The cesspits were part of an industrial area dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE, which was exposed in previous excavations conducted in the region along the planned route of Highway 431 (HA-ESI 118
, HA-ESI 120
, HA-ESI 121
, HA-ESI 122
). During the course of these excavations eleven main strata that ranged in date from prehistoric times until the Mamluk period and the time of the British Mandate were identified. A large industrial region from the Early Islamic period was discovered; it included plastered industrial installations, pottery workshops, cisterns and cesspits, as well as agricultural installations with terra-cotta pipes and irrigation pools.
In two other excavations (HA-ESI 124
; Permit No. A-6434) conducted nearby in 2011 and 2012, plastered installations, remains of walls and floors from the Early Islamic period and a pottery workshop from the Umayyad period were documented.
Another excavation (Permit No. A-6458) was conducted in 2012 c. 30 m north of the current excavation; remains of a building from the Byzantine period and those of industrial installations from the Early Islamic period were uncovered. The cesspit excavated in the current excavation was constructed in the Umayyad period and used until the Abbasid period.
Cesspit 104. A half square was excavated in the upper part of the section that was created as a result of damage by mechanical equipment. The eastern shoulder of a road dating to the time of the British Mandate was situated on the surface (L100) and potsherds dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE were collected. Hard clay soil (L101) devoid of finds was excavated below the surface. While excavating the clay, one side of a drainage channel (L103; Fig. 2) that had been damaged by a root of a eucalyptus tree was exposed. The sides of the channel were built of fieldstones and mortar. The channel was aligned southeast–northwest and curved to the northeast, toward the cesspit. The part where the channel connected to the cesspit was only partly preserved. An examination of the section created by the mechanical equipment revealed that Cesspit 104 was built inside a square pit that had been dug in the clay and was larger than the area of the cesspit. The southeastern side of the cesspit abutted up against the excavation in the clay, while a gap of 0.7 m remained between its northwestern side and the other side of the excavation (L105; Fig. 3). The cesspit’s southwestern side was not exposed, whereas its northeastern side was damaged by the earthmoving work. The sides were built of fieldstones without mortar (preserved height c. 1.8 m). The cesspit was covered with a vault that did not survive and was attested to by the tops of the cesspit’s sides. The foundation trench (L105) that remained between the northwestern side and the edge of the excavated pit was backfilled with fieldstones and plaster debris after the cesspit was built. Two layers were excavated inside the cesspit: a gray bottom layer (L106) that had accumulated when the cesspit was in use. It was rich in clay and there was evidence of standing water in it. The upper layer (L104) filled the cesspit after the installation was no longer being used. Pottery vessels dating to the late eighth–early ninth centuries CE were collected from the lower accumulation of fill and potsherds dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE were gathered from the upper accumulation.
Cesspit 102 was not excavated because the section was in danger of collapsing. It was bell-shaped and its sides were built of smoothed stones without mortar (Fig. 4). It seems that it was built and used at the same time as Cesspit 104. Neither cesspit had a proper bottom.
Pottery (Fig. 5)
The pottery vessels recovered from the excavation of Cesspit 104 and the layers of fill that accumulated around the drainage channel dated to the late eighth century CE. These included a bowl with an engraved decoration (Fig. 5:1), a Gaza jar (Fig. 5:2), a jug with a wavy white decoration on a dark slip (Fig. 5:3), a jug with a ridged rim (Fig. 5:4), and a juglet (Fig. 5:5).
The rectangular cesspit that was damaged during the preparation of a building lot belonged to the large adjacent industrial region that had previously been excavated. A variety of industrial installations was exposed in the industrial region, among them basins for collecting liquids, potter’s kilns, workshops and numerous storerooms. The industrial region, which was probably built in the Late Byzantine period, continued to be used in the Umayyad period until the earthquake that struck in 749 CE. The industrial region was renovated in the Abbasid period (ninth–tenth centuries CE) and ceased to be used only in the Fatimid period (tenth–eleventh centuries CE). Prior excavations showed that all of the cesspits at the site were built in the early part of the Umayyad period and went out of use at the end of that period. The results of the current excavation are consistent with these findings.