During October–November 2004 an excavation was conducted at the site of Ramla South to determine the extent of ancient remains, prior to planning the route of Highway 431 (Permit No. A-4144; map ref. NIG 18732–55/64674–718; OIG 13732–55/14674–718). The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Public Works Department, was directed by A. Gorzalczany, with the assistance of H. Torge (area supervision and study of ceramic finds), Y. Elisha, A. Lego and T. Kanias (area supervision), A. Hayim (assistant to area supervisors), S. Ya‘aqov-Jam and E. Behar (administration), V. Essman, V. Pirsky and A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Kamaisky (pottery restoration), R. kool and A. Berman (numismatics), M. Sadeh (archaeozoology), K. Cytryn (Islamic-period ceramics), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), Y. Gorin-Rosen and N. Katznelson (glass finds), Y. Elisha and R. Lupu (preliminary mechanical trenching of the excavation area), O. Shmueli and C. Sari. We wish to thank Y. Zelinger who contributed important information concerning the site and the security team of the Israel Military Industries’ Giv‘on camp.
The excavation area extends south of Highway 40 and east and west of Highway 4304 that leads to Moshav Mazliah (Fig. 1). The establishment of a military camp during the British Mandate period severely damaged part of the site. Sixty two squares, spread across three areas (21 squares in Area A, 18 in Area B and 23 in Area C), were excavated, documenting the maximum area that could to be disturbed by the road-paving project. The work in Areas A and B focused on expanding and completing the excavation of complexes from the preceding excavation at the site, conducted by Y. Zelinger, as well as investigating the area west of Highway 4304 (Area C) for the first time. The three areas encompassed a total scope of approximately 66,670 sq m.
Remains of a residential (?) and an industrial areas, dating to the Early Islamic period (Umayyad and Abbasid) and including numerous installations for storing water, pottery workshops and agricultural installations (winepresses, irrigation pools, pipes for conveying water and drainage pits), were discovered. Evidence for metal and glass industries (slag) was found, as well as architectural elements incorporated in secondary use in walls. These elements probably belonged to public buildings (churches?) from the Byzantine period and may have originated in Lod (Diosopolis) or in the church exposed in the excavations at the nearby Nesher plant (Y. Zelinger, per. comm.). The stratigraphic sequence below is preliminary.
This topographically high area revealed four layers, dating to the Early Islamic period (Umayyad and Abbasid), which consisted of numerous installation remains, cisterns for storing water and pipes for conveying water that were apparently connected to them and remains of pottery and perhaps glass kilns that attested to the existence of industries. Other exposed antiquities included numerous plaster floors that were usually delimited by robber trenches where the walls were dismantled. Five layers from Late Bronze Age II (Fig. 2), damaged by later strata, were uncovered at the high part of the site (the modern surface is considerably different than in antiquity and the original topography is unclear). Mud-brick walls and floors overlaid with fragments of pottery vessels were discerned, as well as some potsherds dating to Middle Bronze Age II, Iron Age II, and the Hellenistic, Early Roman, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Three layers, dating to the Early Islamic period, including installations, walls and floors that indicated the existence of large buildings, as well as potter’s kilns (Fig. 3), were discovered. A potter’s workshop, probably from the early Islamic period was exposed in the northern part of the area, next to Highway 4304. It comprised at least two kilns, survived by the firing chambers that were dug into the hamra soil and lined with clay. Numerous layers of ash and potter’s waste were uncovered around them. The northern kiln apparently specialized in firing jars, whereas cooking pots were fired in the southern kiln. Overlying the kiln layer was another layer from the Early Islamic period that included plastered installations and drainage pits (Fig. 4). Other finds from the Early Islamic period consisted of large building remains, water cisterns with pipes connected to them and architectural elements incorporated in secondary use in the walls (Fig. 5).
Several layers, characterized by a multitude of water-storing installations and kilns were recorded, mainly in the eastern part of the area (Complexes 1–4). Complex 1 included two adjacent installations with plastered floors, built of small stones and gray bonding material. To their south were robber trenches of plundered walls and the gray bonding material on which they were built. A wall with traces of plaster on its western side was discovered to the west of the installations. A large vault built of fieldstones and gray bonding material was uncovered below the wall; three arches abutted it from the east, probably leading to another vault.
Complex 2 included two floors of gray bonding material, separated by the robber trench of a wall. Remains of thin lime floors were discerned north of these floors. The opening of a water cistern, hewn in the limestone bedrock, which was abutted by a plaster floor (Fig. 6), was in the center of the complex.
Complex 3 consisted of two installations just below surface. One of the installations, whose southern part was exposed, was rectangular and plastered. A wall segment belonged to the other installation; its northern side was coated with plaster and a ceramic pipe set on a bedding of gray bonding material abutted it. A stone layer (0.75 × 0.80 m) set on the hamra soil without using bonding material was discovered nearby, as well as two rectangular installations (1.5 × 2.0 m) built of small stones and gray bonding material in the hamra soil that were covered with vaults. The western installation had a floor of gray bonding material, whereas the eastern one had no floor, but at least five ceramic pipes of different diameters led to all of its walls. Bonding material was discerned on its eastern wall and it is therefore presumed that it was also plastered. A circular potter’s kiln (Fig. 7) in an excellent state of preservation, which belonged to this complex, was discovered below the remains of a floor and partially excavated. Three stones embedded in its walls were probably used to support an intermediate floor that was not preserved. The kiln’s chimney or a hot air flue was discerned in the southern section of the square. At the base of the flue was a crushed jar, in situ.
Two installations were discovered in Complex 4; one was rectangular and plastered, with a step in its southern part and the southern corner of the other installation had a plastered side. A wall abutted by a floor was exposed between the two installations. Other features included a ceramic pipe (diam. 8.5 cm, length c. 4 m) coated with gray bonding material and small stones on the outside (Fig. 8) and a rectangular installation (1.4 × 2.2 m) whose thick walls were built of fieldstones and gray bonding material. It was apparently used for distributing irrigation water to the fields. Another kiln exposed during the trenching of the area by a bulldozer was partially excavated.