During September–November 2017, a trial excavation was conducted in a building lot belonging to the Messika family near the Turkish bathhouse in old ‘Akko (Hammam el-Basha; Permit No. A-8084; map ref. 206817–45/758616–48; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of a residential building. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by J. Gosker (photography), with the assistance of E. Stern, K. Covello-Paran and W. Atrash (scientific guidance), M. Peleg (photogrammetry), Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration) and Z. Horowitz (consultation), as well as laborers from Kefar Manda, Sha‘ab and Nazareth and youth volunteers from the Maʽase pre-military preparatory program.
The excavation site is located within the bounds of the Hospitaller Quarter of the Crusader-period city, close to the Church of St. John and the hospital of that time. Hammam el-Basha, adjacent to the excavation site, was built at the end of the eighteenth century CE by the city’s governor, al-Jazzar. The excavation (Fig. 2), yielded remains belonging to three strata, dating from the Early Islamic (Stratum III), the Crusader (Stratum II) and the Ottoman (Stratum I) periods.
Previous excavations in the vicinity of the hammam exposed walls and a sewer channel from the Ottoman period, north of the present excavation (Edelstein and Avissar 1997), and remains from the Early Islamic, Crusader and Ottoman periods, west of it (Permit No. A-2218). The Early Islamic-period remains were recognized only in the section, with no architectural remains. The remains of the Crusader period, however, comprise a street, two buildings, a cesspool, a cistern and installations. This excavation revealed that the Crusader-period walls were reused during the Ottoman period, while new ones were built as well.
Stratum III (Early Islamic period; seventh–eleventh centuries CE). Soil accumulations containing pottery of the Early Islamic period were uncovered at two locations in the excavation area, in fills below two later cesspools, one from the Crusader period and the other from the Ottoman period. No architectural remains of this period were uncovered.
Stratum II (Crusader period; twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE). A wall, four plaster floors and a cesspool were exposed in the eastern and northern parts of the excavation area. One plaster floor, in the eastern part of the excavation (Fig. 3), was uncovered near a soil accumulation containing only Crusader-period pottery. The other three—superimposed plaster floors—abutted a wall in the northern part of the excavation (Fig. 4). Below the wall and floors was a rectangular cesspool (1.2 × 2.4 m, depth 1 m; Fig. 5) built of unhewn stones. It had an arched ceiling, and its northern wall ran parallel to the wall above it. Two openings were discerned in the pool: in the center of its southern wall and at the northern end of its eastern wall. The cesspool was largely empty, with a stone accumulation covered by a very thin (0.15 m) soil accumulation at the bottom. The accumulations contained only a few sherds.
Stratum I (Ottoman period; sixteenth–twentieth centuries CE). Remains belonging to this stratum were exposed over the entire excavation area, exhibiting at least four construction phases. The first phase consisted of a building constructed of large ashlars (Fig. 6) and a stone pavement (Fig. 7). This pavement was cut by a wall of the second construction phase, built of unhewn stones. In the third construction phase, this wall was cut by a sewer channel (Fig. 2) that served the adjacent hammam, and therefore can be dated to the end of the eighteenth century CE. This sewer channel is a continuation of the channel that was excavated by Edelstein in 1985 (Edelstein and Avissar 1997). It consists of two parallel walls, built of unhewn stones, with a plastered floor stretching between them. In the fourth construction phase, the course of the sewer channel was altered, angling between the southeastern corner of the excavation and its northern limit. Near both ends of the channel, the excavation exposed remains of walls and floors, probably belonging to buildings that functioned together with the latest phase of the channel and were destroyed forty years ago. The channel was fitted with concrete and plastic pipes in the later part of the twentieth century CE (Fig. 8).
Additional walls, floors and installations uncovered in the excavation and dated to the Ottoman period could not be ascribed to any of the four construction phases. These include two cesspools, one square-shaped and covered by a vault, and the other round. The round cesspool was fully excavated, revealing that it was founded on a fill containing Early Islamic-period pottery.
Edelstein G. and Avissar M. 1997. A Sounding in Old Acre. ʽAtiqot 31:129–136.