The excavation area lies to the east of ‘Akko’s city walls and west of Tel ‘Akko (for background and references, see Feig 2012). A single square was excavated (3 × 9 m; max. depth 3.4 m), and architectural remains from the Late Roman period (second–fourth centuries CE) and the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh centuries CE) were uncovered beneath a vaulted underground space dating from the Crusader period (twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE; Fig. 2). The excavation also yielded glass fragments and coins dating from the Hellenistic period (second–first centuries BCE) and glass fragments and a weight from the Early Islamic period (seventh–eleventh centuries CE), devoid of any architectural context. The eastern part of the area was damaged by a modern pit (L109, L120, L121; Fig. 3) that cut into the earlier strata. The excavation was halted due to technical limitations.
Roman Period (second-fourth centuries CE). Excavation in a limited area (L139; c. 0.8 × 1.0 m, height c. 0.5 m) uncovered a basin dug into the ground (1.4 × 2.2 m; Fig. 3). The floor of the basin was paved with randomly laid limestone mosaic tesserae (1.0–1.5 × 1.5–3.0 cm) in red, black and white, and its walls were coated with gray plaster with pink aggregates. A bedding (L140; thickness c. 0.1 m) beneath the basin was set on dark gray earth fills. The excavation beneath the basin (depth 0.15–0.30 m) had to be suspended due to technical limitations.
The pottery from the accumulations above the basin and from the underlying fills includes an imported krater (Fig. 4:1), a Kefar Hananya Type 1D bowl (Fig. 4:2), a Shihin Ware casserole (Fig. 4:3), roof tiles (Fig. 4:4, 5) and tubuli (not drawn). The assemblage dates from the third–fourth centuries CE. Two fragments of ornamented discus lamps were also recovered, one with an erotic scene (Fig. 4:6) and the other with a vegetal motif (Fig. 4:7), both dated to the first and second centuries CE. Plaster fragments bearing traces of red paint were also found.
Byzantine Period (fourth-seventh centuries CE). North of a modern intrusion (L120), remains of a mosaic floor (L116) were found, made with randomly laid red, black and white tesserae, incorporating a jar whose upper part had been removed (not on plan; Fig. 5:5). The floor lay on a bedding of small stones, which sealed the Roman period plastered basin. South of the modern intrusion, a floor laid of compacted earth was found. Collapsed stones lay on the floor, beside a complete Kefar Hananya 4C cooking pot (L133; Fig. 5:3) beneath an accumulated layer of dark gray soil. An earthen surface (L113, L123) overlying the soil layer yielded rich finds, the most prominent of which are fragments of rhomboid marble slabs that were probably used in opus sectile paving (Fig. 6; Snyder, below) and a variety of stone and marble elements whose dimensions (thickness c.1 cm; Figs. 7, 8; Snyder, below) suggest that they were used as wall facing. Similar finds are known from Caesarea (Dray 2011; Gersht and Gendelman 2019:57–63). During the Byzantine period, the opus sectile technique was common in affluent homes and in public construction, especially in churches (Snyder and Avraham 2013:178; Gwiazda 2014:139–140). The same earthen surface also yielded an element from a round window (L113, L114; Gorin-Rosen, below); broken stone paving slabs; a millstone; a fragment of a smoothed tablet incised with several Hebrew letters (Misgav, below; Fig. 9); black, green, gray, red, orange and yellow plaster fragments, a minority of which retain traces of a frame or a wide band; and marble pilaster capitals decorated with acanthus leaves (Fig. 10; another capital fragment was not photographed). Similar capitals dating from the Late Roman period were found in the municipal palace in Caesarea, near the bathhouse (Fisher 2011:70–72, Type 1), and in Sardis (Kramer 1994:41–51, Nos. 1–27). The capitals were probably incorporated in secondary use and brought from an ancient public building that may date from the Roman period (on the reuse of marble, see Fischer 1995). The finds from this level attest to the extensive import of marble to the port of ‘Akko and the incorporation of marble in the city’s architecture (Fischer 1994; 1998; Snyder, below). The layer also yielded fourth–seventh-century CE pottery, including imported LRC bowls, one decorated with a cross (Fig. 5:1, 2), a Gaza Ware jar (Fig. 5:4) and two roof-tile fragments (Fig. 5:6, 7).
