In September 2020, a trial excavation was conducted at 27 David Marcus Street in Ramla (Permit No. A-8776; map ref. 188072–88/648654–78; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Toueg (field photography), with the assistance of Y. Amrani and Z. Lotan (administration), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), H. Torgë (pottery), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), I.E. Delerson (plans), D. Gazit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and L. Sandberg (numismatics).
The current excavation opened two adjacent squares (Fig. 2) that yielded finds from the Early Islamic period (‘Abbasid–Fatimid periods; ninth–eleventh centuries CE) and the British Mandate era. Meager architectural remains were attributed to the Early Islamic period and some showed evidence of three phases. A cesspit dating from the days of the British Mandate uncovered in the northeastern corner of the excavation area had damaged the earlier remains. Numerous previous excavations were conducted near the excavation area (for background and references, see Toueg, Sion and Torgë 2016).
Early Islamic Period. Sparse building remains attributed to this period form no clear plan, although three building phases from the Fatimid period were discerned in a small part of the northwestern excavation area. On top of the natural sand (L109) in the area’s northwestern corner, a large storage jar was revealed (L113; Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 3) supported on its north side by small fieldstones that were probably intended to prop it up; the jar leaned southward, apparently due to the lack of supporting stones on this side. The jar contained Fatimid potsherds; a layer of ash was found at the bottom and burn marks are visible on the jar walls, indicating that at some point it was used for baking or cooking. Previous excavations in Ramla revealed jars of this type incorporated in a floor (e.g., Toueg 2007). Since the jar could not be associated with a floor or with any other remains, alterations in the subsequent phase (below) may have included the removal of the floor in which it was incorporated. The sand beneath the jar (L109) yielded ‘Abbasid pottery, including a jug (Fig. 4:10), and an Umayyad coin (697–750 CE; IAA 175450). In the following phase, when the jar was no longer used, the part from the neck upwards was broken off and placed inside it. A stone floor (L108; Fig. 3) laid over the remains of the jar was later cut into by the cesspit from the British Mandate era (L101, below). Floor 108 was rendered obsolete and covered with a thin layer of soil, on which a plaster floor was laid (L104; Fig. 5); this floor was also damaged by the cesspit. The dismantling of Floor 108 revealed pottery from the Fatimid period (not drawn) as well as part of a marble slab (Fig. 6:1) and a fragment of red-painted fresco (Fig. 6:2). The make-up of Floor 104 also yielded Fatimid pottery (not drawn) as well as an Early Islamic oil lamp (Fig. 4:22).
A stone wall (W105; Fig. 7) that continued southward beyond the limits of the excavation was partially uncovered near the surface in the area’s southwestern corner; a probe dug beside the wall revealed four courses without reaching its foundation. The wall was abutted on the east by a plaster floor (L110) that yielded ‘Abbasid pottery, including a Common Glaze ware bowl (Fig. 4:1), as well as Fatimid pottery, including an Under Glazed Opaque bowl imported from Egypt with a script-like decoration (Fig. 4:4) and a zir jar (Fig. 4:7). Part of a plaster floor (L114) and three stones that may be the scant remains of another wall (W112; Fig. 8) were uncovered northeast of W105.
Above these meager remains and beneath the surface accumulation, fills (L103, L106, L107) yielded Early Islamic pottery: L103 (partially excavated) produced a fragment of a bowl (Fig. 4:2); the most recent pottery in L106 dates from the Fatimid period, including two zir jars (Fig. 4:6, 8), one (Fig. 4:8) with a combed wavy decoration, a Jerusalem-type jar (Fig. 4:9) and a barbotine jug (Fig. 4:15); L107 yielded pottery from the ‘Abbasid period, including a mold-made jug (Fig. 4:12) and the Early Islamic period, including a strainer jug (Fig. 4:18) and a grenade-like vessel (Fig. 4:20). Early Islamic pottery was recovered also from the surface layer (L100), including a glazed jug (Fig. 4:16) and another jug (Fig. 4:17), both from the Fatimid period. Other Early Islamic finds found in a fill (L102) that covered the mandatory cesspit (L101) probably come from archaeological accumulations brought to the site in the days of the British Mandate. The finds include a bowl (Fig. 4:3), a casserole (Fig. 4:5), mold-made jugs (Fig. 4:11, 13, 14), an amphoriskos (Fig. 4:19) and an oil lamp (Fig. 4:21), as well as a cast ‘Abbasid coin (750–850 CE; IAA 175451).
British Mandate Era. In the northeastern corner of the excavation area, a round cesspit was uncovered (L101) built of blocks composed of a shell-rich mixture, showing that they were made with beach sand. The pit was found blocked up with clean sand devoid of finds, overlain by a fill with ancient finds (L102; above).
Despite the site’s scant architectural remains, the finds suggest the presence of a residential building in the Early Islamic period that probably belonged to an affluent neighborhood, as attested to by finds from previous excavations nearby (for examples, see Toueg 2007; Toueg 2016; Toueg, Sion and Torgë 2016). This is substantiated by the Fatimid vessels, including a bowl imported from Egypt with a script-like decoration, as well as a marble slab fragment that may attest to the use of marble pieces for flooring and a painted fresco fragment that is probably part of the building’s interior decoration.
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Toueg R. 2007. Excavation in Marcus Street, Ramla: Stratigraphy. Contract Archaeology Reports 2:12–37.
Toueg R. 2016. Ramla, David Marcus Street. HA-ESI 128.
Toueg R., Sion O. and Torgë H. 2016. Ramla, David Marcus Street. HA-ESI 128.