The excavations were conducted in a plot between Keren Ha-Yesod Street and the next street down (Yoni Street; Fig. 1). Two excavations were conducted on the western side, in the lower part of the plot (Permit Nos. A-7145 and A-7237; Area J) and the third was higher up, on the eastern side of the plot (Permit No. A-7422; Area K). Area J (Figs. 2, 3) extends over two levels: The lower level is at the same elevation as Yoni Street. After a layer of soil was removed with a backhoe, two squares (J1 and J2) were opened, and a trench (J3) was dug between them. In the upper level, found covered with collapsed stones and modern refuse, two squares were excavated (J4 and J5; Sq J5 was not drawn). Three squares (K1–K3) were opened in Area K (Fig. 4). The excavation uncovered architectural remains dating from the Mamluk period to the beginning of the twentieth century, similar to the results of a nearby excavation (Cohen 2014).
Near the current excavation areas, two previous excavations were conducted, as a requirement resulting from extensive development on Zefat’s western slope. The first excavation was in 2002 (Fig. 1: A-3708; Cohen 2014) on the southern part of the slope, where the settlement continuum dated from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods to the British Mandate period. The second extensive excavation was conducted in 2004, on the northern part of the slope (Fig. 1: A-4210; Dalali-Amos and Getzov 2019). It uncovered remains of a quarter that was probably built at the beginning of the Mamluk period or slightly earlier and was destroyed in an earthquake in 1408 CE; following its destruction, the quarter was abandoned and remained uninhabited.
Mamluk and Early Ottoman Periods
Area J. In Squares J1 and J2, an accumulation of reddish-brown soil (L104, L105) was found on top of the bedrock. In Sq J2 (L105), the northern face of a wall foundation (W107; Fig. 2: Section 1–1) was built of limestone fieldstones founded on bedrock. Three coins (IAA 168245–168247) dating from the Mamluk period (fourteenth century CE) were found near the foundation of the wall (L105).
A row of roughly dressed stones (W119) that was probably a floor bedding, was discerned at the bottom of Section J3, at the same level as the top of W107. The floor bedding was covered with a thick layer of soil, mixed with small stone chips (L100) resembling Stratum II in the 2004 excavation (Dalali-Amos and Getzov 2019:27*–30*). This accumulation yielded two coins (IAA 168243, 168244) dated to the Mamluk period (fourteenth century CE).
Together with the coins, Loci 100, 104, and 105 yielded a large quantity of pottery dating from the Mamluk and early Ottoman Periods (fourteenth–early sixteenth century CE), including unglazed vessels and small bowls (Fig. 5:1, 2), a large bowl (Fig. 5:3), a casserole (Fig. 5:4) and jars (Fig. 5:5, 6); locally produced glazed ware, including bowls (Fig. 5:7, 8), an amphora (Fig. 5:9) and a jug (Fig. 5:10) with monochrome glaze; glazed bowls gouged with thin (Fig. 5:11, 12) and thick lines (Fig. 5:13, 14) and a buff-ware jug (Fig. 5:15); bowls imported from Syria, such as a bowl made of pale fabric painted black and blue beneath a transparent, colorless glaze (Fig. 5:16; Avissar and Stern 2005:28, Type I.2.3.3); and Italian carinated bowls with a thumb-impressed design (Fig. 5:17, 18; Avissar and Stern 2005:73, Fig. 31.4–6, Type I.9.5).
Area K. Square K2 contained the eastern face of a north–south wall (W219; Fig. 6), built of roughly dressed limestone blocks; a square pier (W221) was built at the southern end of the wall. The wall was built on a row of large, roughly dressed stones (W222) whose context is unclear since the row was not excavated. Above the stone row (W222), to the top of W219 and the pier (W221), an accumulation of powdery brownish gray soil (L220) was sealed beneath collapsed stones (L218) lying from east to west (Fig. 7). In Sq K3, another pile of toppled stones (L216; Fig. 4) lay c. 6.5 m south of L218 (Fig. 4: Section 1–1), also aligned east–west (Fig. 8). The rubble probably came from collapsed buildings higher up the slope whose walls tumbled westward down the slope; the rubble covered the buildings beneath and was scattered throughout the open area.
