Area A (Figs. 2, 3)
Stratum III (Mamluk period). A foundation course of a broad wall (W111; width 1.7 m; Fig. 4) was exposed in the southern part of the area. Oriented east–west, it was built of three rows of large stones, set next to each other, with small fieldstones between them. The foundation course, placed on a bedding of small fieldstones, was poorly preserved due to damage by development work. Wall 111 could have been used as a fence or a wall of the vaulted building that stood to its south. Another wall (W122; Fig. 5), oriented north–south and built of medium-sized fieldstones, was exposed in the north of the area. Two courses of the wall were uncovered. A stone column was discovered close to the east side of the wall. The excavation there could not extend any deeper because of safety and technical reasons. A thick deposit of black soil (L109; thickness 0.35 m), which attests to a fierce conflagration, was also exposed in this stratum. This deposit sealed a layer of collapse, consisting of small and medium-sized fieldstones (Fig. 6). This burnt deposit, identified over almost the entire length of the area, contained potsherds dating to the Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE), including an imported bowl from Italy, decorated with sgrafitto (Fig. 7:2) and a handmade closed vessel (Fig. 7:3).
Stratum II. Part of a round tabun (diam. 0.7 m; Fig. 8) was exposed in the southern part of the area, above Stratum III. A burnt layer that was connected to the operation of the tabun was exposed north of it. The date of the stratum is unclear, although it was sealed by Stratum I (below).
Stratum I (Ottoman period). This stratum was severed by a backhoe and its remains were discerned in the sections of the area’s southern part. Two superposed yellowish white plaster floors (L113, L119; Fig. 8) were recorded, separated by a thin tamped layer of earth. Floor 113, the upper of the two, was a repair of Floor 119 and the latter sealed the tabun of Stratum II. A square installation, whose outline could be seen in the section (Fig. 9), was built into Floor 119 and Floor 113 canceled it. The two floors abutted the east–west oriented Wall 101 from the south (width 1.4 m). The eastern part of W101 was not preserved because an electric pole had been installed there. A section of a very thick, pale gray plaster floor (L115; thickness 3 cm; Fig. 10) was exposed in the northern part of the area. The floor was founded on fieldstones bonded with pale red mortar mixed with fragments of Marseilles roof tiles. The ceramic finds indicate that this stratum dates to the end of the Ottoman period. These finds included a painted bowl imported from the eastern Mediterranean (Fig. 11:1), a jug rim (Fig. 11:2), a spout of a black Gaza-ware vessel (Fig. 11:3) and two red-slipped and burnished pipes (Fig. 11:4, 5). Other artifacts included two glass fragments, one of a pale blue bracelet, decorated with a pressed geometric pattern (L119; Fig. 11:6) and the other is a bead or friable bracelet of turquoise colored glass (L103). The two fragments belong to locally produced glass jewelry that was very popular in the country during the Late Ottoman period. A coin minted in Paris in 1920 was also discovered on the surface.
Area B (Figs. 12, 13)
Stratum VI (Byzantine period). A small segment of a farming terrace retaining wall (W139) was exposed in the north of the square; it was built of fieldstones and aligned east–west. The wall was abutted from the north by firmly bonded fill, which consisted of pale pink mortar fragments, soil and homogenous potsherds that included mostly body fragments of baggy-shaped jars, probably dating to the Byzantine period (fourth–sixth centuries CE).
Stratum V (Abbasid period; ninth–tenth centuries CE). Part of a refuse pit (L138), whose boundaries were not identified, was exposed in the south of the square. The pit contained different size fieldstones, soil, animal bones, among them large mandibles (see below) and fragments of pottery vessels from the Abbasid period, including large bowls (Fig. 14:1–3), jars (Fig. 14:4, 5), jugs (Fig. 14:6–9), and a jar handle fragment stamped in Arabic (see below; Fig. 14:10).
