Stratum VII (Iron Age I; eleventh–tenth centuries BCE). Part of a room from a building was exposed in Area B; its walls (width 1 m) consisted of large roughly hewn basalt stones and were preserved three–four courses high. Two superposed floors of tamped earth and stones, and a layer of collapse between them were exposed in the room. It was discovered in probes excavated down to the bedrock that it was hewn smooth. Animal bones and several potsherds from Iron Age I, among them cooking pots and jars, were discovered on the floors, in the collapse layer between them and on the ground level beneath them. A steatite scarab dating to Middle Bronze Age IIB was found on the surface; it may have been in secondary use during Iron Age I.
Stratum VI (Byzantine period; fourth–seventh centuries CE). Remains of a colorful mosaic floor and its lime and white plaster foundation were exposed in the trial trenches dug in Area A. The mosaic is decorated with doves and peacocks, set against a white background. It seems that the floor belonged to an early stratum of a church, which was built there. The floor and foundation were nullified by later construction in the church (Strata V, IV, below).
A trial trench was excavated in Area C and a coin dated to 395–396 CE (IAA 106124) was discovered on the bedrock. Two other coins from the Byzantine period were discovered in the upper strata; one (IAA 106125) is dated to 577/8 CE and the other (IAA 106126) is dated to 614–618 CE. It seems that these coins aid in dating the colorful mosaic floor and the early stratum in the church to the Byzantine period.
Stratum V (Umayyad period; seventh century CE). The middle phase in the southeastern part of the church’s nave was exposed in Area A. A mosaic floor that had an earthen foundation rich in lime and placed on a layer of light colored soil was uncovered in the nave. A chancel wall built on the mosaic floor and divided the space into a western and an eastern part. The chancel wall (min. length 4 m; width 0.9 m) was aligned north–south and consisted of large ashlars, with rectangular recesses among them that had round cross-sections for placing screens. Part of the nave’s mosaic floor, which was adorned with a colorful carpet of guilloche, enclosed within a geometric frame, was revealed west of the chancel wall. A four-line Greek dedicatory inscription (length 2.26 m; Fig. 1) was exposed next to the chancel wall. L. Di Segni proposed dating it to the year 107 AH (725 CE; Di Segni and Tepper 2004). Part of the bema was exposed east of the chancel wall. It was paved with a colorful mosaic adorned with medallions, containing crosses and stylized guilloche, all enclosed within a rectangular frame (Fig. 2). The bema’s mosaic floor was cut by four miniature marble capitals (Fig. 3) that originally were probably part of the upper capitals of a ciborium structure from Stratum VI, dating to the Byzantine period. They were adapted for use for another purpose in Stratum IV (below) and thus, they severed the floor. A step was built in the western part of the bema, leading to an ambo whose floor was composed of plaster.
Part of the northern aisle of the church was exposed in Area C. The foundation of a small tesserae mosaic floor was uncovered above the remains of Stratum VI. This foundation abutted a wall, aligned east–west and built of medium-sized basalt stones, which was preserved 2.8 m high. An opening set in the middle of the wall led to a space—possibly service rooms—adjacent to the northern side of the church, which was not excavated.
Stratum IV (Abbasid period; seventh–eighth centuries CE). The plan of the church in Stratum V continued in Stratum IV; however, several changes were made to the structure. On the bema in Area A, a colorful mosaic floor that had a thin foundation placed on top of the Stratum V mosaic pavement was exposed. The mosaic floor was decorated with geometric patterns composed of rhombuses and rectangles, and it was preserved mainly in the region of the bema east of the chancel wall (Fig. 3). The chancel wall also continued to be used in this stratum, albeit with minor changes. A circular depression paved with a mosaic was discovered in the mosaic floor, preserved in the center of the bema; it is possible that a container for holy relics (reliquarium) was buried in this depression. The four miniature marble capitals were apparently uses as legs of the altar table in this stratum. A plaster and lime bedding of a mosaic floor was mostly exposed west of the chancel wall; this foundation was also placed on the upper part of the dedicatory inscription from Stratum V. The ambo in this stratum was enlarged to the west and partly built on the chancel wall. The widened wall of the bema was built on the western part of the dedicatory inscription. A step that led to a raised bema was also built in this stratum. Parts of three pilasters (each 1.1×1.1 m), built of large ashlars and preserved 0.6–1.2 m high, were uncovered in this stratum; they severed the mosaic pavement of Stratum V. These pilasters were probably part of the southern wall of pilasters in the church.
