In March 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted near the Orthodox School in Ramla (Permit No. A-7056; map ref. 187876–950/647985–8033), prior to paving an entry road. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ramla municipality, was directed by R. Toueg, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), D. Masarwa (preliminary inspections), M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), A. Varnai-Ganor (glass and pottery restoration), C. Hersch (glass drawing),C. Amit (studio photography), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), T. Winter (glass; see Appendix), L. Rauchberger (clay tobacco pipe), E.J. Stern (ceramics) and E. Belashov (plans).
Stratum III. Three stones belonging to a wall (W206) were exposed in Sq 1; a plaster floor (L110) abutted the wall from the south. The wall and floor were severed in the east by a wall ascribed to Stratum II (W202). These remains may have been part of a room or an installation, the rest of which did not survive due to later construction at the site. Pottery vessels dating from the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods (twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE) were collected upon excavating the floor and the fill beneath it.
Two fragments of open cooking ware were found. One is wheel-made, with a thick wall glazed on the inside, up to the rim (Fig. 2:1). The vessel dates from the beginning of the twelfth century CE, although this type may appear in earlier contexts, from the end of the eleventh century CE (Arnon 2008
:46, 330, 762b, 762d). The second vessel is handmade and dates from the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Fig 2: 2). A glazed bowl imported from Cyprus (Fig. 2:3) was found in Stratum II; it is decorated with an incised design and yellow and green polychrome glaze. Since the date of this bowl is the thirteenth century CE (Stern 2012
:60–65, Type CY.GL.5, Pl. 4.47:8–10), it seems to be a residual sherd that actually belongs to Stratum III.
. Two rooms (A, B) were identified in Sq 1; part of the eastern face of the partition wall (W202) was robbed. The rooms were delimited on the south by a wall that was preserved mainly in the western room (W204); only several stones and a robber trench (L105) remained of the eastern continuation of the wall. The room was enclosed on the north by a wall (W203), only a short segment of which had survived; its continuation to the east and west was also robbed. The wall that delimited the room on the west was not exposed, and it was probably situated outside the limits of the excavation area. In the eastern room (B) a plaster floor (L104) was exposed that abutted W202 from the east. Pottery sherds from the Mamluk and early Ottoman periods (fourteenth–sixteenth centuries CE) were found in the excavation of the floor and the fill on which it was founded. These included part of a handle of a handmade cooking pot that is adorned with a punctured decoration (Fig. 3:1; Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:124, Pl. 9.30:7). A unique find from this floor is a Celadon bowl that has a thick wall and a hole in its double base (Fig 3:2). Although this bowl shape with a hole in its base is unknown in Israel, similar Celadon bowls imported from China which date from this time period were found nearby in Ramla (Kornfeld 2010
: Fig. 6:10) and at other sites, for example at the citadel at Safed (Avissar and Stern 2005
:78, Type I.12.1, Fig. 34:4, Pl. 1313IV:7). In the accumulation above the floor (L103) was a carinated bowl with a rouletted decoration on the outer wall and a shiny green glaze on the inside (Fig. 3:3). This bowl was imported from northern Italy, and similar ones were discovered in Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:129, Pl. 9.25:1, 2, Photos 9.38–9.41) and at various other sites in Israel (Avissar and Stern 2005
:73, Type I.9.5, Fig. 31:4–6).
Remains of a wall built of two rows of coarsely dressed stones with rubble inserted in between (W201, W205) were identified in the northeastern corner of Sq 2. A terra-cotta pipe was placed on the wall remains.
Part of a large refuse pit (L102, L109) was excavated south of W205. The foundation of an earlier wall that had been dismantled when W205 was constructed was discerned in the northeastern wall of the pit. Numerous pottery sherds from the Mamluk period (below), as well as fragments of glassware (see Appendix) and animal bones, were found inside the refuse pit. Many of the vessels were found covered with encrustations, indicating that they had been in an extremely damp environment. A layer of hard, pale green sand was revealed at the bottom of the pit. Similar features were found in cesspits in other excavations in Ramla. It therefore seems that the refuse was discarded into a cesspit that was no longer in use, and that the full extent of the pit was not revealed due to the small excavation area.
