Area A (Fig. 2)
Square A1. The tops of two walls that were part of a partially preserved building (Fig. 3) were exposed. At least four phases could be discerned in the building. In the first phase, a wall (W112) was built of fieldstones, coated with a thick layer of mortar that gave it the appearance of being plastered. In the second phase, another wall (W111), perpendicular to W112, was constructed from well-dressed ashlars (Fig. 4). The two walls were preserved five courses high (0.8 m). It seems that they were dismantled and in the third phase, they were raised with the construction of other walls (W106, W107) that were not as meticulously built as Walls 111 and 112. It was apparent that the construction of the stone courses in W106 matched that of the earlier wall. An opening was set in W107. In the fourth phase, the opening was sealed with debesh (Fig. 2: Sections 1-1, 2-2). Light colored fill (L108) was excavated in the area between the walls, and c. 0.5 m below the opening in W107, remains of a plaster floor (L110) that abutted Walls 111 and 112 were exposed. Potsherds dating to the Abbasid period (ninth century CE) were collected from the excavation of the floor and the fill below it (L114). The walls’ foundation courses were set on top of hamra soil (L116). A built tomb exposed below the foundations of W112 had not been damaged by the construction of the wall. The tomb was not excavated and its date is unknown.
Square A2. Potsherds, the latest of which dated to the tenth century CE, were collected close to the surface (L100; Fig. 5). A stone wall (W102; exposed length 1.5 m) that extended beyond the square was revealed next to the southwestern balk. Wall 102 had survived by an upper course of ashlars and the fieldstone foundation courses. The wall was abutted from the west by another wall (W109), which was preserved a single foundation course high, built of fieldstones and bonded with gray cement. The wall was almost completely robbed and some of the stones from the foundation course, which was laid on top of hamra, were scattered nearby. Two superposed plaster floors (L103, L104, not marked on the plan) and the robber trench of W102 were discerned in the western side of the square. The upper floor L103 abutted the robber trench and the lower one L104 abutted the wall. The floors were severed when the area was being prepared for excavation. A built cist grave (L113) was exposed next to the southwestern balk; it was discovered without a cover and contained a skeleton in a supine position, with the head facing west. The grave was covered over and not excavated. Meager remains of a plaster floor (L117) set on top of fill were exposed near the grave. The floor predated the grave and extended beyond the excavation area.
Potsherds dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE were recovered from the excavation in Area A.
Area B (Figs. 6, 7)
Square B3. Fragmentary remains of three superposed plaster floors (Fig. 6: Section 5-5) were uncovered in the northeastern corner and a deep probe was excavated. The earliest floor (L324) was partially excavated and potsherds dating to the ninth century CE were found on it. The floor was replaced with a red plaster floor (L309, thickness c. 10 cm; Fig. 8), to which at least one repair had probably been made. It was laid on top of fill that contained potsherds dating to the tenth century CE. The plastered side of an installation (L317; Fig. 9) was excavated in a probe; only part of the installation and a section of its bottom (L322) were preserved. The side was built of debesh and gray cement and was coated with gray hydraulic plaster. This installation was apparently used for storing liquids. Reddish soil fill (L318) was excavated below the installation remains, where its bottom was not preserved. The latest potsherds in the fill dated to the tenth century CE and were contemporaneous with the potsherds collected in the excavation of the accumulations outside the installation (L315). The floor’s and installation’s poor state of preservation did not enable to determine the connection between them; however, it seems that they belong to the same period. After the installation was no longer in use, it was probably dismantled and covered with a reddish accumulation (L316). At some point in time, Floor 309 was replaced with a gray plaster floor (L325), placed on top of fill. The floor and the fill were not excavated, but in the spot where the floor was missing a dark colored accumulation (L307) was excavated and potsherds, the latest of which date to the eleventh century CE, were gathered. The floor should therefore be dated to this time.
Square B4. A round cistern (L303; Fig. 10), preserved almost in its entirety except for its upper part, was exposed. An opening in its northwestern side was probably used to fill it with water. It could not be determined whether the water flowed via a terracotta pipe or a built channel because of the poor preservation of the opening. Excavating the accumulation that blocked the cistern yielded potsherds, the latest of which dated to the eleventh century CE. It therefore seems that the cistern ceased to be used sometime in this century. The latest of the potsherds collected near the cistern’s wall (L308), at a depth of c. 2.5 m below the surface, dated to the tenth century CE. Fill mixed with mortar (L304) was excavated in the northern corner of the square. It overlaid a reddish accumulation (L321), below which were additional accumulations (L323). These accumulations and fill contained potsherds dating to the ninth-tenth centuries CE
Square B5. A round cistern (L306; Fig. 11) preserved almost in its entirety was revealed. Two terracotta pipes conveyed water to the cistern from the southeast (L313) and southwest (L305) and were connected to a single terracotta pipe that entered the cistern through a circular hole in its side (Fig. 12). Scant remains of a pale red plaster floor (L312; Fig. 6: Section 3-3) were exposed below the terracotta pipe (L313). Excavating the other side of the pipe (L314) revealed no continuation of the floor, which was probably damaged when the pipe was installed. Dark fill (L310) was excavated to the northwest, and an installation (L311) was exposed alongside the cistern (Fig. 13). The installation was a circular basin, whose bottom and part of its side were preserved (height 0.3 m); part of the installation was constructed on the cistern. The basin was built of fieldstones bonded with gray impermeable cement. A groove was hewn in its bottom and along the built side on the cistern. The groove passed through a perforation that was drilled in the western side. Traces of travertine were visible on the sides of the groove, indicating it was used to drain liquids. A square depression with a round hole in its center, from which a jar rim protruded, was in the center of the basin. On the rim were remains of a bronze pipe that enclosed it, which was affixed with white cement (Fig. 14). The soil that blocked the jar was only partially excavated and it contained another piece of a bronze pipe. A probe was excavated southwest of the installation to understand its function. The fill (L319) was excavated to the bottom of the basin and beneath it (L320) to reveal the jar. Upon its exposure, remains of a terracotta pipe that had been inserted into it (diam. c. 2 cm; Fig. 6: Section 4-4) were found in the middle of its side. Four sections of the pipe were preserved and its missing parts apparently continued beyond the excavation area. The function of the installation is unclear; however, it was probably part of a distilling installation, whose other parts, including a tank where the liquid was heated, are located beyond the excavation area. If this assumption is correct, then the excavated part of the installation was used to evaporate the liquid, conveyed to it via the terracotta pipe; the liquid overflow drained through the bronze pipe to the bottom of the basin and from there, via the groove in the bottom of the basin, outside of the installation.