Crusader Period (twelfth-early thirteenth centuries CE). A built underground vault was excavated (1.6 × 3.5 m and over, max. height 1.55 m; Fig. 11). The vault’s foundations were set on a fill (L112) made of tamped earth and a thin lime crust (L117); it appears to have been breached at a relatively late phase, in order to enlarge the vaulted space and provide it with drainage to the subsoil. The inside of the vault was lined with four to five courses of small fieldstones (total height 0.45 m), above which the vaulted ceiling was built of medium-sized kurkar stones bonded with grayish-white debesh mixed with lime and potsherds. Next to the south of the vault, at same height as its apex, was a wall (W202; 0.5 m wide) built of medium-sized roughly dressed kurkar stones that was probably the foundation of an overlying building that was not preserved. An excavation of the vaulted space yielded loose layers of gray soil covering darker layers rich in organic matter (L105). The lowest layer (L111) yielded pottery dated to the thirteenth century CE, including types known from this period in ‘Akko (Stern 2012): glazed proto-majolica bowls (Fig. 12:1, 2), imported from southern Italy (Stern 2012:77–80, 132; Type SIT.GL.5—Pl. 4.62:1–5; Type SIT.GL.2—Pl. 59.2–5), and a Port Saint Symeon Ware bowl (Fig. 12:3) imported from Antioch (Stern 2012:55–56; Type NSY.GL.4—Pl. 4.34:8). A few fragments of glassware and windowpanes dating from the Crusader period were also recovered (Gorin-Rosen, below).
The accumulations between the top of the vault and the surface layer (L102–L104) contained pottery from the Hellenistic until the Ottoman periods, showing that the installation was probably damaged in the modern era. These accumulations also yielded coins (Syon, below), a lead tablet, glassware (Gorin-Rosen, below), a glass weight from the Fatimid period (1026–1094 CE; Fig. 14; Lester, below), two limestone balls, animal bones, and a few shells. The coins include a coin of Alexander Yannai (Jannaeus; 104–76 BCE) and six coins dated to the thirteenth century CE. The lead tablet (Fig. 13) was found rolled and bears indecipherable incisions. Similar tablets, identified as curse tablets, were used in the Roman period. The two limestone balls (diam. 0.34–0.40 m) are evidently ballista stones from the Crusader period (Tepper, forthcoming). The animal bones include the bones of birds (mostly rock partridges 35%), goat/sheep (30%), cattle (25%), pigs (5%) and rodents (rats; 5%). The assemblage includes burnt bones, bones with cut marks and bones with marks of rodents’ teeth (Raban-Gerstel, Tepper and Bar-Oz, forthcoming). The shells include species from the Mediterranean (Mediterranean clams, purple dye murex, giant tun, wedge clam and lagoon cockle) and from the Nile (Nile oyster). Soil samples taken to analyze parasites from the accumulations above the vault floor identified the eggs of two intestinal parasites: the more common of these two is the whipworm (Trichuris trichuria) while the rarer species is the beef/pork tapeworm (Taenia sp.; Mitchell and Tepper 2007).
The finds from inside the vault show that it was used as a cesspit, probably beneath a residential building, and the coins and pottery date it to the thirteenth century CE.
The excavation yielded 43 baskets of glass including about 330 fragments, some 200 of which are unidentified body shards and windowpane fragments. The remaining 130 (not drawn) are diagnostic and represent a broad chronological range.
A small round glass inlay or gaming piece with a flat base (L114) dates from the late Hellenistic–Early Roman period and is similar to others found in excavations in ‘Akko, for example at the courthouse (Katsnelson 2016:85–86, Fig. 3.10:66, 67). A single fragment of a bowl with a horizontal ridge below the rim dates from the Late Roman period and is of a type made locally in the Galilee in the fourth century CE (L113). Fragments of this type of bowl were found in excavations in ‘Akko and in Western Galilee (Katsnelson 2016:78–79, Fig. 3.7:42, and see further references therein). The Late Roman–Byzantine period is represented by hollow outfolded bowl rims (see a selection of examples from the ‘Akko courthouse excavations [Katsnelson 2016:78–79, Fig. 3.7:35–37]). Wine goblets with hollow ring bases (L110) and a solid base (L104) date from the late Byzantine period (for parallels and further references see Katsnelson 2016:83–84, Fig. 3.9:58–60). A relatively large quantity of well-preserved glass windowpanes (L113, L114) includes some fragments that are quite large. All the windowpanes are of the rectangular type, blown as a cylinder. Such windows are well-known from assemblages dated to the Byzantine period and its latter part, mostly from large public buildings such as churches and synagogues. The find of a large concentration of windowpanes in such a limited excavation area, together with the many opus sectile elements, attests to the presence of a large public building with glass windows. A fragment of a bowl bearing a pattern pinched on both sides (L104) dates from the Umayyad or early ‘Abbasid period. The ‘Abbasid and Fatimid periods are represented by a base and wall fragment of a colorless glass cup decorated with a horizontal band incised above the base—a well-known type from the Serçe Limani shipwreck—and a glass weight with an Arabic inscription (L106; Lester, below). Finds from the Crusader period include rim fragments of a mold-blown beaker with vertical ribs twisted to form a diagonal pattern (L111). Such beakers are well-known from Crusader assemblages in ‘Akko and elsewhere, for example the ‘Akko Educational Campus (Gorin-Rosen 2010: Fig. 12:1, 2) where excavations yielded glass windowpanes with rounded rims like the rim of a round windowpane from the current excavation (L102).