All the excavation loci yielded pottery dating from the Mamluk and later periods. However, one soil accumulation (L220) and the collapsed stones (L218) only yielded glazed and non-glazed Mamluk pottery, enabling this phase to be firmly dated to the Mamluk period. The unglazed Mamluk wares include a small bowl (Fig. 9:1) and long-necked jugs (Fig. 9:2, 3), with gouged designs (Avissar and Stern 2005:111, Fig. 46:3, Type II.4.3.2) resembling examples from Ramla (Stern, Toueg and Shapiro 2019:145). The glazed pottery includes locally produced bowls (Fig. 9:4–6) with monochromatic green glaze, bowls with monochromatic green or brown glaze with thinly gouged lines (Fig. 9:7, 8; Avissar and Stern 2005:16, Type I.1.5.1), a bowl made of light-colored fabric imported from Syria (Fig. 9:9; Avissar and Stern 2005:26, Type I.2.3.1) and two Polychrome Sgraffito Ware bowls imported from Italy (Fig. 9:10, 11), of a type that was common in the fourteenth century CE and whose distribution in the eastern Mediterranean basin increased in the fifteenth–sixteenth centuries CE (Stern 2014:143–144). These pottery vessels, typical of the Mamluk period, have also been found in large quantities in nearby excavations (Dalali-Amos and Getzov 2019) and in excavations on the western slope (Barbé 2014; Cohen 2014) in the Haret el-Wata Quarter, which was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1408 CE.
Early Ottoman Period (Mid-Sixteenth–Early Eighteenth Centuries CE)
Area K. Squares K2 and K3 (Fig. 4: Section 1–1) contained a thick layer of gray soil (L207, L208/a, L212, L213; Fig. 8) that covered the toppled stones (L216, L218) and the entire area between them. The slope was evidently abandoned for some time, during which a layer of gray organic matter accumulated (L208, L211, L211/a; Fig. 10), probably as a result of an intense fire.
This layer yielded a large quantity of late Mamluk and early Ottoman pottery (sixteenth–eighteenth centuries CE). The pottery includes locally produced unglazed ware, such as bowls (Fig. 11:1–4), a cooking pot (Fig. 11:5) and jars (Fig. 11:6, 7), and glazed ware such as the high base of a green-glazed bowl (Fig. 11:8) with a thumb-impressed design and a bowl (Fig. 11:9) glazed in green inside and out. Mediterranean imports were also found, including a fragment that probably comes from a Maiolica bowl (Fig. 11:10; Stern 2014:147), a Pisan Sgraffito Ware bowl (Fig. 11:11) and an Iznik Ware bowl (Fig. 11:12) and jugs (Fig. 11:13, 14) made of light-colored fabric. Similar ware has been retrieved from various excavations in Zefat (Stern 2014). Four tobacco-pipe fragments were also found (Fig. 11:15–18), three of which are dated to the sixteenth century and one to the early eighteenth century CE.
Late Ottoman Period (Nineteenth–Early Twentieth Centuries CE)
Area J. Square J4 contained part of a street paved with rectangular, roughly dressed hard limestone slabs (L102) arranged from north to south (length 4 m, width 2.3 m; Fig. 12). The paving stones were arranged on either side of a row of larger rectangular stones, which were set along the center of the street. The street was flanked by the outer walls (width 0.75 m) of three buildings (A–C; Fig. 13) whose remains were found on both sides of the street: to the east—a wall (W112) of Building A, whose northwest corner was preserved and a wall (W106) of Building B; to the west—a wall (W103) of Building C, whose northeast corner was preserved. The walls were built of two rows of dressed limestone blocks with a core of small stones between them. The street’s paving stones were laid on a thick layer of gray soil and stone chips (L114) that abutted the eastern face of W103. The paving abutted Walls 103 and 106, but continued beneath W112. This wall was built on top of the paving and extended into the street, narrowing it by 0.3 m. Buildings B and C and the street were thus evidently built first, and Building A was built later. The buildings were separated by open areas: an open area (L115; width c. 2 m, see below) lay between Buildings A and B and another lay to the north of Building C.
