Stratum IV (Abbasid period—ninth–tenth centuries CE)
Remains from this period were revealed in Squares 1, 2 and 5 and three phases (1–3) were discerned.
Phase 1. A layer of fine quality tamped chalk (L131; thickness 0.2 m; Fig. 2), severed by a robber trench (L132) was exposed in Sq 1. A built tomb (L128; not excavated) was exposed on the tamped chalk layer and its date is unknown.
The southwestern corner of a building (W202, W203) was exposed in Sq 2. Wall 202 was built of one foundation course that protruded c. 0.1 m west from the courses above it, and wadi pebbles were arranged alongside it, probably to stabilize the wall. Two courses of ashlars, including a well-dressed cornerstone, were preserved on the foundation course. Wall 203 was built of small ashlars. The two walls continued beyond the excavation area. The end of a narrow drainage channel (L130; width 0.1 m) was exposed west of W202. Several building stones (W204), whose purpose is unknown, were exposed in the lowest part of the excavation, next to the square’s eastern section.
A layer of white plaster (L122) with a thick foundation (c. 0.6 m) composed of several layers of fill was exposed in Sq 5. Tamped soil fill (L123; thickness c. 0.2 m) was revealed in the upper part of the foundation, below the plaster. More fill that consisted of mortar, stone fragments, potsherds and organic debris, such as animal bones (L124; thickness c. 0.3 m), was exposed below Fill 123. Fill 124 superposed a tamped brown soil fill (L134; thickness c. 0.1 m), deposited on fill that was not excavated.
Phase 2. A thick foundation of soil and stones (L120; thickness c. 0.4 m), overlain with a layer of plaster (L117; thickness c. 0.11 m) was exposed in Sq 5 above the plaster layer in L122.
Phase 3. Soil (L116) was deposited above Plaster Layer 117 and another plaster layer (L115) overlay the soil.
Potsherds dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE (Abbasid period), including a bowl (Fig. 3:1), a glazed bowl (Fig. 3:2) and a flask (Fig. 3:3) were discovered in this stratum.
Stratum III (Mamluk period—thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE)
Three phases of fill and streets, ascribed to the Mamluk period, were excavated.
Phase 1. A thick layer of soil fill (L118) that covered Tomb 128 of Stratum IV was exposed in Sq 1. Similar fill (L119) that covered the walls of Stratum IV was excavated in Sq 2. The sections excavated in Sqs 3–5 revealed soil fill (L114; thickness c. 0.3 m) that was overlain with a well-made tamped foundation of crushed stones, soil and potsherds (thickness c. 0.3 m), which was superposed by a layer of plaster (L113). Plaster Layer 113 was exposed for a distance of c. 10 m and no architectural remains were discovered alongside it. The quality of the foundation and the plaster indicate that these were probably remains of a street. Potsherds dating to the ninth–fourteenth centuries CE (Mamluk period) were discovered.
Phase 2. Tamped fill (L112) that contained numerous potsherds was discovered above Plaster Layer 113 in most of the excavation area. A street (L106; exposed length c. 15 m; Fig. 4) was revealed above Fill 112. It was composed of two plaster layers, with tamped soil fill between them that was rich in organic debris, rendering it a black color. The upper plaster layer was thick and of high quality. The plaster was made of lime and large amounts of ash. Street 106 continued east and west beyond the limits of the excavation area. Its northern end was exposed near the northern section of the excavation, where curbstones that were robbed may have been placed. It is possible that buildings were situated along the northern shoulder of the street, outside the excavation area. Potsherds and small grenade-type bottles dating to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE were discovered.
Phase 3. The street from Phase 2 was no longer in use; it was replaced by a new, wider street. Soil fill (L107, L108) was deposited to raise the surface slightly. A thin layer of plaster was applied to the fill and a roadbed of a thick layer of stones bonded in mortar was built above it (L105; exposed length c. 30 m, thickness 0.3 m; Fig. 5). It is possible that the roadbed was made smooth with an upper layer of plaster that did not survive. The street continued in all directions beyond the limits of the excavation area and its full width is therefore unknown. Potsherds that dated from the thirteenth to the beginning of the fifteenth centuries CE were discovered.
The ceramic finds from this stratum included a bowl imported from Italy (Fig. 3:4), a locally produced glazed bowl (Fig. 3:5), bowls imported from Pisa or Venice (Fig. 3:6, 7), an imported bowl from Italy (Fig. 3:8), a glazed bowl (Fig. 3:9), a bowl decorated with sgrafitto (Fig. 3:10), porcelain bowl from the Ming dynasty (Fig. 3:11), a cooking pot handle (Fig. 3: 12), jars (Fig. 3:13–16), and a jug fragment (Fig. 3:17).
