The 1983 excavation unearthed remains ascribed to five archaeological layers.
Stratum V. Thirty built cist tombs—12 in Area A (Figs. 3, 4), and 18 in Area B—were ascribed to this layer; they were all disturbed in the past. The tombs were rectangular (length 2.0–2.6 m, width c. 1 m, height 0.6 m), and arranged in rows of up to five side-by-side cists. The adjacent cists shared a common wall. The walls of the tombs were constructed of fieldstones that were plastered on both sides, and the tombs were covered with stone slabs. Two of these tombs were built one on top of the other, whereby the covering slabs of the bottom tomb served as the floor of the upper tomb (Fig. 5). All of the tombs were aligned in a northwest–southeast direction, and were probably parallel to the road that led to the city gate or to some other prominent topographic feature, such as the shoreline of the Kinneret. Generally speaking, no artifacts were found inside the tombs. However, the shape of the tombs and a coin of the emperor Elagabalus (218–222 CE; IAA 884/4) discovered in the plaster that covered a wall in one of the tombs suggest that the cemetery was in use during the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE).
Stratum IV yielded eight tombs that were dated to the second half of the seventh century CE. Each tomb consisted of a rectangular burial cist similar in size to those of Stratum V and similarly sealed with stone slabs. A rectangular grave marker monument was constructed above each of the tombs. It fitted the burial cist (Tombs 127–129; 0.4–0.7 m height; Fig. 3, Section 1–1), and was either flat or curved at the top. The ‘monument’, which was built of small stones bonded with mortar, apparently protruded above ground level and was meant to mark the place of burial. Tombs of this type had a single burial cist or were arranged in groups of up to three adjacent rectangular cists. The tombs and the monuments above them were treated with a thick application of plaster (thickness 3 mm). An arched monument above one of the tombs was decorated with a prominent ridge (height 0.1 m) that continued along the crest of the arch. Onn suggested that a certain disproportion between the built monuments and the tombs beneath them indicated that the monuments were added to the tomb at a later date. These tombs, he believed, were first installed in Stratum V, and were reused in Stratum IV. Some of the plain cist tombs of the previous period were reused in that phase. An assemblage of special finds from the second half of the seventh century CE was discovered in the upper part of one of them (Tomb T8). These included a channel-nozzle oil lamp, two pre-reform Umayyad coins (pre-reform), a metal seal bearing a Greek inscription (Fig. 6) and a fragment of an eulogia token—a large ceramic disc stamped with a Christian religious decoration that pilgrims purchased at a holy site as a souvenir and as an amulet (Fig. 7).
The seal is a large metallic rectangle (51 × 95 mm, thickness 6 mm, 301.23 g) that has a ring handle (inner diam. 21 mm) and is made of bronze mixed with lead. Its lower face carries a two-lined Greek inscription beginning and ending with a cross:
U QEODOTOY / KOMHTOCU
“(Belonging) to Theodotos the comes”. The inscription specifies the name and title of the owner of the seal; the last two letters in the owner’s name are combined in the typical Byzantine-period ligature (Onn, Weksler-Bdolah ans Di Segni, in press). The eulogia disc and the seal indicate a Christian burial from the second half of the seventh century CE. This evidence is further corroborated by the seventh- century oil lamp that was discovered within this assemblage.
Stratum III. A thin layer of ash covered the tombs. Above it were the remains of walls and pebble floors. This layer represents an Early Islamic habitation that dates from the second half of the eighth century CE, probably after the earthquake of 749 CE, until the first half of the ninth century CE, when it reached its peak. A destruction layer, possibly caused by the earthquake that struck in 853 CE, sealed the buildings.
Stratum II. The main construction period at the site, which began in the second half of the ninth century and continued until the tenth–eleventh centuries, is ascribed to Stratum II, in which three phases (IIa, IIb, IIc) were identified. During this phase, large private dwellings, separated by wide alleys, and a central square were erected (Figs. 8, 9). A sophisticated drainage system comprising water channels, cisterns and cesspits, was discovered beneath the floors of the buildings and under the alleys. The building foundations were set above the tombs of Strata IV and V and over the construction remains of Stratum III. During this period, changes were made to the structures, and some of them went out of use while others were built in their place.
