In December 2014 and January 2015, a trial excavation was conducted at the Fisherman’s Square in the old city of ‘Akko (Permit No. A-7282; map ref. 206803–57/758382–7; Fig. 1), prior to renovation of the square. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by E. Stern and J. Gosker (field photography), with the assistance of K. Covello-Paran (guidance), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Liran and R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), A. Shapiro (GPS), E.J. Stern (pottery), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), C. Hersch (glass drawing), C. Amit (glass photography), I. Ktalav (shells) and laborers from Kafr Manda.
The excavation was located at the Fisherman’s Square, next to Khan el-‘Umdan near the harbor of ‘Akko’s old city. The Ottoman Khan el-‘Umdan was constructed during the rule of Jazzar Pasha (1775–1804 CE). A map drawn by Pierre Jacotin during Napoleon’s siege of ‘Akko shows a body of water where the Khan el-‘Umdan is located. Some scholars have identified this body of water with the inner harbor mentioned in historical sources of the Crusader period. However, as the khan already existed during Jacotin’s visit, his map cannot be considered accurate (for a more detailed discussion on the inner harbor, see Stern 2015:149–154). During the British Mandate period, the Fisherman’s Square was closed off from the nearby harbor when a customs house was built between the khan and the el-Bahar Mosque to its east.
The excavation (4 × 7 m) uncovered the remains of a pavement and the foundations of a wall dating from the Ottoman period. Below it was a fill of the same period, which continued to a depth of at least 2.9 m below sea level.
The remains found in the present excavation can be ascribed to two phases of construction, both most likely from the late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE. The earlier phase is represented by a fill and a wall with a stepped foundation (W106; Figs. 2–4), its lowermost course wider by 0.2 m than the one above it, which in turn is wider by 0.2 m than the wall itself. The foundation was carelessly constructed from roughly hewn medium-sized stones and smaller unhewn stones, its second course surviving only on the wall’s northern side; this wall was cut when a plastic sewer pipe was installed. Its foundation may have been built to support the northern wall of Khan el-‘Umdan, standing only a few meters to its south, although an alternative possibility is that it was part of another building. The fill associated with W106 was further exposed in a deep sounding (L110, L115) in the norther part of the excavation area. The fill within the sounding consisted of dark mud, which yielded nineteenth-century pottery through all its levels. The relation between this fill and W106 remains unclear.
Remains belonging to the second phase of construction in this area include a pavement (F104; Fig. 5, not visible in the section) built of large slabs atop a thin bedding of earth (L102, L103). This pavement was also cut by the plastic pipe, and parts of it appear to have been removed, likely when the pipe was installed. The pavement and its bedding were covered by a thin accumulation of black earth and a modern pavement.
As the pottery found in all excavation loci dates mostly from the nineteenth century CE (see below), the earlier phase of construction is attributed to this century, while the later phase—the laying down of Pavement 104—may also date from the nineteenth century but could have taken place slightly later, perhaps when the British customs house was built. This building was demolished in the 1970, and a new pavement was laid down at a later time.
As the ceramic finds do not point to any difference in date between the two construction phases, they are presented as a single assemblage. Most of this material dates from the nineteenth century CE, while a few eighteenth-century CE sherds were found as well. The kitchen ware includes mainly imported vessels and two locally produced jars; the provenance of other vessels could not be identified. The cooking ware includes a cooking pot from southern France bearing light brown glaze (Fig. 6:1), a cooking pot of brown fabric with a large amount of silvery mica (Fig. 6:2) and a cooking pot of a very fine fabric with a burned rim (Fig. 6:3); the latter two pots are of unknown provenance. Two local jars (Fig. 6:4, 5) were produced in ‘Akko. Several body sherds belong to a very large vessel (diam. c. 1.5 m; Fig. 6:6) bearing four large ridges. Their fabric contains many large grog and other white inclusions. No parallels for this vessel, which was most likely a storage jar, could be found. Another fragment belongs to a storage jar produced at the village of Rashaya el-Fukhar (Fig. 6:7), a village in southern Lebanon that produced this type of pottery during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Stern 2016:86). A small jar (Fig. 6:8) of unknown provenance and light reddish brown fabric was also found.
