The Earliest Periods
The three earliest periods—the Iron Age, Persian and Hellenistic periods—are represented by several fragments of pottery vessels, including a cooking pot and jar from the Iron Age, a jar from the Persian period and an imported bowl and jar from the Hellenistic period.
Early Roman Period (Strata VI–IV)
Most of the finds were from this period and included floors and walls founded on the bedrock (Figs. 1, 2). Three phases were discerned. Two wall segments (W7, W8), oriented north–south and founded on the bedrock, were built of roughly hewn stones and fieldstones (Fig. 3) and are ascribed to the first phase. A massive wall (W5) was built of a solid base of firmly bonded small fieldstones in the second phase. Sections of one course built of different size, roughly hewn stones survived above the base. The third and upper phase included the two bottom courses of a wall (W4; 0.60×1.55 m, height c. 0.7 m) and crushed chalk floors. Wall 4 was abutted from the north by a crushed chalk floor (L111; thickness c. 0.1 m) that covered a small section of the top of W5, thereby negating it. The floor was cut on both sides in a later phase; in the north by an Early Roman pit (L105), which indicates it was no longer used in this phase, and in the south by a robber pit (L110), dating to the Fatimid period.
A section of a floor (L124) was exposed on the eastern side of the excavation, at a level identical to the crushed chalk floor. Floor 124 also sealed the top of W5 in the east; thus it seems that the two floors are from the same phase. Floor 124 abutted a wall stump (W2) from the north, which was built of ashlars and founded above W5.
The ceramic finds from the period included an important assemblage, comprising dozens of vessels, mostly open and closed cooking pots, as well as jars, jugs and a fragment of a Herodian lamp.
The complete absence of Phoenician vessels and other imported vessels shows that the ethnic identity of ‘Ibillin in this period is connected to the Jewish settlement of Evlayim, which appears in Talmudic sources from the third century CE. A Roman coin (not yet identified) was found in the foundation trench of W5.
Byzantine-Umayyad Periods (Stratum III)
An ashlar quarry at the bottom of L115 (see Fig. 1) and at the bottom of the northern side of W5 is ascribed to these periods. The soil fill of a pit, containing potsherds and glass fragments from the Byzantine and Umayyad periods (L115), was heaped on top of the rock-cuttings and therefore the quarry can be attributed to one of these two periods.
Fatimid Period (Stratum II)
The elements ascribed to this period include a wall (W3), whose northern part was founded above the crushed chalk floor (L111) of the Roman period, and the two top courses of W4, whose northern part was also founded above Floor 111. Also ascribed to this period is a robber pit (L110) that penetrated between Walls 3 and 4; it contained grayish black fill and ashlars and reached the natural bedrock.
The ceramic finds consisted of a diverse assemblage of vessels, including three glazed bowls, five closed cooking pots and the lid of an open cooking pot, as well as several fragments of glass vessels, including a complete bowl. A special tool—an iron masonry trowel—was also discovered in this stratum.
Crusader Period
A few fragments of pottery vessels, notably glazed bowls, were found from this period.
Mamluk Period (Stratum I)
A wall (W1; 2.0×2.9 m, height c. 1.1 m) is ascribed to this period; it consisted of a northern side built of inclined ashlar courses and a core of large roughly hewn stones and lime-like mortar (Fig. 4). A stepped floor (L102; c. 1.5×6.0 m, thickness c. 0.3 m) of large ashlars in secondary use abutted the wall from the north. A palm tree symbolizing the tree of life is engraved on one of the stones (Fig. 5).
The ceramic finds overlaying the stone pavement (L102) and inside the core of W1 (L126) included fragments of Mamluk glazed bowls, cooking pots and jars from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE.
A habitation sequence from the Iron Age to the modern era was discovered in the excavation. The importance of the pottery finds should be mentioned, particularly the Roman assemblage that is entirely local, without any imported vessels. The finds are indicative of a Jewish settlement and corroborate the findings of previous excavations in the village, which included a ritual bath and hiding refuges, reflecting the preparations for the Great Revolt against the Romans.
The most important innovation of this excavation is the identification of ancient finds from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period. Artifacts such as these have not been previously discovered at ‘Ibillin and reflect the long history of the settlement.