During January–February 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted on Mordechai Ha-Yehudi Street in Ramla, c. 300 m east of the Pool of Arches (Permit No. A-4366*; map ref. NIG 1880–4/64885–900; OIG 1380–4/14885–900), prior to the construction of a second track on the Lod–Na‘an railroad line. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Israel Railroad Authority, was directed by R. Toueg, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Yannai, Y.D. Arnon (pottery reading) and M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing).
Numerous other excavations were undertaken in close proximity to the current excavation. At the corner of Ha-Hagana and Ha-Gedud Ha-‘Ivri Streets, c. 60 m southwest of Square N (Fig. 1), remains of installations that dated to the ninth century CE were excavated and on Ha-Gedud Ha-‘Ivri Street a plastered installation and water cistern from the ninth century CE were exposed. On the other side of Ha-Gedud Ha-‘Ivri Street other ninth century installations were exposed (HA-ESI 118
). Some 500 m southwest, on Marcus Street, a complex of buildings and installations, as well as a street intersection from the ninth–eleventh centuries CE were excavated (HA-ESI 118
; R. Toueg, Excavations in Marcus Street, Ramla
, Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa, 2006:12–38).
Probe trenches, conducted at the site by O. Segal, revealed antiquities that the current excavation examined. Four squares (3 × 5 m) were opened, spread out along the planned railroad track (see Fig. 1). Two settlement layers from the Early Islamic period that included remains of walls, floors and installations were discovered.
The northern corner of a building was exposed along the western side of the square. Its eastern (W1) and northern (W8; Fig. 2) walls were preserved to the height of the foundation courses, except for one ashlar stone from the upper courses, preserved in W8. Part of the foundation courses of W1, built of small fieldstones and bonded with gray mortar, were excavated; the rest of the wall extended south beyond the square limits. A foundation trench (L122) was dug into the sand to a depth of c. 1 m along W1. Potsherds recovered from this trench included a basin from the eighth–ninth centuries CE (Fig. 5:7) and a sandal lamp from the second half of the eighth century–first half of the ninth century CE (Fig. 5:17). Wall 7, which was built parallel to and 1 m east of W1, curved to the west and abutted the latter. Wall 7, built to a depth of 1 m into the sand, was only survived by its foundation courses that were built of small fieldstones bonded with gray mortar. Natural sand was exposed east and north of W7 and it seems that this wall served as a retaining wall to prevent the sand from collapsing into the foundation trench of W1. Neither the sand north of W7 nor the foundation courses of continuation of W1 were excavated. A plaster floor (L110) abutted Walls 1 and 8 from the west; only a small section of the floor was exposed. The excavation of the floor yielded potsherds that dated to the ninth century CE. Reddish fill (L117) that overlaid the sand and covered most of the area of the square was excavated east of W1. The fill contained fragments of pottery vessels, among them a bowl from the eighth–ninth centuries CE (Fig. 5:6). Small fieldstones that were part of collapse (Loci 124, 125) jutted into the square from the eastern and northern balks. A large jar whose upper part was broken (L106) was found in the northwestern corner of the square, placed on top of hamra bedding (L116; Fig. 3). Jars of this type, used for storage, were embedded below the floor with their opening sticking up slightly above the floor. The hamra bedding was deposited on top of the sand and included potsherds, such as a bowl from the eighth–ninth centuries CE (Fig. 5:2). Remains of a plaster floor (L109) that abutted both sides of the jar were discerned in the northern and western sections. The fill (L115) below the floor yielded potsherds, whose latest specimens were from the tenth century CE. While excavating the fill that covered the building remains (L103), an intact saqiye jar (Fig. 5:13) and a jar lid (Fig. 5:14) that dated to the ninth century CE, were found.
While excavating the fill that covered large parts of the square, potsherds dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE were found, among them a bowl (Fig. 5:5). A wall that probably enclosed a round installation, which was mostly located beyond the square area, was excavated in the eastern corner of the square. The wall was preserved a single course high and was founded directly atop the sand. A thin bedding of hamra, which yielded potsherds from the ninth–tenth centuries CE, including a basin (Fig. 5:1), was excavated on the sand. The preparation of the area for excavation revealed a bowl from the eighth–ninth centuries (Fig. 5:4) and a sphero-conical vessel (‘grenade’; Fig. 5:16) in the fill above surface.
The excavation of surface fill yielded potsherds that dated to the ninth–tenth centuries CE, among them a jar from the ninth century CE (Fig. 5:9). A square installation (L111; 0.5 × 1.7 × 1.7 m), built of stone and coated with a thick layer of gray plaster, whose bottom consisted of flagstones and its upper part was robbed, was exposed in the northwestern corner of the square. Remains of plaster were discovered on the interior of the installation, which seems to have been used for storing liquids. The installation was found blocked with stones that were dismantled from its walls and discarded inside it. Among the stones were several potsherds from the ninth–tenth centuries CE, including a jug (Fig. 5:10) and a buff-ware jug (Fig. 5:11).
The installation was abutted on the south by a wall (W6) whose construction was similar to that of the installation, which survived by two of its courses. A stone floor (L120) abutted the wall on the west; only a small section of the floor was excavated. The excavation of the fill below the floor (L118) yielded potsherds that included a bowl (Fig. 5:3) and a lid (Fig. 5:15) from the eighth–ninth centuries CE and a flask (Fig. 5:12) from ninth–tenth centuries CE.
Wall 6 and Floor 120 were covered with a mosaic floor (L114), which was survived by a small section. The mosaic consisted of two kinds of white tesserae: small tesserae (c. 1 × 1 cm) that constituted most of the pavement and coarser tesserae (c. 2 × 2 cm). Several colored tesserae arranged in a semicircle were also used. It can be clearly seen that the circle, which was meant to adorn the floor, was never completed. The floor overlaid a bedding of gray mortar that was preserved in a large area (Fig. 4) and seems to have continued beyond the limits of the square. The bedding contained potsherds that dated to the tenth century CE.
No archaeological remains were found in a square that was located in the eastern part of the area. The fill that covered the square contained potsherds, which ranged in date from the ninth century CE until the modern era, among them a pithos from the ninth–tenth century CE (Fig. 5:8). It seems that at the end of the tenth or the beginning of the eleventh centuries CE the buildings were dismantled and their stones were plundered.