In December 2019, a trial excavation was conducted in Elijah’s Cave in Haifa (Permit No. A-8628; map ref. 179431–65/748325–96; Fig. 1) prior to the construction of an access path to the cave. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ministry of Religious Sevices, was directed by C. Segal, with the assistance of Y. Amrani and Z. Lotan (administration), I. Jonish (field and aerial photography and photogrammetry), Y. Gomani (surveying and drafting), E. Stern (pottery consultation), L. Rauchberger (clay tobacco pipes), A. de Vincenz (reading of potter's mark on tobacco pipe), D. Gazit (studio photography), L. Sandberg (numismatics), B. Ouahnouna (glassware), I. Reznitsky (metallurgical laboratory), Y. Tepper (scientific guidance), E. Oren (preliminary inspections), L. Talmi and M. Hater (antiquities inspection) and K. Saʻid.
Two excavation squares were opened on the northern slope of the Carmel Ridge, c. 20 m northwest of the entrance to Elijah’s Cave. The excavation uncovered foundations of a late Ottoman building, Hellenistic, Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman pottery, eighteenth–nineteenth century CE clay tobacco pipe fragments, Ottoman and modern glassware, and Ottoman period metal objects.
According to tradition, Elijah’s Cave is where the prophet Elijah hid from Ahab, rendering it sacred for Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. Ritual activity in the cave began in the Roman period. The cave was expanded by quarrying to include a rectangular chamber and a square room to its east. Previous surveys and excavations in the cave found more than 150 Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions (Ovadiah 1965; 1966; 1969) and signs of stone quarrying (Olami 1985; Permit No. A-1193). Charles Wilson, who visited the site in 1864–1866, documented buildings constructed outside the cave in the second half of the nineteenth century CE (Ovadiah and Pierri 2015:13). As of 1867, additional buildings were added by the Elhaj Ibrahim’s family (Vilnai 1985:104).
The current excavation uncovered architectural remains that included three walls (W101–W103; Figs. 2, 3). They were built of medium-sized fieldstones bonded in plaster-based mortar and preserved to a maximum height of four courses. The building’s northern wall, floor and upper parts were not preserved. The uppermost course of W101 was built of ashlars. Wall 102 abutted W103, which extended south beyond the limits of the excavation area. Excavation beneath Wall 103 (L112; Fig. 4) yielded eighteenth–nineteenth-century CE potsherds, an accumulation of light-colored soil and small fieldstones devoid of finds.
Brown soil uncovered between and beside the walls yielded Hellenistic, Byzantine, Mamluk and Ottoman pottery, glassware, animal bones, shells and a few metal objects and bracelets. The Hellenistic pottery includes cooking pot (Fig. 5:1) and jar (Fig. 5:2). The Byzantine pottery includes bowl (Fig. 5:3) and cooking pot (Fig. 5:4). The Mamluk pottery includes hand-made vessel fragment painted red (Fig. 5:5), base lamp (Fig. 5:6) and local cooking pots made of light-colored clay (Fig. 6:1; dating to the Mamluk and Early Ottoman periods). An abundance potsherds from the eighteenth–early twentieth centuries CE from the Ottoman Empire and beyond were discovered. The pottery from inside the Ottoman Empire includes glazed bowls decorated with vertical bands produced in Didymoiteicho, Thrace in northern Greece (Fig. 7:1–3), a rim of a bowl produced in the city of Çanakkale in western Turkey (Fig. 7:4), locally manufactured plain green-glazed bowls (Fig. 7:6–8), numerous locally produced jars (Fig. 8:1–4) and jugs (Fig. 8:5–9) made of light-colored clay, a Gaza Ware jug (Fig. 8:10), Kütahya coffee cups from Turkey (Fig. 9:1–4), Rashaya el-Fukhar ware (Fig. 10) common in the north, and 16 clay tobacco pipes (see below). Imports from outside the Ottoman Empire comprise porcelain ware, including bowls (Fig. 7:11, 12, 15) and a late nineteenth-century CE plate from France (Fig. 7:14), some glazed vessels of indeterminate provenance (Figs. 7:9, 10, 13), three rims of pots imported from France with a clear glaze (Fig. 6:2–4) and coffee cups (Fig. 9:5–10), some of which are Chinese imports or imitations thereof (Fig. 9:5, 6).
