The excavation (Fig. 2) uncovered the meager remains of a building and a courtyard with a cistern and a plastered installation. The structure and cistern appear to have been built during the Abbasid period (second half of the eighth–early tenth centuries CE) and used until the Fatimid period (first half of the eleventh century CE). Many excavations conducted nearby in the past have uncovered settlement remains from these periods (for background and references, see Toueg 2019
Beneath the topsoil layer (L100) lay the foundations of a structure (W108–W112; Figs. 3, 4), consisting of at least one room. No floors were found. A courtyard was uncovered to the west of the building, including a round water cistern (L103; Fig. 5) and a rectangular installation (L104; Fig. 5). The cistern was dug in the ground and lined with stones; it was domed and had a hole at the top for drawing water. Cisterns of this type are widespread in Ramla, built throughout the Early Islamic period. The rectangular installation was built of stones and coated with hydraulic plaster; only its base and some of its walls were preserved. The installation was probably used to hold water drawn from the cistern. Soil accumulations (L101–L103, L105, L107) were associated with these remains.
The excavation yielded ceramic finds, including a stamped jar handle (Amitai-Preiss, below), glassware (Gorin-Rosen, below), twelve metal objects (Amitai-Preiss, below)—a bulla, a buckle, two narrow containers, part of a kohl stick, five weights and two pieces of slag—and six coins.
The pottery dates from the Abbasid to the Fatimid periods and includes luster-painted bowls (Fig. 6:1, 2), a Serçe Limani-type bowl imported from Beirut (Fig. 6:3), a buff-ware bowl (Fig. 6:4), Common Glazed bowls (Fig. 6:5, 6), a cup (Fig. 6:7), cooking pots (Fig. 6:8–10), a Gaza Ware jar (Fig. 6:11), jugs (Fig. 6:12–16), a basket-ware juglet (Fig. 6:17), a flask (Fig. 6:18), a pomegranate-shaped container (Fig. 6:19) and oil lamps (Fig. 6:20, 21). Oil lamp No. 21 is decorated with animal and plant images: peacocks, a lion in a hunting scene, and an animal lying beneath a palm tree, interspersed with palm trees and vines; the lamp dates from the Fatimid period.
Four of the six coins from the excavation were identified: two are dated to the Late Roman period—one (IAA 168002) to 324–330 CE and the other (IAA 168004) to Constantine I, 314 CE—one coin dates from the Umayyad period (IAA 168005) and one from the Abbasid period (IAA 168003).
A jar handle (Fig. 7; L101, B1001) has a unique impressed circle. Of 160 presently known stamped handles from across the country, it has no identical parallel. Stamped handles have been discovered in the hill region north of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Ramla, Rehovot, Ashqelon, Yafo, Caesarea, Yoqne‘am and Tiberias (Amitai-Preiss, Cohen-Weinberger and Har-Even 2017). To date, petrographic analysis traced impressed handles to workshops at Deir Samwil (Nabi Samuel), ‘Atara (‘Atarot) and Qassis (Amitai-Preiss, Cohen-Weinberger and Har-Even 2017:85). Where the handle from the current excavation derives is indeterminate: it bears no indication of the workshop’s name, and its clay—of the Moza Formation—is characteristic of all known workshops.
Approximately 78 glass shards were found, half of them diagnostic. Most of the glassware dates from the beginning of Ramla’s construction in the Umayyad period until the Fatimid period. One small piece of glassware is exceptional: a rim of an amber-colored, thick-walled, cast bowl, dated to the late Hellenistic–Early Roman periods (L105, B1044; Fig. 8:1). Unfortunately, the fragment is too small to assign it to one of the vessel’s three known subtypes: a type with horizontally cut grooves, on either the interior or the exterior, a type with prominent ribs, and a plain type (Gorin-Rosen and Katsnelson 2015:122–123, Fig. 6.5: CG31–CG32). This rim is the first glass find of the Hellenist–Early Roman periods to be unearthed in Ramla. It is unclear whether it derives from activities carried out at the site at this time or whether it was brought to the site sometime during the Early Islamic period as glass waste to be recycled. The shard was found together with Umayyad-period vessels: a beaker/bowl fragment and two vessel bases. Coins from the Late Roman period found in the excavation provide evidence of activity in this region before the city’s foundation.
A few shards represent Umayyad-period types: beakers/bowls (L100, L102, L105–L107) with an upright or slightly incurving fire-rounded rim and a simple flat base thickened or slightly convex in the center (vessels of this type were previously discovered in Ramla; Gorin-Rosen 2016:46–47, Fig. 2:8–13, 15, 16, and references therein); vessels with out-folded or in-folded rims and flat or slightly concave bases; bottles decorated with a wavy trail on the neck, which may be delicate and wavy (L106; a distinct Umayyad-period feature), thick and wavy (L107; see bottles and a jug of this type in Ramla, Gorin-Rosen 2016:48–49, Figs. 3:21–23), thick and horizontal or thin and horizontal (L106, L107); and a few pushed-in bases with a pointed kick, also characteristic of the Early Islamic period.
Another vessel representative of the Early Islamic period is called alembic (L100, B1025; Fig. 8:2); it appeared in the Umayyad period and continued into the Abbasid period. The vessel has an out-folded rim and often a distinctive spout. Similar vessels were found in excavations in Ramla (Gorin-Rosen 2010:227, Pl. 10.2:18, 19, see discussion and further references therein).
