During August 2007, a trial excavation was conducted at the Umm Khalid site in the Ben ‘Ami neighborhood of Netanya (Permit No. A-5210; map ref. NIG 18751/69290; OIG 13751/19290; Fig. 1), to evaluate the prospect of constructing residential buildings. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration, was directed by U. ‘Ad, with the assistance of D. Masarwa and E. Oren (inspection of the probe trenches), S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), A. Hajian, V. Pirsky and D. Porotzky (surveying), L. Yihye (GPS), T. Sagiv (field photography), P. Gendelman (pottery reading), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), N. Katsnelson (glass artifacts) and A. ‘Azab of the IAA central district.
The excavation was conducted along the upper part of the kurkar ridge, north of the fort that is ascribed to the Ottoman or the Mamluk periods, which had previously been excavated (ESI 5:85–86; Fig. 2); the fort’s southeastern tower still rises to a height of more than 5 m (Fig. 3). Excavations conducted around the fortress in the past had revealed a burial cave that dated to the first century BCE–first century CE and a cistern from the first–sixth centuries CE (ESI 1:94; see Fig. 2) on the lower part of the eastern slope; a pottery kiln from the Byzantine period was exposed at the foot of the southern slope (ESI 6:87–88; see Fig. 2); and a jar from the Late Byzantine period was discovered in situ at the bottom of the northeastern slope (ESI 18:110). Judith Montefiore, wife of Moses Montefiore, first described in her travel diary the Ottoman settlement at Umm Khalid, which was later inspected by the surveyors of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Three excavation squares (55 sq m), 25–30 m apart (Figs. 2, 4), were opened. Square 1 was located slightly east of the top of the ridge; Square 2 was at the top of the eastern slope; and Square 3—at the top of the northern slope. The squares were excavated to a depth of 2.5–3.0 m below surface, yet bedrock was only exposed in Squares 2 and 3. Seven settlement strata that dated from the Early Roman period until the modern era were identified (Square 1—Figs. 5, 6; Square 2—Figs. 7, 8; Square 3—Figs. 9, 10). The connection between the architectural units in the three squares could not be determined due to the distance among them. However, since the stratigraphic sequence in each square is clear, it is feasible to correlate the contemporary strata in the three squares. That notwithstanding, the finds did not permit to date the construction phases in Strata III and V. During the course of the excavation, ten probe trenches were dug with the aid of a backhoe along the eastern and northeastern slopes of the ridge, aiming to locate the boundaries of the site in those two directions. It turned out that building remains extended to the bottom of the northern slope and midway down the eastern slope.
Stratum VII (Roman period). This earliest layer in the excavation was exposed in the northern part of Square 3, where the northern side of a foundation course of a very broad wall (W27; width in excess of 0.8 m) was revealed. The wall, oriented east–west, was built of large well-dressed kurkar masonry stones (0.45 × 0.75, height 0.35 m) that were set directly on bedrock. No floor abutted the wall from the north, but just a fill (L139) that covered bedrock and was overlain with collapse of very large stones (L138; up to 1 m long) that extended over W27 as well. Fragments of high-quality frescoes in shades of red, brown, azure and green were discovered in Loci 138 and 139. The size of the masonry stones in the foundation course and in the collapse above it, the quality of their dressing and of the fresco fragments indicate that W27 was part of a very impressive building. In light of the fresco remains and based on the ceramic finds from L139 and above bedrock that included a typical jar (Fig. 11:1), the construction of W27 should be dated to the first century CE. It seems that the building was used until the second or third centuries CE, as evidenced by the fragments of pottery vessels found between the fallen stones (L138), among them a jar that is characteristic of these centuries (Fig. 11:2). It therefore seems that this building should be considered a villa, similar to the one exposed in Caesarea (HA-ESI 112:37*–38*). Additional evidence, testifying to the wealth and opulence of the settlement during this period, can be seen in the rich finds that were recovered from tombs, which had been excavated in the past along the fringes of the hill (ESI 1:94).
Stratum VI (end of the Byzantine–beginning of the Umayyad periods). A floor (L131) was exposed in the northern part of Square 3, above the collapse of Stratum VII. Due to the limited size of the excavation area, it was not clear if the stones exposed on the western side of the square, below W19, were the side of a wall that the floor abutted. Based on the ceramic artifacts above Floor 131, which included jar fragments (Fig. 11:3), as well as those below the floor (L133), its use should be dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE.
Stratum V (Umayyad period). Two construction phases of this stratum were discovered in Squares 1 and 2 and only one such phase was in Square 3. It is unclear if each of the construction phases in Squares 1 and 2 are contemporary and to which of the phases should the wall from this stratum in Square 3 be attributed.