The tableware was imported from regions within the Ottoman Empire and European countries, as far as Western Europe (Figs. 7, 8). A large yellow-glazed basin with a fine reddish orange fabric of unknown provenance was found (Fig. 7:1). A large bowl was imported from Rashaya el-Fukhar (Fig. 7:2). Imports from Çanakkale in the Dardanelles region of western Turkey (Vroom 2003:180–181) include the base of a white-slipped bowl bearing a painted floral motif in manganese and blue under a transparent glaze (Fig. 7:3), dating from the eighteenth century, and two similar bowls with only manganese paint and a more abstract motif (Fig. 7:4, 5), dating from the nineteenth century. A slip-painted bowl (Fig. 7:6) is a production of Didymoiteicho, northern Greece (Vroom 2003:186–187). Other Ottoman imports comprise two reverse-slip green-glazed bowls (Fig. 7:7, 8) and a marble ware bowl (Fig. 7:9). A bowl made of Pisan marble ware was also found (Fig. 7:10). Other imported ware from Pisa comprise two sgraffito ware bowls (Fig. 7:11, 12). Three bowls with a ledge rim most likely originated from Western Europe: one has a wavy ledge rim and was originally white-glazed (Fig. 7:13), and the other two have plain ledge rims, and comprise one example that is merely white-glazed (Fig. 7:14) and another displaying blue paint and white glaze (Fig. 7:15).
A porcelain coffee cup (Figs. 9:1; 10) manufactured by the German Meissen factory (Vincenz 2017:125) bears a purple, gold and red decoration on the exterior and a purple flower on the interior; the Meissen mark of crossed swords appears on the bottom of the cup. The presence of this mark is noteworthy, as it was not stamped on many of the cups produced for export to the Ottoman Empire, for fear of its possible misinterpretation as a Christian symbol. Several sherds belong to vessels manufactured in Kütahya, western Turkey, including a coffee cup (Fig. 9:2), a bowl (Fig. 9:3) and a coffee-pot lid (Figs. 9:4; 11). A large vessel (Fig. 9:5) made of a reddish fabric and bearing a yellowish glaze over a white slip seems to be a chamber pot.
Many smoking pipe heads were found, all dating from the late nineteenth century (Figs. 9:6; 12). One of these pipes was stamped on the bottom (Fig. 13)—an unusual location, as stamps are typically found on the sides of pipes. One plane red tile bears a cross-shaped impression on the back, which probably allowed it to be better affixed to the wall (Fig. 9:7).
Six glass objects were found in the excavation, all from the bedding under Pavement 104 (L102, L103; Fig. 14).
Vessel No. 1, the earliest, was a solid wineglass base made of green glass and bearing tool marks. Its shape and color are typical of the Byzantine and early Umayyad periods. Such wineglass bases have been found in marine and land excavations in ‘Akko, for example, on Ha-Haroshet Street (Gorin-Rosen 2012: Fig. 4:8) and in the area of the courthouse (Katsnelson 2016: Fog. 3.9:58).
Rim No. 2 is folded inward in a broad, thickened fold, and belonged to a round window, the center of which was conical and thickened. The glass is bluish green and covered with silvery weathering. Windows of this type began to appear in the Crusader period and continued in use until the Ottoman period. They served mainly in bathhouses. This fragment represents a later type, typical of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Windows of a similar type used in a bathhouse were found, for example, in Nazareth (Alexandre 2012:98–100, Fig. 4.7:3–6).
The small perfume bottle (No. 3) was found intact. It is made of translucent, colorless glass and is simple in form. The rim is short, upright and thickened, and was carelessly made. The body is long and narrow, and has a hexagonal profile with two parallel sides that are longer than the others. The container is small, ending in a sharply pointed bottom—a common method for reducing the volume of a container of costly scent. The shape of the rim does not allow for a screw lid, and thus this bottle was probably closed with a stopper inserted into the rim.
