In July–November 2021, salvage excavations were conducted in Area M1, to the east and southeast of Tel Yavne (Permit No. A-8999; map ref. 176/641), prior to construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Israel Land Authority, was directed by P. Betzer and D. Varga, with the assistance of Y. Weingarten (area supervision, field photography), R. Hoffin (assistant area supervision), Z. Lotan and T. Uriel (administration), A. Peretz (field photography), Y. Shmidov, M. Kahan, E. Marco, N. Leitner and Y. Gomani (surveying, drafting and plans), L. Perry Gal (archaeozoology), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), C. Elimelech (analytical laboratory) and A. Tamir (archaeological inspection).
Numerous surveys and excavations were conducted in and around Tel Yavne, most of which were salvage excavations (for a comprehensive review, see Taxel 2005; Fischer and Taxel 2007; Kletter and Nagar 2015). In 2010–2011, an excavation conducted on the northeast side of Area M1 uncovered the Byzantine remains of an extensive complex that contained buildings and an industrial pottery production compound (Yannai 2014
). From 2019 until the end of 2021, large-scale excavations, encompassing ten areas, took place to the east and southeast of the mound (Fig. 1; Hadad et al. 2021
; Nadav-Ziv et al. 2021
Area M1 is situated c. 150 m east of Tel Yavne, near Naẖal Soreq and on its alluvial plain. It is located beside Area L and c. 10–15 m east of the area excavated by Yannai (Fig. 2). Preliminary inspections of the area identified a layer of soil containing a large amount of pottery and industrial waste. The excavation opened 24 squares (excavation depth 2–4 m; Figs. 3, 4) and uncovered seven strata: six spanning the Early Roman and the Abbasid periods (Strata 7–2) and another encompassing the Mamluk period to the British Mandate era (Stratum 1).
Stratum 7—Roman period (late second–early third centuries CE). Eight tombs (T1–T8; Fig. 5) were discovered in the northeastern part of the area, c. 4 m beneath the surface; they were documented but not excavated. The tombs were built of rectangular dressed kurkar stones and aligned east–west. Three tombs types were identified: the vaulted tomb (T6), the rectangular cist grave (T1, T2, T4, T7, T8) and the complex tomb (T3, T5). The cist graves were dug in the ground, lined with stones and covered with flat rectangular dressed stones. The capstones were placed directly on the graves’ stone linings, either horizontally or forming a gable, and some of them preserved traces of mortar. The complex tombs include T3, a cist grave containing three adjacent burial cells, and T5, which includes four adjacent cist graves; these may be family tombs. A similar burial complex was found in Area L, to the east. The burials are part of a Roman period cemetery dated to the late second–early third centuries CE, based on glass vials discovered beside some of the graves in Area M1 (Fig. 6) and inside two graves in Area L.
Stratum 6—Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE). Architectural remains of this stratum were uncovered in the southwest of the excavation area, comprising sections of poorly preserved walls and floors. The walls (W40164, W40173, W40207, W40237, W40255, W40258) were built of roughly dressed kurkar stones (c. 0.15 × 0.16 × 0.37 m) interspersed with pebbles and small stone. While damaged by later building work and stone robbery, the walls were preserved one or two courses high (0.2–0.4 m).
Stratum 5—Early Byzantine period (fourth–fifth centuries CE). The excavation revealed the remains of a building, an extensive thick lime-plaster surface, and a furnace used to produce glass vessels. The remains of the building included five wall sections (W40105, W40117, W40120, W40227, W40256) preserved 2–3 courses high. Walls 40105, 40117 and 40227 were built of large chalk ashlars (0.2 × 0.2 × 0.5 m) set in headers and stretchers. Walls 40120 and 40256 were built of large chalk fieldstones with interspersed small rounded kurkar and chalk stones bonded with mortar. Wall 40256 is the building’s eastern perimeter wall, and it was founded on Walls 40255 and 40258 of Stratum 6.
The thick lime-plaster surface (thickness c. 9 cm; Fig. 7) covered most of Area M1 and extended further north and east beyond the excavation area. It was damaged by a refuse pit and robbers’ trenches and abutted one building to the southwest and another—in Area L, apparently associated with glass production—to the southeast. The surface was composed of at least three layers (Fig. 8): a thick upper layer of clean white lime-plaster without inclusions, a thin middle layer of reddish-brown clay, and a bedding of small kurkar stones bonded in gray mortar mixed with shells. It was probably a work surface associated with the glass industry, remains of which were found nearby.
