Two building phases were discerned, both dating to the Early Islamic period.
Phase 2 (the early phase)
The negative of Wall 15, which had been robbed, was exposed in Square A1; a segment of small fieldstones, apparently used to bond the foundation course, was imbedded inside the sterile sand.
Wall sections were exposed in Squares A5–A7. Wall 17 (0.4 × 2.0 m) was probably a foundation course, built of large stones, which were partly dressed. Wall 11 (length 2.3 m) in Square A6 was preserved two courses high. It was built of ashlars (0.35 × 0.40 m) dressed only on their outer surface. A pale white plaster floor (L147) that was exposed after the later phase was dismantled abutted the wall from the east (Fig. 3). A corner formed by Walls 20 and 21 and abutted by a plaster floor (L121) was exposed west of W11. The walls were built of medium-sized dressed stones and founded into the natural sand that characterizes the construction of foundation courses.
Two robber trenches of walls (W13, W14), abutted by a poorly preserved plaster floor (L122), were exposed in Square A7. The walls continued beyond the limits of the excavation. The orientation of the walls indicates they formed part of a massive building whose walls were robbed (Fig. 4).
A wall (W18) in Square A10, preserved a single course high and built of dressed stones, was founded inside the natural sand.
A massive pillar (0.9 × 0.9 m), preserved five courses high (1.6 m), was exposed in Square A20. The pillar was built of two different size ashlars (0.25×0.40 m, 0.3 × 0.5 m), founded right into the sterile sand (Fig. 5). A collapse level of large dressed stones was exposed on the west, at the foot of the pillar (L328); this was probably part of a vault that was connected to the pillar.
A collapse level (L307) was found in Square A21; it included dressed stones similar to the collapse in Square A20, and was probably the continuation of the collapse from the same building.
A wall (W21), built of ashlars (0.25 × 0.35 m), was exposed in Square A24. The eastern side of the wall was found robbed; robber trenches were discerned in the eastern section. The wall was sealed by a plaster floor (L334) from the later phase.
A wall (W22), built of small fieldstones and bonded with plaster, was exposed in Square A25. Two dressed stones were resting on top of the wall, which was probably part of an installation for storing liquids that did not survive. A plaster floor (L337) abutted the wall from the west.
A wall (W20), built of dressed stones, many of which were robbed, was exposed in Squares A27–A29. The robber trench and remains of the fieldstones that bonded the foundation course could be discerned. A pillar (L338) was exposed in Square A27; it connected to Wall 20 and was part of the building (Fig. 6). A semicircular wall (W332), built of small stones, was exposed in the southwestern corner of the square; this was probably the remains of an installation, which was not completely expose due to the limitations of the excavation.
Phase 1 (the later phase)
The remains ascribed to this phase include a habitation level that was mostly destroyed by modern development.
Remains of a plaster floor (L157) that abutted a wall (W19) in the west, which was built of medium-sized stones, were exposed in Square A2. An installation (0.9 × 2.1 m) for storing liquids was exposed in Square A3. Its walls (W12, W16, preserved height 0.25 m) were built of small fieldstones and coated with thick white hydraulic plaster on the interior side. The thick white plaster floor of the installation (L145) was founded on the sand (Fig. 7).Remains of plaster floors were exposed in Square A5; one of the floors had been renovated (L166).
A stone pavement (L115), built of various size dressed stones, was exposed in Square A7 (Fig. 8); the floor continued into Square A8 (L146). A layer of scattered stones, probably the floor bed, was exposed below sections of the floor. Remains of a poorly preserved white plaster floor (L174) were found south of the stone pavement. A wall (W10, length c. 2 m; Fig. 9), preserved two courses high, was exposed in Square A9. It was built of medium-sized stones (0.30 × 0.35 m), dressed on the inside and reinforced with small stones on the outside. East of the walls were remains of a plaster floor (L149) that had not survived. A round installation (L178) in the southeastern corner of the square was probably a cesspit founded in the sand.
