During February 1999 a trial excavation was conducted at Khirbat en-Nabi Bulus (Permit No. A-3004*; map ref. NIG 19800–25/62460–80; OIG 14800–25/12460–80; ESI 17) at the request of the Ministry of Housing and Construction, for the purpose of designating the boundaries of the site. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Housing and Construction, was directed by E. Kogan-Zehavi, with the assistance of A. Nagorski (area supervision), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), C. Amit (studio photography), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), A. Pikovsky (pottery drawing) and R. Kool (numismatics).
The site is situated on a low hill, which is occupied with the tomb of Sheikh Nabi Bulus at its top, in Ramat Bet Shemesh, 500 m east of Khirbat el-‘Alya. A backhoe was employed for probing the southern side of the site and a survey was conducted in the west, thereby opening fourteen excavation squares north of the sheikh’s tomb (Fig. 1). Nine of the squares contained remains dating primarily to the Abbasid and Mamluk periods. Previous excavations at the site exposed settlement remains from the Late Hellenistic, Early Roman, Byzantine, Abbasid and Mamluk periods, as well as fragments of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age II pottery vessels (ESI 17:88–90). At the foot of the hill potsherds assigned to the Middle Bronze Age and Iron Age II were collected.
A survey along the planned route of a road to the west of the excavation area revealed a winepress (62), five quarries (52, 55, 56, 57/2, 65), two water cisterns (50, 54) and a cave (57/1).
The Abbasid Period
Square 7A (Figs. 2, 3). The southern side of a wall (W10; length 0.7 m) built of partially dressed stones had survived; it was probably destroyed by the construction of a channel, c. 0.15 m above the level of the wall (L121; exposed length 5 m, width 0.4 m, depth 0.2 m). The channel sloped southward and emerged below and parallel to the level of a modern terrace that crossed the area from north to south. The eastern (0.15 m thick) and western (0.25 m thick) walls of the channel were built of fieldstones bound with mortar and gray plastered on both sides. The ceramic finds dated to the Abbasid period and included bowl rims, a krater rim and a lamp fragment discovered above the channel (Fig. 4:6), inside the channel (Fig. 4:1), alongside the channel (Fig. 4:2, 5, 10) and at the level of W10 (Fig. 4:3, 9).
A probe trench (TR2WA; Fig. 1) located c. 4 m west of Sq 7A revealed a gray impregnable plaster floor, which may have been the floor of a pool that could have been associated with the channel.
Squares 10A, 10C (Fig. 5). These squares were located northwest of Sq 7A and comprised four phases. The northern side of a wall (W9) with one course of stones from the first phase was exposed. The wall was built directly on bedrock and was surmounted with plaster remains of a pool that was constructed in the second phase. The pool included a wall (W7; width 0.3 m, height 0.25 m) and a floor (L167) that abutted it on the south; both were coated with gray plaster. Two walls (W7A, W8) in the third phase narrowed down the pool. The northern W7A was established above Floor 167, parallel to W7. To the south of W7A, on the floor of the pool, was a bronze fals (IAA No. 75973) of the Zanji Dynasty, dating to the twelfth century CE. Wall 8 was composed of a row of dressed stones atop Floor 167 and was parallel to and south of Wall 7A. The ceramic and small finds, dating to the Abbasid period, included a few pottery fragments (Fig. 4:7, 11) and the rim of a glass bottle, which were retrieved from the accumulation above Floor 167. Three walls (W4–W6) of a room (Fig. 6) built on bedrock were ascribed to the fourth phase. The wall remains consisted of the foundations that were constructed from small fieldstones bonded with plaster. Several coarsely dressed stones, which were part of the wall, remained in the corner formed by W4 and W5. East of this corner was a section of a plaster floor (L141). Wall 6 was built atop W7, indicating that the room was in use when the pool functioned or after the latter was negated. The accumulations on the tops of the walls and above bedrock contained a few pottery fragments from the Abbasid period.
Square 12C (Fig. 5). This square was the expansion of a probe trench. Three channels (A–C) from different phases, extending in a northeast–southwest direction and sloping from north to south, were discovered (Fig. 7). Only the western wall (W15; width 0.45 m, depth 0.3 m) of the earliest channel (B), which consisted of stones dressed on the exterior and gray plastered on both sides, was preserved. Two stones perpendicular to Channel A abutted W15; one of them was flat and elongated (0.2 x 0.7 m, height 0.5 m), with a circular perforation in its bottom (diam. 0.1 m). The purpose of the stones is unclear. The wall parallel to W15 was destroyed when Channel A was constructed in the second phase.
