In October 2012, a trial excavation was conducted in a well in Area A at Yavne-Yam (map ref. 171255–77/647911–33). The excavation, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, was directed by R. Vunsh and M. Fischer, with the assistance of R. Avitan, Y. Baram, Y. Drey, A. Chen, O. Nissenbaum, L. Netzer,. T. Tsuk and A. Shahar. The excavation was carried out as part of an M.A. research conducted by R. Vunsh of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa and was supervised by O. Tal and D. Sivan. The research explored archaeological indicators for changes in sea level along the coast of Israel.
In the current excavation, the well was reopened, and the wet layer of the bottom fill was cleared down to the lowest course of stones by utilizing an electric winch and sacks. The artifacts retrieved from the fill are contemporaneous to those found during the previous excavation. Upon completion of the excavation, the depth of the well was measured from the wellhead to the bottom course, as were the elevation of the water in the well and the sea level (at the time the measurements were taken). The data were calibrated to the mean sea level (MSL) as provided by the Survey of Israel’s tide gauge in Ashdod. After completing the work, the well was resealed with a concrete slab for safety reasons. The excavation results indicate that the well was situated in a Byzantine-period residential quarter. This quarter ceased to exist when a fortress was built on the remains of the Byzantine settlement by the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al Malik (685–705 CE), probably in the early eighth century CE.
The method for determining the sea level at the time of the construction of the well followed that used at Horbat Ashdod-Yam (Vunch, Tal and Sivan 2013) and other sites. Accordingly, it was necessary to determine the depth of the well and the current difference between the sea level and the water table (Toker et al. 2011). The round well (diam. c. 1.5 m, depth 6.95 m; Fig. 2) was built of 43 courses of kurkar stones. The wellhead was 6.93 m above the MSL; hence the bottom course was situated at a depth of 2 cm below the MSL. At the bottom of the shaft were several pottery sherds, most of which were non-diagnostic and date to the sixth and seventh centuries CE (Late Byzantine period). A layer of flat beach-rock was also discovered at the bottom of the well.
The well was apparently dug during the Late Byzantine period and went out of use when a ribāt was constructed during the reign of the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik in the early eighth century CE. Therefore, the bottom course of the well reflects the water level during the Late Byzantine period. The uniformity in the construction of the well shaft suggests that its original depth was preserved intact; it does not appear to have been renovated over the years. The layer of beach-rock was probably placed at the bottom of the well so as to improve the quality of the water and reduce turbidity, i.e., muddying the water with sand during pumping.
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