Remains of a poorly preserved pottery workshop were exposed in Square A11. It was built of small stones that bore burning marks and remains of plaster. Large quantities of potsherds, especially cooking pots, were found around the workshop (L193); most of the vessels were wasters that had never been used. A floor foundation (L159) and a few plaster remains, probably part of the pottery workshop, were exposed south of the workshop.
A bell-shaped cistern that had a square opening (L144; 0.5 × 0.5 m) was exposed in Squares A12, A13. The opening adjoined a floor bed (L160), partly built of small neatly arranged stones and covered with fine white plaster. A mosaic that did not survive (Fig. 10) was originally placed atop the plaster.
Remains of a habitation level that included a small section of a plaster floor (L138) and collapsed burnt stones with lumps of plaster affixed to them were exposed in Squares A14, A15.
A wall (W29), oriented east–west and built of medium-sized stones (preserved length c. 1.2 m), was exposed in Square A24. Remains of a small fieldstones floor bed (L303) were exposed north of the wall. South of the wall was a section of a white plaster floor (L334). No wall remains that were abutted by the floor were found, due to the excavation’s limitations.
A plaster floor (L335) that abutted a cistern from the south was exposed in the southwestern corner of Square A26. The walls of the cistern (L331) were built of small fieldstones, bonded with plaster and founded in the sand. The floor and the upper part of the cistern were damaged by modern work (Fig. 11). Small scattered stones (L304) that were probably part of the damaged cistern were discerned in Square A25. A white plaster floor (L336; 2.5 × 3.0 m) that was damaged by the installation of a water pipeline was exposed in Square A29.
Rich pottery assemblages that included bowls, glazed bowls, kraters, cooking vessels, jars, jugs, a variety of closed vessels and lamps were found in the two architectural phases. However, it seems that Phase 2 was the main settlement phase. Despite the difference in the ceramic assemblages of the two phases, there seems to be no chronological gap between them, and most of the types are represented in both.
The Pottery Assemblage of Phase 1
Glazed Bowls. Two plain bowls with fairly thick sides, made of light colored clay and decorated with patterns drawn with glazed paint (Fig. 12:1, 2). Bowls of this group first appeared in the beginning of the ninth century CE and they probably continued to be produced until the end of the Early Islamic period (about the end of the eleventh century CE). This group was especially common in the south and was probably also made in Ramla itself. The bowl, which is decorated with splashes (Fig. 12: 3), belongs to the group of fine glazed bowls, dating from the ninth until the eleventh centuries CE. The bowls are made of dark clay, coated on the inside and outside with a light colored slip (Fig. 12:4, 5). They began to appear in the first third of the eleventh century CE and continued into the Crusader period, approximately until the middle of the twelfth century CE. The base of the bowl, which is glazed and decorated with a smeared drawing (Fig. 12: 6) is a remnant from later strata that apparently were removed by modern activity. The vessel was imported from Cyprus and is dated to the thirteenth century CE.
Unglazed Bowls. The small bowl (Fig. 12:7) belongs to the group of Fine Byzantine Ware vessels on account of its clay and the high quality of its firing; it seems to be a late remnant of this group, which continued until about the tenth century CE. The deep bowl (Fig. 12:8) and cup (Fig. 12:9) are characteristic of assemblages from Ramla and its vicinity and were probably manufactured there. The bowl fragment (Fig. 12:10) is made of dark gray clay that is burnished and decorated with incising; it was probably not found in situ. The vessel belongs to a small group of vessels that first appeared at the end of the eighth century CE and continued only into the ninth century CE. Most of the vessels in this group are decorated with incised geometric patterns, and the engravings are filled in with white clay. Faunal and floral decorations, such as the floral pattern here, are unusual. The addition of mica to the clay indicates it was not produced locally. The deep bowls and kraters decorated with combing on the outside (Fig. 12:11, 12) are a last remnant of a very large and popular group that has its beginnings in the Late Byzantine period. Their small number in Phase 2 and the uncharacteristic clay used in producing the krater (Fig.12: 12) indicate that the vessels probably went out of use toward the end of the Early Islamic period.
