The Abbasid Period
A deep section was excavated around a Fatimid cesspit (L103; Fig. 2) in the northwestern corner of Sq 1. A layer of tamped hamra soil (L115) was partially excavated at the bottom of the section. This was overlain with a thick layer of ash (L114; c. 0.4 m) that was probably debris from a fire, possibly from a nearby hearth. On top of the ash layer was a plaster floor (L112; Figs. 1: Section 1-1, 3) that continued beyond the limits of the section. Potsherds attributed to the Abbasid period (ninth–tenth centuries CE) were collected from the excavation of the floor and the strata beneath it.
The Fatimid Period
Square 1. Three phases dating to the Fatimid period were exposed. In the first phase, Floor 112 from the Abbasid period was covered with soil fill (L111) and a plaster floor (L110) was placed above it. In the second phase, Floor 110 was covered with soil fill (L108) and a new plaster floor (L107) was placed atop it and in the third phase, Floor 107 was covered with a thin layer of soil fill and another plaster floor was set atop it (L106; Fig. 1: Section 1-1). All the Fatimid floors and the fill between them continued in all directions beyond the limits of the excavation square and several were also exposed in Sq 2 (see below). The latest among the potsherds collected from the excavation of the floors and the accumulations, dated to the Fatimid period (eleventh century CE).
A circular cesspit (L103) was exposed in the northwestern corner of Sq 1. It was built of fieldstones with soil and potsherds in-between (see Fig. 2). The installation was poorly constructed and its stones were easily dislodged. It was contemporary with Floor 106, which adjoined its sides, and it had cut through all the floors beneath it. The bottom of the cesspit was not exposed. While excavating the fill that blocked the cesspit, potsherds dating to the Abbasid period (ninth–tenth centuries CE) were found.
The floors and cesspit covered layers of accumulation (L100, L105; thickness c. 1 m) that contained large quantities of domestic vessels, including bowls, glazed bowls, cooking pots, fry pans and jars, as well as copious amounts of organic debris that colored the accumulations dark gray. The vessels dated to the Early Islamic period (tenth–eleventh centuries CE) and it seems that this stratum represents the time when the site was abandoned and used for discarding refuse.
Square 2. Two phases ascribed to the Fatimid period, which parallel the second and third phases in Square 1, were exposed (Figs. 4, 5). In the second phase, a thick plaster floor (L109; thickness c. 0.25 m) that was the continuation of Floor 107 in Sq 1 was exposed. The floor continued in all directions beyond the limits of the square and it overlay soil fill (L113) that was excavated in the northwestern corner of the square. In the third phase, Floor 109 was covered with a thin layer of soil fill and a new floor (L104), which was a continuation of Floor 106 in Sq 1, was placed above it and extended in all directions beyond the limits of the square. Both floors consisted of fine quality white plaster containing a large amount of lime as was customary in these periods. The latest of the potsherds collected from the excavation of the floors and the accumulations dated to the Fatimid period (eleventh century CE).
Accumulations (L101, L102) that were identical in thickness and nature to those excavated in Sq 1 (Fig. 1: Section 1-1) were exposed on top of Floor 104.
The pottery vessels from the ninth–tenth centuries CE included a bowl with a decoration beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:9), a blue-glazed bowl (Fig. 6:10), a krater (Fig. 7:3), a cup (Fig. 7:4), glazed cups (Fig. 7:5, 6), cooking pots (Fig. 7:7, 8), a glazed jug (Fig. 7:10) and flask (Fig. 8:2).
The pottery vessels from the tenth–eleventh centuries CE included a bowl with a painted decoration beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:1), green-glazed multi cup cosmetic dish (Fig. 6:8), a bowl with a decoration beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:11), a bowl with an alkali glaze (Fig. 6:12), a splash-glazed bowl (Fig. 6:13), a glazed sgrafitto bowl (Fig. 6:14), a brown-glazed bowl (Fig. 6:15), a base of an alkali glazed bowl (Fig. 6:16), a glazed bowl (Fig. 6:17), blue-glazed bowl (Fig. 6:18), and a bowl with painting beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:19), a jar base (Fig. 7:12), jugs (Fig. 8:5, 6), juglets (Fig. 8:7, 8), lamp (Fig. 8:9) and a glazed handle (Fig. 8:10).
The pottery vessels attributed to the eleventh century CE included glazed bowls (Fig. 6:2, 3), a glazed bowl with painting beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:4), a glazed sgrafitto bowl (Fig. 6:5), glazed bowls with painting beneath the glaze (Fig. 6:6, 7), glazed fry pans (Fig. 7:1, 2), a jar (Fig. 7:9), an unglazed jug (Fig. 7:11), foot of a jar (Fig. 7:13), a filter (Fig. 8:1), a jug (Fig. 8:3) and a green-glazed jug (Fig. 8:4).
