The current excavation area—settled at the end of the nineteenth century CE and known as the Hureish neighborhod—was a residential area until the 1970s. After the last homes were vacated, it was filled in with construction debris overlain by an asphalt layer (see Haddad 2011: Fig. 1) that was recently covered with garden soil.
The northern end of the excavation lay c. 200 m away from the ancient city walls. Flint finds recovered from trial trenches dug into a andy kurkar fill (depth c. 1.5 m) probably belonged to the flintlock mechanisms of muskets. Two cannonballs and musket balls were found in the fill excavated beneath the garden-soil fill. Although muskets were often used even in non-military contexts, they can be attributed to the Napoleonic siege, as the main attack on the city was carried out from this direction.
The excavation was conducted in two areas (A, 1A; Figs. 2–4), where the remains of buildings were uncovered, including courtyards, rooms and corridors. The buildings exposed in the excavation can probably be identified on a British Mandate map from 1936 (see Fig. 2).
Area A
Two strata have so far been identified in this area. Three phases are visible in the upper stratum (Table 1).
Table 1. Area A, Stratigraphy
Period and Date (CE)
Blocked doorways, floor beddings carrying floors that were laid over earlier floors
State of Israel (1950s)
Refuse pit, blocked wells, external water-pipe infrastructure, walls reducing the size of rooms
Late Ottoman–early British Mandate (late nineteenth–early twentieth century)
Wall foundations, walls, floors and wells belonging to the Hureish neighborhood
Late Ottoman (late nineteenth century)
Stratum II yielded an installation and a building. The installation (L331; Fig. 5) was silo-shaped and built of kurkar slabs on top of a layer of kurkar sand; it was devoid of finds. The installation was covered with a collapse of kurkar stones that contained potsherds and a small, intact ‘stoneware’ bottle (Fig. 6), as well as fragments of glass bracelets dated to the nineteenth century CE. Near the installation, to its east, was a wall stump abutted by a burnt layer containing nineteenth century CE pottery.
The building was only partially excavated. The unearthed remains comprise a retaining arch (L346; Fig. 7) and two perpendicular walls built of irregularly shaped kurkar stones of assorted sizes with red bonding material—a construction style typical of the Ottoman period. The sloping upper section of the walls suggests that the building had an arched ceiling.
Stratum I3. The Hureish neighborhood was established in this stratum (Fig. 8). The reconstruction of the Ottoman neighborhood is based on the following assumptions:
1. Some of the passages between the Ottoman residential units were still in use during the British Mandate, whereas others were converted into rooms.
2. Each residential unit had at least one well.
3. The broader and more solid foundations belong to the original walls.
It therefore appears that between three (marked in yellow) and seven (marked in red) residential units were originally built in Area A. The uncertainty regarding their number is due to the density of the buildings and the limitations of the excavation, which prevented the exposure of entire complexes. Crushed and packed kurkar floors, some of which are plastered, seem to belong to this stratum.
Stratum I2. During the British Mandate, the wells were filled in and replaced by brown-glazed clay sewage pipes produced in Britain and by external iron pipes. The rooms were made smaller with the construction of new kurkar walls. Tiled floors (25–30 × 25–30 cm, black and white), which bear colored patterns, were set over the earlier floors and seem to belong to this stratum.
At this stage, Building 346 (see Fig. 7) was converted into a refuse pit. The pit contained a large quantity of pottery, animal bones, fragments of glass bottles, porcelain-like bowls, decorated flowerpots and metal fragments (Fig. 9). The finds are dated to the late Ottoman and early British Mandate periods.
Stratum I1. The most recent phase in Stratum I is attributed to the period between the establishment of the State of Israel and the 1970s. In the 1950s, immigrants from North Africa and Bulgaria settled in the neighborhood; based on oral testimonies of former residents, each family received one or two rooms. The use of concrete blocks to block unneeded openings was clearly visible. Also attributed to this stratum were concrete pipes which were installed over earlier floors and covered with a sand base overlain with ‘sesame’ floor tiles (each measuring 20 × 20 cm). The stratum yielded domestic implements and tableware (Fig. 10).
Area A1
The remains comprise three arch-supporting pillars founded on bedrock (1–3; Fig. 11). Near them were the remains of plastered channels with a water-regulating mechanism: a pool and a channel running along it to divert overflow into an additional reservoir (Fig. 12). The plastered channels served to irrigate agricultural plots or to provide drainage for buildings which have not survived. The remains predate the late nineteenth century neighborhood, and their context is unclear. They were cut into by a north–south wall (Fig. 13), which probably belonged to the eastern wall that is shown delineating the Hureish neighborhood on late nineteenth century maps.
As the excavation was halted without reaching the early strata at the site, an opportunity to expand our knowledge of the historical developments in this important part of Yafo was lost. However, the extensive exposure of the final occupation phases at the site contributes greatly to our understanding of the numerous changes that occurred in Yafo, particularly to the south of the ancient tell, in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century CE. During this period, the layout of the city changed: armed conflicts devastated the ancient nucleus of the city at top of Tel Yafo; and the expansion of the city to the north (the Manshiya neighborhood), to the east (the commercial and residential area along Jerusalem Boulevard) and to the south (the Hureish and ‘Ajami neighborhoods; Kark 1990). The excavation enriched our historical knowledge by focusing on and chronologically demarcating these developments in the Hureish neighborhood from the time of its foundation until it was finally demolished 40 years ago. It provided us with direct evidence of building complexes and enabled the reconstruction of sub-phases that were identified in the remains but could not be identified in the written and visual documents. By combining the information from our excavation with that emerging from other excavations in Yafo which similarly uncovered strata from recent periods using appropriate archaeological methods, we hope to contribute an important dimension to the study of the city’s history.