In May 2017, a well was documented at 112 Herzl Street in Tel Aviv (map ref. 178486/662502), prior to construction. The well was discovered by A. Buchennino and A. Dayan while digging trial trenches. The documentation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Rubin Elmor Investments Company, Ltd., was carried out by Y. Arbel (field photography), with the assistance of R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting) and D. Barkan (administrative coordination).
The well (diam. 2.9 m; Figs. 1, 2) is larger than most of the wells known at nearby Yafo, although several wells of similar diameter have also been discovered (Arbel 2016). Some twenty courses of well-dressed kurkar stones (average 0.20 × 0.45 m) lining the well and bonded with solid plaster (Fig. 3) were exposed through mechanical excavation of the soil accumulation within the installation (max. depth c. 4 m). The stone lining was affixed to kurkar blocks and tamped soil (Fig. 4), probably an intentional fill intended to stabilize the well’s shaft. The well was originally c. 10 m deep, which is also the level of the water table. As is the case with other wells in the area, it is likely that the deeper part of the shaft was hewn in the bedrock. Judging by the style of the stones that survived in the upper course and the lack of uniformity in its preservation, one can assume it does not represent the original upper edge of the well, and that higher courses were removed for secondary use as building materials. No building remains were found in trial trenches dug around the well, and thus it seems that the entire surface level had been lowered by intensive earthwork prior to the construction of the buildings above it in the mid-twentieth century.
Three levels were discerned in the fill excavated inside the well. The upper level (depth c. 1 m) consisted of dark, crumbly earth mixed with modern debris and stone fragments. The soil of the middle level (1–2 m) was denser and characterized by the collapse of built sections of bricks (including silicate bricks), concrete and large kurkar stones. In the lower level, the amount of construction remains decreased, and more kurkar stones were found.
Some twenty pottery sherds belonging mainly to storage jars from the Late Ottoman period, including a Gaza ware jar (Fig. 5), were found in the fill inside the well and in the probes conducted around it.
The well was probably part of a complex for pumping, storing and regulating water through channels and irrigation pits of the type known at many sites in and around Yafo and south Tel Aviv (Rauchberger 2012; Arbel and Rauchberger 2015). Persian wheels (saqiye), later replaced by motors, were used to pump the water from these wells (Avitsur 1976:60–63; Kark 1990:241–245). They provided water for the orchards and cultivation plots that extended over large parts of Yafo in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE and possibly even earlier. The agricultural area was gradually eliminated during the Late Ottoman period and the time of the British Mandate, with the expansion of Yafo at the end of the nineteenth century, and in a more intensive manner with that of Tel Aviv in the first half of the twentieth century CE.
It seems that the structures belonging to this complex were completely destroyed by the intensive construction that transpired during the British Mandate, as indicated by the silicate construction employed in the adjacent buildings (Aleksandrowicz 2010:85) and the concrete foundations discovered at the site. Wells are difficult to date because the finds recovered from them and from their surroundings refer to the last phases of their use or to the period after they fell out of use. Therefore, even though the construction style of this well is characteristic of the late Ottoman period, an earlier well could conceivably have been used following repairs and renovations that may have included a new lining.
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