The pottery found in the refuse pit included many intact or almost complete vessels. Most date from the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE, and some are as late as the sixteenth century CE. The plain unglazed bowls stand out prominently in the assemblage; their types are similar to those that were found in large numbers in many excavations in Ramla (see for example, Kletter 2009: Fig. 8; Torgë 2011:102, Fig. 9:6–17). While mainly carinated bowls were found in Ramla, this excavation yielded a remarkable number of conical bowls (Fig. 3:4). These bowls are made of coarse fabric, containing numerous large stone inclusions. Bowls with a similar profile were found in excavations elsewhere in the city (Cytryn-Silverman 2010:121–122, Pl. 9.28:3, Photos 9.26, 9.27). These bowls were probably considered ‘disposable’, and are believed to have been used for cooked food that was purchased in the large cities, where the use of fire in homes was banned because of the risk of a conflagration (see discussion in Stern 2014a:99–100). A fragment of a jar (Fig. 3:5) made of the buff-colored ware, also very common in excavations in and around Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010:123, Pl. 26:1–4), was also found. Several fragments of Yellow and Green Gouged bowls, which are decorated with thick incisions, were also discovered (Fig. 3:6, 7; Avissar and Stern 2005:16, Type I.1.5.2, Fig. 6:6, 7). Based on the results of petrographic analyses that were conducted on vessels of this type (Shapiro 2014:106, 109, Sample P5.3), it appears that the raw material originated in geological formations in the north of Israel. The finds in the refuse pit included a large amount of glazed bowls that are characterized by a plain rim, a curved or carinated wall and a high or low ring base, and are made of orange fabric and bears a buff-colored slip. The glaze on the inner part of the vessels is dark yellow (Fig. 4:1), dark green (Fig. 4:2), light green (Fig. 4:3), yellow (Fig. 4:4) or yellow with splashes of brown and green (Fig. 4:5). These bowls were probably produced in Ramla, as their fabric appears to be local (A. Shapiro, pers. comm.). Furthermore, one bowl was flawed during firing and unlikely to have been marketed (Fig. 4:2).
A wide variety of imported vessels was also found in the refuse pit. Two frit bowls (Soft Paste Ware) that are decorated with a shade of blue (Fig. 5:1, 2) were found; they date from the late fourteenth century – fifteenth century CE and were imported from Egypt or Syria (Avissar and Stern 2005
:29, Type I.2.3.4, Fig. 12:5, 6). A bowl imported from Valencia in Spain, which is entirely covered with white glaze and bears remains of gold luster on it (Fig. 5:3) was found; similar bowls were previously discovered in Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:127, 128, Pl. 9.32:6, Photo 9.36:2) and Safed (Stern 2014b
:147, Fig. 1:11). Most of the imported bowls that were discovered in the refuse pit came from northern Italy. These include monochrome bowls with a sharply carinated wall, which are glazed on the inside in an orange-yellow shade (Fig. 5:4, 5). They belong to a type that is known from earlier excavations at Ramla and other sites in Israel (Avissar and Stern 2005
:73, 74, Type I.9.6, Fig. 31:8). Two bowls (Fig. 5:6, 7) with a similar profile—a plain curved rim, a wall that slopes in and a broad flat base—were apparently imported from northern Italy as well; a similar bowl was previously revealed in Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:128, 129, Pl. 9.25:3, Photos 9.42:1). The two bowls have a similar incised decoration: one is adorned with a green monochrome glaze (Fig. 5:6), and the other—with a polychrome glaze consisting of splashes of green and yellow over a white glaze (Fig. 5:7).
Plaster floors severed by mechanical equipment were identified in the northern and southern balks of Sq 2. In the northern balk, two floors, apparently belonging to two separate phases (Fig. 1: Section 1–1), were exposed. A plaster floor visible in the southern balk (L111; Fig. 1: Section 2–2) was probably the continuation of the lower floor of the two identified in the northern balk; another floor was discerned below it.
Stratum I. A floor (L108) was installed in the western room (A) after W206 was dismantled to a height of one course. An accumulation of soil (L103) was exposed in the eastern room (B), above Floor 104. The remains were covered by an accumulation (L100, L101) that yielded pottery sherds, the latest of which date to the early Ottoman period; these included a tobacco pipe (Rauchberger, below) that had apparently penetrated from a surface accumulation that was removed by mechanical equipment.
