During March–April, June–August and September–November 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Police Compound (Qishle) in central Yafo (Jaffa; Permit No. A-5037; map ref. NIG 177076–154/662605–667; OIG 127076–154/162605–667), prior to the construction of a new hotel. The excavations, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Orchidea Hotel Group, was directed by Y. Arbel, with the assistance of L. Rauchberger, M. Cohen, I. Kornfeld, R. Korin, L. Talmi and D. Golan (area supervision), S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), V. Essman, V. Pirsky, R. Mishayev and T. Meltsen (surveying), T. Sagiv and C. Amit (photography), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), A. de Vincenz, E.J. Stern, G. Finkielsztejn, K. Burke and P. Gendelman (ceramic finds), O. Barzilai (flint finds), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass finds), R. Kool (numismatics), K. Rafael (metal finds) and M. Sade and I. Kotlav (zooarchaeology).
The Qishle compound is located at the northwestern corner of the modern Clock-Tower square in central Yafo (Fig. 1). The compound consists of three orthogonal two-storied buildings and two yards (Fig. 2). It was built during the 1880's and 1890's by the Ottoman authorities as police headquarters and prison, retaining these functions under the British Mandate and the State of Israel. In 2005, the Israeli police moved elsewhere and the Qishle was subsequently sold to a private investor for the construction of a boutique hotel. The site has never been excavated, but extensive archaeological work in its vicinity exposed remains dating from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period.
The excavations at the Qishle
compound were conducted under the floors of rooms in the three main buildings that were singled out for conservation as part of the hotel, and throughout the front and back yards, once they were cleared of makeshift structures built by the British and Israeli police. Architectural remains and artifacts from the Hellenistic (Stratum VIII; fourth–second centuries BCE), Crusader (Stratum IV; twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE) and Ottoman periods (Stratum II; eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE) were exposed (Figs. 3, 4). The strata numbering follows the general stratigraphic sequence of Yafo (HA-ESI 121
). While the Hellenistic and Crusader remains indicated a civilian domestic occupation, the Ottoman architecture was of a military nature and corresponded to textual, cartographic and artistic records left by travelers and officers who had visited Yafo during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE.
The relatively poor representation of remains from the Hellenistic period is probably due to lack of preservation and later construction that damaged the earlier remains. The true scale of utilizing the area during this period remains unclear. The foundations of several modest walls built of roughly cut local kurkar stones were found at the back yard of the compound, as well as fragmentary remains of brick-built structures. The remains could not be integrated into a feasible plan of a specific building and no floors survived. Some of the walls were incorporated into buildings of the Crusader period (Fig. 5). This secondary utilization of Hellenistic masonry stones for medieval construction partly explains the fragmentary preservation of Hellenistic walls. The finds consisted of pottery, including several stamped handles and fragments of a figurine, as well as two coins, one of Ptolemy II (285–246 BCE; IAA 119144) and a later Hellenistic coin that could not be dated. A relatively large stone-built pedestal (diam. 1.2 m) of Hellenistic date was discovered in the front yard of the compound, along with remains of a hearth. The presence of trees and later graves prevented a thorough exposure that might have placed these features within a more comprehensive context.
Most architectural remains of the Crusader period were discovered in the back yard of the compound, after the removal of a massive fill that was deposited during the late Ottoman period. The remains comprised several walls, stone and packed-earth floors and two water cisterns. Medieval historical records attest to several battles between the Crusaders and the Muslims by the eastern walls of Jaffa. However, no traces of fortifications from this period were found in the Qishle compound and the medieval wall line is apparently farther west and closer to the ancient mound.
No cohesive plan of any building could be formed from the surviving architecture. Still, the preserved walls corresponded to the general outline of domestic Crusader houses in medieval occupation layers elsewhere in Yafo (HA-ESI 117
; HA-ESI 120
). Roughly dressed local kurkar
stones were used for construction, with some mortar added for consolidation. Most floors were of packed earth, usually on bedding that was solidified with masses of shells. A single floor at the southern part of the back yard was paved with large and finely cut slabs of beach rock and kurkar
. An underground water cistern that had a round opening with a ring of stones above it was in the center of the floor and a stone-lined drain system was fitted below the pavement (Fig. 6). Another vaulted cistern was discovered in the western part of the back yard. A Crusader wall and two plastered installations from the same period were exposed at the front yard.