The corner of a plastered installation (L326), including parts of the side and the bottom, was exposed in the square's corner; most of its elements are located beyond the excavation area. The installation was built of debesh and lined with gray impermeable plaster. Remains of a stone wall (W400; Fig. 15), built of ashlars (0.1 × 0.2 × 0.3 m), which abutted the side of the cistern, were excavated. Despite the state of preservation of the plastered installation (L326), it seems to have postdated the wall, and some of the wall’s courses were dismantled to build it. The wall was not excavated and therefore its preserved height is unknown.
The excavation in the square yielded potsherds dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE.
The ceramic finds recovered from the excavation included domestic ware, characteristic of the Umayyad to the Fatimid periods (eighth–eleventh centuries CE), among them glazed bowls (Fig. 16), unglazed bowls (Fig. 17:1–7), basins (Fig. Fig. 17:8, 9), a frying pan (Fig. 18:1), cooking pots (Fig. 18:2–6), jars (Fig. 19:1–4), pithoi (Fig. 19:5, 6), jugs (Fig. 20:1–7), a flask (Fig. 20:8) and lamps, including an intact specimen (Fig. 20:9).
A fragment of a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 21) and a bone loom weight decorated with incised circles and dots (Fig. 22) were found in Area A.
Yael Gorin-Rosen
Two-hundred and fifteen glass fragments were found in the excavation, of which 121 were body fragments that could not be identified. The remaining 94 fragments included rims, bases and decorated body fragments that belonged to plain vessels, which are known from other assemblages in Ramla and date to the Early Islamic period.
The earliest vessels dated to the Umayyad period and included types that are attributed to the first half of the eighth century CE. The outstanding vessels in this group are beakers/bowls that have a rounded rim, a flat or slightly concave base, sometimes with an inner fold around the base or the side of the vessel; several fragments of this type are decorated with mold blowing or pinching on the outside. Also early are plain bottles that have a folded in rim and a spherical body (L110, L114, L308).
A group of cylindrical bowls of colorless glass, which is characteristic of the Abbasid period (L101, L108, L302), was found, as well as two bases of colored bowls. One base, made of blue glass with a hollow fold on the inside, belongs to a bowl decorated with a tonged pattern on the side (L108); the second base of a thickened flat bowl is made of pale purple glass (L319). In addition, several jars that first appeared at the end of the Abbasid period and continued in the Fatimid period (L304, L314, L318), were found. Also ascribed to this period is a bottle of colorless glass, whose neck is decorated with beveled, vertical rectangular facets (L302).
Several small glass chunks and a pendant were discovered, indicative of industrial glass waste that was located nearby on the surface (L101, L302).
Remains of buildings and installations that dated to the ninth–tenth centuries CE were exposed in the two excavation areas. Two round cisterns, of a type characteristic of Ramla, were excavated among the installations. They were covered with a dome, in whose top was a round opening with a square built shaft for drawing water. Subsequent to the excavation, a cistern was exposed c. 50 m northeast of Square B5 during further development work. It was preserved in its entirety, including the capstone opening that was built of ashlars. Several graves were exposed in Area A, yet it seems they were not part of a cemetery. Although not excavated, they apparently postdated the exposed buildings. An especially interesting installation was exposed in Area B; it included a round basin, built on top of a jar, which was apparently part of a distilling installation. The ceramic finds included potsherds, dating from the eighth to the eleventh centuries CE. Despite the absence of architectural remains from the Umayyad (eighth century) and Fatimid (eleventh century) periods, the potsherds from these two periods suggest that construction has begun here in the eighth century CE and the buildings continued to be used until the eleventh century CE. Corroboration of the assumption that the buildings were used until the Fatimid period stems from the ceramic finds in the accumulations that blocked the cisterns in which there are sherds from this period, indicating the time when the cisterns ceased to function. It should be noted that the excavation in the two areas did not reach virgin soil and hence, the remains from the Umayyad period were probably not exposed.