This layer contained pottery vessels similar to those from Stratum II, as well as vessels from a slightly later time period. Among these were jugs and jars made of reddish and covered with a light slip, for example, a jug with a somewhat swollen neck and a ridge at the base of the neck (Fig. 6:1; Torgë 2011
:112, Fig. 9:19) and a jar with a wide thickened rim and a slightly ridged neck (Fig. 6:2; Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:122–123, Pl. 26:5). A cooking pot made of reddish brown fabric (Fig. 6:3) was also found. Among the glazed vessels is a fragment of a bowl whose outside is mold-made and entirely glazed in green (Fig. 6:4). Intact bowls of this type were found in other excavations at Ramla (Torgë 2011
:102, Fig. 12:1, 2), as well as at many other sites, including Jerusalem, Nazareth and Yoqne‘am (Avissar and Stern 2005
:22–24, Type I.1.7, Fig. 8:8–11). Bowls imported from Italy found in this stratum include one that has a carinated wall with a rouletted outer decoration and is incised inside with dark yellow glaze (Fig. 6:5); it is similar to a bowl from Stratum II (Fig. 3:3). Fragments of Graffita Arcaica bowls were also found. They are decorated with incisions and are glazed with a polychrome decoration of splashed yellow and green paint applied over a white glaze. A ledge rim (Fig. 6:6) and a base of a bowl (Fig. 6:7) that are fragments of this type of bowl were also found. These bowls were produced in a variety of centers in northern Italy during the fourteenth–early sixteenth centuries CE, and were found in the past in excavations in Ramla (Cytryn-Silverman 2010
:129, Pl. 9.32:4, 5, Photos 9.42, 9.43), as well as at other sites, including Jerusalem, Lat
Burin and Giv‘at Yasaf (Avissar and Stern 2005
:72–73, Type I.9.4, Fig. 31:1–3).
Clay Tobacco Pipe
The stem of a clay bowl belonging to a tobacco pipe (Chibuk; light gray clay; inner diam. 0.8 cm.; Fig. 7) was found in the accumulation that covered the early layers (Stratum I, L100). The end of the stem is distended and decorated with incised vertical lines, ending in a thick plain ring. A thick strip decorated with a rouletted design of rhomboids and triangles runs below the distended of the stem, near the distended end and a small loop handle with a hole in its center (diam. 4 cm); the handle made it possible to carry the pipe by a cord on one’s neck or on a sash. Pipes with handles were produced in the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries CE and have been found at Banias (Dekkel 2008
:131, 136–137, Figs. 4.6.20, 4.6.23) and Ramla (de Vincenz 2011
:50*–52*, Figs. 3.27, 3.28).
The building remains and the refuse pit uncovered in the excavation date to the Mamluk period. These finds enrich our knowledge of the urban layout during this period. From other nearby excavations—among the dozens of excavations in recent decades that have revealed Ramla’s past—we can see that the area was probably densely populated during the Mamluk period. The rich ceramic finds, which include imported vessels, from this excavation and from prior excavations in the area, reflect the high socio-economic status of some of the residents in this area.
The open cooking vessel ascribed to the Crusader period (Fig. 1:2) is extremely important, because pottery from this period is quite rare in Ramla; the vessel joins two others from the Crusader period that were discovered in a nearby excavation (Kornfeld 2010
: Fig. 6:1, 2). The Cypriot bowl (Fig. 2:3) that dates to the thirteenth century CE is generally ascribed to Crusader assemblages, although bowls of this type have also been found at Ayyubid or Mamluk sites (Stern 2008
:5). Most of the ceramic finds from this excavation date to the Ayyubid, Mamluk and early Ottoman periods. They expand the range of vessel types that make up the pottery assemblage from these periods in Ramla, both of the locally produced vessels, some of which were manufactured in Ramla, and especially of the imported vessels. These finds contribute to the study of the ceramics and the material artifacts of the early Ottoman rule in our region, in that they constitute an assemblage that was not widely studied in the past.
The types of locally produced vessels continued to be used without any significant change from the Mamluk period into the Ottoman period. Therefore, the imported pottery is important, as it allows a more precise dating of the local wares. In addition, the imported vessels shed light on a hidden chapter in the commercial and economic history at the end of the Mamluk period and the beginning of the Ottoman period. It seems that the imported vessels from Italy and Spain, which were found in various excavations in Ramla, should be associated with the cotton trade that attracted Venetian merchants to the city (Amar 2003
:155). There is later evidence, dating from the eighteenth century CE, concerning French merchants who traded through the port of Yafo but resided in Ramla, from where they managed their affairs because of the unsafe conditions in Yafo (Cohen 1985:
165–166). It is possible that European merchants who traded through Yafo in preceding centuries preferred to live in Ramla as well. This is a logical conclusion, since Yafo was unfortified at that time and subject to raids by pirates. Another clue that merchants who traded in Yafo did not live there permanently during this period of recession is the almost complete lack of archaeological finds from the late Mamluk period and early Ottoman period (Arbel 2013
), despite written evidence about pilgrims and merchants who visited Yafo by sea. We would therefore suggest that the ‘fingerprints’ of the European traders’ activity are both the imported bowls, particularly from Italy, but also from Spain and China, which are common in the ceramic assemblages from the Mamluk and early Ottoman periods in this excavation and other excavations in Ramla. This indirect evidence is also instructive regarding the commercial maritime activity that transpired in the port of Yafo during this period.
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