The later part of the Early Islamic period is represented by a rim of a beaker (L100, B1005; Fig. 8:3) made of colorless glass; it is decorated with a shallow cut groove and a complex pattern incised into the outer wall below the rim. The design consists of a horizontal line engraved below the rim and, under it, a rhombus with a dense net pattern inside. Additional decorative elements are engraved above and below the rhombus. Parallels to this beaker type were found in large quantities in Tiberias, ‘Akko, Ramla, and practically every site with a tenth–eleventh-century CE occupation layer. In Ramla, for example, these beakers are decorated with various designs (Pollak 2007:111–113, Fig. 6:35–37). Numerous beakers of this type, including many bearing net patterns, were recovered from the Serçe Limani wreck off the southern coast of Turkey, dating from the 1020s CE (Kitson-Mim Mack 2009:61–63, Fig. 4-10: BK73, BK75). Notably, the glassware in the shipwreck derives from our region, and it is not improbable that it originates from the same workshop as the glass specimen in Ramla; the products of this workshop were probably distributed widely throughout markets in the region. The same basket also yielded a fragment of the lower part of a small lentoid glass vial, a contemporary vessel that is also known from other excavations in Ramla and at many other sites, including Bet She’an, Tiberias, Yoqne‘am and Fustat (Pollak 2007:127–128, Fig. 11:73, Pl. 4:1).
The vessels found in the excavation join the vast corpus of data compiled in recent years from salvage excavations in Ramla. The current excavation contributes to this corpus the early fragment dating from the late Hellenistic–Early Roman period and the early eleventh-century CE beaker, which is an example of a known form but with a distinctive pattern that has not previously been published.
Bulla (length 0.8 cm; Fig. 9:1). A lead bulla bearing a vegetal motif and the name [م]هند ([Mu]hanad) on one side.
Buckle (Fig. 9:2). A buckle, apparently modern, with two prongs inside it to hold a leather belt.
Containers. Two bronze containers were discovered. One is shaped like a tube (diam. 0.8 cm, height 4.6 cm; Fig. 9:3) with fine ridges across and around the outer wall. Towards the base, the vessel narrows and expands to produce a bulb between narrow ‘waists,’ which in turn rests on a disc-like base. This is probably a container for kohl, perfume, or another kind of expensive ointment. A similar container for kohl, made of a copper alloy, was found in an excavation at the Knights Hotel in ‘Akko (Vrancic 2016:225–242) and dated to the thirteenth century CE. The other container resembles a small ball (Fig. 9:4) and is decorated with roundels; it is reminiscent of a small jar and was probably part of the base of a container for precious ointment.
Kohl Stick (length 3.1 cm; not photographed). A bronze stick with a square cross-section. It was broken and slightly bent at one end.
Five Bronze Weights
1. A thick round weight (diam. 1.5 cm, 4.57 grams; Fig. 9:5) with an Arabic inscription.
Side A: [مح]مد / [ر]سول / [الله]
Transliteration: [muḥa]mmad [ra]sūl [Allāh]
Translation: ‘Muhammad is the messenger of God’
Side B: Traces of: لا ا[له] / الا الله(?) / وحده
Transliteration: lā ʾi[lāha] / ʾillā Allāh(?) / wahda
Translation: ‘There is no deity but God alone’
2. A square weight (1 × 1 cm, 5.76 grams; Fig. 9:6) marked with three dots on one side. Two similar weights, one weighing 0.5 dirham (1.36 grams) and the other weighing 1 dirham (2.8 grams) found in Caesarea were marked with three dots on their base (Holland 2009:45–46, Nos. 133, 139).
3. A Rectangular weight (0.8 ×
1.0 cm, 2.84 grams; Fig. 9:7). A similar brick-shaped weight was found in an excavation on Rambam Street in Ramla (0.6 × 0.9 cm, 1.29 grams; Amitai-Preiss 2017b
4. A Barrel-shaped weight (diam. 1.9 cm, 14.23 grams). A similar weight (14.59 grams), regarded as a 5-dirham weight, was found in Caesarea (Holland 1986:182).
5. A Round weight (diam. 0.4 cm, 1.98 grams).
. Two pieces of lead slag were found. One is shaped like a club (3.7 cm long; Fig. 9:8), wide and rounded at one end and narrowing toward the opposite end. The other is an irregularly shaped piece of lead (1.2–1.8 × 1.9 cm; Fig. 9:9). Other excavations in Ramla have retrieved bits of bronze, for example at Birkat el-Jamus (el-Jamus Pool; Amitai-Preiss 2017a
). A workshop for manufacturing metal tools using a furnace was also discovered (Torgë, Haddad and Toueg 2016
). Evidence of copper smelting was found nearby, according to sediment left in several crucibles found in the excavation (Permit No. A-4929; O. Sion and S. Shalev, pers. comm.).
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Amitai-Preiss N. 2017b. Metal Finds. In R. Toueg. Ramla, Rambam Street. HA-ESI 129
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Gorin-Rosen Y. and Katsnelson N. 2015. The Glass Vessels. In Y. Porath. Caesarea Maritima I: Herod’s Circus and Related Buildings 2: The Finds (IAA Reports 57). Jerusalem. Pp. 111–137.
Holland L. 1986. Islamic Bronze Weights from Caesarea Maritima. American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 31:171–201.
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Kitson-Mim Mack J. 2009. Beakers. In G.F. Bass, R.H. Brill, B. Lledó and S.D. Matthews. Serçe Limani II: The Glass of an Eleventh-Century Shipwreck. College Station, Tex. Pp. 41–76.
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