The Northern Area
Winepresses. Three rock-hewn winepresses (19, 20, 48) were uncovered in Area L.
Winepress 19 (Figs. 4–6) was large, and included a square treading floor (L200; 3.0 × 3.1 m), a circular settling pit (L202; diam. 0.65 m, depth 0.5 m, 2.5 sq m) and a rectangular collecting vat (L203; 1.3 × 1.9 m, depth 1.2 m); channels led from the treading floor to the settling pit and the collecting vat, and the two were joined by a channel. The east part of the treading floor was well-preserved, whereas the walls on its west side had been destroyed. In some places, traces of plaster and bonding material were preserved on the treading floor. In the center of the treading floor was a pit for anchoring the base of a screw press (L201; 0.85 × 1.00 m, depth 0.3 m); the outer rim of the pit was lined with stones. The treading floor sloped gently toward Pit 201 from all sides. There was also a distinct slope between the treading floor and the channel leading to the collecting vat. A small rectangular hollow (L206; 0.25 × 0.35 m, depth 0.1 m) was unearthed c. 1 m southeast of the treading floor. Three steps were hewn in the southwest wall of Collecting Vat 203. The floor of the collecting vat was coated with a layer of white plaster, overlain by hard, white limestone mosaic tesserae paving (c. 3 × 3 cm). Plaster was preserved on the walls of the collecting vat, particularly on their lower parts; in the vat were chunks of plaster that had fallen from the walls. The lowest part of the collecting vat (L209), to which the dregs of the must probably drained, was located beside the lowest step. Another treading floor (L207) was unearthed to the northeast of the winepress. A channel connected it with a shallow cupmark (L204); the area to the west of the cupmark was worn and may have been used as a work surface. These surfaces may have been used to store grapes, or they may have been hewn to enlarge the winepress’s treading area. On the floor of the winepress’s collecting vat were a few body fragments of Byzantine pottery. A few painted Mamluk potsherds as well as fragments of Marseilles roof tiles and Black Gaza Ware from the Ottoman period were found in the upper part of the soil that filled the collecting vat.
Winepress 20 included a treading floor (L210; 1.4 × 1.5 m; Fig. 7), which sloped toward an irregularly shaped collecting vat. A square depression for the installation of a permanent screw press was hewn in the center of the treading floor. The edges of the treading floor were worn. The treading floor slopes toward the collecting vat.
Winepress 48 comprised remnants of a treading floor and a small, irregularly shaped collecting vat.
Elliptical installation. In Area K, an elliptical installation was uncovered (K:6; L112; 2.0 × 3.5 m; Figs. 8, 9) consisting of a plaster surface enclosed by walls (width 0.3 m) built of fieldstones; only the south wall (W111) is visible today, preserved to the height of a single course. Walls of a structure from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods (below) were built over the installation’s north and west walls, and the north part of the installation was damaged. A stone wall (W110) unearthed inside the installation divided it into two parts. Three layers of repairs (L109, L112, L114) were found in the plaster surface. The most recent plaster layer (L109) covered W110. It is not clear what the installation was used for. Beneath the floor and walls of the building, were traces of plaster at the same level as the installation, and they may point to the presence of a system of plastered installations.
Burial trough. A burial trough was found hewn in a rocky outcrop in Area M (M:14; 0.6 × 1.8 m, depth 0.32 m; Fig. 10). Burial troughs are characteristic of the Byzantine period, and similar examples were found at the Zippori cemetery (Aviam and Amitai 2011:10–11).
