of W10 south of the infrastructure was preserved three courses high (length 1.9 m, width 0.5 m, height 0.50–0.65 m) and the section to the north was just a single course high (length 1.5 m, width 0.43 m, height 0.12 m).
Wall 11 (length 0.76 m, width 0.5 m, height 0.4 m) was c. 2.5 m southeast of W10; oriented east–west and preserved three courses high, it was built in a similar manner to W10. Although no direct connection between the two sections of walls was found, it can be assumed that they dated to the same phase and were built according to a single plan, because of their building style, elevations and orientation. The dating of the wall remains is based on their construction style and not on the ceramic finds that were disturbed when the modern infrastructure was installed. The sides of the walls coated with whitish turquoise plaster and the gray mortar mixed with shells are characteristics of the construction in the Late Ottoman period. Similar buildings were discovered in the northern part of Yafo (Permit No. A-4675/1) and on Jerusalem Boulevard (Permit No. A-5565). Cultivation was resumed in the Late Ottoman period east of the city and these wall sections are probably the remains of a building that was connected to this agricultural activity.
A row of stones (W12; length 10.5 m, width 0.2 m, height 0.25 m; Fig. 8) was exposed in the western part of Square A6, close to the trafficmedianin Jerusalem Boulevard. The row, aligned north–south, was built of dressed kurkar stones (0.2 × 0.3 × 0.4 m), set in place lengthwise on their narrow side and bonded with gray mortar mixed with shells. The row of stones consisted of a single course and was abutted on the east by a floor (L126; length 3.3 m, width 0.14 m, thickness 0.15–0.30 m) of crushed and well-tamped kurkar. The foundation of the floor was composed of two layers; an upper layer of small and medium fieldstones (0.12 × 0.14 × 0.90 m) bonded with gray mortar and a lower layer (thickness 0.1 m) of beach sand. Wall 12 probably bordered one of the flower beds that was installed in the middle of the boulevard and is clearly visible in historical photographs. Despite the changes to the boulevard’s appearance over the years, its route has remained the same and the boundaries of the traffic median today are very similar to those of the flower bed in the Ottoman period. Preliminary inspections in the northern part of the excavation area exposed a section of a wall (length c. 4 m) that was identical in its construction to W12. It too probably delimited another flower bed.
Remains of the Ottoman boulevard’s drainage channel, which was apparently built of two parallel sides, were exposed in the eastern part of Squares C1–C12 (Fig. 9). The western side was not preserved at all due to damage caused by the modern sewer line, which was installed along the axis of the channel and exposed along the entire length of the excavation area. The well-preserved eastern side of the drainage channel (W15; length 85 m, width 0.26 m, height 0.63 m) was built of dressed kurkar stones (0.20 × 0.24 × 0.25 m) and bonded with grayish white mortar. Its outer face consisted of kurkar and small and medium fieldstones (0.08 × 0.10 × 0.15 m), without mortar. Three courses of stones were visible in the side; the upper course was preserved for almost its entire length and a slight arch was discerned in it; the middle course was dressed in a straight line and the bottom course curved inward (Figs. 9, 10). Based on the arch noted in the upper course, the channel was apparently covered and reached a maximum width of 0.7 m. A partially preserved kurkar floor (L143; width 0.1–0.5 m) abutted the bottom course. The side was founded on three foundation courses built of roughly worked kurkar stones (0.10 × 0.12 × 0.13 m), without mortar. The foundation of the wall was built into black clayey soil (L134).
The supposition that these are the remains of the drainage channel of Jamal Pasha Boulevard, which was built in the Late Ottoman period, is based on the route of the channel, its proximity to the surface and its construction style. The quality of the construction and its size are indicative of a high degree of planning. A wave of construction in the Late Ottoman period was encouraged by the government and paving the boulevard was one of the largest projects.
A channel (L137; length 1.2 m, width 1 m, height 0.34 m; Fig. 9: Section 4:4) and a pool (L135; 1.2 × 1.3 m, depth 0.9 m; Fig. 9: Section 3:3) that were probably constructed during the British Mandate era were exposed west of the channel’s eastern side. The pool was built of kurkar and its sides and floor were coated with concrete. The channel was built of two parallel rows of dressed kurkar and medium-sized fieldstones. The beach-rock covering stones of the channel were preserved in its eastern part. The floor of the channel was paved with dressed kurkar blocks and an iron water pipe was laid inside it.
Potsherds that ranged in date from the Iron Age until the Ottoman period were recovered from the excavation. The ceramic finds from undisturbed loci were mostly body fragments; therefore, the representative diagnostic potsherds were chosen from layers of fill and accumulations throughout the entire excavation area (Fig. 11). Body fragments from the Iron Age and the Persian period were found in a layer of sandy soil below the remains of the Byzantine road. Two other fragments from these periods included a rim of a large krater (Fig. 11:1) and a fragment of a jar rim (Fig. 11:2). Body fragments characteristic of the Hellenistic period were found throughout the excavation area. Fragments of bowls were recovered from the accumulations above and next to the wall remains in Square B1. Fragments of cooking pots, a juglet, a bottle (Fig. 11:8), jars and an amphora base (Fig. 11:13), were retrieved from the accumulations above and below the road and in the layers of clayey soil. Diagnostic potsherds of these vessel types were discovered in other loci, including bowls (Fig. 11:3, 4), cooking pots (Fig. 11:5, 6), a juglet (Fig. 11:7) and jars (Fig. 11:9–12).
The rim of a glazed bowl (Fig. 11:14) from the Abbasid period and a jar rim (Fig. 11:15), characteristic of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, were found in a layer of clayey soil beneath the Ottoman drainage channel.
Two coins were found in the excavation. They were discovered on the surface and in a disturbed fill and are therefore of no aid in dating the ancient remains. One coin (L1003; IAA 119153) is made of copper and dates to the Umayyad period (697–750 CE). The other (L131; IAA 119154) is a small coin of bronze, minted under Festus’ tenure as procurator (59 CE) during Nero’s reign as emperor.
Jerusalem Boulevard is located c. 650 m east of Tel Yafo. The location of the excavation constitutes an important link in understanding the settlement sequence of Yafo and contributes to our knowledge regarding the layout of the city throughout its history. The excavation findings point to activity on the outskirts of the city in the Hellenistic, Byzantine and Late Ottoman periods.
Yafo was a port city of regional importance in the Hellenistic period and it maintained extensive commercial ties. This is the period when the city expanded beyond the boundaries of the tell and the areas situated at its foot. The region around the tell became part of the city’s urban outline and plantations were established along its more remote outskirts, which served the agricultural hinterland outside the city. The exposed Hellenistic walls were probably connected to the agricultural activity in the region.
The city experienced renewed economic prosperity in the Byzantine period. Based on results of excavations in recent years, the town planning is apparent not just in the nucleus of the city, but also in its more distant outskirts. The excavation findings complement this picture and the exposed road was probably also incorporated in the town planning system of the period.
Apart from several potsherds, no evidence of activity was found between the Byzantine and the Ottoman periods. At the end of the Ottoman period, activity was renewed along the outlying areas of the city. New neighborhoods were built north and south of the tell and the orchards in the east flourished. The wave of construction swept all over Yafo and included the paving of the boulevard and other projects that evince the great investment made by the Ottoman government in the development of the city. The finds exposed in the excavation supplement the historical evidence about the development of the city in the Late Ottoman period.