The current excavation (150 sq m) was conducted in the ancient nucleus of the village, c. 30 m south of the synagogue. Remains of subterranean cavities dating to the Early Roman period, a quarry dating to the Late Roman period, foundations of a building from the Mamluk period and numerous pottery sherds dating to the Ottoman period were exposed.
A layer of gravel and dark soil (0.8–1.0 m) was cleared prior to the excavation. Quarrying marks were visible on a bedrock surface on the southern side of the area. Six squares were excavated in which four strata were exposed dating to the Early Roman, Late Roman, Mamluk and Ottoman periods (Figs. 2, 3).
Stratum IV, Early Roman period. Two silos and an entrance to a cave were exposed. One silo (L24; Fig. 4) was rock-hewn, bell-shaped and elongated, with a round opening (diam. 0.48 m) that became wider toward the bottom (max. diam. 1.5 m). Its floor was not exposed, the walls were plastered. There was apparently another opening to the south, which was destroyed when the area became a dump in the modern era. The second silo (L25) was partially exposed. It was circular (diam. 1.5 m) and became wider toward the bottom (diam. 2 m; Fig. 5); the upper part of the silo was damaged as a result of later quarrying. An entrance to a cave was revealed in the southwestern part of the area (L27; Fig. 6). It seems to have been destroyed by modern activity, and was not excavated. The date offered for the complex is based on a similar complex that was excavated and contained an assemblage of pottery and coins (Alexandre 2012).
Stratum III, Late Roman period. A quarry comprising at least three steps (Fig. 7) was revealed; the upper step was already exposed prior to the excavation and a building from the Ottoman period was constructed on top of it. The second step was 0.4 m deep and the third one (L10) continued 10 m to the east. The marks of the detached stones were clearly visible. The stone-dressing debris contained pottery sherds dating to the second–third centuries CE, among them a bowl (Fig. 8:1), a casserole (Fig. 8:2) and a cooking pot (Fig. 8:3), as well as a coin from the Late Roman period (351–361 CE; IAA 144617), which was found on the third quarrying step.
Stratum II, Mamluk period. Remains of a building foundation were exposed in the center and in the northern part of the excavation (Fig. 9). The walls of the building (W16, W29, W31, W32) were constructed of limestone founded on the bedrock. Pottery sherds dating to the Mamluk period, among them three bowls (Fig. 8:4–6), a basin (Fig. 8:7), cooking pots (Fig. 8:8–13) and jars (Fig. 8:14–16) were found between the walls (L30) and around them (L14, L22, L23, L28), in light gray soil below the tops of the walls.
Stratum I, Ottoman period. No architectural remains were documented; however, numerous pottery sherds dating to the Ottoman period were found, including a bowl (Fig 10:1), a jug (Fig. 10:2), a jar (Fig. 10:3) and two tobacco pipes from the nineteenth century CE (Fig. 10:4, 5).
A small bone assemblage (N=156) was discovered, from contexts of the Late Roman (N=24), Mamluk (N=121) and Ottoman (N=11) periods (see appendix). The assemblage from the Late Roman period included the bones of sheep/goat (N=19, 79%), cattle (N=3, 13%), donkey or horse (N=1, 4%) and pig (N=1, 4%). The majority of the bones from the Ottoman period were also of sheep/goat (N=9, 81%), mixed with a few bones of cattle (N=1, 10%) and a cat (N=1, 10%).
A larger quantity of bones was gathered from the Mamluk period, and they were better preserved. The incidence of weathered and chewed bones was low and their surface was well-preserved. Most of the remains were of sheep/goat (N=78, 64%; goats [N=5] and sheep [N=3]). Cattle were fairly common (N=32, 26%) and Equidae (N=6, 5%), though less frequent, were also represented. One camel bone—a neck vertebra with cut marks—indicates that camel meat was consumed. Chickens are represented by just one bone. Interestingly, two remains of wild boar were found, one of which is a developed lower canine.
The sheep/goat bones indicate very young individuals (including newborns) and very old ones. The paucity of young adults indicate a settlement that practiced animal husbandry. Its inhabitants kept herds and sold the young males, while they themselves consumed very young animals and occasionally slaughtered females.
This hypothesis was confirmed by two pelvis bones of female sheep/goat that were identified in the Mamluk stratum. Most of the cattle bones are of adult individuals, and indicate that these animals were kept as working animals.
All parts of the skeleton are represented in the distribution of the skeletal parts in the bone assemblage of sheep/goat from the Mamluk period, with particularly high frequency of cranial remains. Among the cattle there is a relatively high representation of the skeletal axis, ribs, pelvis, spine and forelimbs, and a lesser representation of cranial bones and feet. Many of the bones were broken during cooking and eating, while still fresh. Charred marks are very rare in the assemblage, an indication that the meat was cooked rather than roasted. Most of the meat was butchered using knives, after the initial longitudinal dismembering of the animal; the carcass was hanged at this stage, as is evident from the characteristic longitudinal chopping on several of the sheep/goat vertebrae.
The livestock economy of Mamluk Yafi‘a is reflected in animal bones characteristic of a small village whose herd economy is productive and oriented toward maintaining the herd, rather than for marketing secondary products such as wool and dairy products. The use of cattle for work took precedence over production of milk or meat.
The proximity of the quarry to the Roman-period synagogue, suggests that it served the builders. Silos and underground cavities associated with a settlement from the Early Roman period were exposed in the excavation. Pottery sherds from the Mamluk period indicate the existence of a settlement at that time. Remains of a building from the Ottoman period give further evidence to this period at Mar Ya‘akub, where some of the Ottoman-period buildings still stand today.