Kafr Manda is identified with the village of Mandi, mentioned in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. In the Talmudic and Mishnaic periods (Tosefta, Yevamot 13), R. Issachar of Kfar Mandi, a second-generation Amora sage, taught at nearby Zippori. Eleventh-century CE documents from the Cairo Geniza subsequently list Kfar Mandi as a Jewish settlement. The village is also mentioned in the thirteenth century by the geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi in his book Mu‘jam ul-Buldan, where he notes the similarity between the names Manda/Madyan and Shu‘ayb (Jethro, priest of the Midianites). It identifies it as the burial place of Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and as the birthplace of Jacob’s sons Asher and Naftali (Tal 2013:158–159). The Arab village was established in the eighteenth century by the Bedouin Zaydani clan, who emigrated from Transjordan to Galilee.
Next to the spring is the ancient nucleus of the village, where there are remains of the ancient settlement. While cleaning the well in the spring square in 1962, hundreds of pottery jars dated to the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE were discovered, some of which were intact (HA 1962). A small excavation in 1977 in the southern part of the spring square uncovered habitation levels dating from the Byzantine, Crusader and Mamluk periods (Shaked 2000; Fig.1: A-2733). An excavation in 2014 discovered caves, a quarry and rock-hewn installations in the village, as well as Roman and Mamluk pottery (Gur 2016; Fig. 1: A-7162).
In the current excavation (Figs. 2, 3), two excavation squares were opened on the western side of the spring square, revealing a quarry (Stratum IIB) overlain by a soil surface (Stratum IIA) dating from the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods, as well as a soil layer containing Mamluk finds (Stratum I). Two buildings and a cesspit (L105) were built directly on top of the ancient remains at the beginning of the twentieth century CE. The excavation also yielded potsherds and glass vessels from other periods in no clear stratigraphic context.
Stratum II—Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods
Stratum IIB. Part of a quarry was uncovered (L108; excavated length c. 2 m; Fig. 4); it had recently been damaged by a cesspit (L105) that penetrated as far as the bedrock. A single fragment of a Hellenistic jar on the fringes of the quarry is insufficient dating evidence. Six rectangular stones found to its southwest were probably extracted from the quarry.
Stratum IIA. A surface of light-colored soil (L106) was uncovered above the quarry, above the bedrock to its south, and in most of the southern part of the excavation area. The overlying soil surface sealed the quarry, which yielded fragments of pottery and glass vessels dating from the Byzantine and the beginning of the Early Islamic periods—mostly dating from the fifth–seventh centuries CE and some continuing into the eighth century CE. The finds appear to be from the time of the quarry’s use or an accumulation above the quarry after it was abandoned. The finds date the quarry to the Byzantine period. The soil surface above the bedrock to the south of the quarry contained potsherds, some dating from the Fatimid period and most from the Crusader and Mamluk periods. The soil surface to the south of the quarry had been disturbed by the intrusion of Stratum I; it contained meager potsherds from the Byzantine, Abbasid and Fatimid periods and abundant Mamluk pottery. A similar surface of light-colored soil was also discovered in the north of the excavation area (L104; Fig. 1: Section 1-1; Fig. 5). Above this surface, ash surfaces were discovered in the northern part of the area; they were overlain by collapsed stones (L103; Fig. 6) that may be remnants of a wall. The ash surfaces were overlain in turn by a mixed assemblage of Hellenistic, Byzantine, Abbasid and Fatimid pottery. This mixed assemblage is probably the result of the construction of a wall (W100; preserved length c. 1 m; preserved height: single course) at the beginning of the twentieth century CE. Fragments of Byzantine pottery and glass vessels were found across the entire surface of the excavation area.
Stratum I—Mamluk Period
A layer of dark brown soil (L101, L102, L107) that penetrated the earlier strata was revealed above the collapsed stones (L103) and throughout the excavation area. This layer yielded various pottery types dated to the thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE, including glazed bowls, abundant cooking vessels, and a few jars. A concentration of about a dozen large broken basins made of coarse fabric dating from the sixteenth century CE was found south of the quarry. A few sherds of similar basins from the same period were also found on the surface.
The Pottery
Hellenistic Period. The excavation yielded a jar rim (Fig. 7:1) and a juglet base (Fig. 7:2) with no stratigraphic affiliation.
Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods. Copious amounts of pottery representing a wide variety of vessels were recovered, including imported ware, cooking ware, jars, and an oil lamp. The imported vessels include red burnished LRW bowls, including an LRC bowl (Fig. 7:3), two CRS bowls with a grooved rim (Fig. 7:4, 5), dated to 550–600 CE, a bowl made of fine ware with a grooved shelf rim, typical of the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Fig. 7:6), and bases of small FBW cup-like bowls (Fig. 7:7, 8) made of well-fired clay and typical of the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (mid-seventh–eighth centuries CE). The cooking ware includes dozens of vessels, some open with various lid types (Fig. 7:9, 10) and some closed with a long neck and a barrel-shaped body (Fig. 7:11–13). The excavation also yielded a cooking pot with a folded rim (Fig. 7:14) of a type characteristic of Bet She’an. The jars include one with a long neck and a wide mouth (Fig. 7:15) and fragments of gray bag-shaped jars decorated in white (not drawn). The oil lamp (Fig. 7:16) is made of light-colored clay and bears a vegetal motif characteristic of the seventh century CE. The ceramic assemblage resembles those common at many Galilean sites during these periods.