Phase IIa. Two buildings with rooms arranged around a central courtyard were discovered in Area A (Fig. 3). An external staircase in one of the buildings indicates that the structure was two-stories high. An alley (width 2 m) running in a north–south direction separated the buildings. A rock-cut drainage channel covered with stone slabs that also drained rainwater from the roofs of the buildings was discovered below the street level. All of the streets and the underground channels led to a main square that was located between the buildings.
Two buildings were discovered in Area B (Fig. 8). One large structure (3) comprised a central courtyard surrounded by rooms that opened onto it. The structure was paved with stone slabs and included three column bases that probably supported a balcony. Under the building’s floor were drainage channels. North of the building and at some distance away was a square structure, possibly a tower (Building 5; inner area 8 × 8 m); its walls were built of ashlars and were treated with gray plaster on both sides. A wide corridor led from the main entrance (width 1.3 m) to the middle of the building, whose interior was divided into four rooms; a staircase that led to a second floor was discovered in one of the rooms.
Phase IIb. In the tenth century CE, changes and modifications were made to some of the buildings. Building 3 was enlarged (8.5 × 14.0 m); its walls were constructed over the walls of the previous phase or directly above the tombs. They were built of ashlars and treated with plaster on both sides. The entrance to the building was integrated in the northern wall and led by way of a flagstone corridor to a central courtyard (6.3 × 7.2 m) that was paved with plaster. A tabun was built on the floor. A staircase whose remains were discovered along the structure’s western wall attests to a second story. A sophisticated drainage system was discovered below the floor of the building.
In Building 5 (Figs. 8, 9) new wings were added to the north and south of the square building (overall dimensions 12.5 × 20.5 m). Its walls were similarly constructed of ashlars and were treated with plaster on both sides. The building included a rectangular courtyard in the south and a row of rooms in the west; four column bases in the courtyard probably supported a balcony. A drainage system was located below the courtyard pavement.
All of the buildings were destroyed at the end of Phase II, probably by the strong earthquake that struck the region in 1033/4; both historical sources and the remains in other cities attest to this event. Following the earthquake, some of the buildings were left in ruins, but others were rebuilt. The buildings in Area A, for example, was never restored: the columns that had collapsed in the earthquake were discovered toppled on the floors of the courtyards belonging to the Phase IIb building.
Phase IIc. Building 5 in Area B (Fig. 8) was renovated and continued to be used with changes and additions: new walls were erected in place of the destroyed walls, new floors were laid at a higher level, and the water system was repaired. This phase was dated to the second half of the eleventh century, after the earthquake of 1033/4 CE.
Stratum I comprised a layer of ash that covered the buildings of Phase IIc and was devoid of any architectural remains. The layer was dated to the eleventh century CE (1033–1070 CE) based on the ceramic finds. In the excavator’s opinion, the destruction of the Fatimid settlement was apparently the result of the Seljuk conquest.
The excavated area, south of Tiberias, was used as a burial ground during the Roman and Byzantine periods. It was not possible to determine with certainty whether the graves that were discovered belonged to Tiberias or to Hammat. The arrangement of the cist tombs, in parallel rows, adjacent and parallel to one another, is indicative of an organized, urban cemetery, or one belonging to a monastery (for a discussion of these tombs see Betzer 2013:69).
The excavator ascribed the monuments built above eight of the tombs to Stratum IV, dating from the late Byzantine or the Umayyad period. This funerary style is typical of Islamic tombs. They were contemporary with the Christian burial of Theodotos the comes, suggesting that Christians and Muslims were buried next to each other in the cemetery during this phase. The graves bearing the monuments were not excavated; consequently, it was impossible to substantiate the hypothesis that these were indeed Muslim tombs.
In the Early Islamic period (eighth century CE) the area was resettled with organized urban construction that reached its peak in the ninth–eleventh centuries CE. The excavated buildings were large and had courtyards surrounded by rooms, columns that supported galleries, staircases leading to a second story and sophisticated drainage systems for both clean water and waste water. Similar structures were discovered in adjacent areas—in Oren’s excavation west of the cemetery, c. 200 m north of Ganē Hammat, by the Kinneret (Foerster 1992), and recently, above the Roman theater in Tiberias (Atrash 2010