A level of light colored tamped earth (L125; thickness 5–10 cm) in the western part of Square 1 was ascribed to the first construction phase (Va). Small kurkar stones were incorporated in this lever (thickness 3–5 cm). A wall (W22), aligned east–west and preserved a single course high, was built, 0.3 m above Level 125, of medium-sized fieldstones and ascribed to the second construction phase (Vb). A stone floor (L114) that was only exposed in the center of the square (Fig. 12) abutted W22 from the north.
A rather massive wall (W23; length 4 m, width 0.65 m, preserved height 2.5 m) that was built of ashlar stones and gray bonding material was revealed in Square 2 and ascribed to Phase Va. The impressive dimensions of W23, which was aligned east–west and founded on bedrock, indicate that it belonged to a large public building. Walls 28 and 29 were built north of W23 in Phase Vb (see Figs. 7, 8); W29 abutted W23 from the north and W28 abutted W29 from the east. Although the walls joined each other, they were not perpendicular to each other and no floor from this phase was found. Dating the walls of Phase Vb was based on the finds recovered from the fill between the walls and between the walls and bedrock (L136, L137).
A poor wall (W25) exposed at the bottom of the excavation in the southern part of Square 3 should be ascribed to this stratum (Fig. 13). Due to the limited excavation area in the square, it is unclear whether the wall was curved or consisted of two walls.
The ceramic artifacts recovered from this layer in Square 1 included a cooking pot (Fig. 11:5) and a jar (Fig. 11:10) from the fill below Layer 125, potsherds above Layer 125 and in the fill overlaying it (L122), a cooking pot (Fig. 11:6), a cooking pot lid (Fig. 11:8), a jug (Fig. 11:9) and a lamp (Fig. 11:13) from Floor 114 and the fill above it (L127). The potsherds in Squares 2 and 3 included a bowl (Fig. 11:3), a cooking pot (Fig. 11:7) and two jars (Fig. 11:11, 12), one of which was a Gaza jar, from the fills alongside the walls (Loci 126, 132, 136, 137). Accordingly, both phases of Stratum V should be dated to the seventh–eighth centuries CE.
Stratum IV (Abbasid period). Floors and walls from this stratum were found in all three squares. Two walls that formed a corner (W11, W12) were built in Square 1, above the remains of Stratum V. The walls were constructed from medium fieldstones on the outer side and small stones on the interior. A floor (L112) of small stones and light colored tamped soil, whose northern part was only preserved, abutted W11 from the south (Fig. 14).
A wall (W26) was built in the eastern part of Square 2, parallel to W23 that continued to be used in this stratum and 0.8 m to its north. Wall 26, preserved a single course high, was built of elongated, roughly dressed stones. A floor of light colored crushed chalk and small stones (L123, L130) abutted W26 from the north. A large elliptical niche (L140; width 1.7 m, depth 0.5 m, height 0.9 m) that opened to the north was discerned in the northern side of W23, c. 2 m above its base. The niche was built of small ashlar stones, which covered a core of fieldstones and were smaller than the original stones of the wall. The niche was ascribed to Stratum IV on account of its bottom level, which was close to the construction level of W26 and Floor 130. A stone floor (L124) was exposed in the western part of the square. It abutted the northern side of an entry with two doorjambs that was installed in this stratum in the western part of W23. A fragment of a limestone sarcophagus lid and a round basalt grindstone were incorporated in the floor. The source of the difference in elevations (c. 1 m) between Floor 124 and the floors that abutted W26 (L123, 130) is unclear, since Wall 15 was erected between them in Stratum III.
A northeast-southwest oriented wall (W24; see Fig. 13) was built above W25 in Square 3. Only a small section of W24, preserved two courses high, was exposed in the southern side of the square; no floor layer that abutted the wall was found.
The recovered potsherds included two bowl fragments (Fig. 11:14, 15) from the fill above Floor 112 in Square 1 and above Floor 130 in Square 2, as well as a jug fragment (Fig. 11:16) from the fill (L120) below W24 in Square 3. Accordingly, this stratum is dated to the ninth–tenth centuries CE.
Stratum III (Ottoman period). A single construction phase was ascribed to this layer in Squares 1 and 3, whereas two phases dating to the Ottoman period were discovered in Square 2. It was not possible to determine if the early phase in Square 2 (IIIa) predated Stratum III in Squares 1 and 3 or if it was contemporary with them.
New courses were added to Walls 11 and 12 of Stratum IV (see Fig. 14) in Square 1. The construction in this stratum differed from that of the previous stratum; it was haphazard and used roughly dressed medium-sized kurkar stones, without an inner face of small stones. Walls 11 and 12 were abutted from the north and east by floors (L106a) of crushed and tamped kurkar (thickness 3.5 cm).