Of the glass furnace, only the southern part of a circular pit was preserved (L40101; diam. c. 0.55 m). It was lined with well-fired, slightly greenish bricks that had collapsed into the installation. In the installation’s section, traces of burnt black material, slags, and red clayey matter, probably scorched soil, were observed. The furnace was sunk into a floor associated with a building discovered in Area L to the south and was one in a complex of several furnaces, most of which were also found in Area L.
Stratum 4—Late Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE). A large refuse pit (L40096; depth c. 2 m, c. 60 sq m) was cut into the northeastern part of the lime-plaster surface, extending beyond the excavation limits. The pit mostly contained pottery-kiln waste (Fig. 9), including sixth–early seventh centuries CE Gaza Ware jar fragments, some of which are almost intact, and a few bag-shaped jars, cooking pots, and oil lamps. According to the pottery, the refuse pit’s use began in the sixth century CE and continued until the end of the Byzantine period. The pit also yielded many kiln fragments, pottery wasters and ash. The pit is probably associated with the pottery kilns excavated by Yannai immediately to the west of the current excavation.
Stratum 3—Umayyad period (seventh–eighth centuries CE). Four oval refuse pits (L40128, L40143, L40146, L40147; depth and diam. 0.60–0.93 m) cut the lime-plaster surface of Stratum 5, and one of them (L40128) also cut into W40173 of Stratum 6. When excavated, L40128 yielded Umayyad buff ware, bones and basalt items, indicating domestic refuse rather than industrial waste. In the northwest of the excavation area, poor remains of a wall (W40132) were recorded; it was built of pebbles above the lime-plaster surface. This wall is the only architectural feature in Area M1 that post-dates the lime-plaster surface.
Stratum 2—Abbasid period (seventh–eighth centuries CE). A thick, compact fill (thickness 0.6–0.7 m) of soil, potsherds, and small stones was traced across the entire excavation area except for the part above the Stratum 4 refuse pit. The fill was placed directly on top of the Stratum 5 lime-plaster. Perhaps, the lime-plaster surface was used until the beginning of the Abbasid period. However, this seems unlikely given the absence of Abbasid building remains in the excavation area and its immediate vicinity. Alternatively, the plaster surface may have been cleaned and reused during the Abbasid period.
Stratum 1—Mamluk period to British Mandate era (sixteenth–early twentieth centuries CE). This stratum primarily consists of robbers’ trenches (e.g., L40190) that cut the Abbasid stratum and the lime-plaster surface to remove stones from the Byzantine walls. Additionally, a large pit (L40116; diam. c. 1 m) was discovered in the northern part of the area, also cutting into the lime-plaster surface. It may have been a refuse pit or a cesspit, and a large hand-made krater was found in its center. On the surface above the pit, a large amount of modern glass, probably of the British Mandate era, was found; it may be associated with a contemporaneous building, possibly a farmhouse, uncovered in Area L nearby.
Area M1 was part of the agricultural and industrial hinterland of the town of Yavne from the Early Roman period to the Early Islamic period. During the second–third centuries CE, Areas M1 and L were used as burial grounds. According to the uncovered graves, it seems the deceased belonged to wealthy families. However, without opening the graves, it is impossible to determine with certainty the interred individuals’ social rank or ethnic and religious status. During the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, the city expanded, and the excavated area functioned as an industrial zone, housing glass and pottery workshops. In the Early Islamic period, the city apparently decreased in size, and although the pottery-production industry persisted in the area, it operated at a reduced scale. In the Mamluk period, the area may have been used for farming, and a farmhouse was built nearby in the British Mandate era.
Fischer M. and Taxel I. 2007. Ancient Yavneh, its History and Archaeology. Tel Aviv 34:204–284.
Haddad E., Nadav-Ziv L., Elisha Y., Tal G., Rauchberger L. and Sandhaus D. 2021. Tel Yavne, Area A. HA-ESI 133.
Kletter R. and Nagar Y. 2015. An Iron Age Cemetery and Other Remains at Yavne. ‘Atiqot 81:1*–33*.
Nadav-Ziv L., Haddad E., Elisha Y., Tal G., Ben Shlush R., Gorin-Rosen Y., Tsuf O., Sandhaus D. and Golan D. 2021. Tel Yavne, Areas B and D. HA-ESI 133.
Taxel I. 2005. Ancient Yavne: Its History and Archaeology. In M. Fischer ed. Yavne, Yavne-Yam and its Vicinity. Tel Aviv. Pp. 130–170 (Hebrew).