Surveys at Tel Qaqun demonstrate that the site was continuously occupied from at least as early as the Bronze Age and until the village’s abandonment in 1948 (Yannai 2017: Sites 31 and 32, and references therein). During the Crusader period, the Templar Order built a fortress at the site (Boas 2006:231), and, in 1123 CE, a military camp was established as part of a campaign against the Egyptian army. In 1260 CE, under the sultan Baybars, the Mamluks captured Qaqun Fortress and rebuilt it (Prawer 1963:259). The settlement grew considerably under Mamluk rule, especially after the destruction of Caesarea (Porath, Dar and Applebaum 1985:216). Following the expansion of the Via Maris passing east of Qaqun, the settlement enjoyed considerable economic growth as it crystallized into an important commercial center, and contemporaneous historical sources refer to a large market at Qaqun (Dar and Mintzker 1987:194). Qaqun also became a political center, instituted as the district capital. In the fourteenth century CE, a khan (road station) was built by Sanjar al-Jawli, the Mamluk governor of Gaza, to serve the Cairo–Damascus courier route (Cytryn-Silverman 210:135–136). More than two hundred years after the Ottoman conquest, a battle was fought near Qaqun between Napoleon’s forces and the Ottoman army.
The current excavation was the first to be conducted at Tel Qaqun; it comprised 40 excavation squares in three areas (A–C; Figs. 2, 3). Area A (not on the plan) was located c. 150 m northwest of Areas B and C. Area B was divided into two sub-areas (B1 and B2), and Area C was divided into three sub-areas (C1–C3). The excavation uncovered settlement remains and assorted finds spanning the Mamluk and the early Ottoman periods. The finds include pottery, numerous coins, metal slags and animal bones, suggesting that the excavation was located in Qaqun’s Mamluk and early Ottoman marketplace. The excavation also yielded a few finds from earlier periods: the Iron Age and the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Crusader periods.
Area A
The excavation uncovered remains of a poorly-preserved wall (W103) built of large fieldstones (Figs. 4, 5), probably a demarcation wall for farm plots. Finds recovered include small worn sherds of fifth–sixth-century CE pottery, a few coins, and a lead bulla.
Area B
Area B1 (Fig. 6). The western half of the area’s southernmost square produced the remains of a modern building, probably of the boys’ school constructed during the British Mandate era for the local inhabitants of Qaqun village (Cytryn-Silverman 2010:136). In the square’s eastern half, a white crushed chalk floor (L237) was set above deliberate soil fills (L238), which superimposed a layer of natural clay soil. The floor and the underlying fills yielded Mamluk pottery.
The center of the area produced the eastern wing of a large, poorly preserved building that extended westward beyond the excavation limits. Its walls (W215, W239) had an outer face of roughly dressed stones and an inner face of small fieldstones, which were probably coated with plaster that was not preserved. A deep probe in the corner of W215 and W239 (Fig. 7) uncovered three wall foundation courses built of fieldstones and incorporating Mamluk pottery. A tamped earth floor (L216/L240) containing patches of hamra soil and ash abutted Wall 239 from the west. The floor and the underlying fill yielded Mamluk pottery and coins. From the east, Wall 239 was abutted by a white plaster floor (L241; Fig. 8) set on a bedding of hamra soil. Wall 228, to the south W239, had been exposed to extreme heat, causing the stones to crack and turn reddish-gray; the excavation did not detect the source of the heat. It is unclear whether W228 produced a corner with W239. The meager remains of another wall (W250) were uncovered southeast of W239. It was built in two rows of partially dressed medium-sized stones and preserved one course high. It is difficult to ascertain whether this wall was part of the building described above or part of another building that extended east of the excavation area.
In the north of the area, a foundation course of a wide wall (W229) was uncovered, with only one stone of its superstructure preserved. A crushed chalk floor (L247) abutted the wall from the south. The topsoil layer (L208) yielded Mamluk coins and pottery.
