Squares C84, C85 (Fig. 3). Habitation levels (L115) that dated to the Early Islamic period were exposed on either side of the sewer line in Square C84. A plaster and kurkar floor (L116) was south of the sewer line in Square C85. The remains were badly preserved and the excavation in these squares was therefore suspended.
Square C92 (Fig. 3). A habitation level (L127), severed by the sewer line and a backhoe trench, was exposed in the southern part of the square. Sterile sandy soil was discovered below the habitation levelanda zir-type jar was found in situ, in the northern side of the sewer line. The jar, resting on top of a crushed chalk floor (L120), was cut by the sewer line.
Square C97 (Fig. 4). A modern sewage pit was found in the square. Collapse that related to the sewer line and consisted of medium-sized fieldstones (L110) was discovered in the western quarter of the square and the excavation was thus suspended.
Square C98 (Figs. 4, 5). A layer of whitish mortar (L131) was exposed; it overlaid, in the western part of the square, the corner of an installation (T1) whose sides were built of pale gray mortar. A wall stump (W146; length 1.2 m, width 0.5 m), built of small and medium fieldstones and set on top of fieldstone collapse, was exposed east of the installation. A small section of a whitish chalk floor abutted the northern side of the installation. Two other white chalk floors were discerned at a lower level in the square’s eastern balk.
Square D3 (Fig. 4). The northern part of a refuse pit (L121, L125) that yielded numerous potsherds, dating to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE) and including three fragments of zoomorphic vessels (Fig. 6:1, 2, 4), was exposed. The vessel in Fig. 6:1 is a pack animal that carries a bag-shaped jar on its back. The pit was excavated to the level of sterile soil. Several small fieldstones that had apparently lined the pit were discerned at the bottom part of the trench, dug in the pit. The excavation did not reach the bottom of the pit due to safety precautions.
Squares D29–33 (Figs. 7, 8). A plaster floor (L547), dating to an early phase in the Early Islamic period, was exposed in Square D29. This floor was cut by an elliptical silo (L138; Fig. 9) that was built in sandy sterile soil of medium-sized fieldstones, without mortar. A pavement of small fieldstones (L142) was exposed in the silo. The southern and northern parts of the silo were sealed with a white plaster floor (L536) that also dated to the Early Islamic period. A fragment of a zoomorphic vessel in the shape of a donkey (Fig. 6:3) was discovered in the square.
Floor 536 extended almost the entire length of Square D30. A section of a wall (W550; length 2 m, width 0.6 m; Fig. 10), preserved a single course high and built on sterile beach sand, was exposed in the western part of the square. The western side of W550 was built of large fieldstones and the eastern side consisted of small fieldstones. Floor 536 was not preserved near the wall; yet, their elevations indicate that they possibly belonged to the same phase.
A wall section (W553; length 1.4 m), built of a single row of small fieldstones, was uncovered in Square D31. Fragments of a large zir-type jar that dated to the end of the Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods were discovered in situ to the west of the wall (L134; this jar type appears until the ninth century CE; see ceramic description below). Fragments of basalt grinding stones, integrated into small fieldstones were exposed in the western part of the square; these stones may have served as bedding for a floor that had not survived.
A small section of a chalk floor was exposed in Square D32. Light sandy soil fills (L517, L557), devoid of special finds, were discerned and below it was only sterile sand.
A layer of sand, mixed with a large amount of metal slag (L132; Fig. 11), was exposed in Square D33; sterile sand was located below it.
Square D37 (Figs. 7, 8, 12). A wall foundation (W595; length 2.5 m, width 0.5 m), built of small fieldstones on sterile soil to eight courses high, was exposed in the western part of the square. The foundation of another wall (W630), parallel to W595, was exposed in the east of the square. Soil fill (thickness 0.2 m) was discovered above W630 and the foundation of another wall (W614) was built above it.
Square D42 (Fig. 13). Only the western quarter of the square was excavated and layers of soil and potsherds that dated to the Early Islamic period were discovered.
Square D45 (Fig. 13). A section of a white plaster floor (L542), built on a bedding of small fieldstones (L592), was exposed in the western part of the square. The floor’s bedding was built on brown soil fill (L601) that overlaid layers of sand (L606, L620). Many pieces of metal slag were discovered in the sand (L620) and beneath it was sterile sand.
Squares D46, D47 (Fig. 13). Two construction phases were discerned. Part of a white plaster floor (L600) that was exposed at the western end of Square D47 and soil fill (L621), which contained a fragment of a marble column with a hole in its base (Fig. 14), were ascribed to the early phase. Three walls (W581, W623, W627; Fig. 15) that created two spaces were ascribed to the later construction phase. Wall 581 (length 3 m, width 0.6 m) was a foundation built of small fieldstones; a medium-sized fieldstone was incorporated in its southern part. This foundation was set on a sand dune, which is characteristic of Ramla. Wall 623 (length 2.5 m, width 0.55 m) was also a foundation built of small and medium stones. Wall 627 was poorly preserved (length 2.8 m, width 0.5 m). Small fieldstone collapse, which included fragments of bowls from the Early Islamic period, as well as a coin from the Umayyad period (IAA 112916), postdating the reform of Suleiman ibn 'Abd al-Malik (697–750 CE), was discovered above W627. It seems that the bowls were lying on a floor that was not preserved.
