In January–February and April–May 2004 a trial excavation was conducted in the northern part of Lod (Permit No. A-4079; map ref. NIG 190789–849/652077–127, OIG 140789–849/152077–127; Fig. 1), prior to construction activity. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and with the financial support of the Africa-Israel Company, Ltd., was directed by E. Haddad, with the participation of Y. Arbel, H. Torge and U. ‘Ad (area supervision), S. Ya‘aqov-Jam and E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography), Y. Nagar (physical anthropology), C. Amit (studio photography), Y. Bukengolts (pottery restoration) and M. Avissar (preliminary ceramic analysis).
The excavation area was situated in a parking lot east of Abba Hillel Silver Street, c. 100 m west of Nahal Ayyalon and c. 350 m north of the ancient Tel Lod. A number of excavations were conducted there in the past (A-2224, A-3552, G-82/1998).
Twelve squares (Fig. 2) were opened, ten of them in the northern part in a wide strip aligned in an east-west direction (Areas A and B), and two in the southeastern part (Area S). Five strata that date from the Late Roman to the Abbasid period were identified.
Stratum V: Late Roman–Byzantine period (third–fourth centuries CE).
Stratum IV: Byzantine period (fourth–sixth centuries CE).
Between Strata IV and III a homogenous soil fill (thickness 0.7 m) was found in Square R2 which contained mostly zir jar fragments that date to the end of the sixth–seventh/eighth centuries CE.
Stratum III: Abbasid period (eighth–tenth centuries CE).
Stratum II: Late Abbasid period.
Stratum I: Approximately eight pit graves oriented in an east-west direction were exposed below the modern bedding of the asphalt parking lot, cutting the fill layer of Stratum III. These graves are either late Abbasid or later in date.
In Squares R2 and R3 (Fig. 2), a section of a flagstone pavement (2 × 3 m; Fig. 3) was exposed that is almost certainly indicative of a large public building that existed there. A probe that was conducted below the pavement dated it to the Late Roman–Byzantine period (third–fourth centuries CE). West of the pavement and below it (c. 0.2 m) was a bedding of large fieldstones that abutted the plastered side of a wall (W128; preserved height c. 0.8 m) from the west (Fig. 4). In the east the bedding reached a pavement and did not continue beneath it. It is quite possible that a robbed-out wall oriented in a north-south direction was built above this bedding. It seems that the plastered western face of the wall reinforced it and prevented water from percolating into its foundation.
East of the pavement the bedding (L139) of a flagstone pavement was exposed which included tightly-laid fieldstones; this bedding was not found in the western part of the pavement and below it. Below L139 a soil fill was excavated that was mixed with ash (L144; thickness 1 m) that contained potsherds from the second–first centuries BCE, among them a Hasmonean jar, and additional jar fragments that postdate the year 70 CE.
Above the upper part of the stone pavement was a fill layer (L142; thickness 0.2 m; Fig. 2). This was overlain by a pavement made of medium-sized fieldstones (Fig. 5) that was partially preserved; flagstones from the lower pavement appear to have been incorporated into it. The pottery from L142 dates to the Byzantine period. North of the upper pavement was a worn column base that was incorporated into the pavement. It seems that a small column stood on this base (as alluded to by a robber trench above the base). Above the upper pavement was a homogenous soil fill (thickness 0.7 m) that yielded fragments of zir jars and baggy-shaped storage jars that date to the end of the sixth–seventh/eighth centuries CE. Above the fill layer was the foundation of a wall (W109) built of small to medium-sized fieldstones that dates to the eighth–tenth centuries CE. The wall was part of a compound that was partly excavated (Stratum III).
A poorly-preserved plastered water channel (length 8.5 m) was exposed below the eastern room of Stratum III and to the north and south of it. Very little of it survived; its floor, which was fragmentary, indicated it sloped from south to north. A probe that was cut in the channel revealed that its western side was deeper than its eastern one, which was built on the floor of the channel (Fig. 6).
