During October–November 2011, a trial excavation was conducted at Mount Tabor (Permit No. A-6285; map ref. 236553–81/732548–67), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Catholic Church’s Custodian of the Holy Land, was directed by Y. Gur (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi and H. 'Ez el-Din (administration), R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting) and W. Atrash (guidance).
The excavation area (4.5×13.0 m) was opened next to the Gate of the Winds, in the entrance to the Franciscan compound on Mount Tabor. A section of an Ayyubid fortification, which was built in 1212–1213 CE by Al-Malek Al-Mu‘tam, son of the Muslim ruler Al-Malek Al-‘Aadal, the brother of Saladin, was exposed.
During this period, the mountain was one of the battlegrounds fought over by the Muslims and Crusaders, and control of the mountain passed between them several times. At the end of the nineteenth century CE the monastery’s Franciscan abbot, B. Meistermann, conducted an extensive study of Mount Tabor (E. Shiller, ed. 1982. Mount Tabor and its Surroundings. Qardom 20:11 [Hebrew]) in the wake of which he rehabilitated the Gate of the Winds in 1897. An inscription was discovered in the gate stating that the fortification was built by Al-Malek Al-Mu‘atam on 5 Muharram in the year 610 AH (May 27, 1213 CE). The inscription is currently kept in the Greek Orthodox Church of Eliyahu.
The southwestern part of a massive platform that served as a foundation base for the Ayyubid gate was exposed (Figs. 1, 2). The southern wall (W1; Fig. 3) and western wall (W2; Fig. 4) of the platform were constructed from large ashlars placed on the bedrock and preserved two courses high. Fill consisting of fieldstones and mortar was discovered between the two walls. In addition, two modern walls were revealed. One of these was exposed along the northern edge of the excavation (W3; not marked on the plan); it was built as a retaining wall for the road that passed through there. It seems that the wall was built of stones in secondary use that were taken from the Ayyubid-period fortification. The second wall (W5) was built of small fieldstones placed on the platform perpendicular to W3. Fill consisting of medium fieldstones arranged unevenly was discovered east of W5. It seems that W5 and the fill adjacent to it were built when the Gate of the Winds was renovated in 1897.