Cooking Vessels. The cooking vessels included cooking pots with a neck, a cooking krater and lid, glazed cooking pots and a fry pan. The cooking pot with a neck (Fig. 13:1) is a last remnant of a type that was common for hundreds of years. It seems that the vessel was not in situ. This type ceased to exist with the appearance of glazed cooking pots. Cooking kraters and lids (Fig. 13:2, 3) were also produced with slight changes for a very long time, from the Roman period. The latest cooking kraters are large and deep and the handles are placed below the rim. Glazed cooking pots first appeared toward the end of the ninth century CE. The cooking pot with the upright rim (Fig. 13:4) was very common in the tenth and eleventh centuries CE. Its continuation is a cooking pot with a thickened, slightly inverted rim (Fig. 13:5); this type continues until about the middle of the twelfth century CE. The cooking pot with the triangular everted rim (Fig. 13:6) is common in the Crusader period and dates from the middle of the twelfth until about the middle of the thirteenth centuries CE. This vessel is also probably a remnant of later strata that were removed in the modern era.
The glazed fry pan with the folded out rim (Fig. 13:7) first appears together with the glazed cooking pot at the end of the ninth century CE.
Jars. The jar with the triangular rim (Fig. 13:8) probably has its origins in the Jerusalem region (Storage Jars Form 7;Magness J. 1993, Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology, circa 200-800 CE. Sheffield, pp. 230–231). These jars and similar ones date from the late seventh to about the tenth centuries CE. This type is fairly common in Ramla and its vicinity. The jar with a low neck (Fig. 13:9) and jars with a straight neck (Fig. 13:10, 11) have analogies in the assemblages from Ramla and its vicinity.
Jugs and Closed Vessels. The jug of orange-brown clay, decorated with white paint (Fig. 14:1) is an anomaly in the ceramic landscape of Ramla; it seems to have been brought here from the north of the country or from Transjordan, where these vessels were very common from the seventh century CE. Jugs of buff ware (Fig. 14:2–4) were probably produced in Ramla. The glazed jug (Fig. 14:5) is made of similar clay and glaze as the plain glazed bowls (Fig. 12:1, 2). The amphoriskos (Fig. 14:6) is a foreign vessel made of dark clay with much mica; it is obviously not a locally manufactured type. The 'grenades' (Fig. 14:7) were common throughout the country during the Early Islamic period. Their function is unclear (Geva H. 1983. Excavations in the Citadel of Jerusalem. IEJ 33:55–71). Flasks, saqiye jars and lids (Fig. 14:8, 9, 11) also belong to the assemblage of vessels, which are characteristic of Ramla and its vicinity and were produced there. A common artifact that is found in every excavation in Ramla is the ceramic wedges that were meant to support the vessels in the ceramic kilns (Fig. 14:10) and attest to a flourishing pottery industry.
The Pottery Assemblage of Phase 2
Glazed Bowls. The bowl base with a monochrome glaze belongs to a Coptic Glazed Ware bowl (Fig. 15:1) that comes from Egypt (Whitcomb D. 1989. Coptic Glazed Ceramics from the Excavations at Aqaba, Jordan. JARCE 29:167–182). This is the oldest group of glazed vessels that has been made outside of Mesopotamia and there is nothing to indicate they were made as imitations of Chinese vessels. The plain glazed bowl (Fig. 15:2) is decorated with garlands that were drawn with a variety of glazed colors. The bowl with the opaque white glaze (Fig. 15:3) was intended to be an imitation of the Chinese porcelain vessels.
Unglazed Bowls. The small bowl (Fig. 15:4) should be ascribed to the group of Fine Byzantine Ware. A similar bowl was found in Phase 1 (see Fig. 12:7). Unlike Phase 1, an abundance of bowls made of very light color fabric was found in Phase 2 (Fig. 15:5–10), including carinated bowls (Fig. 15:5, 6), a bowl (Fig. 15:7) identical in material and form to the plain glazed bowls; vessels of this kind were probably meant for glazing. Another group consists of bowls whose sides slant inward (Fig. 15:8, 9). The deep bowls that are made of light colored clay (Fig. 15:10) also continue in Phase 1. Miniature bowls (Fig. 15:11) were probably produced for use as toys. The bowl with a thumb indented rim and combed decoration on the outside (Fig. 15:12), as well as the bowls with the folded out rim (Fig. 15:14, 15), particularly the bowl with an omphalos base (Fig. 15:15), are a continuation of a Byzantine tradition. A base of an Egyptian ‘C’ type bowl (Fig. 15:13), which is a sub-group of Egyptian Red Slip Ware, was also found. These vessels date to the year 700 CE or later (Hayes J. W. 1972. Late Roman Pottery. London. p. 401).
