The First Half of the Eighth Century CE
This period, which coincided with the founding of Ramla, consisted of a few remains, including stone floors (L072, which continued into the ninth century CE) and foundation courses of walls that were set directly on the sand. The wall remains were too fragmentary to enable a reconstruction of the buildings. The floors used crudely dressed limestone pavers.
The few vessels found below the floors were mostly in a Byzantine-ceramic tradition, such as a red-slipped Egyptian bowl of Fine Byzantine Ware (Fig. 1:1), a cooking pot (Fig. 1:5), a Gaza jar (Fig. 1:7) and several pottery types of the early eighth century CE, including a soapstone krater (Fig. 1:15), pomegranate-shaped vessels (Fig. 1:12, 13) and Egyptian jars (Fig. 1:8).
The Second Half of the Eighth Century and the Ninth Century CE
Other buildings superseded those from the previous period that were practically dismantled (Fig. 2). A new urban planning, to which the previous buildings were deemed incompatible, seems to cause these changes. Of the new roads, a longitudinal road oriented northwest–southeast was exposed, joined by another road from the southwest. A reservoir pool (L152) was installed in the open area where the two roads met.
A large building (I), occupying most of the excavation area, was constructed northeast of the longitudinal road. The building included a central courtyard (L141) and three residential rooms, one in the north (I/A) and two in the east (I/B, I/C). The building was entirely exposed, except for part of Room I/A.
The large central courtyard (L141) in the southwestern corner of the building bordered onto the road. Its floor was not preserved, although remains of the hamra bedding, which was set directly on the sand, were discovered. The bedding contained potsherds dating to the eighth and ninth centuries CE, such as a bowl (Fig. 1:2), Fine Byzantine Ware black decorated ‘marble-like’ bowl (Fig. 1:3) and a ‘marble-like’ cup decorated with incising (Fig.1: 11), a cooking pot (Fig. 1:6) and a Coptic glazed bowl (Fig. 1:4). A circular drainage pit (L062) in the northeastern corner of the courtyard was excavated.
The walls of the building were completely robbed, except for parts of the southern wall that bordered the longitudinal street (W035, W065) and the wall between the courtyard and another building to the southeast (W036). A pilaster inside of the courtyard was attached to W035. The rooms were paved with plaster floors, overlaying tamped hamra bedding.
The Tenth Century CE (Fig. 3)
The pool reservoir (L152) was dismantled and the open area was covered with a new pavement (L149). A rectangular drainage pit (L198; 1.3 × 2.1 m), built of fieldstones and covered with a barrel vault, was excavated below the open area. Its aperture protruded from the pit’s southwestern corner. Its foundation trench yielded potsherds dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE, including a bowl decorated with a painted, translucent under glaze (Fig. 4:1) and a bowl painted with splash glaze (Fig. 4:3). A narrow plastered drainage conduit with cover stones (L102) ran along the top of the barrel vault and was found blocked with clayey deposits. The conduit turned at a right angle into the longitudinal street, toward the southeast. Cleaning the blockage revealed an intact Umayyad lamp (Fig. 5) and a jug fragment from the ninth century CE.
Over the course of the period alterations in Building I concerned mainly the plaster floors of the previous periods that were replaced with better quality ones. A rectangular water cistern (L087; 2.1 × 4.6 m, c. 1.1 m deep) was built in the building’s courtyard. The cistern was set upon a fill (L213), which contained a large amount of ash and pottery fragments from the ninth and tenth centuries CE, including a zir jar (Fig. 1:9), buff jugs decorated with incising (Fig. 4:10, 12), a buff jug (Fig. 4:11), buff jugs with a strainer (Figs. 1:10; 4:13, 14) and a pentagonal lamp (Fig. 1:14), as well as numerous fragments of glass. Some of the vessels were intact, yet deformed due to production damages. This was probably the waste from nearby pottery and glass workshops. The bedding for the cistern’s floor consisted of a mortar layer mixed with numerous glass tesserae. The cistern, covered with a barrel vault, was coated with hydraulic plaster that had undergone repairs. By the end of the period it was probably no longer used and converted into a refuse pit. The fill within the cistern contained potsherds dating to the ninth and tenth centuries CE. The drainage pit (L062) was also no longer used and turned into a refuse pit.