. Quarries and quarrying steps were found in the rocky outcrops on the slopes of the hill throughout the northern area, all exhibiting quarrying marks and severance channels. The quarries at the site were probably intended to provide building stones for structures in the nearby Byzantine settlement, similar to those unearthed in previous excavations (Alexandre 2009
) and in the southern area (below). Area M has an especially large number of quarries (M:13, 16, 17), from which stones of various dimensions had evidently been extracted. Quarry 17 was located in the outer part of a cave, apparently a natural one; its inner cavity was blocked by a collapse. There was clear evidence that at least 12 stones had been extracted from this quarry, although the actual number of quarried stones was probably greater. A large stone surface near the quarry contained three to four quarrying steps that retained quarrying marks and severance channels; most of the stones quarried from this surface were rectangular ashlars (stone dimensions 0.50–0.65 × 0.75–1.00 m; Figs. 11, 12). Accordingly, this quarry was probably capable of producing more than 300 ashlars. Quarry 16 contained a quarrying step bearing marks of dozens of extracted stones.
Additional quarries and quarrying steps were uncovered at the bottom of the slope, in Areas S and T (S:39–42, 44, 45; T:43, 46, 47; Figs. 13, 14). These retained marks of the stones that had been extracted as well as numerous stones whose detachment was never completed (Fig. 15). Both these areas contained quarrying marks of 100–120 stones.
The Mamluk and Ottoman building
. In Area K, a rectangular building (5.0 × 10.8 m; Figs. 8, 16) comprising two rooms (L106, L107) was excavated. The eastern room was built directly over the elliptical installation, whereas the west room was built partly over remains of plaster—probably belonging to a plastered installation whose boundaries could not be determined—and partly directly on bedrock. The building’s walls (W101–W105; width 0.5 m) were preserved to the height of about one meter. Two entrances (width c. 1 m) set in the building’s north wall led to the two rooms. The building’s floor was made of tamped earth mixed with crushed chalk and small stones. The west wall contained a window (width 0.6 m) that was set 0.7 m above the building’s floor (Fig. 17). The floor of the east room and the entrance to the west room bore Mamluk potsherds, including bowls (Fig. 18:8–10) and a cooking pot (Fig. 18:11). A few fragments of Ottoman pottery vessels (Fig. 18:15) found right outside the building show that the building was also occupied in the Ottoman period. Similar buildings found at Or Yehuda (Volynsky and Arbel 2015
: Fig. 4) and at Kefar Gevirol (Y. Arbel, pers. comm.) were dated to the late Ottoman period.
The Finds. The northern excavation area yielded pottery from the Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman periods, a few glass finds from the Late Roman and early Byzantine periods and a stone artifact.
The Byzantine pottery (fifth–early seventh centuries CE) includes fragments of bowls (Fig. 18:1, 2), a casserole (Fig. 18:3), lids belonging to two types of open cooking pots (Fig. 18:4, 5) and closed cooking pots (Fig. 18:6, 7).
The Mamluk pottery includes fragments of monochrome green-glazed ware (Fig. 18:3) dating from the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE, hand-made bowls and casseroles with brown and reddish painted decoration (Fig. 18:10), a rim of a holemouth cooking pot of a type with a vertical handle (Fig. 18:11) and the end of a water-pipe segment coated with white plaster (Fig. 18:12). A similar assemblage from the Mamluk period was unearthed at Tel Yoqne‘am (Avissar 2005: Figs. 2.24, 2.25).
The Ottoman pottery includes sherds of Black Gaza Ware, which were found strewn across the hillside and particularly in the area of the building and on the surface near the large winepress (Winepress 19); such ware was common in the early nineteenth century CE. These finds include fragments of a casserole (Fig. 18:13), jars with a grooved rim and a ribbed neck (Fig. 18:14), jugs with a long, ribbed cylindrical neck (Fig. 18:15) and jugs with an everted neck and two handles (Fig. 18:16, 17); the jugs are characterized by a flat base (Fig. 18:18), and some have a spout (Fig. 18:19). Similar pottery assemblages from the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE were unearthed in Nazareth (Alexandre 2012: Fig. 3.20) and at Tel Yoqne‘am (Avissar 2005: Fig. 2.26). Eight fragments of nineteenth-century Marseilles roof tiles bearing a heart-shaped stamp—an indication that they were manufactured at the Roux Brothers’ factory in the Saint Henri neighborhood in Marseilles—were also discovered in the northern area (Fig. 19:1, 2). First imported to the country in the 1870s by the German settlers known as the Templers, tiles from this factory became the commonest of those imported from Marseilles. In the north of the country they are frequently found for example in the German Colony in Haifa, and at Kefar Tavor, Kafr Kama and Poriyya ‘Illit. The dates of the pottery and the roof tiles are compatible with accounts of the establishment of Sandala village by the ‘Umeri family in the mid-nineteenth century CE.
