One square was opened, yielding graves from the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE; Figs. 2, 3).
The surface finds (L100) included vessels dating from the eighth–ninth centuries CE, including a waster—an unglazed painted bowl (Fig. 4:1); a Common Glazed-type bowl with an alkaline glaze over white slip (Fig. 4:2); an open cooking pot (Fig. 4:3); a zir-type jar (Fig. 4:4); and a thick-walled pomegranate-shaped container (Fig. 4:5). Meager remains of a wall (W101) were unearthed beneath the surface accumulation; the wall comprised two coarsely dressed stones coated with white plaster on their west face. A soil accumulation (L102) excavated beside the wall yielded a simple bowl (Fig. 4:6) and the foot of a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 4:7), similarly dated to the eighth–ninth centuries CE.
A small section of a cemetery was discovered beneath Accumulation 102: five cist graves with walls built of medium-sized fieldstones inside pits dug in the sand. Three of the graves were found covered with stones that were partially dressed to ensure that they fitted together (L103, L106, L107; Nagar, below), and two graves were found without any covering (L104, L105). Some of the interred were moved to create room for additional burials. All were buried in an east–west alignment with their faces turned toward the south, following Muslim funerary practices (Gorzalczany 2007; Nagar and Arbel 2017). No grave offerings accompanied the interred, as these are forbidden in Islam. Based on the ceramic finds, the cemetery dates from the Early Islamic period (eighth–ninth centuries CE).
The human skeletal remains were found in a poor state of preservation. They were examined in the field to assess the number of individuals, their age and sex, and were subsequently reburied in the same place (the IAA archive report contains details of the methods used).
Grave 103, built along a general east–west axis, was covered with fieldstones. The interred was a male aged over 50. His bones were scattered, suggesting that the grave was damaged; this prevented reconstruction of the burial position.
Grave 104, built along a roughly east–west axis, contained the remains of two individuals:
1. Scattered bones of a male aged over 50 years old found at the west end of the grave; they may belong to a nearby, damaged grave.
2. A skeleton in primary burial of an individual whose age is estimated as 20–30 years. The individual was laid on his right side, in a general east–west direction, with the head at the west end of the grave, facing south.
Grave 105, built along a roughly east–west axis, contained a skeleton in primary burial of a child estimated to have been 13–15 years old. The child was laid on its right side, in a general east–west direction, with the head at the west end of the grave, facing south.
Grave 106 was covered with fieldstones and built along a general east–west axis. The grave was not excavated, but bone fragments in a section indicate that it contains a burial.
Grave 107 was built along a general east–west axis and found covered with fieldstones; the grave was not excavated.
The excavated cemetery, dated to the Early Islamic period (eighth–ninth centuries CE), was a surprising discovery in this part of the city, as previous excavations in the immediate vicinity, including the one at 32 Smolenskin Street (Toueg 2015), yielded only architectural remains. The cemetery was probably established outside the city, but as it was engulfed by urban expansion it was eventually included within the city boundaries.
Large Muslim cemeteries were excavated in the past outside the city center of Ramla at Qanat Bint al-Kafir (Nagar 2014), south of Ayyalon Prison (Elisha 2010) and along Bialik Street (Parnos and Nagar 2008)—all from the Mamluk period. No Early Islamic cemeteries have yet been found in Ramla. It is therefore possible that the main burial grounds during the Early Islamic period were located near the residential neighborhood in Ramla, where the limited excavation was conducted.
The practice of secondary burial following damage to earlier tombs, evident at the current site (L104), is common in Muslim urban cemeteries, such as Mamilla in Jerusalem (Nagar, forthcoming) and probably attests to the high density of burials. Burial practices in Islam have remained unchanged from its earliest times to the present day. This can be seen in the graves encountered at various sites throughout Israel, such as along Elisabeth Bergner Street in Jaffa (Arbel 2017). Dwellings from the Abbasid period around this area (Toueg 2012; 2013) and also further away (Torgë 2013; Nagorsky and Torgë 2016) reinforce the assumption that this was a large urban cemetery within the city boundary. A large cemetery from this period inside the city of Bet She’an (Bar-Nathan, pers. comm.) provides evidence of the phenomenon of cemeteries encroaching on the urban sphere in the Early Islamic period.This issue has not yet been sufficiently clarified.