During November 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted in Ramla, at the Ta‘avura Junction industrial zone (Permit No. A-5296; map ref. NIG 189055–83/648365–87; OIG 139055–83/148365–87), in the wake of damage caused to ancient remains during development works. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ta‘avura Company, was directed by A. Gorzalczany (photography and surveying), with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), M. Sharon (epigraphy), D.T. Ariel (numismatics), T. Kanias and a group of laborers from East Jerusalem. Important information was provided by O. Sion, D. Masarwa and M. Peilstöcker and the Ta‘avoura Company rendered much valuable assistance.
The installation (L119; Figs. 2, 3) was not entirely exposed. Its southern side was adjacent to a thick, east–west oriented wall (W108; exposed length 4 m, width 0.8 m), which was built of various size fieldstone debesh and bonded with grayish white mortar. The continuation of the wall was discerned in the eastern and western balks of the square. The western end of Wall 108 northern side was coated with gray hydraulic plaster and the cross-section of the cistern’s top that was not completely preserved could be seen; it was probably bell-shaped or vaulted, two forms of roofing that were rather prevalent in Ramla and have been documented in other excavations. Due to the limitations of the excavation it was not possible to reconstruct a complete plan of the reservoir, or calculate its volume and amounts of water it contained.
This square installation (L114; 2.5 × 2.5 m, inner dimensions 1.7 × 1.7 m; Figs. 4, 5) was plastered and enclosed within four walls (W109, W111, W115, W120; each 0.4–0.5 m wide) that were built of fieldstones and roughly hewn stones. The northern W109 was well preserved; Walls 111 and 120 on the east and west were not as well preserved and W115 on the south was poorly preserved. The walls were coated with a single layer of gray hydraulic plaster, mixed with potsherds, which was excellently preserved (thickness 2–3 cm). The floor of the installation was composed of numerous potsherds mixed with hydraulic plaster (Fig. 6), a very efficient method for storing liquids that had proven itself when rains fell during the excavation. The installation was probably covered, since remains of a vault could be discerned on the inside of W120.
A covered water channel (L113, average width 0.95, inside width 0.25–0.30 m) conveyed water to the installation from the east. Based on its general direction, its source was probably the water reservoir. The sides of the channel were built of ashlar stones (average size 25 × 30 × 45 cm), combined with small fieldstones; flat stones slabs that covered it (20 × 40 × 60 cm) were not all found in situ. Some of the slabs were probably tombstones from a nearby cemetery that were removed to cover the channel, in secondary use. Several such tombstones were found scattered and broken in the vicinity of the excavation.
The remains of a stone pavement (L118) that abutted Walls 109 and 111 were found northeast of the plastered installation complex and the channel. The pavement consisted of various size stones and was rather poorly preserved. Scant remains of another floor (L117) that abutted W115 from the south were discerned south of Installation 114.
The finds at the site included a small amount of extremely worn potsherds (not drawn) that dated to the Abbasid and Fatimid periods. The vessels included jars, jugs with occasional plastic decoration that is common to Ramla and bowls, some of which were glazed light green. Three poorly preserved bronze coins that could not be identified were found. A fragment of a basalt donkey millstone was discovered out of any archaeological context (Fig. 7). Numerous fragments of marble slabs were gathered in and around the excavation. Those bearing Arabic writings were joined together to form three slabs with inscriptions, two tombstones and a slab with a monumental inscription that mentions the construction of a bridge. One of the tombstones (Fig. 8) comes from the grave of an Egyptian cloth merchant who died on Tuesday, July 28, 306 AH (918 CE). The monumental inscription (Fig. 9), which consists of six complete lines in relief and the remains of a seventh line, cites the emir, commander of the faithful, who ordered the construction of a bridge in the years 331–334 AH (942–945 CE). The name of the ruler is Muhammad b. Tughj Abu Bakar al-Ikshid, the son of a family of Turkish origin who was appointed governor of Egypt in the year 323 AH (935 CE). He fought a series of bitter battles against Ibn Ra‘iq, the governor of the Euphrates region, in the years 940–942 CE. After the battles and prior to the treaties that came in their wake, the southern region of the Land of Israel, including the city of Ramla, was transferred to him and upon the murder of Ibn Ra‘iq, Al-Ikshid took control of Damascus in July 942 CE. Thus, the inscription found in the excavation mentions the construction of a bridge that was built during the first years he governed the region of Ramla and its vicinity. It is interesting to note that in previous excavations at the site, E. Haddad identified the foundation of a road on an embankment inside a wadi channel that is dated to this period (HA-ESI 120
and pers. comm.). The continuation of this foundation was exposed in another excavation at the site (D. Masarwa, pers. comm.; Permit No. A-5246). This foundation probably served as a base for the bridge mentioned in the inscription. Hence, the inscription is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the road network and transportation infrastructure in this period. The third slab is the tombstone of an unknown Muslim, engraved with a verse from the Koran. The final publication of the inscriptions will be prepared by M. Sharon for his Corpus of Islamic Inscriptions and for the final report of the Maz
The results of the excavation are quite consistent with the findings from previous excavations in the region. E. Haddad rightfully determined that the site is an open area on the outskirts of the city of Ramla, in which refuse, including many animal bones, was discarded. The finds in the current excavation further validate this identification. The water reservoir and plastered industrial installation for liquids are in keeping with the multitude of similar installations in the agricultural-industrial hinterland of the city of Ramla, beyond the built-up area, as has been discovered in many recent excavations (HA-ESI 118
; HA-ESI 120
135:30–35, 39–44 [Hebrew]; Tel Aviv University, Salvage Excavation Reports
Although the tombstones and dedicatory inscription were not discovered in situ, they are still valuable as an indication of the population in the region during the tenth century CE. The tombstones probably originated from a cemetery, which was discovered next to and north of the current excavation during an inspection of other infrastructure work, as well as in nearby excavations (O. Sion, pers. comm., Permit No. A-4503).
The monumental dedicatory inscription is a good and tangible evidence of the historic events that affected the region in the tenth century CE and attests to the construction of infrastructure on a national scale that was meant to glorify the city and the name of the governor, upon his takeover of the region.