At a later stage, perhaps early in the twentieth century CE, three tombs on an east–west axis were built in the open area (L115). The tombs were found open and empty (Fig. 14). A wall (W111) to the north of Building C probably delimited the open space to its north. The buildings on either side of the street had toppled westward down the slope. Wall 112 fell down onto the street paving (L113). Wall 103 had also collapsed, falling into Building C, filling it with rubble that reached as far as the surface of the street (L109). Fragments of plaster painted light blue and chunks of concrete were found among the rubble.
The upper floor of a building was excavated in Sq J5, southwest of Sq J4, in the lowest part of the plot. It was built over a vault; walls preserved to a height of one to two courses, and concrete floors were uncovered (Fig. 15). Some of the walls retained fragments of light blue plaster. The vault on the ground floor was found filled up with alluvium that slid down the slope. The excavation ended before the vault could be excavated.
Area K. In Square K1 (Fig. 4), the southern (W205) and eastern (W223) walls of a concrete-paved courtyard (L214; Fig. 16) were revealed. The inner face of the walls was plastered and painted light blue. The southern outer face of W205 was not plastered; it was founded on an accumulation of soil (L212) that covered the toppled stones from the previous layer (L218; see above). Next to the plastered northern face of the wall was a raised basin (L210) that was plastered and painted light blue, as the walls of the room. The basin contained a drainage hole (diam. c. 0.1 m) attached to a pipe made of ceramic segments (L224; length 0.5–0.8 m). The pipe extended southward beyond the wall for about 4 m into an empty plot of land. A wall (W209) approximately 2 m north of W205 probably belonged to another building; its outer face was coated with light blue plaster. The courtyard was found filled with collapsed stones (L206) that had toppled from W205 and scattered across the courtyard, covering the entire area and the basin. Some of the stone rubble may come from Walls 209 and 223, which were also covered with collapsed stones. After the devastation, the buildings were abandoned, and the place was covered with alluvium and broken stones. The 2004 excavation (Dalali-Amos and Getzov 2019: Figs. 22, 26) also found walls and collapsed stones tilting westward down the steep slope, probably as the result of a strong earthquake that led to widespread devastation (Katz 2019:32*).
The numerous pottery vessels found in Squares J4, J5 and K1 include, in addition to Mamluk and early Ottoman pottery, vessels that began to appear in the late Ottoman period, in the nineteenth century CE, and were used until the early twentieth century CE. They include unglazed bowls (Fig. 17:1, 2) and a casserole (Fig. 17:3); Rashaya el-Fukhar ware, including a bowl (Fig. 17:4) and a body fragment of a jug (Fig. 17:5) coated with white slip and decorated with brown striped geometric patterns; a casserole (Fig. 17:6), a bowl (Fig. 17:7), jugs (Fig. 17:8–10) and body fragments (Fig. 17:11, 12) with brown stripes and glazed splashes; and a jug (Fig. 17:13) and body fragments (Fig. 17:14–16) decorated with brown stripes.
The glazed pottery vessels include bowls with a brown glaze inside and out (Fig. 18:1–3), bowls (Fig. 18:4–6) with a green glaze inside and out, as well as imported Slip-Painted Ware bowls from Didymoteicho glazed in brown and green (Fig. 18:7–9; Vroom 2005:186–190; Stern 2016:88–90), a small porcelain bowl (Fig. 18:10), a small Transfer Printed Ware bowl (Fig. 18:11; Vroom 2005:188), two tobacco pipes (Fig. 18:12, 13) and a single unidentified fragment (Fig. 18:14).
The current excavations uncovered the remains of a settlement from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods that are a continuation of similar remains excavated nearby previously. During the various periods, construction on the western slope of Mount Canaan was adapted to the steep topography. The abundant ceramic finds include locally produced pottery, as well as vessels imported from Mediterranean countries and from the Orient. The rich ceramic finds and coins attest to widespread activity in the Mamluk period, as do finds from previous excavations made on the slope. After the settlement was destroyed by an earthquake, some parts of it evidently remained abandoned and construction was not fully resumed. In the late Ottoman period, up to the early twentieth century, densely built houses were terraced along a series of north–south streets. The massive expanses of collapsed stones discovered in the excavation were the result of an earthquake in the first decade of the sixteenth century CE (Katz 2019:32*) and a large earthquake in 1927 (Shur 1983:186).