Stratum IV (Crusader period; twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE). A wall foundation (W134; exposed length 3.3 m, width 0.9 m; Fig. 15), aligned east–west and built of medium-sized roughly hewn fieldstones, was exposed; two courses were preserved in the eastern part of the wall. Part of the wall was built over the refuse pit of Stratum V. The ceramic finds from the stratum dated to the Crusader period and included a plain bowl (Fig. 16:1), a bowl glazed on the outside and dating to the eleventh–twelfth centuries CE (Fig. 16:2), bases of bowls coated with a rough, sandy glaze (Fig. 16:3, 4), an Aegean bowl decorated with thick incising (Fig. 16:5) and dating from the end of the twelfth to the beginning of the thirteenth centuries CE, a locally produced bowl decorated with sgrafitto (Fig. 16:6), dating to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE, a thin-walled cooking pot (Fig. 16:7), dating to the twelfth century CE and a locally produced jug coated with a sandy glaze (Fig. 16:8) and dating to the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries CE. The many imported vessels may point to a Frankish presence at the site in the twelfth century CE.
Stratum III (Mamluk or Ottoman period). A wall foundation (W126; exposed length 2.6 m; Fig. 17), generally aligned north–south and built of medium-sized fieldstones, was exposed in the western balk of the square. A proper corner was built in the northern part of the wall. This wall, erected on a layer of soil (thickness 0.2 m) and located above W134 of Stratum IV, seems to have been the eastern wall of a building. The soil layer contained a few potsherds from the Ottoman period and a folded-out jar rim, dating to the Mamluk period (Fig. 7:1).
Jar Handle Stamped with an Arabic Seal
A fragment of a handle stamped with an Arabic inscription was discovered in a refuse pit, dating to the Abbasid period (Area B, Stratum V, L138; Fig. 14:10). The inscription consists of two lines: the word رب (lord) appears in the upper line and the word سلم (a valediction) appears in the bottom line. The name of Allah, connoting lord or master, does not appear on any handles that have been published to date and this is the first such publication of this formula. The name of Allah itself does not usually appear in inscriptions on jar handles. A single jar handle was discovered in Caesarea, bearing an inscription with the formula “one Allah”, dating to the Abbasid period (Sharon M. 1999. s.v. 'Caesarea'. In Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae II/B–C:294. Nos. F, G. Leiden).The “blessing” formula is known from inscriptions on jar handles and it is similar to the formula on the handle from our site, indicating that a blessing will come from the supreme ruler, Allah.Handles with the word “blessing” were discovered in the excavations at Nebi Samwil (Sharon M. 2004. s.v. 'Dir Samuwil'. In Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae III/D:127, Type 3. Leiden). The appearance of Allah where it connotes lord or master was found in Arabic rock inscriptions in the Negev. The combination appearing in these carvings is “Say: Amen the Lord of the universe” (M. Sharon 1991. Arabic Rock Inscriptions from the Negev. Archaeological Survey of Israel, Ancient Rock Inscriptions, Supplement to the Map of Har Nafha , p. 19*, No.12.IX). This combination of ‘Lord of the universe’ appears in the Quran in several places (e.g., Sura 1, Verse 1; Sura 2, Verse 25; Sura 5, Verse 31). The combination “Lord of Moses and Aharon” sometimes appears in the rock-carvings (M. Sharon 1991:17*, No. 12.V). The combination of “Lord of Mohamed and Ibrahim” appears in an inscription dating to 117 AH (735–736 CE; M. Sharon 1991:22*). This formula is not found in the Quran and it is rare in the rock inscriptions. The script on the jar handle from the site is consistent with script that is dated from the end of the eighth–beginning of the ninth centuries CE.
Animal bones of domesticated mammals were discovered in four strata. The Early Islamic stratum (Area B, Stratum V; L136, L143) contained twenty-seven bones that belonged to cattle (44%), domesticated pig (41%) and sheep/goat (15%). Two bones were discovered in the Crusader-period stratum (Area B, Stratum IV; L135); one bone belonged to sheep/goat and the other to cattle. The Mamluk-period stratum (Area A, Stratum III; L109, L125) contained nine bones that belonged to cattle (56%), sheep/goat (33%) and a dromedary camel (11%). Six bones were discovered in the Ottoman-period stratum (Area A, Stratum I; L118, L119), belonging to sheep/goat, in addition to a molar that belonged to cattle. The meager archaeozoologicalfinds can not provide a profile of the animal husbandry in any of the periods under discussion.