The Medieval artifacts consisted of an extensive and varied ceramic assemblage, several local and foreign coins and some arrowheads. The pottery vessels included both local and imported wares, which showed European, Near Eastern and North African production centers (Fig. 7). Most of the coins were minted by local and European Christian rulers, although some Ayyubid and Mamluk mints were also noted. The relatively poor preservation of the Crusader occupation in the Qishle compound can be explained by the systematic Mamluk destruction, as attested by historical sources of the period, as well as by intensive defensive construction in late Ottoman times.
The Mamluks had completely razed Jaffa, as was their custom in many of the towns and fortresses they had conquered from the Crusaders. The city was left in ruins until the seventeenth century CE and regained its full status as a commercial center only during the second half of the eighteenth century CE, when it was also fortified. The remains of two fortification phases were exposed. The earlier phase was dated to the late eighteenth century CE and consisted of a rounded protrusion from the walls (Fig. 8), the likes of which appear in the Jacotin map, drawn by a military engineer with Napoleon’s army that besieged and conquered Jaffa in early March of 1799.
The later phase of Ottoman fortification was part of an early nineteenth century CE octagonal bastion at the northeastern corner of the city walls (Fig. 9). These new fortifications were constructed by the Ottoman authorities with British assistance after Napoleon’s retreat, to replace the earlier walls that were attacked and subsequently destroyed by the French army. The bastion appeared in drawings and maps from the 1840s to the 1860s. Along with the rest of Jaffa's fortifications it became derelict during the second half of the nineteenth century CE and was mostly dismantled prior to the construction of the police and prison compound in the 1890s.
The extensive work invested in leveling the ground for this latest construction was clearly attested to throughout the excavations, represented by c. 4 m of intentionally deposited fill, which was rich in artifacts from the later part of the nineteenth century CE. The latter included characteristic Gaza Ware pottery, numerous fragments of European porcelain that had datable producer marks in many cases (Fig. 10), glass and stoneware bottles, iron scarps and coins minted by various Ottoman Sultans, as well as nineteenth century coins that arrived at Jaffa from Europe and North Africa. The three main structures of the Qishle compound were built, as soon as the ground reached a satisfactory elevation. The walls were erected on structural foundation arches—an architectural phenomenon that prevailed in late Ottoman construction in Jaffa. In some cases, the foundations destroyed earlier graves that were probably part of the cemetery, which existed north of Jaffa from at least the late eighteenth century, and had spread into the Qishle compound during the decades between the abandonment of the fortifications and the construction of the police compound.
Stratum I (the twentieth century CE)
Once having occupied Jaffa in 1917, British authorities established their own local police headquarters and prison at the Ottoman Qishle compound. During their 30-year occupation, they made significant utilitarian alterations to the buildings. Concrete towers, balconies and staircases were added where necessary, with little or no consideration for Ottoman decorative efforts. Military buttons, coins and various types of containers and mechanical particles of glass, tin and iron were associated with this stratum, as well as a cache of c. 80 guns found buried in the back yard (Figs. 11, 12). The cache included British, German and American issues, as well as dozens of double-barreled shotguns. These weapon types were in standard military and civilian use during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries CE. The guns were purposely crippled and some were burned. This detail and the location of discovery within the police compound suggest that the rifles were confiscated and systematically disposed of. This might have occurred during sweeps for illegal arms carried out in the early 1920s, when unrest and violence transpired between Jaffa's local Arab inhabitants and the British forces after Jewish residents were attacked and murdered.
The Qishle excavations allowed a viable reconstruction of the history of this central site in Jaffa. Despite its proximity to the mound and the harbor, no evidence for a pre-Hellenistic occupation was discerned. The area may have been left vacant because the roads, leading to and from the harbor, intersected it. The apex of the Hellenistic phase was during the fourth and third centuries BCE, although may have lasted, in poorer form, into the second century BCE. No traces of habitation during the Hasmonean and Roman periods were found. Only a few scattered potsherds and coins from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods surfaced in the Qishle compound, unlike various industrial activities from these periods that were revealed in the excavations of the adjacent Flea Market compound. During the Crusader period, the compound was once again fully occupied, probably by domestic units and affiliated gardens, storage facilities and small-scale industry, until its destruction during the Mamluk takeover and subsequent abandonment. The last two centuries of the Ottoman period saw an important segment of the Ottoman fortifications that defended the access to the harbor in the compound, until developments in political and military conditions rendered them unnecessary. By then, it was determined that military and police functions in Jaffa would be better served by headquarters and prisons that were built where the bastion previously stood.
The excavations of the Qishle compound filled a significant gap in our knowledge of the history and archaeology of Jaffa’s modern center, linking data that accumulated in excavations of its immediate environs. It is now intended to incorporate the main architectural features in the future hotel and hopefully to display assorted finds in its premises.