The soil accumulation between and beside the walls also yielded a decorated copper alloy handle (Fig. 11), a piece of jewelry with a glass bead (Fig. 12) and a copper alloy thimble (Fig. 13) dating from the eighteenth or nineteenth century CE and probably imported from Europe (Hill 1995).
The pottery dates the excavated building to the mid-nineteenth century CE. Historical sources suggest it was built by Elhaj Ibrahim’s family in or shortly before 1867. The variety of finds, including pottery from across the Ottoman Empire and beyond, attests to pilgrimages to the site. The building fell into disuse during development work at the beginning of the twentieth century CE.
Clay Tobacco Pipes
The excavation yielded fragments of 16 clay tobacco pipes (chibouk), including shanks and bowls of five types (1–5). Most of the pipes date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries CE, and they probably indicate increased activity at the site at this time. The Type 4 pipe (below) is of special importance because it helps date when a particular manufacturer, whose name it bears, operated. A single fragment of a nargile head (Type 6) was also discovered, a marginal find compared with the tobacco pipes, as also observed in other excavations (Sharvit 2011:128).
Type 1. This type is represented by a shank (Fig. 14:1) decorated with horizontal rouletted lines, a bulbous end adorned with oblique toothed-roulette bands and a flat-rimmed end ring. Pipes with similar ornamentation were found at Banias and dated, with some reservation, to the eighteenth century CE or slightly earlier (Dekkel 2008:138, Fig. 4.7:33).
Type 2. This type comprises pipes with round bowls, perpendicular rims, and short plain shanks bearing a semicircular stamp impression with a few protrusions. The shank has a reinforcing ring with a triangular section at its end and a plain end ring above it. Inside the bowl, above the hole through which the smoke passes to the hollow shank, a small sooty clay ridge apparently served to prevent fresh tobacco leaves from clogging the shank (Simpson 2000:158). One of the pipes (Fig. 14:3) has incised lines decorating the shank-bowl joint. Another pipe (Fig. 14:4) has a spherical bowl with a perpendicular rim and a shank extending below the bowl’s base like a protruding keel; this keel-like feature is emphasized with two converging lattice-roulette bands framed in a double line that form a V-shaped design. Lattice-roulette bands also adorn the bowl’s body and rim. Wear marks on the slip at the base of two pipes indicate that these items brushed against a floor or a metal bowl while smoking. Furthermore, one was habitually tilted to the right while the other was tilted to the left, as indicated by abrasion marks on their lower right (Fig. 14:2) and left (Fig. 14:4) sides, respectively. This type of pipe is discussed at length by M. Avissar in her study of pipes from an excavation at Tel Yoqne‘am, where she dates it to the second half of the eighteenth century CE (Avissar 2005:83–88, 93, Type 2).
Type 3. Most pipes in the assemblage are lily-shaped. This type has two kinds of shank: a plain shank with a round, bulbous end decorated with toothed-roulette bands or incised lines and a shank decorated with vertical incised lines in a gadroon pattern. The bowl has a narrow base and flaring walls and is either plain or decorated with incised lines, a roulette and seal impressions. The keel is marked with a seal impression or shaped like a knob with a seal impression.
One of the items (Fig. 14:5) has a round stamp impression on the right side of an otherwise plain shank near the joint with the bowl, which was not preserved. It compirses seven small round protrusions circling an eighth. The shank’s end is bulbous and decorated with four horizontal toothed-roulette bands. Another pipe (Fig. 14:6) has a plain shank with a swollen end decorated with densely arranged incised vertical lines. The shank’s lower end forms the base of a bowl, which was not preserved, and the joint between them is emphasized with a V-shaped pattern of two toothed-roulette bands. The worn slip at the shank’s base indicates that the pipe rubbed against the floor or a metal bowl during smoking. Two pipes (Fig. 14:7, 8) have shanks decorated with vertical incised lines that form a pattern of pointed leaves whose tips are interspersed with triangular palmette seal impressions. This decoration is bounded by a horizontal toothed-roulette band.
