During March–June and November 2017, an educational excavation was conducted on the summit of the hill on which Horbat Tittora is situated (Permit No. A-7949; map ref. 202056/645550). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A.S. Tendler with the assistance of V. Bosidan-Gadol and guides of the Israel Antiquities Authority central district educational department (guiding of school students), Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), M. Johananoff and S. Krispin (metal detecting), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz and Y. Marmelstein (field and aerial photography) and H. Torgë, B.J. Dolinka and I. Taxel (ceramics).
Horbat Tittora is a large, multi-strata antiquities site located on a hill within the modern city of Modi‘in (Fig. 1). Numerous archaeological excavations at the site revealed substantial evidence of settlement during all the periods from the end of the Chalcolithic until modern times (Gudovitz and Feldstein 1996:125; Birman and Goldin 1997; Gibson and Lass 1998; Lass 1998a; 1998b; Segal 1998; Kedar 2014:58). The site overlooks two ancient roads that led from the coastal plain to Jerusalem, and it is surrounded by wide alluvial valleys, which provided a fertile agricultural hinterland for the settlement through the ages. A survey (Pringle 1997:35–36) and a trial excavation (Gudovitz and Feldstein 1996) conducted on the summit of the hill investigated a tower built in the Crusader period, possibly part of a fortress (Qal‘at Tantura, el-Burj).
The present excavation was conducted in two areas abutting the tower (Fig. 2): Area A to its south, and Area B to its north and west.
Area A (Fig. 3) uncovered a courtyard that seems to have provided domestic services for the tower during the Crusader, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The courtyard had a tamped-earth floor, on which a tabun was set. The floor lay on a fill rich with finds, which along with pottery, coins and metal artifacts included fragments of clay ovens, wood charcoal, charred seeds and animal bones. An initial examination of the finds has shown that they are mixed, mainly representing the medieval and the late Ottoman periods. This mixture may be due to disturbances caused during the Ottoman period, likely by intensive agricultural activities, as it is evident from aerial photos of the first half of the twentieth century that the area surrounding the tower was utilized as an agricultural plot. The fill covered a layer of massive collapsed debris, which was reached at about 1 m below the courtyard floor and is obviously much earlier in date. This layer was not fully excavated, and hence the living surface on which it lies was not reached.
Area B yielded the remains of two Late Roman-period (third–fourth centuries CE) buildings. The remains of the first comprise the northern and western walls of a monumental structure, built from massive ashlars (c. 0.6 × 0.8 m); this structure continued under the remains of the tower (Fig. 4). The remains of the second building comprise its southwestern corner, uncovered to the north of the monumental building. These remains comprise a room whose walls and floor were plastered. Sunk into the plastered floor were four dolia—large ceramic storage vessels (Fig. 5).
The excavation uncovered previously unknown monumental remains from the late Roman period below and adjacent to the Crusader tower at Horbat Tittora. The study of the abundant finds from the medieval and late Ottoman periods will significantly contribute to our understanding of daily life at the site during these periods.
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