Despite the poor preservation of the glass finds from the current excavation, they indicate the importance of the late Byzantine structure in which the glass windowpanes were found and attest to the site’s settlement continuum—from the late Hellenistic to the Crusader period.
Fatimid glass weight
A round glass weight (L106, B1043/6; weight 4.06 g, diam. 3.6 cm, thickness 0.5 cm; Fig. 14) is yellowish and covered with patches of black and silvery weathering. The weight bears an inscription stamped asymmetrically on its obverse side, leaving an irregular margin. The inscription most probably comprised four lines’ but only three can be discerned, and only two are decipherable:
The Imam Ma‘ad [Abu Temy]m
Commander of the Faithf[ul]
The inscription mentions the Fatimid Caliph Abū Tamīm Ma‘ad (1036–1094 CE). The ruler’s name is usually accompanied by the title al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh (‘he who seeks victory in God’) followed by the continuation ‘commander of the faithful’, although the accompanying title does not appear on this weight. No parallel has been found for the weight, but the format of the lines is similar to that on a weight from Damascus (Launois 1969: No. 156).
The reverse seems to retain traces of a central inscription with a surrounding legend. The weight was probably a dinar (c. 4.25 g), although it is slightly lighter as some of its mass has flaked off by weathering.
Nine coins were recovered in the excavation, seven of which are identifiable:
1. Basket 1013, Locus 103, IAA 106114.
Alexander Yannai, Jerusalem 80/79–76 BCE.
Bronze, 0.9 g, 12 mm. Identification based on size and shape.
TJC: Group L1–6.
2. Basket 1048, Locus 110, IAA 106115.
Al-‘Adil I, Damascus, 1199–1218 CE.
Obverse: Around, ---]بدمشق [--- in center: الدين \ الملك العادل \ [سيف]
Reverse: In center, [---] / [ابو بكر بن] ايو / ب.
, 4.84 g, 22 mm.
Balog 1980: No. 323.
3. Basket 1083, Locus 122, IAA 106117 (Fig. 15:1).
Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, Pont-sur-Sorgues, c. 1200–1220 CE.
Obverse: +R•COMES Star with two dots and crescent.
Reverse: D/V/X/M Toulouse cross.
Billon denier, 0.71 g, 15 mm.
Poey d’Avant 1858: No. 3723.
4. Basket 1033, Locus 105, IAA 106118 (Fig. 15:2).
Hugh III (1267–1284 CE), Cyprus.
Obverse: +hVG[VЄ:RЄI:]DЄ + Cross.
Reverse: +[IRL'M[Є]D'ChI[PR' Lion.
Billon denier, ↓, 0.45 g, 16 mm.
Metcalf 1995: Nos. 664–666.
5. Basket 1012, Locus 103, IAA 106119.
Charles I, Messina, 1278 CE.
Obverse: [KAROL•JERVSALEM] Cross.
Reverse: [ET•SICILIE•REX] Lys.
Billon denaro, ←, 0.72 g, 16 mm.
Travaini 1993: No. 111.
6. Basket 1026, Locus 104, IAA 106120.
Crusader? (12th–13th c. CE).
Obverse: [---] Unidentified.
Reverse: [---] Unidentified.
Bronze, pougeoise?, 1.5 g, 17 mm.
7. Basket 1027, Locus 104, IAA 106116.
Feudal, European, 12th–13th c. CE.
Obverse: [---] Cross.
Reverse: [---] Unidentified.
Billon denier, 0.56 g, 16 mm.
Coin No. 1, the only Alexander Yannai coin (104–76 BCE), joins three others of the same king found previously in ‘Akko, and six other Jewish coins (Hasmonean , Herodian  and the Great Revolt ) found in ‘Akko, some in excavations and some as surface finds. Since ‘Akko had never been under Jewish rule, the coins are random finds of no particular note, as ‘Akko was a large and busy thoroughfare bordering on the Hasmonean kingdom.
Coin No. 2, of the Ayyubid ruler Al-‘Adil I, joins the European coins (below) and was undoubtedly part of the currency in the Crusader period in the Holy Land in general, and in thirteenth-century CE ‘Akko in particular.
