During June 2001, an excavation was conducted near Ha-Palmah Street in Ramla (Permit No. A-3429; map ref. NIG 18830/64850; OIG 13830/14850), prior to the construction of a building in Ha-Shoftim neighborhood. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by R. Kletter, with the assistance of Y. Arbel (area supervision), Y. Rahamim (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), H. Tsion-Cinamon (GPS), T. Sagiv (field and studio photography), M. Avissar (pottery reading), M. Ben-Gal (pottery restoration), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), O. Shorr (glass restoration), C. Hersch (glass drawing), L. Horowitz (archaeozoology) and laborers from Rahat and Jerusalem.
Two areas, separated by a sewer, were examined in the excavation. The western area consisted of two squares that were partially excavated, revealing only scant remains of a wall and mixed potsherds, mostly dating to the Early Islamic and Mamluk periods, with a few to the Ottoman period. The majority of the remains were found in the eastern area (Squares A–D; Fig. 1).
Early Islamic Period. A large and round cistern (L107; diam. 3.8 m, visible depth c. 2 m; Fig. 1: Section 1-1) and meager building remains were ascribed to this period. Water flowed into the cistern via two small openings. On the inside ends of the openings were round ceramic pipes (length 0.3 m, inside diam. 0.13 m; Fig. 2) that had a plain rounded rim. Water was drawn from the cistern through two square shafts (0.45 × 0.45 m) that were built of well-dressed limestone (Fig. 3); marble in secondary use was incorporated at the bottom of one of the shafts (Fig. 4). The tops of the shafts were probably provided with a perforated capstone because the top courses of the shafts’ stonework bear no indication of wear from the ropes that were used to draw water. Stone collapse and soil had accumulated inside the cistern but were not excavated due to safety precautions. The sides of the cistern were coated with gray plaster (thickness c. 2 cm) that contained numerous potsherds. These included a fragment of a rouletted base from a Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Fig. 5:1) and rims that belonged to the later type of Gaza jars (Fig. 5:2). These vessels, which are not represented in the other pottery assemblages from the excavation, have a broad chronological range, from the latter sixth century CE until the seventh-beginning of the eighth centuries CE. Accordingly, it seems that the cistern is the earliest architectural feature in the excavation area. It is possible that the cistern belonged to a farmstead, which existed in the area prior to the founding of the city of Ramla in the year 715/716 CE. However, it may have been installed together with the overlying construction and then, these vessels should be dated to the beginning of the Umayyad period.
The limited excavation area and later disturbances precluded making the connection between the cistern and the building remains above it and in the adjacent squares. Scant building remains and a mixed assemblage of potsherds were found south of the cistern in Square A. Meager building remains (walls? W4, W7) and part of a small-stone floor (L101) were discovered above the cistern in Square B, next to the upper part of the cistern’s western shaft; the ceramic finds were also mixed. Two walls (W1, W10; width c. 0.5 m) in Square C formed a corner of what may have been a residential building. The walls were built of lime stones that were mostly fieldstones and a few dressed stones. A level of tamped soil mixed with plaster (L109; floor?) abutted W1 and yielded mixed ceramic artifacts that dated to the Early Islamic and Mamluk periods. However, a probe cut below the earthen level contained only fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Islamic period. A jar (L108; Fig. 5:7) that dated to the Early Islamic period was found in the northwestern corner of the square, next to W10. Most of the jar seems to have been embedded into the floor level, which was probably the continuation of Floor 109. Its top protruded above it and was damaged by a pile of stones (W6) that was probably meant to block an entrance, fixed in W10 at a later period. The continuation of W1 in Square D was severed by the construction of installations in the Mamluk period.
Walls 1 and 10 should be dated to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE), based on the jar and the artifacts discovered below Floor 109. These finds included a pale yellow glazed bowl that belongs to the monochrome lead glaze type (Fig. 5:3) and a delicate bowl of buff-colored clay with a turquoise alkali glaze (Fig. 5:4) that are dated to the eighth–twelfth centuries CE. Vessels of buff-colored clay, such as the jug in Fig. 5:5 are very common to Ramla, as well as a jug handle of red clay and glazed green (Fig. 5:6) that is similar to the handles of the buff-ware jug.
Mamluk Period (fourteenth century CE). Two installations (Loci 113, 114), dug in the ground and lined with small stones, were exposed in Square D and ascribed to this period. It is unclear if the installations were included within the area of the city of Ramla in this period because the exact course of the city wall is unknown.
The eastern side of Installation 113 extended beyond the excavation area. The elliptical installation (the section that was excavated was 1.2 m long; Fig. 6) was built of two courses of limestone and contained very soft brown soil fill. An elliptical pit (c. 0.5 × 0.6 m, depth 0.4 m) was dug in the middle of the installation. The unlined pit contained numerous pottery vessels that dated to the Mamluk period, including two almost intact coarse bowls, as well as egg shells and bones of small animals, including a pigeon skull.