In addition, a fragment of a doll, made of bone and dating to the eighth century CE (Fig. 9:1) and a piece of a decorated marble item (Fig. 9:2) were discovered.
The Glass Finds
The excavation yielded 66 glass fragments, of which two-thirds were diagnostic; no complete vessels were found. Most of the fragments are from the Abbasid–Fatimid periods; however, a small greenish-blue bowl with an upward infolded rim (not illustrated), discovered on a plaster floor (L104), dates exclusively to the eighth century CE, judging by its form and the quality of the glass fabric. The diagnostic fragments are free-blown, mostly plain bowls and bottles; a handle of a possibly a luxurious jug (Fig. 10:6), made of colorless, greenish and bluish green glass was found, as well as a colorless base of a cylindrical oil-lamp with remains of a wick-tube on the interior floor (not illustrated; L108).
The six vessels discussed below consist of well-known types from the city of Ramla, as well as rare forms, which have comparisons in the early eleventh century CE shipwreck at Serçe Limani (Bass G.F., Brill R.H., Lledó B., and Matthews S.D. 2009. The Glass of an Eleventh-Century Shipwreck: Serçe Limani II. College Station, Texas). A single fragment (L109; Fig. 10:4) from this group has been found in a floor context, while the rest came from refuse accumulations (L100).
The small bowl (Fig. 10:1) is made of colorless glass and covered with a layer of black and silver weathering. It has a short horizontal rim, rounded at the edge, and slightly convex walls. The specimen belongs to a group of flat-bottomed bowls of different sizes, possibly used as small serving dishes for food or spices. The type is widely distributed in Israel, e.g., at Ramla, Tiberias and Bet Shean, and is dated mainly to the Abbasid–Fatimid periods. Many such bowls were also found at the Serçe Limani shipwreck.
The deep bowl (Fig. 10:2) is made of bubbly colorless glass. Its rim is decorated with a turquoise trail applied horizontally just below the rim’s edge. This type is less common than the previous one, although it is also found at Ramla. A large quantity of similar deep bowls in various sizes, with a flattened or a pushed-in base, and often with mold-blown decoration on a body, is known from the Serçe Limani shipwreck.
The large plate (Fig. 10:3) is made of colorless glass with a greenish tinge. It is distinguished by its wide rim (diam. 19 cm), splayed horizontally outward. This shape is rather rare in our region, but was very common to the glass found in the Serçe Limani shipwreck, where hundreds of such plates, primarily of yellow-green glass, were discovered (Brill, Lledó and Matthews 2009: Plates, pp. 83–89).
The upper part of a bottle (Fig. 10:4) is likely colorless, but a strong crust of black weathering prevents a clear identification of its color. Bottles with such thick bubble-shaped rims are not so common in our region; however, they are known from Abbasid–Fatimid levels at Bet She’an and Tiberias. Bottles with a short cylindrical or tapering neck and a plain or a decorated globular body are well-known from the Serçe Limani shipwreck.
The small circular plaque (Fig. 10:5) is made of greenish blue glass, covered with a thick layer of silver-black weathering. It is decorated with two concentric circles in relief impressed into a thin wall. This style of decoration appears in the Islamic world on small bowls and bottles from the ninth–tenth centuries CE and onward. Similar omphalos-patterned fragments assigned to the Abbasid–Fatimid periods occurred at Ramla, Bet She’an and in recent excavations at Lod (Permit Nos. A-4253, A-4994), revealing that this kind of impressed decoration on vessels was favored in the region.
The long round-sectioned handle (Fig. 10:6) is made of colorless glass with a yellowish tinge. The elongated shape of the handle, its dimensions and the high quality of its fabric suggest that the fragment belonged to a large jug, possibly a luxury vessel, similar to large pouring vessels with rich wheel-cut designs; these were especially popular all over the Islamic world during the tenth and eleventh centuries CE.
Although most of the fragments discussed above have no direct connection to a structure of any kind, they comprise rare and interesting forms of the Abbasid–Fatimid periods. The strong resemblance of this material to vessels from the Serçe Limani shipwreck raises the possibility that both corpora originated from the same manufacturing center. It may be that all the types or most of them have been produced locally at Ramla and then exported and reached the cargo on the ship, or the vessels were produced in a central glass workshop somewhere else, and then distributed to Ramla and other places, including the place where the glass found in the Serçe Limani shipwreck was bought.
A cesspit and several superposed floors ascribed to the Abbasid and Fatimid periods (ninth–eleventh centuries CE) were discovered in the excavation. The floors extended across a large area and continued beyond the excavation boundaries.
No walls or robber trenches were discovered; however, large amounts of domestic pottery were discovered in the layers of fill that covered the remains and in the fill between the floors beneath them, together with organic remains, characteristic of a residential region. The exposed floors were probably part of an inner courtyard of a large building, hence their big size. The location of the cesspit seems to corroborate this assumption. In the eleventh century CE, the site was abandoned and was probably used thereafter for discarding refuse.