Only two of the meager glass fragments recovered from the area could be identified: a body fragment of a bowl and a hollow ring base of a bowl. Both date from the Late Roman–early Byzantine periods (fourth century CE).
A stone collapse near the building yielded a fragment of a donkey-mill used for rotary grinding (Fig. 20).
The Southern Area (Figs. 21, 22)
This area yielded the remains of a courtyard building, in which three strata were identified. These date from the Byzantine (Stratum III), Mamluk (Stratum II) and Ottoman (Stratum I) periods.
Stratum III (Byzantine period). The remains of a building (4.5 × 10.5 m), consisting of a courtyard (L112, L116; 2.6 × 4.0 m) and two rooms, one to the north of the courtyard (L107) and one to its south (L110, L113), were unearthed; there may have been another room to the south of the courtyard. The courtyard and rooms had tamped-earth floors. The courtyard was delineated on all sides by walls (W114, W123–125; Fig. 23). A single course of ashlars was preserved from the building’s walls (Fig. 24). An entrance threshold was found in W114. The elliptical mouth of a cistern (well? L121; Fig. 25) covered with a large stone was identified in the center of the courtyard. The cistern was not excavated, but it probably extended northward. A stone-built channel (L122; width c. 0.3 m) leading to the mouth of the cistern was covered with stone slabs. In the west of the courtyard (L117), next to W123, a hoard of eighteen coins was discovered that dated from the Byzantine period (late fifth–early sixth centuries CE; Bijovsky, below). The hoard was found in a small, square area surrounded by ash (Fig. 26); the coins may have been placed in a square money box. An intact oil lamp (see Fig. 28:24) found beside the coins retained traces of soot; it was dated to the late Byzantine period. The courtyard floor bore numerous Byzantine-period potsherds. The southern room (2.3 × 5.7 m; Fig. 27) was only partially excavated (L110). Dozens of pottery fragments, including jars, jugs and oil lamps, were retrieved from a surface of compact, light-brown earth beside the threshold in W114, which separated the courtyard from the southern room. The room was blocked to the east by a wall (W108) built of ashlars. The northern room (L107) was enclosed by walls to the east (W125) and south (W124); it extended beyond the limits of the excavation.
The numerous Byzantine potsherds discovered while excavating the building and the courtyard represent a rich variety of vessels, including bowls with a rounded wall (Fig. 28:1, 2), typical of the fifth–sixth centuries CE; gray, hand-made casseroles with an especially thick wall (Fig. 28:3), dating from the late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (seventh century CE); a casserole with a gutter rim (Fig. 28:4); a large number of cooking casseroles (Fig. 28:5) and cooking-casserole lids (Fig. 28:6–9) that were found throughout the building and especially in the courtyard; gray Northern bag-shaped jars, whose bodies are decorated with straight and wavy white stripes (Fig. 28:10–13); dozens of jugs of different sizes whose walls are thin and ribbed—some of which are elongated and narrow, and some are wide with a ring base (Fig. 28:14–21)—which were discovered mainly in the west part of the courtyard (L117) and in the southern room (L110); and six oil lamps (Fig. 28:22–24) found on the floor of the building. The lamps belong to three different types: one lamp (Fig. 28:22) is decorated with a geometric motif in imitation of a Beit Natt
if-type lamp and dates from the second half of the fourth to the fifth centuries CE (Type 17 at Bet She’an; Hadad 2002
:34, No. 110); the second lamp (Fig. 28:23) is decorated with a vegetal motif and is of a type that was common throughout the Byzantine period; and the third (Fig. 28:24)—the intact lamp retrieved beside the coin hoard—has a conical handle and geometric decoration and belongs to a type that is found only in the north of the country, on both sides of the Jordan River, and dates from the fifth–sixth centuries CE (Type 22 at Bet She’an; Hadad 2002
:56–57, No. 256).