Coin Nos. 3–5 are new additions to the numismatic repertoire. Coin No. 3, of Count Raymond VI, has no previous parallels in Israel. Count Raymond de Saint-Gilles led the Christian forces during the First Crusade. The County of Tripoli (today in Lebanon) was ruled by his family until 1187 CE, when it was bequeathed to the regents of Antioch. The star and crescent stamped on the coin clearly imitates the design on the first Tripoli coins, minted by Raymond III in 1140–1173, and apparently represent a nostalgic return to the family’s golden age in the Latin East. Although many coins from Tripoli have been found in ‘Akko, this coin cannot be attributed to the County of Tripoli. Coin No. 4, of Hugh III, is also rare. Only three others are known from Israel, although in addition to ruling the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, Hugh III also ruled the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1269–1284 CE). However, many other coins from the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus have been found, most notably those of Hugo I (1205–1218 CE) and Henry I of Cyprus (1218–1253 CE), and many of these come from ‘Akko. Coin No. 5, of Charles I, King of Sicily joins two coins from Sicily (only one of Charles I) previously found in ‘Akko. Only nine coins from Sicily have been found in Israel to date.
The most surprising feature is the absence of locally minted Crusader coins, with the possible exception of Coin No. 6 whose condition prevents its identification; however, based on its weight it may be a bronze coin of Henry I of Champagne that was minted in ‘Akko in 1192–1197 CE. Although many European coins have been found in ‘Akko, they always appear alongside common local types, e.g., coins in the name of Amalricus, which were minted in vast quantities. In any event, most of the coins date from the thirteenth century CE, the date of the Crusader remains discovered in the excavation.
Polished Stone Slabs and Opus Sectile Tiles
Approximately 300 polished stone slabs and opus sectile tiles were recovered from the Byzantine-period stratum. The tiles were made not only from various-colored local limestone but also from a multihued array of imported stones, including breccia corallina, cipollino rosso and marmor di Proconneso from Turkey; breccia di Settebasi, cipollino verde, porfido verde di Grecia o serpentino, portasanta and rosso antico from Greece; bigio antico from Turkey and Greece; profido rosso from Egypt; and Greco scritto from Cap de Garde (Algeria).
Some of the tiles are large (thickness 3–7 cm), with course chiseling on the lower surface, indicating they were once used for floor pavements. Over half the tiles were cut into intricate shapes, known as opus sectile (Latin “cut work”). Some are regular geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, rectangles and elongated hexagons (thickness 2–4 cm), with a residue of gray ash-lime plaster, suggesting that they were once part of an ornate floor similar to those popular in Byzantine churches and bathhouses. Other opus sectile tiles are smaller, thinner, and more finely crafted into long, narrow bands and shapes with multiple curvilinear edges: spiral and circular bands, circles, shields, flower petals and doughnuts. These appear to have been part of pre-fabricated panels similar to those crafted in a Byzantine opus sectile workshop in Caesarea (Dray 2011). The location of these intricately cut tiles within the debris suggests that the ornate panels adorned the walls of the bathhouse. These opus sectile tiles will be published in greater detail in a future article.
Fragment of a Hebrew Inscription
The excavation yielded a marble fragment (c. 5 × 14 cm; Fig. 9) incised with three poorly preserved Hebrew letters. The first letter is illegible, the second is Yod and the third is probably Shin or Ayin. The style of the Hebrew letters is compatible with those of the Byzantine period; within the limitations of the find, it is impossible to achieve higher dating accuracy, certainly not in view of the marble fragment’s poor preservation. In this context, it is worth noting the marble slab found while excavating the synagogue at Kursi, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where a relatively complete dedication inscription was found on a marble tablet (Misgav, Artzy and Cohen 2016). Such a find is relatively rare in synagogues, but the context of the fragment from the current excavation is unclear.
During the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, the excavation area—east of the Ottoman city wall and west of the Roman cemetery at the foot of Tel ‘Akko—lay within the city of ‘Akko-Ptolemais (Tsafrir, Di Segni and Green 1994:204–205). The Roman-period remains attest to the presence of a bathhouse, possibly part of a wealthy household. The Byzantine remains, which include the opus sectile, the colored plaster, the pilaster capital (in secondary use) and the glass windowpanes, suggest that a public building, probably a church, stood here during this period. The fragmentary Hebrew inscription on a marble tablet hints at the presence of a public building nearby belonging to the town’s Jewish community. In this context, it should be noted that although ‘Akko lay beyond the Halachic boundaries of Israel, Hebrew sources mention sages who visited the city (M. Avodah Zarah 3.4; Tos. Pesachim 1, 2). Klein’s compilation of sources (Klein 1939:120–121) states that there was a Jewish community in ‘Akko in the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, and there is also mention of a synagogue in the city. Chance finds like the glass stamp suggest that there was also some kind of official economic activity in the excavation area in the Early Islamic period (for details, see Stern and Shalvi-Abbas 1999). The vault from the Crusader period (thirteenth century CE), which was probably the cesspit of a residential building and its finds, attest to possible settlement beyond the line of the city’s fortifications during the Crusader period. The intestinal parasites found in the laboratory samples taken from the cesspit’s contents are evidence of common diseases that afflicted the building’s residents during that period; the ballista stones attest to the battle in ‘Akko and the fall of the Crusader city.
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