Stratum II (Ottoman period—fifteenth–twentieth century CE)
The street ascribed to the Mamluk period was replaced by a new street in the nineteenth century CE. Initially, soil fill exposed in all the squares (L101–L104) was deposited; another layer of soil fill (L100) was placed above it and on top, a roadbed of gray soil (L98) was installed. The street (L97; thickness 0.6 m) was built above the roadbed, utilizing large amounts of stone and tamped soil. The street was exposed in all the squares and it continued in all directions beyond the excavation area. The latest of the discovered potsherds dated to the nineteenth century CE, and included black Gaza ware jars.
A circular-built installation, probably a poorly preserved cesspit (L109; Fig. 6), was excavated in Sq 4 beneath the street. The cesspit severed Streets 105 and 106 of the Mamluk period. While dismantling the installation, several potsherds were discovered, including a fragment of a Marseilles roof tile. A drainage channel (L99) was exposed below Street 97. Its western side (W201) was built of large stones in secondary use while its eastern side consisted of small stones. The channel severed the upper level of Street 105 from the Mamluk period and continued north beyond the limits of the excavation area. The southern end of the channel was robbed and it is therefore unclear where it drained. The discovered potsherds included a bowl (Fig. 3:18), a glazed bowl (Fig. 3:19) and a glazed and decorated plate (Fig. 3:20).
Stratum I (the British Mandate era—twentieth century CE)
The Ottoman period street was replaced with a new street at the time of the British Mandate. This time, the street level was also raised by means of soil fill and the street above it was built of large, closely packed limestone. This road is clearly visible in aerial photographs from 1932. The street was repaved with asphalt after 1948.
A small assemblage of glass vessels, comprising 14 items, was discovered in the excavation. The diagnostic fragments from the Early Islamic period belong to bottles and possibly several goblets. A more precise dating of the fragments is not possible due to their poor state of preservation. Nevertheless, a fragment of a unique goblet was discovered (L103; Fig. 7). A hollow stem (width 2.3 cm, height 5.2 cm) and part of the goblet’s base were preserved. The stem, blown in a two-part mold shaped like a lion’s head, is surrounded on both sides by bands of egg-like beads in relief. The base is flattened widthwise and was attached separately to the stem. Similar goblet stems usually included two whole lion heads separated by a decoration depicting a weapon, a cross or a lily. The images on the stem that was discovered at the site are difficult to discern due to the severe weathering and because part of the stem is missing. Prestigious goblets of this type date to the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries CE, and they were mainly discovered in Italy, as well as in France. The image of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, appears on most of the stems, which were probably manufactured in northern Italy and traded throughout Europe (Minini M. 2004. Verres médiévaux et post-médiévaux. In E.A. Arslan, ed. Corpus des collections du verre en Lombardie (CCVL) I: Crémone et sa province. Crémone. Cat. Nos. 167–169; Tonini C. 2004. Découvertes effectuées à Pavie et sur son territoire. In E.A. Arslan, ed. Corpus des collections du verre en Lombardie (CCVL) I: Crémone et sa province. Crémone. Cat. Nos. 143–149). We know of several whole goblets that have stems shaped like a lion’s head in Antwerp and London, in museums and private collections. These goblets are richly decorated in the Venetian style and were made in the late fifteenth century CE by glass artisans, particularly artisans coming from Murano. The goblet stem from Ramla is the first in the Venetian style to be discovered in Israel. Presumably, it was brought to Ramla at the beginning of the Ottoman period as an expensive present or was imported from Europe.
Architectural remains dating to the Abbasid period and several streets and layers of superposed fill from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods and the modern era were exposed in the excavation. Several conclusions regarding the remains from the Abbasid period can be drawn from an analysis of the excavation data: (1) the quality of the foundations beneath the plaster layers and their thickness exceed the customary standards in the construction of dwellings; (2) the small quantity and poor quality of the ceramic artifacts discovered in this stratum is unusual in excavations of dwellings in Ramla. The amount of domestic ware and storage vessels that were discovered is significantly less than the finds from other excavations; (3) the direction of the foundations and plaster match that of the streets that were discovered in later strata. Taking into consideration all these factors, the plaster levels from the Abbasid period might be part of a street that led to the White Mosque, and its route had been preserved to this day. The mosque was renovated in the Mamluk period (1294–1340 CE) and the White Tower was rebuilt. It is interesting to note that no finds dating to the Crusader period were discovered in the excavation, except for a single sherd, possibly because this region was situated outside the boundaries of the Crusader city. During the development work on Danny Mass Street in 2006, west of the White Mosque, a plaster layer was exposed for a distance of c. 40 m along the course of the street. This unexcavated layer was covered after the work. Yet, it is very similar to the plaster layers exposed in the current excavation. This plaster layer was probably part of a street that began in the east of the city and ended in the west. It should be noted that the street uncovered in the excavation was probably fairly important; it was built of plaster and was not paved with even a single layer of flagstones. This matches the description by Muqaddasī, “…in the winter Ramla becomes an island of mud and in the summer an island of dust…there is no running water in it and no vegetation, no tamped earth and no snow” (Al- Muqaddasī. 2001. The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions. Ahsan al-Taqāsīm fī Ma 'rifat al Aqālīm. Translated by B. Collins, Reviewed by M.H Alta’i).