Abbasid and Fatimid Periods. A few potsherds were found in no clear stratigraphic context. The Abbasid ware includes bowls glazed on the inside in green, yellowish and brown (Fig. 8:1, 2), a green monochrome bowl (Fig. 8:3) and a base of a jug made of yellowish clay (Fig. 8:4). The Fatimid pottery includes a bowl glazed both inside and out (Fig. 8:5), a cooking bowl decorated with a plastic decoration (Fig. 8:6) and four closed cooking pots (Fig. 8:7) dating from the mid-eleventh–late twelfth century CE and resembling a type retrieved from Strata IV–III at Caesarea (Arnon 2008:46, Type 752c, 48, 761b).
Crusader Period. A glazed cooking pot with a brown-glazed rim (Fig. 8:8) dating from the mid-thirteenth century CE was produced in Beirut (Avissar and Stern 2005:92, Types II.2.1.4).
Mamluk Period. Rich ceramic finds of glazed and non-glazed vessels were discovered primarily on Stratum I and in places where this stratum penetrated the lower levels. The glazed vessels include monochrome bowls in green, yellow or brown with round or carinated sides (Fig. 8:9, 10) dating from the thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:12–14, Types I.1.4.1–I.1.4.2); a glazed bowl in green and yellow with an incised decoration (Fig. 8:11) dating from the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:16–17, Types I.1.5.2); bowls made of brown clay and decorated with a geometric motif, white slip and yellow or green glaze (Fig. 8:12, 13) in a variety of sub-types and sizes, which first appear in the mid–twelfth century CE and are common throughout the Mamluk period (Avissar and Stern 2005:19–20, Types I.1.6.1–I.1.6.2); a bowl with a shelf rim decorated in blue and black with a colorless glaze (Fig. 8:14), typical of Syria and Eretz Israel from the thirteenth to the beginning of the fifteenth century CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:28–29, Types I.2.3.3, Fig. 11:1, 2); brown/orange-glazed carinated cooking bowls (Fig. 8:15, 16) that are characteristic of this period (Stern 2014: Fig. 1:4, 6); a jar decorated in blue and black with a colorless glaze (Fig. 8:17); and a raised goblet base glazed in green (Fig. 8:18) dating from the sixteenth–seventeenth centuries CE, which is uncommon and resembles one found at Khirbat Din’ila (Stern 2014: Fig. 13:7).
The unglazed vessels include a bowl made of local clay (Fig. 9:1) of the same shape as the glazed bowls and of a type found in all Mamluk assemblages; an assemblage of c. 20 handmade vessels produced from coarse local clay, including a bowl with a double handle (Fig. 9:2), the thickened base of a deep casserole (Fig. 9:3), a large basin that probably had four handles (Fig. 9:4) and a deep highly burnished basin (Fig. 9:5) that was probably used for storage; a wheel-made basin (Fig.9:6) typical of the Mamluk period and similar to examples found at thirteenth–fifteenth-century CE sites in the north and in Jerusalem; closed globular cooking pots with a flaring rim and two handles close to the body of the vessel (Fig. 10:1–4) that are typical of the Mamluk period and common throughout the country (Avissar and Stern 2005:92, Types II.2.1.5, Fig. 9:11–39); a holemouth jar-type cooking pot (Fig. 10:5) with a thickened rim of a kind found at very few sites, among them Khirbat Din’ila, Giv ‘at Yassaf, Khirbat ‘Uza and Tiberias (Stern 2014:83, Fig. 14:6, and see detailed discussion there); jars with a long mold-made neck (Fig. 10:6, 7), which served as water jars and were found in Nazareth and Yokne‘am (Alexandre 2012: Fig. 3.12:1,5; Avissar 2005: Fig. 2.22:1); a handmade jar with a decorated base (Fig. 10:8), dating from the mid-twelfth century CE to the beginning of the Ottoman period; a base of a wheel-made jug with a swollen neck and a concave body (Fig. 10:9); and a jug with a swollen neck and a very prominent shelf rim (Fig. 10:10). Similar unglazed-ware assemblages were found at Khirbat Din’ila and Khirbat ‘Uza (Stern 2014:72–93; Stern and Tatcher 2009:129–167).
The Glass Finds
The excavation yielded some 70 glass fragments (not illustrated), 40 of which date from the Late Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods. Most of the finds date from the Byzantine period, including the end of the period. They represent various types of vessels that were common in that period: wine glasses, stem lamps, and bottles. The vessels are made of glass that was probably produced in a local glass workshop. The Early Islamic period is represented by the rim of a deep rounded bowl of a type that is characteristic of the Abbasid period. The Mamluk period is represented by two purplish fragments decorated with white marvered trails, including a fragment of a cosmetic phial with a pyramidal body. The glass vessels are of types that are familiar in the Galilean repertoire during the periods mentioned above.
Based on the varied pottery assemblage, the site was occupied mainly in the Byzantine period, including the latter part of that period and at the beginning of the Early Islamic period. The lack of significant architectural remains and the presence of a quarry—usually located outside residential areas—indicates that the current excavation covered an area near the nucleus of the ancient settlement. The proximity to the spring and farmland enabled industrial activities associated with food production to be practiced at the site. Based on the finds, there was clearly some human presence at the site during the Abbasid, Fatimid and Mamluk periods.