This stratum was the principal one exposed at the site (Fig. 2). The foundations of the southern part of a large residential compound from the Abbasid period were exposed. The compound was divided into at least three units: a square eastern room (3.0 × 3.5 m); a narrow corridor (1.2 × 4.0 m) oriented north-south; and a square western room (3.5 × 4.0 m) with a stone threshold (0.40 × 1.35 m) set in the middle of its northern wall. The southern walls of these units were bonded into a single wall (L519) that was aligned in an east-west direction. The eastern wall (W509) continued north past the northeastern corner of the eastern room, beyond which there was a blocked opening in it. The foundations of the northern wall (W634) were deeper and it seems they were built on an earlier wall. In the southern part of the corridor a pit grave (L614) was discovered but was not excavated. The burial was oriented in an east-west direction, typical of Muslim interments.
The bottom of a lime pit (L541; diam. 1.2 m) that was poorly preserved was exposed to the east of the channel. A pavement consisting of medium sized fieldstones (L626) was exposed west of the southern section of the channel from Stratum IV. Above the pavement was an in situ baggy-shaped storage jar (fifth–seventh centuries CE); adjacent to it was an undecorated bronze vessel that may have been used as a lid (Fig. 7). In its center was a hole in which a nail had been driven that was used as a handle.
East of the wall (W509) a cobble bedding (L510; Fig. 8) was exposed that did not abut a wall; it appeared to have been covered by a white plaster floor, remains of which were discerned in the section. A probe (L550) beneath the foundation uncovered potsherds of orange baggy-shaped storage jars that date to the Byzantine period.
North of the eastern room three large fieldstones (L654) were exposed that were oriented along a north-south axis; around them were wadi cobbles and undiag
Three walls were exposed in this Late Abbasid period stratum, constituting a phase of repairs and additions. One can see that the builders of Walls 609A and 646 were familiar with the walls of Stratum III because Wall 609A was built as the northern continuation of Wall 609, with a slight deviation in its direction. A wall foundation (W646; length c. 3.5 m) was discovered that was aligned in an east-west direction; it was only preserved to a height of one course. Finally, W104 was erected west of the building, also oriented east-west.
Remains of human skeletons were found in pit graves. Four graves with no covering were dug while four had a stone covering; scattered bones indicate that other tombs were most likely damaged. The bones that were found were poorly preserved; they were examined in situ and were not removed. In most cases the bones were found in an articulated position indicative of primary burial, and aligned in an east-west direction with the head in the west according to Muslim tradition. In some cases it was not possible to determine the original burial position.
Square S1 (Figs. 9, 10)
A probe (2.5 × 3.0 m) was excavated in the northeastern part of the square. A fieldstone collapse was identified in the southern part. To the north of the collapse was a fieldstone level with numerous fragments of storage jars, mainly of the pale-orange sandy baggy-shaped variety that date to the Byzantine period, and a few rims of Gaza storage jars from the same period. Below the level of the fieldstones a sun-dried mud-brick construction was found of which four courses were discerned in the western section and at least three courses in the eastern section.
The large quantity of jars from the Byzantine period attests to commercial activity that most likely involved the storage of agricultural produce such as oil and wine. The existence of a nearby wine industry is evidenced by a Byzantine period winepress that was exposed c. 100 m west of the site (A-3552).
The presence of a substantial pavement from the end of the Roman period in northern Lod almost certainly alludes to the existence of a public or private building of some importance. Even though only a small part of it was exposed, it attests to the intensity of construction in the vicinity after the city was granted the status of polis by Septimus Severus at the end of the second century CE. It seems that the pavement continued eastward and that its stones were later robbed. The upper pavement, which was only found above the western part of the lower pavement, was laid in order to raise the building’s floor, a repair that was performed during the Byzantine period, in the fourth–sixth centuries CE. The upper pavement was overlain by a fill layer from the end of the sixth–seventh/eighth centuries CE which was sealed by a wall foundation that dates to the Abbasid period. It seems that this fill was intentional in order to level the area. The pottery vessels found in the fill layer date to the seventh century CE. In the Abbasid period construction was renewed with the leveling and filling in of the area. In some places the walls of the Abbasid period were built directly on remains from the end of the Byzantine period, as revealed from the exposure of the water channel, whereas in other cases where the level of the remains was lower, a fill layer was deposited as is evident in Square R2. It is quite conceivable that the suite of rooms constructed in the Abbasid period was part of an agricultural complex that operated in the region. When the Abbasid complex was no longer in use the area was turned into a burial grounds. The interments were partly laid out on the walls of the building that were still visible; only later, when the area was covered with alluvium, were pit graves from the late Abbasid period or later dug into it.