Two rectangular pillars (W17; 08 × 1.0 m), ascribed to the first construction phase (IIIa), were exposed in Square 2 (Fig. 15). The pillars were built on top of stone collapse (L119) that was discovered above a floor from Stratum IV (L123, L130). A stone pavement (L115), in whose center was a drainage channel (?) that sloped to the east, was exposed north of the pillars. The relationship between Floor 115 and the pillars is unclear, because Wall 16 that separated between them was built in the second phase (IIIb). Wall 16 was perpendicular to Wall 15 that was also built in Phase IIIb. Wall 15, founded on Floor 124 of Stratum IV, was abutted from the west by a thin kurkar floor (L113), whose bedding of tamped soil with small stones (total thickness of the floor 0.15 m) was laid on top of Floor 124. Floor 113 abutted from the north an opening that was installed in Stratum IV in the western part of W23. During this phase the opening was slightly raised and made narrower. A stone socket of a door hinge was found west of the opening.
Three walls that formed two rooms were built in Square 3. Walls 18 and 19 formed a corner and the eastern part of Wall 30 was located to their south (Fig. 16); the western part of W30 was destroyed during the construction of W21 in Stratum II. Floor 128, which abutted Walls 18 and 19 from the northeast, was founded on the fill (thickness 0.15 m) that was deposited on Floor 131 of Stratum VI. Floor 111, which sealed W24 of Stratum IV, abutted W18 from the south and W30 from the north. It is unclear where was the opening that connected the two rooms, if there was one, because W18 was raised in Phase II and a staircase was built to its north.
The potsherds and glass fragments that were retrieved from the fills above and below the floors of the two phases of this stratum in Square 2 (L113, L115), including fragments of a jar (Fig. 11:17) and a pipe (Fig. 11:18), indicate that the stratum should be dated to the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE.
Stratum II (end of the Ottoman period–British Mandate era). Floors and walls from this stratum were found in all three squares.
The floors of Stratum III in Square 1, which abutted W11 and W12, were raised by means of a thin concrete layer (L106). A well-dressed rectangular stone that was probably a pillar base was also placed north of, and next to, the eastern end of W11 (see Figs. 12, 14).
Two walls (W13, W14) that formed a corner were built in Square 2 (Figs. 15, 17). Wall 13 (exposed length 5.5 m) was founded on W15 of Stratum III and extended to the south and north, beyond the boundaries of the square. Walls 13 and 14 were abutted on the east and north by Floor 105, which superposed W16 of Stratum III and was composed of gray bedding, overlain with a thin layer of concrete. Remains of a similar floor that abutted W13 from the west were exposed in the southwestern corner of the square.
Two walls, Wall 20 in the north and Wall 21 in the south, were built in Square 3. Wall 20 abutted on W19, which belonged to Stratum III, from the east. The two walls together with W18, also from Stratum III, formed a room whose floor consisted of a light colored foundation covered with a thin layer of concrete (L110). Two steps were built in W19 and ascended westward from Room 110 to Room 104, whose floor was also a light colored bedding covered with a thin layer of concrete (see Fig. 16). A staircase was built north of W18, which was abutted from the south by W21. Bold colors, including blue, azure and yellow, were used to paint the walls of the room in this stratum.
According to the ceramic finds that included a glazed bowl (Fig. 11:19), a cup (?) fragment (Fig. 11:20) a jug (Fig. 11:21) and a pipe (Fig. 11:22) and based on the fragments of glass vessels (not drawn) found below the floors and the foundations, Stratum II should be dated to the end of the Ottoman period and the beginning of the British Mandate era.
Stratum I (1948 onward). Some of the buildings were reused after the village of Umm Khalid was abandoned in 1948. Wall 11 in Square 1 was made thicker west of the pillar that was built in Stratum II and had survived by a stone base. A sewage conduit was installed in the center of the square and a refuse pit was dug in the square’s southeastern corner (see Fig. 5, marked by dotted line). A concrete sewer pipe in Square 3 was laid in the southern room next to W18 and a round iron installation was built on Floor 110 of the northern room.
Seven settlement strata were exposed in the excavation, the earliest dating to the Early Roman period and the latest to the middle of the twentieth century CE. However, the large number of potsherds from the Persian and Hellenistic periods that were discovered in the excavation, including a typical cooking pot (Fig. 11:23), indicate that the site was occupied in these periods, although no remains were discovered, probably due to the limited excavation area. The excavation findings were insufficient to determine when the fort was founded. Nevertheless, it was possible to establish with some degree of certainty that the fort was not built during the Middle Ages, since the excavation yielded only one fragment of a lamp from this period, 10–15 m from it (Fig. 11:24). The finds from the excavation, along with the results of the probe trenches, show that the site was a multi-layered tell, first settled in the Persian period. Remains of this settlement were found at a depth of c. 3 m and extended along the top of the ridge and its northern and eastern slopes, possibly even beyond them.