Square D51 (Fig. 16). A well-preserved ashlar-built staircase that consisted of three steps was exposed (Fig. 17). Remains of a plaster floor (L617) were revealed at the bottom of the staircase, which was covered with small and medium-sized fieldstone collapse (L602, L604). A robber trench (L618) was exposed next to the eastern side of the staircase; it was probably that of a wall, oriented north–south that damaged the northern part of a plastered installation, which extended toward the northern balk of the square. The staircase and the installation belonged to the same construction phase while the robber trench postdated them; however, it also dated to the Early Islamic period, based on the potsherds it contained.
Square D58 (Fig. 16). The southern half of the square was excavated. A foundation of fieldstones and crushed chalk, probably the bedding of a floor that was not preserved, was exposed below brown soil fill (L611). The bedding was set on a layer of sand and several stones that could be stone collapse or a wall foundation were exposed to its west.
Square D59 (Fig. 16). The western half of the square was excavated. Collapse of small and medium-sized fieldstones (L549) that sealed two small sections of a white plaster floor was exposed at a depth of 0.4 m below surface. Part of a threshold stone with a socket was discovered on the southern side of the square; the stone, lying on sand, was not in situ. Sterile soil (L603) was exposed at a lower elevation east of the floors.
Square D60 (Fig. 16). Three phases were discerned. Large fieldstones lying in disarray and probably collapse (L612) were ascribed to the earliest phase. A section of a white plaster floor (L605) belonged to the middle phase. A white plaster floor (L525) and stone collapse, similar to that discovered in Square D59, were ascribed to the latest phase.
The ceramic finds recovered from the excavation are dated to the eighth–tenth centuries CE, particularly to the Abbasid period (ninth century CE). The finds included a Fine Byzantine Ware bowl with a gutter rim (Fig. 18:1), a rim of a Late Roman C bowl that dates to the end of the sixth and beginning of the seventh centuries CE (Fig. 18:2), plain bowls with a rim folded inward (Fig. 18:3–7), glazed bowls (Fig. 18:8–12), a bowl decorated with incising (Fig. 18:13), a krater (Fig. 18:14), a cooking krater (Fig. 18:15), a small bowl (Fig. 18:16), small bowl with a small loop handle (Fig. 18:17), a cup from the end of the Byzantine and the Abbasid periods (Fig. 18:18), chamber pot (Fig. 19:1), jar rim (Fig. 19:2), a complete zir-type jar (Fig. 19:3), jugs ascribed to the Early Islamic period (Fig. 19:4–6), jug fragments decorated with plastic ornamentations (barbotine; Fig. 19:7, 8), jug handles (Fig. 19:9–11), a jug base (Fig. 19:12), juglets (Fig. 19:13–15), a lamp with at least two wick-holes (Fig. 20:1) and almond-shaped lamps decorated with floral or geometric patterns that are common to the Early Islamic period (Fig. 20:2–11), including a lamp decorated with a Star of David pattern (Fig. 20:3). According to N. Amitai-Preiss (pers. comm.), this motif is referred to in Arabic sources as “Hatam Sulmayan” meaning “Seal of Solomon”. The Star of David is surrounded with a thick circle. The Seal of Solomon motif also appears on the handles of zir-type jars, oftentimes as a five or eight-pointed star and frequently with six curved sides and a dot on the outside them. Some sort of magical connotation may have been associated with these motifs. The ceramic artifacts also include fragments of zoomorphic vessels (above, Fig. 6).
The metallic artifacts included an iron nail and nail head (Fig. 21:1, 2), an iron point of a weapon, possibly a lance (Fig. 21:3), bronze tweezers (Fig. 21:4), two round bronze weights (Fig. 21:5, 6; 8.3 grams and 8.1 grams), a bronze ring (Fig. 21:7) and three unidentified objects (Fig. 21:8–10).
Five copper folles were discovered in the excavation; three were identified. Two coins date to the Umayyad period, the time following the reform of Sulayman ibn 'Abd al-Malik (697–750 CE; IAA 112915, 112916) and the third is a fals minted in Ramla in the name of the Abbasid Caliph Muhammad ibn Mansūr al-Mahdī (158–169AH/775–785 CE) under the governors Ğhadam ibn Habāb and Yahyā ibn Qamūs, c. 190 AH/805 CE (IAA 112914).
Seventy-four identified glass fragments were discovered in the excavation, including vessel fragments and the remains of industrial glass debris, which are dated to the Abbasid and the beginning of the Fatimid periods.