Installation 114 was a circular pit (inner diam. 1.1 m, depth c. 1 m) built of eight to ten courses of limestone (Fig. 7), which had remains of gray plaster on the bottom. The soft brown soil in the installation was similar to that in Installation 113 and contained a large quantity of pottery vessels and sherds that dated to the Mamluk period, save one or two potsherds from the Early Islamic period that penetrated into the pit. A diverse assemblage of glass vessels was found as well (see below). Most of the pottery vessels were covered with a layer of coarse encrustation. Many of the vessels, especially the bowls, were damaged or deformed and it seems that they represent debris of a pottery workshop rather than vessels that were discarded after use.
Most of the pottery vessels from the two installations were wheel thrown. The most common vessel in the assemblage is a coarse bowl with a round rim, ribbing and a string-cut base (Fig. 8:1–5). Almost all of these bowls are deformed, cracked or otherwise damaged. Four intact bowls, 168 rims of this kind of bowl and 11 complete profiles were found in Installation 114. A bowl with a base ring (Fig. 8:6), which is different in quality and form from the others, was in an unclear context near Installation 113 and probably postdated it. The other ceramic vessels included a sugar bowl (Fig. 9:1) with repair holes; a small closed bowl (Fig. 9:2); buff-ware jugs, most of which had a shade of pale green (Fig. 9:3, 4); part of a juglet ornamented with a perforated decoration and delicate incising (Fig. 9:5); a fragment of a mold-made flask (Fig. 9:6), several nearly complete large jugs (Fig. 9:7) and upper parts of jars (Fig. 9:8).
The finds from both installations consisted only of a small number of handmade vessels, possibly because these are typical of rural settlements rather than urban area like Ramla, including two kraters (Fig.10:1, 2), a cooking pot (Fig. 10:3) and two upright jar rims (Fig. 10:4, 5), one of which has a dark brown decoration painted on and outside the rim. A few potsherds of glazed vessels (Fig. 10:6–12) were found. Outstanding among them are fragments of Syrian Underglaze Painted Ware bowls, made of frit and decorated blue and black with a transparent glaze (Fig. 10: 6, 7). The bowl in Fig. 10:7 belongs to a subtype of the same family of vessels which has a linear decoration and paint splashes on the inside; these are known primarily from Bet She’an and Ramla. The bowl base in Fig. 10:8 is probably a local variation of Chinese Celadon Ware vessels that were imported into the country in small numbers in the twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE. Several pottery fragments belonged to Mold-Made Glazed Ware vessels. Two such sherds from two different vessels are decorated with a horned animal within an elliptical frame and remains of an inscription to its right (Fig. 10:9, 10). The head of the animal is discernable on the sherd in Fig. 10:9 and on the sherd in Fig. 10:10, the animal is depicted with its head turned backward and its legs bent; the decoration on the back of the animal resembles crossed swords. These vessels, which are known from the fourteenth century CE and are ascribed to a workshop that was discovered in Jerusalem, have a high trumpet-like base (Fig. 10:11). A fragment of a glazed lamp with a pinched nozzle was discovered (Fig. 10:12).
Ottoman Period. Only fragments of pottery vessels and small finds from this period were discovered in the excavation; the site was apparently situated outside the city limits during this period. The finds included a few gray Gaza sherds, including a small bowl that is probably the bottom of a coffee cup (Fig. 11:1); a bowl of gray fabric with a flared rim on which a white-slipped stripe was haphazardly applied (Fig. 11:2); a carelessly glazed bowl (Fig. 11:3); a blue-white porcelain-type vessel with a floral decoration that was imported from China (Fig. 11:4); a green and yellow glazed vessel with a sgraffito decoration that was probably imported from Italy in the fifteenth century CE (Fig. 11:5); an almost complete jar (Fig. 11:6) that was found upside down in soil fill near the surface in Square D; a few pipes, including one of gray clay with a rather narrow stem and a small tobacco bowl, which is dated to the seventeenth–eighteenth century CE (Fig. 11:7) and a small hollow ceramic ball that contained pieces of stone or small clay balls that made noise when shaken, probably a toy rattle (Fig. 11:8).
Several stone vessels that have no clear stratigraphic context were found in the excavation, including an extremely worn, broken stone capital, fragments of a marble slab and a rim fragment of a marble vessel. Two items of green stone (steatite or soap stone; Fig. 12) were found in an unclear context and are dated to the Early Islamic period.
The Glass Vessels from Installation 114
An assemblage of diverse glass vessels, which is dated to the Mamluk period, was recovered from Installation 114. The assemblage consisted of vessels decorated with marvering, which are characteristic of the period, alongside simpler forms and vessels that are decorated with mold blowing. Based on the quality of material and the forms, it seems that all the vessels were locally produced, in Ramla or its environs or in workshops in Jerusalem (N. Brosh 2005. Islamic Glass Finds of the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Century from Jerusalem: Preliminary Report. Annales du 16e Congrès de l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre (London 2003). Nottingham. Pp. 186–190).
