During June 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted east of the city of Ramla, to the north of and adjacent to Ma‘asiyahu (Ta‘avura) Junction and east of the railroad platform (Permit No. A-4503; map ref. NIG 18838–62/64828–58; OIG 13838–62/14828–58), prior to construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by Israel Railways Authority, was directed by O. Sion, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), E. Belashov (drafting), C. Amit (studio photography), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory), M. Avissar (pottery reading), I. Lidski (pottery drawing) and R. Kool (numismatics).
The excavation area, adjacent to Ramla’s bypass road, was c. 850 m east of the White Mosque (Figs. 1, 2). A cistern that dated to the Early Islamic period had been exposed in a previous excavation, c. 20 m to the south (HA-ESI 111:103*–104*).
Following the removal of top soil and modern debris (depth 0.5 m) with the aid of mechanical equipment, six squares were excavated (depth 1.0–2.5 m). Building remains were exposed in five of the squares and artifacts dating to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE), as well as a few finds from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, were found in all six of them.
Square 1 (Figs. 3, 4)
An ancient wall (W37), overlaid with three sections of walls that enclosed a room (W19, W23, W30), was exposed. The wall foundations were built to a depth of 0.75 m below the crushed and tamped chalk floor of the room. Two rectangular installations, oriented east–west, were uncovered in the middle of the room (Loci 109,112; length 1.6–2.8). The walls of the installations were coated with gray plaster that was decorated with an incised herringbone pattern (Fig. 5). As no floors were discovered in the installations, they were probably used as septic pits or perhaps even as toilets. The base of a tabun was exposed in the northeastern corner and stone collapse occurred in the eastern part of the square.
The potsherds above and below the floor dated to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE) and included two bowls (Fig. 6:1, 2), a cooking pot (Fig. 6:3), a jar (Fig. 6:4) and a body fragment of a jug (Fig. 6:5). A coin (Table 1:4) that dated to the Mamluk period was found on surface.
Square 2 (Figs. 7, 8)
A wall that bisected the square from north to south (W29) was exposed; it was adjoined from the east, at right angles, by Wall 38. Another wall in the western part of the square (W21) was also perpendicular to W29. The walls were built of soft dressed limestone blocks, set on a foundation of small fieldstones. A crushed chalk floor (L110) was also found. A pit, dug in sandy hamra and filled with stones (depth 1.65 m), was exposed in the northwestern part of the square; this was probably a septic pit. The discovery of human bones (L123) suspended the excavation in the southern part of the square.
The potsherds above Floor 110 and below it (L119) dated to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE) and included a large bowl (Fig. 9:1), bowls (Fig. 9:2, 3), small bowls (Fig. 9:4, 5), a cooking pot (Fig. 9:6), an amphoriskos (Fig. 9:7), a fragment of a zoomorphic vessel decorated with white paint and black stripes (Fig. 9:8) and lamps (Fig. 9:9, 10). A coin that dated to the Mamluk period (Table 1:3) and was probably a later intrusion was found.
Square 3 (Figs. 10, 11)
A cist tomb (L122; 0.95 × 1.80 m), lined with stones and abutted by a floor (L117), was exposed. The interior of the tomb (preserved depth 0.3 m) was coated with gray plaster. The discovery of human bones caused the suspension of the excavation. Human bones were also discovered in a pit grave (L102), in the western part of the square.
A cooking pot (Fig. 12:1) that dated to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE), an Umayyad coin (Table 1:1) and an Abbasid coin (Table 1:2) were found on Floor 117.
Square 4 (Figs. 13, 14)
Two walls (W22, W39) that probably formed the corner of a room were exposed. The walls continued westward and a leveled surface between them was probably a doorway threshold. A tamped-soil floor (L111) that abutted the northern side of W22 was uncovered. The potsherds discovered below the floor (L116) mostly dated to the Umayyad period and included bowls (Fig. 12:2–5), jugs (Fig. 12:6, 7), a flask (Fig. 12:8) and a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 12:9). In addition, a mold-decorated jug fragment (Fig. 12:10) and an intact lamp (Fig. 12:11) that dated to the Early Islamic period, were discovered.
Human bones were exposed atop the characteristic indigenous sand throughout the entire square and the excavation was suspended. The interred (five individuals) were aligned east–west, as customary in Muslim burials.
Numerous fragments of pottery vessels that dated to the Early and Late Islamic periods and a coin from the Mamluk period (Table 1:5) were found in the debris that had accumulated above the tombs.
Square 6 (Fig. 15)
A floor of mortar and stone fragments (thickness 0.1–0.2 m) was exposed in the eastern part of the square; the floor was overlain with stone collapse (height 2 m). Human bones, generally aligned east–west, were exposed in the northwestern and eastern parts of the square.
Fragments of pottery vessels that dated to the Early and Late Islamic periods and were not found in stratigraphic contexts, as well as an Ottoman coin (Table 1:6), were discovered.
The exposed building remains were most likely those of residential buildings; however, the distance between the excavation squares made it impossible to connect them. Probe trenches that yielded no building remains were dug in the vacant areas between the squares and it seems that the construction in the area was sparse. The tombs exposed on top of the sand belonged, in all likelihood, to the first burial phases in Umayyad Ramla; they probably indicated the boundaries of the city, which was located to their south and west. Land for construction was increasingly sought for during the accelerated development of the city in the Abbasid period (eighth–tenth centuries CE); the result was building in areas that had been used for burial up until then. The absence of architectural remains from later periods (twelfth century CE onward) was probably related to the earthquakes that had struck the city during the eleventh century CE and caused extensive destruction. The masonry stones were probably taken for rebuilding the new city.