The glass vessels belong to two groups. The first is a group of locally produced, plain domestic ware and the second is composed of vessels decorated with very fine quality beveling and carving. Two bowls in the first group are made of greenish-blue glass, which is characteristic of the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods and was used only until the beginning of the Abbasid period. One of bowls is cylindrical, with upright sides, a rounded rim and a ridge on its body (Fig. 22:1), dating to the beginning of the Abbasid period; the other is a base of a bowl from the same period (Fig. 22:2), whose circumference is thickened at the joint between the side and the base. Other vessels in the first group included a complete miniature thimble-like jar that was blown, carelessly worked and asymmetric (Fig. 22:3), which is known from other excavations in Ramla (Gorin-Rosen Y. 2010. The Islamic Glass Vessels. In O. Gutfeld, Ramla, Final Report of the Excavations North of the White Mosque [Qedem 51]. Jerusalem. Pp. 232–233, Pl. 10.5:1, 2) and dates to the Abbasid period; the bottom part of a tiny ampoule (Fig. 22:4) made of colorless glass and covered with a layer of hard weathering, similar to those retrieved from assemblages of the Abbasid and Fatimid periods in numerous excavations at Ramla and in elsewhere, such as in Tiberias, especially in assemblages of the Fatimid period (Lester A. 2004. The Glass. In D. Stacy. Excavations at Tiberias, 1973–1974: The Early Islamic Period [IAA Reports 21]. Jerusalem. Pp. 155–192, Fig. 7.9:107–120); a bottle (Fig. 22:5) whose rim is folded inward and flattened and its neck is decorated with five uneven horizontal ridges, it is most common to the Abbasid period and was discovered in many excavations in Ramla and other cities like Tiberias and Bet She’an (Gorin-Rosen 2010:235–237, Pl. 10.6;8–10); and a vessel made of blue glass whose rim is carelessly beveled and unworked (Fig. 22:6); this vessel, mostly characterized by an elongated cylindrical body and a round base, is of poor quality craftsmanship, its wall thickness varies and it is asymmetric. This vessel was most likely intended for a specific use that is not known. This type is very common to assemblages from the Abbasid period, and at least four such vessels were discovered in the excavation (Gorin-Rosen 2010:229–230, Pl. 10.1:19).
The vessels in the second group include various types that differ in workmanship and design: A small finely crafted bowl whose rim is beveled and body is decorated with an intricate geometric pattern (Fig. 22:7); a splendid bottleneck fragment made of excellent quality colorless glass, adorned with a heart motif and a floral decoration carved in deep relief whereby the background is diminished and the pattern is accentuated (Fig. 22:8); a bottle fragment with a hexagonal body whose sides are beveled, made of colorless glass, finely crafted and poorly preserved (Fig. 22:9). Part of a unique horn-like object (Fig. 22:10) was also discovered, probably the first of its kind ever found in an excavation. Its broad end is slightly pinched to facilitate pouring and two small loop handles are on its upper part near the rim; the body of the vessel was apparently decorated with a thin glass trail that fell off and traces of which are visible. Based on the quality of the material and the weathering, it can be ascribed to the locally produced vessels that dated to the Abbasid period. Unusually shaped vessels are known from the Umayyad and Abbasid period, among them a variety of zoomorphic vessels.
In addition to the fragments of vessels, remains of industrial glass waste were exposed, including flakes and small chunks of raw glass, occurring in shades of light green and light blue, green and yellowish brown, as well as pieces of furnace debris.
A Stamped Jar Handle
A handle of a zir-type jar, stamped with two lines of Arabic script: ليث / بن ملجم or ملخم (Layth b. Muljam or Mulkham; Fig. 23), was discoveredin Square D3. No parallel for this name is known on zir jar handles from any site where such handles stamped with Arabic inscriptions have been published. When the name of a person appears in other instances, it is preceded with the word ‘blessing’, for example at Nebi Samuil (Sharon M. 1999. Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, II / B-C, Leiden. Pp. 128–131), unlike the stamped impression from Ramla, which only includes the name—probably that of a potter.
The excavation was conducted in a long narrow strip of land, with large intervals between the squares, which hampered the full understanding of the remains that included plaster floors, installations and buildings, dating to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE). Repairs to floors and raised floors were discerned in several squares, e.g., Square C98. At least two construction phases were noted in other squares (D29–33). The fine preservation of the staircase in Square D51 is a rare phenomenon in Ramla. The preserved building remains were mostly foundation courses of walls, constructed directly on sand dunes, e.g., in Squares D30, D46 and D47, except for Square D37 where the foundations were built into the sandy hamra soil. The installations were partially exposed and their use is unclear. Remains were less well preserved in the western squares of the excavation because the sand dune was shallow; in the eastern squares, the dune was deeper and the remains were better preserved. No cisterns were discovered in the excavation, despite their widespread occurrence in Ramla, where they were dug in the sand dunes, particularly near residential remains from the Abbasid period. The appearance of the zir-type jar in some squares is perhaps indicative of storing water system at the site because the cisterns in the vicinity are still a considerable distance away.