Bichrome Vessels Decorated with Marvered Trails (Fig. 13:1–5). The vessels in this group, made of dark glass, are decorated with light colored trails, mostly opaque white or an opaque pale greenish gray. The trails were applied to a wide variety of vessels; after application, the trails were flattened on top of a flat working surface (the marver, hence the name of the technique) and in most instances they were reheated and combed into feathered designs or undulating patterns. In addition, some of the vessels were mold-blown.
The bowls of this type are most characteristic to this group. The bowl in Fig. 13:1 is made of purple glass and has a flared rim; it is covered with a thick layer of crust and is severely pitted. The decoration consists of many white trails, applied and embedded by reheating in the walls of the bowl. The trail extending on the rim's edge is thicker than the others. The bowl in Fig. 13:2 has a rim unique to this group, which is inverted and in-turned; it resembles the rims on ancient clay holemouths jars. The rim, made of dark purple glass, is decorated with white trails that include a thick trail on the rim's edge and thinner trails below it. The bowl in Fig. 13:3 whose rim did not survive is made of dark purple glass and decorated with white trails and a pattern of vertical mold-made ribs that were fashioned after the trails were applied. The rim of Fig. 13:2 probably belonged to the bowl in Fig. 13:3, yet the fragments did not connect and could not be restored.
Two bottles were in this group. The bottle in Fig. 13:4, made of purple glass, is decorated with horizontal opaque pale green-gray trails that were applied to the rim and below it. The bottle in Fig. 13:5 is smaller, made of blue glass and adorned with a white trail that stands out on the edge of the rim.
Undecorated vessels (Fig. 13:6–12).Two undecorated bottles were found. The bottle in Fig. 13:6 is very small and has especially thin sides; the glass is opaque with a pale green bluish/gray hue. The quality of the material and the manner of the work are similar to metal vessels. This bottle belongs to a unique group of small vessels of opaque glass, with a light pale blue/gray or turquoise hue that are not particularly common; they are known in Mamluk assemblages from Jerusalem and from Hama in Syria. The fragment in Fig. 13:7 belongs to a bottle of very light, pale green glass and has a rim that flares and forms a short shelf. This type of simple bottle is exceptionally common in Mamluk assemblages.
Several fragments belong to tall beakers that were used as lamps. The rim in Fig. 13:8 flares downward and belongs to a broad cylindrical vessel that is made of translucent glass.
Rims of this kind had previously been attributed to large bottles; however, in recent years, many vessels with similar rims were found in Jerusalem and Bet She’an and it was possible to reconstruct them as beakers with a wick tube in the center, similar to base in Fig. 13:11 that is made of translucent glass. The fragment in Fig. 13:9 belongs to a broad cylindrical vessel of colorless glass with a pale green tinge, which has a flared and folded rim. The sides are decorated with very delicate diagonal ribbing. During the Mamluk period tall beakers of this kind were mostly used as lamps. The rim in Fig. 13:10 is made of colorless glass with a pale green tinge. The end of the rim is flared and a tooled-out tube below it is pinched outward. It belongs to a cylindrical vessel that has particularly thick sides. Vessels of this type probably served as lamps and it seems that the tooled-out tube was used to suspend it from a metal chandelier.
The rim in Fig. 13:12 belongs to a vessel that was blown in a mold, which left an intricate design on its base. This design is known on vessels in Mamluk assemblages in Jerusalem and other sites. The vessel is made of colorless glass that has a pale yellow tinge.
Most of the vessels recovered from Installation 114 have comparisons in a Mamluk assemblage from the Jewish Quarter (Brosh 2005, op. cit.) and in other Mamluk assemblages from Jerusalem, such as those from the region of Herod’s Gate (HA-ESI 113:76*–79*) and from the salvage excavation in the Western Wall Plaza (Permit No A-5432); similar vessels were found in other excavations, e.g., Bet She’an (ESI 15:43–47) and the El-Watta Quarter in Zefat (Permit No. A-4210).
Ten poorly preserved bronze coins were discovered in the excavation. Four of the ten were identified, dating to the Mamluk period.
1. Reg. No. 1019, Locus 103, IAA 102849
al-SalihSalah? (1351–1354 CE), Halab?
Bronze, fals, 0.80 gr, 18 mm.
Cf: Balog P. 1964. The Coinage of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt and Syria (Numismatic Studies 12). Pp. 190–191, No. 338.
2. Reg. No. 1016, Locus 103, IAA 102850
Mamluk, fourteenth century CE.
Obverse: remains of an inscription.
Reverse: remains of an inscription.
Bronze, fals, 1.25 gr, 19 mm.
3. No Reg. No., Locus 105, IAA 102848
Mamluk, fourteenth century CE.
Obverse: remains of an inscription.
Bronze, fals, 2.55 gr, 16 mm.
4. Reg. No. 1073, Locus 112, IAA 102747
Mamluk, fourteenth century CE.
Bronze, fals, 1.38 gr, 12 mm.