In December 2018, a trial excavation was conducted southeast of Ma‘ale Gamla Junction (Permit No. A-8398; map ref. 262590–610/754005–995; Fig. 1), prior to the laying of a water pipeline. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Mekorot Water Company, was directed by M. Bekker-Shamir (photography), with the assistance of Y. Yaakobi (administration), K. Covello-Paran (scientific guidance), M. Peleg (photography and photogrammetry), E.J. Stern (pottery), H. Tahan-Rosen (plans and pottery drawing), I. Reznitsky (metallurgical laboratory), D. Gazit (metal photography) and A. Shapiro (location map).
Two excavation squares (1 and 2; Fig. 2) were opened on the side of a spur sloping northward to Nahal Sfamnun; the excavation uncovered Ayyubid pottery and architectural remains as well as Mamluk pottery. Tel Sheikh ‘Ali, located near the current site was previously excavated and revealed remains from the Middle Bronze Age IIB, the Iron Age I, and the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods (Zingboym 2014; Fig. 1:1). A survey conducted at the Ma‘ale Gamla Junction in the past revealed remains from the Roman, Early Islamic and Mamluk periods (Hartal and Ben-Ephraim 2012: Site 60).
Ayyubid finds were discovered in both excavation squares. In Square 1, several potsherds dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries CE were found on top of the bedrock (Fig. 3). Square 2 yielded a few scattered potsherds.
Remains from the Mamluk period were also found in both squares. Scattered pottery sherds dating from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE were recovered from Square 1. In Square 2, a long wall jutting above the surface prior to the excavation (W7; Figs. 4, 5) continued westward for about 50 m, beyond the limits of the excavation. The wall was built of fieldstones and plastered (Fig. 6); it was preserved to a height of four courses (height c. 0.85 m). The third course contained a drainage conduit (Fig. 7) that was preserved in its entirety. The wall may have surrounded a settlement located on the hill above it. Next to the wall, on its lower side, a soil layer (L11) was uncovered containing Mamluk pottery dating the wall itself. The soil accumulation above Locus 11 yielded mixed pottery finds from the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.
A pit grave, apparently that of a child, was also discovered in Square 1. The grave was not excavated due to religious sensibilities and can therefore not be dated.
The finds from the excavation include pottery sherds, stone vessels and metal items. The pottery finds include bowls from the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE (Fig. 8:1–6), one of which (Fig. 8:6) is an imported Aegean Sgraffito Ware bowl (Stern 2018:206); bowls from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Fig. 8:7–11); thirteenth-century CE cooking pots (Fig. 8:12); and jars from the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE (Fig. 8:13) and from the fourteenth century CE (Fig. 8:14). Some of the vessels bear decorations that are familiar from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Fig. 9). Two stone items were found near W7: a basalt mortar with a hole in the center, used for grinding or as a quern (Fig. 10:1), and a pebble that was used as a polishing stone (Fig. 10:2). A metal kohl stick (Fig. 11:1) was also found near the wall; a similar stick was retrieved from an Early Islamic stratum in Ramla (Tal and Taxel 2008: Fig. 6.133:2). On top of the bedrock in Square 1 an iron object was found, probably a broken nail (Fig. 11:2); a similar item was previously found at Ramla (Tal and Taxel 2008:199).
Alexandre Y. 2012. The Pottery. In Y. Alexandre. Mary’s Well, Nazareth: The Late Hellenistic to the Ottoman Periods (IAA Reports 49). Jerusalem. Pp. 57–88.
Avissar M. and Stern E.J. 2005. Pottery of the Crusader, Ayyubid, and Mamluk Periods in Israel. (IAA Reports 26). Jerusalem.
Stern E.J. 2018. Tiberias, Aviv Hotel. ʻAtiqot 92:193–216.
Tal O. and Taxel I. 2008. Ramla (South), an Early Islamic Industrial Site and Remains of Previous Periods. (Salvage Excavation Reports 5). Tel Aviv.