Area B2 (Fig. 9). The area contained the remains of a stone wall (W211; Fig. 10). Its outer southern face was built of partially dressed stones, while its inner northern face comprised two rows of small fieldstones bonded with mortar. Two tamped earthen floors (L212, L224) alternating with soil fills (L210, L217) abut the wall from the south and superimpose a deposit of natural dark clay soil (L225). The natural clay deposit yielded a few Iron Age II potsherds, whereas the floors and the fills contained Mamluk and early Ottoman pottery. Three Mamluk coins were found while excavating L212.
Area C
Area C1 (Fig. 11). Throughout the area’s western squares, floor beddings made of small fieldstones (L310, L337, L353, L356; Fig. 12) were uncovered. They probably supported tamped earth or plaster floors, but no traces of these elements remain. Conversely, abundant traces of ash (L339) to the west of L337 may attest to a hearth at this location. These features were associated with pottery and several coins of the Mamluk and early Ottoman periods. A later refuse pit (L341) was uncovered north of L356, yielding tin scraps, glass bottle fragments, an enamel bowl, tobacco pipes, sherds of Black Gaza Ware jars of the Ottoman period and the British Mandate era, and three Mamluk coins.
The eastern squares contained sparse remains. These included a plaster floor (L354) set on a thin hamra soil fill above bedding of small fieldstones in Sq H9. To its south, in Sq H10, a floor’s hamra soil bedding (L325) was discerned, superimposing a soil fill (L355) and containing potsherds and Mamluk-period two coins. In Sq H11, beneath the topsoil (L321), a thin layer of hamra soil (L327) was uncovered, containing Mamluk pottery and coins. Below it, bedding of stones (L406) abutting the western face of a poorly preserved wall (W342; Fig. 13) was recorded.
Area C2 (Fig. 14). The area contained architectural remains dating from the Mamluk period. The north of the area contained poorly preserved stone bedding (L309; Fig. 15) and a plaster floor (L319) associated with Mamluk pottery and coins.
To the south, in Sq G15, several tamped earth floors interchanging with thin levels of soil fill (Figs. 14: Section 1–1; 16) were discerned, yielding pottery and coins from the Early Islamic and Mamluk periods. A building’s southwestern corner (W408, W409; Fig. 17) and a tamped earthen floor (L410) were uncovered in Sq G16. The walls were built of two rows of medium-sized, roughly dressed stones. The excavation of a soil fill (L360) beside the walls recovered Mamluk potsherds and a fragment of a Crusader-period vessel. Another wall (W336) was discovered in Sqs G17–18. It was preserved two courses high: The lower course comprised a fieldstone foundation, while the upper course comprised a western outer face of roughly dressed stones and an inner face of debesh. It is unclear whether this wall continued north and abutted W408. To the wall’s west, a sequence of several floors and fills was recorded. Bottom-up, they consist of two tamped earthen floors, one above the other (L373, L374), a layer of hamra soil (L367), a layer of compacted light-colored soil (L366), and a fieldstone bedding (L332) that may have belonged to a tamped earthen floor that was not preserved. L332 yielded three Mamluk coins.
Several soil surfaces (L328, L345, L357) were uncovered in Sq H15, some including patches of ash and charcoal of unknown origin. These surfaces and the topsoil layer yielded Mamluk and early Ottoman pottery and Mamluk coins. A white plaster floor (L375) and three overlaying layers of soil fill (L347, L362, L363) were uncovered in Sq H18; L363 yielded a Byzantine jar. Fill 347 was overlain by a light-colored tamped earthen floor (L346). Both L346 and L347 yielded mainly Mamluk pottery, with a few Roman and Byzantine sherds. The topsoil layer (L334) yielded Mamluk pottery and coins.
Area C3 (Fig. 18). A concrete wall (W317) built on a course of fieldstones and collapsed stone rubble to its north were uncovered in Sq H20, probably another element of the boys’ school built in the British Mandate era. Below the rubble, a soil fill (L302) was uncovered, superimposing a wall (W318) of roughly dressed stones that was preserved one course high. To its west, a crushed chalk floor was uncovered (L320).
