During September 2005, a trial excavation was conducted along the edge of the parking lot between the Ramla City Hall and the district courthouse (Permit No. A-4595*; map ref. NIG 18770/64835; OIG 13770/14835), for the purpose of installing a drainage pipeline. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Leqtibi Development Company, was directed by Y. Zelinger, with the assistance of R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory), R. Kool (numismatics), N. Katsnelson (glass) and I. Lidsky-Rezinkov (pottery drawing).
The excavation area was located in the middle of Ramla, c. 500 m north of the White Mosque. A previous excavation had been conducted south of the area (ESI 18:76). Four squares were opened along the route of the drainage pipe, in places where ancient remains were discovered (Fig. 1). The scant remains consisted mostly of plaster floors and layers of fill that dated to the eighth–tenth centuries CE.
Square 1. A half square (2 × 4 m) was opened. Following the removal of surface layer, gray fill that included stones and soot was exposed. A refuse pit (0.6 × 0.8 m; depth 0.8 m) in the eastern half of the square was filled with loose soil that contained numerous fragments of pottery vessels, plaster, a tabun and a lump of raw glass, which indicates a glass workshop was probably located nearby. A coin from the Abbasid period (IAA 109331) and a grenade-like vessel typical of the period (Fig. 2:4) dated the lump of glass to the ninth century CE. A wall stump (height 0.23 m) in the southwestern corner of the square was not abutted by any floor, nor was it connected to the adjacent refuse pit.
Square 2. A half square whose eastern part was excavated to a depth of 1.2 m was opened. The soil fill removed from this area was mixed with potsherds, but no architectural remains were found. A refuse pit in the northeastern corner contained numerous potsherds, including a lamp, characteristic of Ramla and dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE (Fig. 2:6). Due to the meager finds, the western half of the square was dug with the aid of a backhoe, revealing no architectural finds. A layer of sterile sand was discerned at the bottom of the square.
Square 3. A poorly preserved white plaster floor (0.8 × 1.1 m) was exposed in the southeastern corner of the square. The limited excavation area revealed no remains of walls that could be abutted by the floor. A sounding below the western part of the floor exposed no other remains, except for potsherds that dated to the Early Islamic period.
Square 4. After the removal of top soil from the northern part of the square, a modern refuse pit was found. At a depth of 0.6 m below surface, a damaged plaster floor (0.7 × 1.1 m), which was founded on a bedding of small stones bonded with plaster, was uncovered. The potsherds beneath it included a bowl (Fig. 2:1), a glazed bowl (Fig. 2:2), a frying pan (Fig. 2:3) and a lamp fragment (Fig. 2:5), as well as a glass cup with a short handle (see below), all dating to the eighth–tenth centuries CE. A modern refuse pit, south of the floor, extended across the entire southern half of the square. A probe conducted with the aid a backhoe revealed a layer of sterile sand at a depth of 1.8 m.
The extensive plundering of masonry stones in Ramla has left its sites in a bad state of preservation. The present excavation, along the narrow route of the drainage pipeline and in a limited area, made it difficult to understand the discovered remains. The material finds (potsherds, glass and coins) indicate that the area was settled from the middle of the eighth century until the tenth century CE.
The Glass Vessels
The site yielded a small number of glass finds. Only one fragment came from a secure context, while others were in unstratified fills and dumps. The glass vessels consisted of bowls (Fig. 3:1–3) and a few closed vessels (Fig. 3:4–6), including a miniature vial. Most vessels, made of naturally colored glass, were covered with a thick weathering crust. This small assemblage is dated from the eighth–early eleventh centuries CE and represents a modest addition to the Early Islamic repertoire of domestic glassware, known from Ramla, Caesarea, Yoqne‘am, Bet She’an and Tiberias.
The yellowish green chunk points to the possibility of glass production in the vicinity.
Fig. 3:1 is a small bowl, decorated with yellowish horizontal trails. The shape and style of decoration were especially popular during the Umayyad period and continued into the Abbasid period.
Fig. 3:2 is a larger bowl type with a flattened base, often with trailed or ridged incurving rims, which is common to the Abbasid layers.
These two fragments belong to very common types of cylindrical bowls.
Fig. 3:3 is a small cup with a short handle, which was found on a floor dated by pottery to the Abbasid period. Such cups appeared during the Early Islamic period, but were not as common as the bowls discussed above.
Fig. 3:4 is a small fragment of a pinched mouth from a typical Islamic vessel. Ewers with such beak-shaped rims, made of glass and other materials, were widely produced during the eighth–eleventh centuries CE.
Fig 3:5 is the bulgy funnel neck of a bottle that has a broad dating range. Similar bottles were found in the eighth–eleventh centuries CE layers at Bet She’an and Ramla, as well as in contexts dating to the twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE.
Fig. 3:6 is a miniature tubular-shaped vial that was preserved in two parts. This type of vial, discovered in an Umayyad shop at Bet She’an, predominated in the Abbasid period. Many such vials were found in layers of the late eighth–early ninth centuries CE, as well as in a later context dating to the late tenth–early eleventh centuries CE.