An excavation conducted to the north, in the Plaza Hotel car park (HA-ESI 125
), revealed a layer of alluvium from the Roman period, remains of a settlement beginning only in the Abbasid period and unmistakable evidence of a settlement in the Fatimid, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The finds from the Roman period connect the two neighboring excavations. In the Roman period the city extended west of the excavation area. Layers of pebbles and clay containing numerous potsherds from the Roman period accumulated on the shore of the Kinneret, perhaps in a shallow lagoon.
The only structure built in the area was the stadium, whose southern part was exposed in Galei Kinneret and a section of its western wall was revealed in the excavation of the Plaza Hotel car park. The significant difference between the finds of the two neighboring excavations raised the possibility that the northern boundary of the Umayyad city and the southern boundary of the Crusader city are located in the current excavation area, which contributed greatly to our knowledge of the city of Tiberias’ development in antiquity.
Six settlement strata were exposed in the excavation (Strata 1–6; Fig. 2).
Stratum 6 (Early and Middle Roman period)
A wall, built of square stones bonded with gray mortar, was partially revealed in layers of pebbles and clay that contained potsherds swept from the city of Tiberias (depth of excavation 0.6 m; Fig. 3). The wall was similar to the wall of the Roman stadium exposed in the Plaza Hotel car park. It too might have belonged to the stadium but its excavation was not completed.
Stratum 5 (Umayyad period)
Settlement remains from the Umayyad period, which constituted three phases of installations, were exposed in a probe. The earliest phase was constructed on remains of the wall from Stratum 6, whose top served as the floor of the installation. On the east, the installation was enclosed by a wall built of fired mud bricks. Fired mud-brick collapse and remains of a fire that covered a group of eight whole jars were exposed inside the installation. It seems that it was used as a potter’s kiln for ceramic jars (Fig. 4). The installation was surrounded by three layers of a plaster floor. Remains of a fire that extended to the south and west were discovered on the plaster floor and were discerned in the sections. A cluster of lamps bearing Arabic inscriptions was exposed on the north side of the floor. This phase was covered by a thick layer of fill containing small fieldstones and fragments of gray and pinkish orange plaster that was leveled as a floor with light brown soil.
A space with six superposed floors was discovered in the east of the excavation (Fig. 5). The bottom floor consisted of an extremely thick layer of plaster applied to a foundation of small fieldstones. In the fill beneath the bottom floor were potsherds that dated it to the Umayyad period; the five floors above it dated to the Fatimid period (see Stratum 3).
Stratum 4 (Abbasid period)
A wall, generally aligned north–south (length 1.35 m, width 0.45 m, height 0.9 m) was exposed in a probe. The wall’s foundation trench was dug into the Umayyad stratum and yielded potsherds from the eighth–ninth centuries CE that dated the construction of the wall to the Abbasid period. Other walls were built on top of it in the Fatimid period (see Stratum 3).
Stratum 3 (Fatimid period)
A narrow strip of a residential quarter was exposed. Dwellings built of ashlars with sections of walls built of fieldstones were uncovered in the western part of the stratum. The buildings had courtyards paved with basalt slabs. Artifacts that date the construction of the buildings to the tenth century CE were discovered. The buildings were also used in the eleventh century CE, with modifications that included added walls and doorways that were blocked (Fig. 6). Five floors ascribed to the Fatimid period were discovered on the Umayyad floor in the east of the excavation. A channel aligned north–south was exposed below the second plaster floor from the top; the cross-section of the channel, from west to east, was concave and its sides were coated with a thick layer of white plaster. The channel cut through two earlier plaster floors.
Stratum 2 (Late Fatimid and Crusader periods)
The upper floor in the floor sequence adjoined the walls of buildings from the Fatimid period. The floor was composed of plaster applied to a bedding of flat fieldstones bonded with gray plaster, on soil fill with several fieldstones and plaster debris. The ceramic finds recovered from the fill dated the floor to the end of the eleventh century CE. This floor was the latest in the excavation area and was only found in the eastern part of the excavation. No artifacts from this period were discovered in other areas.
A broad wall traversed the excavation area from east to west (width 0.90–1.25 m, height 2.85 m; Fig. 7). The northern face of the wall, exposed to seven courses high, was mostly built of roughly hewn basalts bonded with mortar. The core of the wall and its southern face were built of soil and small fieldstones in dry construction. The wall’s foundation was also built of a single course of large basalt fieldstones in dry construction. The wall was parallel to the Ottoman city wall. Layers of alluvium devoid of any datable artifacts were discovered north of the wall and below them was stone collapse, resulting from the destruction of the wall’s upper part. The construction of the wall destroyed buildings from earlier strata, the latest of which dated to the second half of the eleventh century CE. It seems that the broad wall was the opposing wall of a wide moat that was dug parallel to the southern city wall, which was not exposed in the excavation. Remains of walls and pottery from the Roman period were exposed in the west of the moat; however, it seems that the walls were later, dug into accumulations of alluvium from the Roman period. A similar wall of the city’s western moat was exposed in an excavation conducted on Ha-Galil Street (HA-ESI 122
). The width of the moat (c. 10 m) was revealed in the current excavation and some potsherds were discovered, mostly dating to the Fatimid period and a few to the Crusader period. The Crusaders conquered Tiberias shortly after the city’s area was reduced to that of the Old City and the city walls were built. It seems that the moat and the city wall, which has yet to be uncovered, also continued to be used in the Crusader and Mamluk periods. Remains from these periods were found almost exclusively within the precincts of the city walls and not outside of them. The Ottoman city walls were built along a route similar to the medieval city walls and enclosed the city until the twentieth century CE.
Stratum 1 (Modern Era)
The excavation area remained outside the city limits after the destruction of the moat. An extremely thick layer of alluvium (height in excess of 2 m) consisting of yellow-light brown clay devoid of potsherds had accumulated above the collapse in the moat. It seems that a depression remaining in the path of the moat served as a channel through which flood waters flowed, which last occurred in the 1930s. The moat might have been dug along the course of an ancient wadi. Remains of the buildings and the moat’s alluvium were covered with a thick layer of soil that contained modern artifacts. It seems that the area was straightened and leveled during the modern era.