In Sq G20, a crushed chalk floor (L308; Fig. 19) was traced across the entire square, beneath the topsoil layer (L301). This floor is identical to L320. Below the floor’s southern section, a substantial pier (W311; excavated length 2 m, width 0.8 m, preserved height 0.3 m) was uncovered, built of two faces of dressed stones and a core of stones bonded in white mortar. This pier was probably part of the building that was dismantled when Floors 308 and 320 were established. The excavation square yielded Mamluk pottery and coins.
In Sq G22, beneath the topsoil layer (L369), a patch of a white plaster floor (L388) on loose bedding of small stones was articulated. To the west of L388 (Sq H22), fieldstone bedding (L378) was uncovered beneath the topsoil layer (L370). Pottery and three coins from the Mamluk period were recovered from these contexts and the soil fill below them. Below L378, another layer of stone bedding (L396) was found. Mamluk-period pottery was found in Bedding 396 and the soil fill below it. This square also yielded metal slags and metalworking waste. Similar bedding (L397) in Sq H23, to the south, was probably the southward continuation of L396. It abutted the remains of a wall (W379) built of roughly dressed stones and preserved one course high. Another wall (W381), perpendicular to W379, was uncovered in Sq H24 to the south. It was preserved two courses high, including a foundation course of fieldstones and an upper course of roughly dressed stones. Although no corner was preserved, Walls 379 and 381 may have belonged to the same structure. Pottery sherds dating from the Late Roman, Byzantine, Mamluk (most of the finds), and early Ottoman periods were recovered with Roman and Mamluk coins, metal slags, and animal bones. Excavations down to the natural clay soil (L400) on both sides of W381 yielded pottery from Iron Age II and the Mamluk period, as well as a few chunks of metal slag.
In Sq H25, a soil fill (L382) devoid of architectural remains superimposed dark, natural clay soil (L391). Fill 382 yielded Mamluk pottery and a coin, whereas the clay layer beneath produced potsherds, a cooking pot and an intact juglet dated to the Iron Age. To the east, in Sq G25, a layer of fieldstones (L401; Fig. 20) was uncovered. The fill excavated to the east of the fieldstone layer and until naural soil yielded several pottery fragments dating from Iron Age II and the Mamluk period, accompanied by many animal bones.
The excavation revealed meager architectural remains, floors, and soil fills. The architectural remains in Areas B1 and C3 probably belonged to large buildings, and the latter may have been part of the khan at Qaqun. These remains and the varied finds suggest that the excavation area was located in Qaqun’s marketplace, which was probably near the khan.
The abundant ceramic finds include imported vessels; most of them date from the Mamluk period, while the remainder is assigned to the Iron Age II and the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Early Islamic and Ottoman periods. The excavation yielded 339 coins, of which 192 were identified. The vast majority of the identified coins (n=185) date from the Mamluk and early Ottoman periods. The profusion of coins from these periods suggests that they were in daily use at the site. Most animal bones are sheep and goat, followed by cattle and camel and minor occurrences of donkey, horse, chicken and other birds. The absence of pork bones attests to the local population’s Muslim identity. Severe wear traces on camel bones and other ungulates demonstrate that the animals bore heavy loads for prolonged periods. Camels were usually not kept in the courtyards of private homes but on open land, usually on the outskirts of the settlement. Bones of chicken and other birds are usually found in residential neighborhoods, where they were raised and slaughtered. Their very low frequency in the current excavation suggests that this was not a residential neighborhood. Furthermore, the high frequency of sheep and goats is primarily due to horns and teeth, which are usually the only skeletal parts that remain after butchering. Metal was also discovered in the excavation, including several tool fragments and seven chunks of metal slag, attesting to some kind of metal workshop. Perhaps, the traces of ash noted in several places are also due to a small-scale metal industry and trade. Metalworking and tool repairs were typically carried out in a public place where there was economic activity, such as a market.
Historical sources show that, in many towns, the market was located next to the khan. One such example is the Ottoman market excavated in the vicinity of Hanot Taggarim (Khan et-Tujjar) near Kibbutz Bet Keshet (Dalali-Amos, pers. comm.). Based on the data from the excavation and historical sources, the uncovered remains are probably best understood as belonging to the Mamluk and early Ottoman town market at Qaqun.