Part of a pilaster, built of large basalt stones and preserved 2.5 m high, was exposed in Area C. It seems that this pilaster was part of the northern wall of pilasters in the church, which was parallel to the southern pilaster wall, exposed in Area A. The northern aisle’s wall with the opening in its center that was exposed in Stratum V continued to be used in Area C. Based on a column that was in secondary use as a lintel in the opening, it seems that despite the changes made to this part of the church, the plan of the early structure was maintained.
Stratum III (Fatimid period; eighth–tenth centuries CE). A residential complex was exposed on the ruins of the church. A long wall, aligned east–west and built of stones in secondary use, was preserved two–three courses high and uncovered in Area A. Next to the southern side of the wall were building remains, including a square room and two open courtyards. The square pilasters of Stratum IV in the church were reused in the southern part of the building. An earthen floor was exposed in the square room that was apparently used as a dwelling. One of the courtyards, to the west of the room, was paved with small basalt stones together with architectural elements from the church, such as a large basin that had probably been used as a baptisterium. Another courtyard, to the west of the former courtyard, was paved with large ashlars that were taken for secondary use from the church. A combination of the Greek letters P and X, forming a Christogram (Fig. 4) that symbolizes the name of Jesus of Nazareth, was engraved on one of the ashlars. Another stone in the pavement was a stone seat in secondary use.
A habitation level rich in bones and potsherds was exposed in Area C. This probably indicates that the northern aisle of the church was still used by the local residents, perhaps as housing similar to what occurred in this stratum in Area A.
Stratum II (Mamluk period; fourteenth–sixteenth centuries CE). Habitation levels were exposed in Areas A and C, including earthen floors overlain with many animal bones and fragments of pottery from the Mamluk period. The structure in Area A that was built in Stratum III on the remains of the church continued to be used, and the northern aisle of the church in Area C continued to be used for residential purposes.
Stratum I (Ottoman period; nineteenth–twentieth centuries CE). Farming terrace walls and sections of walls, probably built in the modern era, were documented on the surface in the three areas.
Remains of seven occupation layers were exposed in the excavation. Part of a large building from Iron Age I was exposed in Area B. The location of the building in the nucleus of the ancient site and close to the source of water reflects its importance. Remains of a church were discovered in Areas A and C; its architectural plan, which is a basilica (length c. 22 m, width c. 15.5 m), was generally maintained in the three strata identified in the church. It seems that the stone columns scattered about the site or incorporated in secondary use were originally used in the early stratum of the church, for supporting the edifice’s ceiling. Later, in the wake of destruction, possibly a result of the earthquake in 749 CE, these columns were replaced with square pilasters and other changes were made to the church’s structure. The dedicatory inscription from the year 725 CE was discovered in the middle stratum of the church. The Christian dedicatory inscription in a church dating to the Umayyad period in Tamra is a unique epigraphic find and it seems to be unparalleled in the study of churches and their inscriptions in the Early Islamic period. The excavation finds show that a thriving Christian community existed in the ancient Tamra. This community continued to exist during the transition from the Byzantine to the Umayyad periods and later into the Abbasid period, while surviving the upheavals in the country during the transition periods. The distinction of the Christian community residing in Tamra is that it maintained its religious practices following the Muslim conquest of Land of Israel and for at least the next two hundred years. The abandonment of the church and the construction of a residential building on its ruins might indicate a change in population or far-reaching cultural-religious changes amongst the residents.