The building’s courtyard (L117) also yielded a few fragments of glassware, dated to the late Byzantine period (sixth–seventh centuries CE). These include a bowl rim (Fig. 29:1), a bottle decorated with thin glass trails (Fig. 29:2) and a large bottle (Fig. 29:3).
Stratum II (Mamluk period). Most of the walls in the building from Stratum III continued to be used in Stratum II (W103, W104, W120); a single course of the earlier walls was preserved, topped by large, undressed stones, of which two–four courses were preserved. The threshold in the south wall (W114) probably continued to be used in Stratum II; additional stones were placed to its east. The floors of the building were made of tamped earth. The level of the courtyard was raised (L105), and the mouth of the cistern was apparently covered over, canceling the use of the cistern; rectangular stones laid above the cistern’s cover stone ensured a safe sealing of the opening. To the east of W108, a Stratum III wall, was a row of stones—probably a collapsed wall from Stratum II, which was built over W108 (see Fig. 27). Another wall (W11), found in the southern room, should probably also be attributed to Stratum II; it runs perpendicular to W108 and divides the room in two. No clearly distinguishable floor was uncovered in this room, but painted pottery characteristic of the Mamluk period was found on an earthen surface abutting the west face of W108 (L109, L113). Similar painted pottery was unearthed near the top of the walls in the building and in a habitation level (L106) to the east of W108.
Abundant pottery from Stratum II date from the Mamluk period, including casseroles (Fig. 30:3–5), jars (Fig. 30:6, 7) and jugs that were hand-made and decorated with painted brown and reddish geometric motifs (Figs. 30:8, 9; 31). Painted decoration with geometric motifs is typical of pottery from the Mamluk period. Vessels with similar decoration have been recovered from many sites in the north of the country, among them Tel ‘Afula, where a rich assemblage of such vessels was found (Feig 2016
). Previous research on these vessels has attributed them to two different petrographic groups that were probably produced in two workshops: one in the eastern Galilee and the other, whose location is uncertain, in either the south part of Upper Galilee, the Jordan Valley or in Transjordan. Approximately two thirds of all the Mamluk pottery from sites in the north of Israel has been attributed to these two pottery workshops (Gabrieli, Ben Shlomo and Walker 2014:204–208). Stratum II also yielded the base of a bowl with a matte turquoise glaze (Fig. 30:1) from the Fatimid period (eleventh century CE) and a fragment of the base of a painted and glazed bowl (Fig. 30:2) from the Crusader period.
(Ottoman period). On top of the northeast part of the building from Stratum II were three walls (W102, W118, W119)—the remains of a more recent building. Wall 102 was built directly on top of W120 from Stratum II, and an entrance threshold was installed in it, probably in secondary use. It is not clear what this building served for, and it appears to extend eastward, beyond the current excavation’s limits. Fragments of Black Gaza Ware were discovered while excavating the building, for example at the level of the threshold on the west side, south of W119 and on the surface. This pottery, which is commonly found at Ottoman-period sites throughout the country, includes jars (Fig. 30:10, 11) and jugs (Fig. 30:12, 13), one of which (Fig. 30:13) is represented by only its spout. A similar assemblage was unearthed at Tel ‘Afula and in Nazareth (Feig 2016
; Alexandre 2012:85–88, Figs. 3.19, 3.20).
