In July 2015, a salvage excavation was conducted in Bet-Lehem Ha-Gelilit (Permit No. A-7481; map ref. 217723–57/737812–38), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Halevy family, was directed by Y. Tepper (field photography ), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS), R. Liran and R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), E.J. Stern (pottery consultation) and laborers from Yafi‘a.
The excavation was conducted on the western hilltop, and remains of buildings and floors dating to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods (eighth century CE; Stratum II) and the Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE; Stratum I) were exposed. In addition, pottery from the Roman and Byzantine periods was discovered. The most important find was the corner of a massive structure, which was partly excavated (Fig 1). Late stages in the use of the building were documented, but the date of its construction could not be determined. The preservation of the remains in the heart of the ancient site attests to the magnitude of the antiquities there.
Umayyad and Abbasid periods (eighth century CE; Stratum II). Building remains consisting of two walls that formed a corner (W101, W102; Fig. 1). The walls survived to a height of at least six courses. Two superimposed tamped-earth floors were found inside the building, southeast of the corner. The upper floor was above a layer of medium and large collapsed stones, , c. 0.5 m below the surface. The lower floor was c. 2 m below the surface. Two more superimposed floors were exposed outside the building, north of W101. The upper floor, made of crushed chalk over pebbles, abutted the second course of W101, c. 0.4 m below the surface. The lower floor was c. 0.6 m below the surface, made of small stones, and plastered (thickness c. 0.1 m; Fig. 2). Wall 101 apparently continued farther west in this phase and the plastered floor was probably part of a larger building. The finds recovered in the excavation of the floors date to the eighth century CE.
Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE; Stratum I). The walls of the structure described in Stratum II remained in use during this period, and it seems that there were at least two phases of construction in this stratum. A hearth was exposed north of the building, and a layer of ash inside it contained animal bones and pottery from the Mamluk period. Two superimposed floors were exposed inside the building, and a semi-circular wall was revealed along the its inside wall. The pottery that was discovered on the floors included fragments of glazed bowls that date to the Mamluk period.
The earliest remains that were uncovered in the excavation date to the Early and Late Islamic periods, and it was determined that they extend well beyond the limits of the excavation. The floors that were documented represent relatively late phases in the history of the building and the site. Within the scope of the excavation it was not possible to document the remains below Stratum II, or date the construction of the building. The finds from the excavation contribute to our understanding of the scope of the ancient remains at Bet-Lehem Ha-Gelilit, particularly those dating to the Early Islamic period.
Dalali-Amos E. 2011. Bet-Lehem Ha-Gelilit. HA-ESI 123
Oshri A. 1998. Bet Lehem of Galilee. ESI 18:29–30.