The rooms of Buildings II–V were partly excavated and revealed plaster floors that were contemporary with the period. The southwestern side of a water cistern (L193) was exposed in the courtyard of Building II. The cistern was not excavated as it lay beyond the excavation boundary.
First Half of the Eleventh Century CE (Fig. 6)
As in the previous period, the maintenance of the buildings and streets required the replacement of earlier floors with new ones.
A new water cistern in Building I (L017, Figs. 7–9), replaced the old one (L087). This was a rectangular cistern (1.5 × 6.4 m, 2.27 m deep) that employed a different construction technique. The walls and floor were lined with plaster, composed of stone clusters and mortar that formed an impermeable layer. The plastered walls and floor were covered with a layer of travertine. The cistern was roofed with a barrel vault that was overlain with the plaster floor of the courtyard. Sockets for the beams that supported the vault during its construction were found in the walls of the cistern. The ceiling of the cistern was not entirely preserved when a modern building was demolished and damaged the northeastern third of the cistern. A circular opening in the southwestern corner of the cistern’s ceiling was probably used for drawing water. The cistern’s foundation trench (L092) contained potsherds dating to the tenth–eleventh centuries CE, including a bowl with a monochrome glaze decorated with incising (Fig. 4:2), Serçe Limani bowls (Fig. 4:4, 5), a splash-glazed bowl (Fig. 4:6) and a cooking pot (Fig. 4:9).
A rectangular drainage pit (L163) was excavated in Room I/C. Water drained into it via a conduit, which survived by scant remains. The pit served for a short period before it was converted into a refuse pit.
Second Half of the Eleventh Century CE
A central drainage system was installed below the streets. A conduit (L043; 28 m long; Fig. 10), whose bottom was coated with hydraulic plaster and its walls were coated with the same plaster that lined the water cistern (L017), was laid beneath the longitudinal street, which had a relatively acute incline to the southeast, especially apparent in the gradient of the channel (0.52 m difference between the two ends). Channels drained into the conduit from the buildings alongside it. The street pavement was stabilized by retaining walls (W172) that were built crosswise below it. Wall 172 was anchored by joining it with a wall that delineated the street from the southwest (W116). Three entrances to the conduit were in the northeastern wall and one entrance––in the opposite wall. Likewise, three entrances drained the run-off from the street pavement. A column base in secondary use in one of them was perforated through to let the water flow.
Another drainage channel in the lateral street (L153), covered with stone slabs, was however, narrower and shallower than the central one. It replaced the previous drainage channel (L102), a small segment of which remained in use and was incorporated into the main channel, into which it drained via one of the entrances in its roof. The two new channels cut through the earlier street levels and in their foundation trenches potsherds dating to the tenth–eleventh centuries CE, including a pseudo-porcelain bowl of the T’ang dynasty (Fig. 4:7), a glazed bowl decorated with luster (Fig. 4:8) and a glazed chamber pot (Fig. 4:18), were found.
A square pilaster (W091; Fig. 11) of unclear function was built into the area of the street, attached to the south wall of Building 1 (W065). A circular drainage pit (L044) was excavated below the wall of the drainage channel (L153). The pit had an arched ceiling, through which a ceramic pipe was inserted; its entry spot was preserved.
A drainage pit (L199) in the northeastern corner of the courtyard in Building II was converted into a refuse pit after it was no longer in use.
Toward the end of the period, all the buildings were no longer used, their walls were dismantled and the stones robbed. The street pavement was plundered and all the underground installations were turned into refuse pits. Excavating the robber trenches (L029, L097 etc.) revealed potsherds from the tenth–eleventh centuries CE that included a buff jug with a strainer (Fig. 4:15), a wheel-made lamp (Fig. 4:16) and a soapstone lamp (Fig. 4:17).