The excavations yielded 21 coins. Eighteen of them derive from a small hoard (L117) found in the remains of the building from the Byzantine period in the southern area (IAA 162892–162909); the other three coins are isolated Islamic coins (IAA 162910-162912).
The hoard was discovered within a burnt layer on the western side of the building’s courtyard, against W123. The coins of the hoard are all of one denomination—the follis M, worth 40 nummi—and in cases that the mintmark is legible, most of the coins were minted in Constantinople. The hoard consists of a large follis of Anastasius I from his last series, dated to 512-518 CE (IAA 162892; Fig. 31); four folles of Justin I (IAA 162893, 162896, 162897, 162899; Fig. 32); and five undated folles of Justinian I, four of which are from Constantinople and roughly dated to 527-538 CE (IAA 162898, 162900-162902), and one is from Antioch and dated to 537-539 CE according to the type of its mintmark (IAA 162909). In addition there are eight worn folles with an illegible obverse inscription of the name of the emperor (IAA 162894, 162895, 162903–162908), one of which was struck in Nicomedia (IAA 162905) and according to their types all can be attributed with certainty to 518-538 CE. The assemblage is characteristic to hoards from Byzantine Palestine of the first half of the sixth century CE. Hoards of similar composition were found in Be’er Sheva‘ (9 coins; unpublished; IAA 139690-139698), Jerusalem (8 coins; unpublished; IAA 146512-146519), Tel Yehud (5 coins; unpublished; IAA 153191-153195), ‘En Gedi (41 coins; studied by the author; unpublished; IAA 149611-149651)and Tel Ya‘oz (Bijovsky 2012:335-337). Since all the coins in these hoards are undated, they should be dated up to c. 538 CE.
The common features of these hoards are the dominance of coins of the follis denomination and the absence of those of the small module struck by Anastasius I between 498 and 512 CE. These features indicate that the coins were intentionally collected for their uniform weight standard (around 18 g). The follis was the main large denomination introduced by emperor Anastasius I in a series of monetary reforms that replaced the tiny minimi of the fifth century CE, which became inconvenient for daily use, particularly in payments of substantial sums (Bijovsky 2012:176-180).
The numerous quarries discovered in the excavation’s northern area, along with rock-hewn installations and a burial, seem to have been in use during the Byzantine period based on the pottery found in several of them. The area extends along the edge of an ancient settlement, and it apparently served its residents for agricultural processing, industrial purposes and the exploiting of the site’s easily quarried Eocene chalk. The installations and the building were found at the top of the hill, whereas the quarries were located on the slopes, possibly as a result of planned land use. The three winepresses show that vines were grown in the region, probably at the foot of the northwestern hill, in the fertile land of the Jezreel Valley. In the Byzantine period, viticulture was at its peak throughout the Jezreel Valley, but based on winepresses discovered from various periods, vines appear to have flourished in the region as early as the Middle Bronze Age.
The quarries were probably used to provide building stones for the nearby Byzantine settlement. The large dimensions of some of the extracted stones indicate that sizable structures, possibly public buildings, were built there. However, few ancient structures have been discovered in the ancient village of Sandala, possibly because their stones were appropriated for secondary use in later buildings. Nevertheless, the building that was excavated at the site in the past (Alexandre 2009
) may have been a public building; architectural elements discovered nearby support this theory. The building unearthed in the current excavation’s southern area lies near this structure. Based on the high quality of its construction and the stones used for its walls, it may also have been a public building, as several public buildings may have been concentrated in this location. The hoardof coins discovered in the building dates it to the first half of the fifth century CE (512–538 CE). The high quality of the building’s construction may have allowed its reuse in the later Mamluk period, despite the passage of several centuries. The northern excavation area yielded another Mamluk building, and other excavations throughout the village have uncovered additional Mamluk architectural remains. The quarries and installations may no longer have been in use during this period, but the settlement expanded. When the ‘Umeri family established the village of Sandala in the mid-nineteenth century CE, they utilized the walls of the Mamluk buildings.