Kraters. A delicate krater (Fig. 16:1) was found; according to the clay and the firing, it belongs to the group of Fine Byzantine Ware, although it appears mostly in the Early Islamic period and also lasts until about the tenth century CE. Numerous large kraters (Fig. 16:2–5) were found; they already begin at the end of the Byzantine period (Levy S. 1960. The Ancient Synagogue of Ma‘on (Nirim). Bulletin Rabinowitz III:6–13, Fig. 5:1–4). The early kraters have a folded out rim, whereas the kraters from the Early Islamic period generally have a thickened inverted rim. In addition to the local kraters, two vessels made of very dark clay with remains of white painting on them (Fig. 16:6, 7) were found; it seems that these vessels are not from Ramla. The clay and the painting are reminiscent of Coptic vessels and they were probably imported from Egypt.
Cooking Vessels. No glazed cooking vessels were found. A cooking pot with a neck and a thickened rim (Fig. 16:8) is a continuation of a type from the end of the Byzantine period. The cooking krater (Fig. 16:9) is also different from the deep kraters from the end of the Early Islamic period (see Phase 1, Fig. 14: 3).
Jars. The jars with a low neck (Fig. 17:1, 2) continue a ceramic tradition from the end of the Byzantine period. The jar with a ridge on the rim (Fig. 17:3) is a dominant type in the assemblages from the Early Islamic period and it probably originated in Jerusalem (Magness 1993:230–231, Storage Jars Form 7:1, 2). The jars with a long neck and a ridge on the base of the neck (Fig. 17:4–8) were probably also made in the Jerusalem region. The two types date to the seventh–eighth centuries CE; however, their appearance in Phase 2 indicates that they also continued to be used in the ninth century CE. The two remaining jars (Fig. 17:9, 10) were probably manufactured in Ramla and its vicinity.
Jugs and Closed Vessels. Jugs made of dark colored clay (Fig. 18:1) occur less frequently. Most of the jugs were made of very light colored clay that can also be defined as buff colored. These vessels are the hallmark of the assemblages from the Early Islamic period. Most of the vessels (Fig. 18:2–4) belong to the group of jugs, with a carinated shoulder and a flat base. Almost all of them have a band of combing below the rim. This form seems to imitate metallic ware. Intricate handles that have a plastic addition of a thumb-rest (Fig. 18:5) are characteristic of the buff-ware jugs. Jugs with incised decorations and plastic additions (Fig. 18:6, 7), as well as mold-made vessels (Fig. 18:8–10), are quite impressive vessels; apart from the geometric decorations on the latter, one can occasionally find Arabic inscriptions (Fig. 18:9).
The glazed jug (Fig. 18:11) is similar in form and fabric to the vessel from Phase 1 (see Fig. 14: 5). A 'grenade' type bottle (Fig. 18:12) was also found in this phase. The vessel was fired at a very high temperature, thereby producing a kind of partial glazing on the vessel’s surface. A flask with a long neck and prominent ribbing (Fig. 18:13) appears from the second half of the eighth century CE. Saqiye vessels made of buff ware (Fig. 18:14), which were used to draw water from the numerous cisterns discovered in Ramla, did not change their form during the entire Early Islamic period. Later saqiye vessels were no longer made of buff-colored clay. Water pipes (Fig. 18:15, 16) are an important element in the distribution of water in Ramla. Zoomorphic vessels (Fig. 18:17) that begin to appear in the Umayyad period were used to decant liquids.
Lamps. Three fragments of clay lamps (Fig. 18:18, 19) were found. Lamps with decorations of grape vines and grape clusters are very common. Lamps adorned with a variety of floral and geometric designs were also found.