In December 1998–January 1999, a limited salvage excavation was conducted at 17 Derekh Ha-Arba‘a in ‘Akko (License Nos. B-164/1998, B-6/1999; map ref. 207600/758815; Fig. 1), prior to construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa and funded by the contractor, Bolus-Gad, was directed by M. Eisenberg (field, studio and aerial photography and graphic processing), with the assistance of S. Haezrachi (surveying and drafting), N. Kataeeva (drawing), O. Rutgaizer (pottery; see appendix 1), S. Haad (pottery drawing), P. Peled (metallurgical laboratory), A. Berman (numismatics; see appendix 2) and B. Mozes (computing). Our thanks go to E. Stern, who shared with us his vast knowledge of ‘Akko, and to M. Aviam for his assistance.
The excavation area was situated between residential buildings, in an area where previous excavations had taken place (Hartal 1997; Avshalom-Gorni 1999; Stern and Shalvi-Abbas 1999; Tatcher 2000). Mechanically dug trial trenches in the excavation area were followed by the removal of the surface layer down to a depth of c. 2 m below street level prior to the excavation.
The excavation comprised one square (6 × 7 m, excavation depth 3 m; Figs. 2–4), yielding part of an offset in ‘Akko’s Crusader outer city wall and soil fills from the moat that ran along the northern face of the wall. The rich finds from the excavation, especially from the moat’s soil fill, consisted predominantly of potsherds (see Appendix 1), coins (see Appendix 2) and a few architectural elements. The majority of these finds date from the Hellenistic period, and the rest date from the Roman and Byzantine–Early Islamic periods. Once the city wall was discovered, the excavation was extended southward (1.5 × 4.0 m) so as to trace its continuation. The excavation was halted when it reached either sterile soil or groundwater.
Hellenistic Period. Most of the finds dates from the second century BCE and were discovered in the soil fill intermixed with later finds, mainly from the Crusader period. The rich pottery finds date from the fourth through the first centuries BCE and include some 100 stamped handles, the vast majority of which belong to Rhodian amphorae of the late third–second centuries BCE. The excavation also recovered six Hellenistic coins, mostly from the second century BCE. Two large ashlars (L29: B149, B150; Figs. 3, 5) discovered at the bottom of the excavation, near the western section, had been washed into this part of the moat; they may have originated in a Hellenistic- or Roman-period public building. The two ashlars formed a natural break between a fill of sand and a fill of swamp soil.
Roman Period. Several Early–Late Roman finds were recovered, mostly in the lower part of the soil fill, right above the water table (L26). The excavation uncovered three fragments of lower sections of limestone columns with ornamental horizontal profiles near their base (Figs. 6–8). Judging by their style and ornamentation, the columns date from the Early Hellenistic–Roman periods.
Byzantine-Early Islamic Period. Meager pottery sherds and a single coin were found.
Crusader Period. The principal remains and finds date to this period. The uncovered section of the city’s fortification wall comprised a corner formed by two walls (W11, W17; width 0.2–0.3 m, height 3.4 m; Fig. 9) built of diagonally dressed kurkar stones and buttressed on the outside with small and medium-sized kurkar fieldstones (L13, L25; width 0.9 m, height 3.4 m; Fig. 10). The buttressing, extending down to the foundations, was designed to retain the slightly sloping walls. The foundation trench of W11 was uncovered in section 3–3. The remains of crushed-kurkar beddings of two floors (L20, L22; Fig. 11) abutted the walls to the south of W11. Stones that had collapsed from the walls were discovered in the area between the two walls and the square’s southern section (L15). This collapse occurring sometime after the walls were abandoned, as the fallen stones were not found directly on the upper habitation level (L20) but rather on a thin layer of soil (thickness c. 6 cm). There was considerable evidence of stone robbing and displacement at the top of the extant walls. Crusader-period potsherds were found in and beneath the stone rubble, dating the two walls to the Crusader period. The construction, geographic location and alignment of the walls indicate that they are part of an offset protruding from the Crusader fortification wall, and that the soil fills to their north are part of the moat.
The current excavation, much like other excavations in the vicinity, yielded rich finds from the Hellenistic period with no architectural or clear stratigraphic contexts. The large volume of imported Hellenistic objects, the column fragments and the presence of other architectural features, all reinforced the assumption that a Hellenistic- or Early Roman-period public building, which is yet to be uncovered, was located near the excavation area.
The location and alignment of the remains of the outer Crusader fortifications and the adjacent moat that were uncovered in the excavation confirm Benjamin Kedar’s hypothesis regarding the extent of the city and the course of ‘Akko’s outer city walls during the Crusader period (Kedar 1997:158–159, Plan 4). Kedar’s proposed reconstruction of this section of the fortifications matches exactly with the finds in the current excavation, as it is located c. 90 m east of point Q1 on Kedar’s plan. This is the eastern end of the outer moat that is clearly visible in aerial photographs from 1945, on which Kedar relied in his reconstruction (Kedar 1997:158, Plan 4, 172–173).
Avshalom-Gorni D. 1999. ‘Akko, the Courthouse Parking Lot. ESI 19:12*–14*.
Hartal M. 1997. Excavation of the Courthouse Site at ʻAkko: Summary and Historical Discussion. ʻAtiqot 31:109–114.
Kedar B.Z. 1997. The Outer Walls of Frankish Acre. ʻAtiqot 31:157–180.
Stern E.J. and Shalvi-Abbas M. 1999. ‘Akko, Ha-Gedud Ha-‘Ivri Steet. ESI 19:10*–12*.
Tatcher A. 2000. ‘Akko, the Corner of Derekh Ha-Arba‘a and Kaplan Street. HA-ESI 112:15*.