Stratum III. A wall foundation (W135; exposed length c. 1 m; Fig. 3), aligned north–south and built of medium-sized ashlars, was founded on the ground. A large platform composed of medium and large fieldstones (W136) and oriented east–west, abutted the wall from the west. A cluster of very small tesserae that was found beneath the foundation of the mosaic floor from Stratum II is also ascribed to this stratum. Very little of the layer was exposed and as no pottery was found, it can not be dated.
Stratum IIB. The western part of a building (Fig. 4) was exposed. It consisted of an elongated room, oriented east–west, which was enclosed by three walls: in the west (W103), a section of a wall in the east (W137) and the wall in the south (W107). The room extended eastward beyond the boundaries of the excavation. It was paved with a white industrial mosaic, part of which was poorly preserved. The well-preserved sections of floor were located mainly in the northern part of the building (Fig. 5). The frame of the mosaic floor was also discerned in the southwestern and northern parts of the room. The northern part of the frame abutted the southern side of W137 and also delimited it from the west (Fig. 6). The foundation of the mosaic floor consisted of two layers (Fig. 7): a layer of white plaster beneath the tesserae that was spread and founded on a layer of fist-size wadi pebbles, which overlaid brown soil fill mixed with body fragments of jars.
Wall 103 (exposed length 4 m; Figs. 2: Section 3-3, 8) consisted of five courses. The preserved upper course belonged to the building’s later phase (Stratum IIA, below). Of the four courses below it, two were built of ashlars and the two bottom courses consisted of medium-sized fieldstones. The upper course of ashlars was abutted from the west by a pale white foundation (L112), composed of small lime stones (Figs. 2: Section 1-1, 9, 10), probably part of the floor foundation of a courtyard that was outside the building to the west. The foundation contained potsherds that dated to the Umayyad period (seventh–eighth centuries CE), including a red-slipped imported Late Roman C3 bowl (Fig. 11:1) and baggy-shaped jar rims (Fig. 11:6). A well-preserved bronze coin from the Umayyad period, anonymous, post reform, 697–750 CE, Ramla mint (IAA 137007) was found in the pale white foundation. The bottom three courses of W103 were the foundation courses. The bottommost course of the wall was atop W135 of Stratum III. The construction of W103 was done without mortar in all of its phases and soil was used to secure the stones in place.
Potsherds dating mostly to the fifth–seventh centuries CE were found in this stratum, including a Late Roman C10 red-slipped imported bowl (Fig. 11:2), an Egyptian Red Slip, Type H burnished bowl of pinkish clay with its rim folded out (Fig. 11:3), a base of a red-slipped and burnished bowl of a type that is hard to define, but it undoubtedly belongs to the group of red slipped and burnished imported bowls (Fig. 11:4), a plain bowl with a ledge rim (Fig. 11:5), baggy-shaped jars (Fig. 11: 7–9), an amphora neck (Fig. 11:10), Gaza jar (Fig. 11:11), base of a Gaza jar (Fig. 11:12) and lamp fragments (Fig. 11:13, 14). The lamp in Fig. 11:14 is a menorah-type lamp that first appears in the middle of the sixth century CE. A fragment of a roof tile (Fig. 11:15) was also found. Other contemporaneous fragments were found in undefined assemblages, including another fragment of a menorah-type lamp (Fig. 11:16) and a small fragment of a jar or a jug (Fig. 11:17), bearing a very schematic engraved decoration of the right part of a crowned human figure. The figure’s right hand is extended upward, in an orans position, which is usually a female figure holding her hands upward in prayer.
Stratum IIA. The upper course of W103 was built of smaller stones with a slight inclination to the east, which differed from the courses beneath it, and belonged to this stratum. Therefore the upper course is a later addition and does not belong to the original wall. Wall 102 enclosed the room from the north and the assumption is that it was built on top of a wall from Stratum IIB. Pottery dating to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE) was found in the fill attributed to this stratum, including a plain bowl of buff war with an inverted rim (Fig. 12:1), glazed bowls (Fig. 12:2, 3); the bowl in Fig. 12:2 had a repair hole, a large bowl (Fig. 12:4), cooking pot lid (Fig. 12:5), jug rim of buff ware (Fig. 12:6), base of a jug (Fig. 12:7), a double handle of a buff-ware jug (Fig. 12:8) and a jar rim (Fig. 12:9).
This stratum contained some 18 tombs, classified as Type B at Ge’alya (HA-ESI 121
), found very close to the surface (depth 0.2 m; L140–L143, L145–L154, L160, L164, L165, L167). They were primarily identified on the basis of medium-sized fieldstones, arranged in an east–west line, which were usually surrounded by small fieldstones. Some of the covering stones were missing, but the general outline of the grave covering was clear; each line of fieldstones was in fact covering a cist grave (Fig. 13). The grave coverings were poorly preserved. Sometimes most of the stones were missing and only part of the outline of small fieldstones that surrounded the covering stones was preserved, and sometimes none of the covering survived. It seems that the covering stones were taken from the walls of the building from Stratum II. The density of the graves and the bones protruding from the ground (Fig. 2, small blue circles) were considerable and the work was suspended.
One grave (L166) had an unusual shape; it belonged to the Type A1 tombs from Ge’alya (HA-ESI 121
). Instead of a fieldstone covering, a row of seven baggy-shaped jars from the Mamluk period were arranged in an east–west line (Fig. 14). The poorly preserved jars were positioned perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the grave; they were adjacent to each other, with their bases facing south and mouths facing north, save one of the bases that was in the north. At Ge’alya, the mouths of the jars were alternately facing north and south.
An in situ jar surrounded by small fieldstones (Figs. 15, 16) was discovered at the same level as the tombs’ covering stones, west of Tomb 142. The mouth of the jar faced north and it was filled with alluvium and two tiny unidentified bones. The jar apparently belonged to Tomb 142 and dated to the Mamluk period.
Based on the parts of the exposed building, which dated to the Umayyad period, it seems to have been an east–west aligned structure that extended for a distance of at least 10 m. The closing wall on the east was apparently located beyond the excavation boundaries. The building was mostly used in the Umayyad period, the seventh–eighth centuries CE. A large crushing stone of an olive press in secondary use was found in a winepress that had been excavated before (HA-ESI 116
It is therefore reasonable to assume that an olive press must have existed nearby and perhaps the building in this excavation was part of an olive press complex that has not yet been exposed. The building was renovated in the Abbasid period (ninth–tenth centuries CE) and its walls were made thicker. The site was abandoned and destroyed at the end of the period and in the Mamluk period it became a cemetery where tombs were dug into the layers of fill from the Abbasid period.
The important contribution of the excavation is the exposure of a cemetery from the Mamluk period. So far, seven cemeteries are known in the middle of Israel’s coastal plain, in a triangle between Tel Aviv, Ramla and Yavne, where two types of tombs appear together; one type consists of a row of jars that covers the graves and the other type is a covering of medium-sized fieldstones (Ge’alya, Hadar Yosef, Or Yehuda, Azor, Nes Ziyyona and two in Ramla; Gorzalczany A. 2009. A New Type of Cemetery from the Late Mamluk and Early Ottoman Periods from Central Israel. Levant 41: 223–237). This site joins A. Gorzalczany’s list as the eighth cemetery site dating to the Mamluk period where two types of funerary coverings are represented.
Due to the very small-scale of the excavation, the cemetery’s boundaries are unknown. The density of the bones that protruded from the ground indicates extremely close interments (0.3 m between graves) over the course of decades.