Channel A (exposed length 5.8 m, outer width 0.9 m, inner width 0.35 m, depth 0.3 m), was covered with rectangular stone slabs and built into Channel B. The channel’s walls were composed of fieldstones and cement and coated with gray plaster. The finds recovered from Channel A and west of Channel B included a few pottery fragments (Fig. 4:4, 8) and a glass bowl rim, dating to the Abbasid period.
Channel C was east of and next to Channel A; it was narrower and shallower than Channels A and B (inner width 0.2 m, depth 0.15 m). The wall of Channel A served as the western wall of Channel C and a small section of the eastern wall’s southern side was exposed. The finds inside this channel (L153) included fragments of pottery vessels from the Abbasid period.
Square 12E (Fig. 5) revealed foundations of three walls (W11, W12, W14) that formed a room. The walls (width 0.6–0.7 m) were built of fieldstones bonded with plaster. Several dressed stones were discerned in the corner formed by W11 and W14. The foundations of the walls followed the contour of bedrock. A chalk floor (L161) was laid on bedrock and abutted W11 on the northeast. The accumulations on bedrock and near the walls yielded several pottery fragments from the Abbasid period, as well as bones.
The Mamluk Period
Square 1E (Fig. 8). Two walls (W1, W16) that formed a corner and were founded in the hard brown, dark gray alluvium, were uncovered. Wall 1 (length 5.2 m, width 1 m) was preserved one course high and only a small section of W16 survived. The walls were constructed from partially and completely dressed stones with small stones set in the gaps. The finds in the alluvium included a few fragments of handmade pottery vessels decorated with red, brown and black geometric patterns and dating to the Mamluk period, as well as animal bones.
Square 3E (Fig. 8). Two walls (W2, W13; length 2.3–2.5 m, width 0.5–0.8 m), forming a rounded corner were exposed. The walls, preserved one course high, were built of two rows of coarsely dressed stones, with a core of small fieldstones. A small section of a chalk and small-stone floor (L136) was revealed in the corner of the walls. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period overlaid the floor, among them handmade and decorated vessels, as well as the rim of a green-glazed bowl (Fig. 4:18). Below the floor several pottery fragments from the Mamluk and Abbasid periods (Fig. 4:13) were found.
Squares 1A and 2A were located in the southern part of the excavation area; floors that had no associated architecture were discerned. Six floors, one atop the other (I–VI; thickness 1.2 m; Fig. 9), were recorded in Sq 1A; five were plaster floors and the sixth and earliest floor consisted of small stones set directly upon bedrock (L170). The floors were overlaid with fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period, mostly handmade and decorated with red, brown and black geometric patterns. The finds included jar and bowl rims that were above the upper floor (I; Fig. 4:20, 27); a bowl rim from the fill between Floors I–II (Fig. 4:16); bowl rims, a jug rim and a pithos rim from the fill between Floors II–III (Fig. 4: 21, 22, 25, 29), and bowl rims from the fill between Floors III–IV (Fig. 4:15, 17). Fragments of glass vessels from the Mamluk period and animal bones were found as well. The large quantity of pottery vessels indicates intense usage of the floors over a prolonged period.
Two floors were discovered in Sq 2A. The upper one was a crudely tamped-chalk floor, overlaid with fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period (Fig. 4:19, 23, 26). Fragments of decorated vessels from the Mamluk period, as well as potsherds from the Abbasid period (Fig. 4:12) were revealed below the floor, as well as a glass vessel fragment dating to the Abbasid period and animal bones. This floor was 0.2 m above the earlier floor, which was composed of tamped chalk, set on a bedding of small stones.
Squares 5A, 6A (Fig. 2). A tabun (Fig. 10) flanked by walls in the north and east was discovered. The walls (W17, W18) consisted of a single row of coarsely dressed stones and were preserved one course high. Segments of a tamped-chalk floor (L119) were noted around the tabun and north of the walls. West of the tabun was a small fieldstone surface and further to the west, another poorly preserved tabun. The finds above the floor included fragments of pottery and glass vessels from the Mamluk period (Fig. 4:14, 24, 28), as well as a loom weight (Fig. 4:30). Potsherds from to the Abbasid period were lying directly on bedrock.
*The finds attest to a settlement from the Abbasid period, situated in the western and eastern sections of the site. The settlement in the eastern section was destroyed due to the Mamluk-period occupation. Three water channels and sections of a pool from the Abbasid period point to a planned irrigation system and demonstrate that the residents of the settlement in this period apparently made their living from agriculture. The building remains from the Mamluk period were scant, yet the accumulation of living surfaces reflects a prolonged activity, although it is not clear whether it included agricultural cultivation, as in the preceding period. The lack of ceramic finds from the Fatimid period indicates a hiatus in the settlement’s occupation, as noted in the previous excavations. It seems that our excavation exposed the southern fringes of the Abbasid-period settlement and the northern margin of the Mamluk-period site.