During August–September 2000 a salvage excavation was conducted on Vilnay and Shabazi Streets in Ramla (Permit No. A-3280), following the discovery of ancient remains in trenches, dug prior to the commencement of development work. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Municipality of Ramla, was directed by S. Gudovitch (Area A), Y. Dagan (Area B) and N. Sidi (Area C), with the assistance of H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), O. Shmueli and municipal laborers.
The strip slated for excavation (2.5 × 1,600 m) was divided into three areas (A–C); the distance of c. 400 m between the areas precluded the linkage of the finds. Each of the areas was directed and excavated independently of the others. Several phases of building remains, floors and installations, dating from the eighth to the tenth centuries CE, were discovered in all three areas.
Area A (map ref. NIG 187005/648810; OIG 137005/148810)
Six half squares were opened, revealing sections of walls that belonged to three north–south oriented buildings. A floor overlaid with ceramic artifacts was discovered in each building. One of the buildings was constructed from ashlar stones and nearby, a water cistern was cut into the sandy ground. The cistern was built of dressed stones and its opening was completely exposed. Adjacent to it was a structure in the shape of a truncated cone, whose purpose is unclear. East of the water cistern the foundations (height 1.5 m) of another structure, which was built of large fieldstones with bonding material, were discovered. Alongside the building was a pit that contained artifacts dating to the Umayyad period. Abundant and varied finds, dating from the beginning of the Umayyad period until the tenth century CE, were discovered. The ancient remains were difficult to understand because of damage caused to them by infrastructure trenching. Two trial excavations (Permit Nos. A-2799, A-2877), which had previously been conducted near this area, revealed building remains and a wealth of finds that dated from the latter part of the Umayyad period until the tenth century CE.
Area B (map ref. NIG 18704/64875; OIG 13704/14875)
Five half squares were opened east of Area A, revealing three strata.
The upper stratum (I) consisted of ex situ ashlar stones and sections of walls, built of kurkar stones, which formed parts of buildings that had been severely damaged by development work. A structure built of ashlar stones (Fig. 1) was discovered in Stratum II. Its courtyard had a crushed chalk floor (Fig. 2), in which two jars coated with green glaze (Fig. 3) were embedded. A channel that drained water into a cistern (length 1.65 m; Fig. 4) was exposed next to the jars. A robber trench, which was excavated in antiquity for the purpose of removing the masonry stones for secondary usage, was also discerned. Remains of two buildings (east and west) were discovered in Stratum III. The buildings were set directly on the sand dunes that characterize the region. A wall (length 2 m) belonging to the eastern building was discovered. A wall of the western building, which was a large structure that contained an abundance of finds, including pottery vessels, lamps and fragments of glass vessels that dated the remains of the three strata to the eighth–tenth centuries CE, was exposed. Various architectural elements were found, among them a marble column fragment, fragments of marble slabs and roof tiles, ashlar stones and a column base. Some of these elements were in secondary use and had probably been brought to the site from elsewhere (Lod?). Several fragments of pottery vessels from the Chalcolithic period and Iron II were uncovered at a depth of 0.5 m, near the western building.
Area C (map ref. NIG 18711/64875; OIG 13711/14875)
Five half squares were opened, revealing sections of four walls, ceramic finds, glass vessels, metal artifacts, bone objects and animal bones. Three walls belonged to a single structure and one wall was a fence. The walls were oriented north–south or east–west. Alterations to the walls, manifested in repairs or blocked openings, indicate that the walls had several phases of construction. Three phases were discerned in the room delineated by three walls. Two walls and two floors of earth mixed with lime and small stones were ascribed to Phase 1. An installation that had cut the floors and was built next to one of the walls was attributed to Phase 2. The installation, plastered on both sides and bottom, probably contained liquids. A third wall, built on top the installation that was no longer in use, was ascribed to Phase 3. A floor of earth and lime can be associated with this phase. The finds from all of the construction phases dated to the eighth–tenth centuries CE.