Three excavation areas (A–C; Fig. 2) were opened in sandy areas. They yielded architectural finds from the Byzantine, Ottoman and British Mandate periods. Area A lies c. 70 m from the sea shore, c. 5 m asl, in a sandy area on the coastal vegetation line. Although it is near the sea, it is apparently protected from marine erosion. Area B is situated c. 300 m east of Area A, on top of a hill (c. 35 m asl) with a commanding view of the entire surroundings, particularly the beach to the west. Area C, c. 40 m south of Area A, c. 20 m nearer the coastline (c. 10 m asl), was opened on a cliff that slopes down toward Area A.
Area A. Two buildings were uncovered c. 20 m apart. In the northern building (c. 3.5 × 12.0 m; Figs. 3, 4), built of blocks made of local kurkar and sandstone, three rooms were preserved (L110, L112, L118); its continuation westward was destroyed. Rooms 110 and 112 were built in the first phase. Room 118 is a later addition, which canceled out a wall (W7), which was demolished in an orderly fashion to create a shared space between Rooms 112 and 118. The two rooms have an entrance in the north wall and a brown tamped-earth floor. The north wall of Room 112 had collapsed outward in one piece (L107). The foundations of three walls (W5, W11, W13) of Room 110 were preserved. The foundations of W11 and W13 are higher than the floor in the rooms to its east. As no floor was identified in Room 110, it appears to have been higher than the two other rooms.
Rooms 112 and 118 contained metal fishing gear: lead weights for fishing nets, hooks, bells and net-repairing tools (Fig. 5; for a detailed description of the use of this equipment, see Galili, Zemer and Rosen 2013
). It seems that above Room 112 was another room, which did not survive, and that Room 112 was a storeroom that at some stage was enlarged eastward by adding a room (L118). Room 110 may have served as living quarters, as did additional rooms. Beneath the collapse within the building were Ottoman-period potsherds: bowls (Fig. 6:1, 2), a jar (Fig. 6:4), jugs (Fig. 6:6, 7) and a tobacco pipe (Fig. 6:8).
A stone anchor with two holes in it (Fig. 7) was found on the sandy surface near the building. Dozens of stone anchors of this type, which date from the Late Bronze Age to the late Medieval period (Galili, Sharvit and Dahari 2000
:110), are known from surveys in the region.
The southern building (3.4 × 4.4 m; Fig. 8) has a single room built of concrete blocks and an entrance in its north wall. Remains of a concrete floor in the room were found over a tamped-earth bedding containing numerous Byzantine-period potsherds (not drawn); the bedding served to stabilize the surface. The building materials indicate that the structure was built in the twentieth century CE.
Area B. A square structure (3.0 × 3.2 m; Figs. 9, 10) was unearthed on top of a hill with a commanding view of its surroundings. Its walls were built of two rows of medium-sized dressed kurkar stones laid on bedrock and preserved to a height of five courses. The building had an entrance in its northeast wall and a tamped-earth floor (L208). A few potsherds were recovered from under the collapses on the floor; these included a casserole (Fig. 6:3), dating the building to the Ottoman period. Near the structure, to its north was a potsherd of a jug (Fig. 6:5), which also dates from the Ottoman period. In this period, the site was located c. 2 m northwest of Hammama and c. 4 km northwest of Majdal, and thus it seems that the structure was not part of one of the two towns but rather served as an observation point overlooking the nearby sea coast. Nevertheless, it is difficult to establish whether this surveillance was related to the region’s coastal defenses during this period or to fishing activities.
Area C (Figs. 11, 12). The remains in the area were badly preserved. A poorly preserved floor (L306) built of sandstone slabs (slab dimensions 0.4 × 0.6 m) was uncovered just below the surface on a path descending to the seashore; the date of the flooring was impossible to ascertain. Also unearthed was part of a southeast–northwest wall (W60; length 4.5 m) built of small and medium-sized fieldstones and preserved to the height of three courses. The northwest section of the wall is very close to the edge of the cliff, and thus was probably eroded at least in part. A tamped-earth floor (L309, L311) abutted the wall on each side. Three inverted Byzantine Gaza Ware jars were found embedded in the floor on the south side of the wall (L311; not drawn; see Fig. 12), as well as five coins. Floor 309, on its north side, continued to the southeast, beneath Floor 306; it too bore five coins. In total, 23 coins were found within the architectural remains, of which seven were identified and dated to 383–550 CE. A coin from the reign of Anastasius I (491–518 CE; IAA 156781) was recovered from Floor 311. The in situ jars, the ceramic finds from the accumulation above Floor 311 (L305)—LRC bowls (Fig. 13:4, 5), Cypriot Red Slip bowls (Fig. 13:8), a casserole (Fig. 14:2) and Gaza Ware jars (Fig. 14:9, 10)—and in places where the floor did not survive (L304, L307)— Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Fig. 13:10), a casserole with an inward thickened rim (Fig. 13:11), casserole (Fig. 14:3), a cooking pot (Fig. 14:5) and a juglet (Fig. 15.2)—and based on the coins, the remains should be dated to the Byzantine period.
The identification of numerous potsherds on the surface approximately 15 m southeast of these remains (L301), led to the opening of a probe. It yielded an accumulation of debris (width 4 m, thickness c. 2 m) containing the same types of pottery as those identified in the architectural remains in Area A: a small cup-bowl (Fig. 13:1), LRC bowls (Fig. 13:2, 3), African Red Slip bowls (Fig. 13:6, 7), Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Fig. 13:9), casserole (Fig. 14:1), a frying pan (Fig. 14:4), cooking pots (Fig. 14:6, 7), Gaza Ware jar (Fig. 14:8), a jug (Fig. 15:1), an amphoriskos (Fig. 15:3) and a sandal lamp (Fig. 15:4). These finds date the debris to the Byzantine period and suggest that the potsherds used in the foundations of the building in Area A may come from this debris pile.
The excavation uncovered remains from three periods: the Byzantine, the Ottoman and the modern, probably the time of the British Mandate, periods. The Byzantine finds are poorly preserved, but seem they belong to the rural hinterland of the major port of Ashqelon, much like numerous other finds unearthed north of Ashqelon. The late Ottoman finds—the northern building in Area A and the building in Area B—were well preserved and appear to be associated with maritime activity during this period. Under the British Mandate, the region’s security situation improved along with its economic situation (Regev 1990
:7–12), and there was no longer any need for an observation point overlooking the path leading to the sea.