Another pipe (Fig. 14:9) consists of a simple flaring bowl decorated with round impressions. Its middle consists of a lattice impression hemmed from above and below by two groups of three smaller flower-shaped impressions. The keel is knob-shaped and decorated with a pattern of parallel lines. Another pipe (Fig. 14:10) has a bowl decorated with vertical toothed-roulette lines with impressed palmettes between and above them. A prominent horizontal ridge separates the bowl from its rim, most of which is not preserved. Another pipe (Fig. 14:11) has a bowl decorated with round protrusions framed by lines. Vetical incised lines decorate the bowls of two pipes (Fig. 14:12, 13), one of which (Fig. 14:12) has a keel decorated with impressed concentric circles around a protrusion. This type was the most common pipe in the country during the late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE (Simpson 2000: Group VI; Rauchberger 2017: Group 2).
One of the pipes (Fig. 14:14) has a plain shank incorporated in the bowl’s base, resulting in a moderately protruding keel emphasized by a V-shaped design of two converging tooth-rouletted bands. The bowl is round, its base is flat, and its lower part has a tooth-rouletted horizontal band. This pipe is a flat-based variation of the type with lily-shaped bowls and is dated the same (Simpson 2000: Group VII; Rauchberger 2017: Group 3).
Type 4. This type of pipe consists of a carinated shank decorated with triangular palmette impressions producing a gadrooned pattern (Fig. 14:15). The shank is incorporated in the base of the round, flat bowl as a pronounced keel emphasized by a V-shaped pattern of two converging tooth-rouletted lines. A round seal impression on the shank’s right side constitutes a potter’s mark. It is Turkish and spelled in Arabic, stating the manufacturer’s name: Benahî Dede (Bakla 2007:137). This manufacturer appears in Bakla’s list of tobacco-pipe producers, but no dates are provided (Bakla 2007:343). Similar pipes have been found in Istanbul (Hayes 1992: Pl. 149, Type XIII) and Corinth (Robinson 1985: Pl. 54, C69–78), where they are dated to the nineteenth century CE, when it was common for potters’ marks to contain the manufacturer’s name (Vincenz 2014:71); this is probably when Benahî Dede was also active.
Type 5. This type is represented by an item with a plain shank (Fig. 14:16) bearing a round floral seal impression on its right side. The shank’s bulbous end is decorated with a petaled flower pattern of deep ribs, notches at their base, and a horizontal tooth-rouletted band below. Similar pipes found in Yafo are dated to the end of the nineteenth century CE (Vincenz 2021: Fig. 8.6B:115, 116, Type J-19W-1).
Type 6. The sixth type is a fragment of a nargile head (Fig. 14:17). It has a thick, concave wall and a shelf rim decorated on the outside with a horizontal toothed-roulette band. This fragment may belong to a type that was common in Egypt (Sharvit 2011:126). Its fabric and slip resemble those of nargile heads dating from the second half of the nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE (Shapiro 2010:80), suggesting that it dates from the same era.
The excavation yielded about 90 glass fragments, of which 65 are unidentified body shards; the remaining fragments—body fragments, a stopper and bracelet fragments—date as an assemblage to the late Ottoman period and onward. Some of the diagnostic body fragments belong to bowls (Fig. 15:1, 2) and a small bottle (Fig 15:3) made of thin, light blue glass; judging by their fabric, they date from the nineteenth century CE. Other body fragments, made of green or brown glass, belong to modern-day bottles (not drawn). The stopper (Fig. 15:4), used in a bottle, has a very common profile and is made of light blue glass. The four bracelet fragments found in the excavation (Fig 15:5–8) belong to common types, produced mostly in Hebron, which first appeared in the Mamluk period and continued to be in use during the Ottoman period and into modern times (Shindo 2001; Spaer 2001:198, 204).
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