Jug No. 4 is made of colorless, translucent glass, and is decorated with a delicate incision and with gold painting. The jug has a long cylindrical neck ending in a simple rounded rim. The handle is drawn from the neck, right below the rim, to the shoulder. This vessel may have been machine made, but the handle was added manually while the vessel was still warm, as evident from the carelessly drawn out end of the handle. The vessel features a delicately carved vegetal design on the neck, flanking the handle. The rim was decorated with gold paint, which was added without additional heating to fuse the paint and is now flaking due to weathering. The shape of the vessel, the combination of decorations, the way the handle was attached to the body of the vessel and the handling of the lower end of the handle are all very typical of a group of vessels made in Turkey, in precinct of Beykoz in Istanbul during the mid-nineteenth century. Such vessels were made of either colorless or colored glass—mainly blue or green, but there is also a group made of white glass (milk-white opaline). Many of these vessels feature painted decorations in gold or other colors, some have a gold band under the rim, and some have the typical handle (for a Beykoz colorless glass jug and a milk-white opaline glass jug, with a handle and a decoration resembling No. 4 and a base resembling No. 5 [see below], see Özgümüş 2000:79–80, 138–140, Nos. 60, 66.)
Base No. 5 is made of white opaque glass, industrially produced with no signs of working on the base. This base may have belonged to a Beykoz jug.
Base No. 6 belongs to a bottle. It is pushed in and thickened, and bears a coarse pontil scar. The glass is colorless with a pinkish gray tinge, well known from vessels dated to the Ottoman period. The base is typical of cylindrical glass bottles with long necks ending in simple rims, which were made of fairly low-quality glass containing numerous bubbles and foreign particles. The shape of the pontil scar in the center of the base indicated that such vessels were blown by hand in mass production. A group of such bottles was found in the excavations at the ‘Akko Fortress, dated to the Ottoman period (Gorin-Rosen, forthcoming: Fig. 12:1–6).
The group of glass vessels discovered in the excavation is important because they represent vessels from different periods in the history of ‘Akko. Part of the vessels are known from other excavations in the city and its vicinity, while two fragments from the Ottoman period (Fig. 14:4, 5) are unique and represent a famous glass workshop in Turkey; these two vessels are the first of this well-known type to be published from an archaeological excavation in Israel.
One small ‘house-shaped’ marble plate was found (thickness 1 cm; Fig. 15). An irregularly shaped hole was pierced through the center of this object, probably when in secondary use. Neither the original nor the secondary function of this unique item are known.
Four shells were found in Bedding 102, two of which are rocky-shore species that are naturally found near the excavation site: Phorcus turbinatus (Born, 1778) and Spondylus gaederopus (Linnaeus, 1758). Both species are common in the Mediterranean Sea,and one of them, P. turbinatus, is edible. The other two shells belong to the species Pinctada margaritifera (Linnaeus, 1758), known as the black-lip pearl oyster, a species of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. This species has the luster characteristic of mother-of-pearl. Both fragments are engraved, and the edges of the shell are shaped and smoothed (Figs. 16, 17). While only fragments of the edges of the original objects were found, it is known from more complete examples that such objects usually present a central image surrounded by geometric or naturalistic designs. The present two specimens preserve only edge fragments with the peripheral decoration. Engraved shells were produced as pilgrim souvenirs in local workshops at Bethlehem and Jerusalem during the nineteenth century. The characteristic motifs of these pilgrim souvenirs were crosses, rosaries and religious scenes, such as the birth of Jesus, Maria with various saints and the Last Supper. Some of these souvenirs were exported to Catholic countries by Venetian merchants via the port of ‘Akko (Schur 1998). It is possible that the engraved P. margaritifera shells found in the present excavation were part of this trade.
The soil fill within the excavation area accumulated during the nineteenth century. Subsequently, a wall was built, perhaps to support the northern wall of Khan el-‘Umdan or as part of another building. The large number of fragments of smoking pipes, the several sherds of coffee cups and the sherds of other imported fine ceramics suggest that a coffee shop was located nearby. The pavement uncovered above the nineteenth-century fill might have been laid down in this area during the construction of Khan el-‘Umdan or later. The ceramic assemblage attests to the existence of trade connections with other parts of the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Finally, the excavation findings neither confirm nor contradict the presence of an inner harbor.
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