During March 2007, an excavation was conducted in the western courtyard of the Anglican Church compound in Lod (Permit No. A-5080; map ref. NIG 19056/65115; OIG 14056/15115), in the wake of damage to ancient remains caused by a pit dug by mechanical equipment. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Arfad Association, was directed by U. ‘Ad, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), D. Porotsky and E. Belashov (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), K. Cytryn-Silverman (pottery reading), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and laborers provided by the Brick Manpower Company.
Most of the compound, which includes a hospital and a church, was built at the end of the nineteenth century CE, atop the foundations of ancient buildings. St. George’s Church that includes a monastery and a church from the Crusader period, which were restored in 1870–1873, is located to the east of the Anglican compound. The Crusader church is built on the remains of a Byzantine church that appears on the Madaba Map. According to historical sources, large parts of the church were destroyed during the Mamluk conquest in the thirteenth century CE and during Baybars’ reign, the al-Omar Mosque was built in their place. The site had never been excavated before.
An excavation area (6 × 8 m; Fig. 1) was opened inside and around the pit that penetrated the earlier layers, in the western side of the church compound, southwest of the building that currently hosts a nursery school. Four strata that included remains of walls, pillars and floors were exposed and are described hereafter from the earliest to the latest.
Most of the exposed architectural remains were in the sides of the pit. Due to its considerable depth (in excess of 4.5 m below surface) and fearing collapse of its sides, the pit was slightly deepened by manual excavation. The dating of the architectural remains is problematic and relies only on a few sealed loci.
The southern side of a short wall section was discovered in the southwestern corner of the square. It was built of partly dressed fieldstones that were bonded with gray mortar (W14; Fig. 2). A coating of white mortar with ribbed potsherds and whitish pink plaster was traced on the wall. A cluster of stones (L111) was exposed at the same elevation east of W14. The meager finds from the vicinity of the wall (L110) included a bowl (Fig. 3:1) that dated to the Early Islamic period.
Based on the type of plaster, the potsherds mixed in the mortar and the plaster on the wall and the scant ceramic finds, it is assumed that the wall was used from the end of the Byzantine until the Early Islamic periods (eighth–ninth centuries CE).
A rectangular pillar (W13; 1.5 × 1.9 m; Fig. 4) that was built on top of W14 and L111 of Stratum IV was exposed in the western part of the square. The pillar had straight sides and was built of medium-sized fieldstones with light colored mortar.
Ceramic and glass artifacts, including bowls (Fig. 3:2, 3) that dated to the Middle Ages (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE) were discovered in the fill south of the pillar (L108). Potsherds from the same period, among them a bowl (Fig. 3:4) and glazed fragments (Fig. 5:1, 2) were discovered at a similar elevation in the fill at the eastern part of the square (L103). Although no level or floor that abutted the pillar were found, thus making it impossible to determine its construction date, the pillar’s stratigraphic location between Strata IV and II and the ceramic finds discovered alongside it allow us to suggest that it was built in the Middle Ages.
Two pillars or massive walls that resembled each other in their construction and the depth of their foundations were discovered; one was in the northwest (W12; thickness more than 1 m) and the other in the southeast (W15). The foundation of Pillar 12 destroyed the upper part of Pillar 13 from Stratum III; hence it was built after the Stratum III structure was no longer in use. Pillar 12 was abutted from the north by a floor (L112; length c. 3 m) that continued to the east along the northern side of the pit. The floor consisted of two layers of gray mortar, covered with finely smoothed plaster (thickness per layer 3.5 cm; Fig. 6), which probably represent two phases of use. The same kind of plaster was used to coat Pillar 12.
The finds in the fill below Floor 112 and between the stones of Pillar 15 (L102) contained a bowl (Fig. 3:5) and a glazed potsherd (Fig. 5:3) that dated to the Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE).
A room (min. dimensions 5.0 × 5.5 m) delimited by massive stone walls on the east (W10) and south (W11) was discovered. The walls were oriented differently than the walls in Stratum II and therefore the northeastern corner of Pillar 12 from Stratum II was destroyed. An entrance was identified in the eastern wall where the southern doorjamb and bottom hinge of the door were exposed. The room had a plaster floor (L101) whose remains were observed along all sides of the square, apart from the southwestern side. Floor 101 was similar to Floor 112 of Stratum II and the plaster that coated the walls of the room was also of the same components. Based on the finds recovered above and below Floor 101, the room was built and used at the end of the Ottoman period (beginning of the twentieth century CE).
The limited excavation area and the difficult conditions in the field made it difficult to draw any comprehensive conclusions. The finds indicate that buildings stood at the site possibly as early as the Byzantine period, which is likely to underline the opinion that the area was included in the compound of the church that appears on the Madaba Map. Arch-bearing pillars were preserved in the cellars of the building east of the excavation area, where the nursery school is currently located and where the church used to be situated. Pillar 13 of Stratum III probably served as part of this building and therefore, it is earlier than the nineteenth century CE and may have been built in the Middle Ages.