During September 2007, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Iksal village near Nazareth (Permit No. A-5230; map ref. 230745–70/732075–95), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Mokary, with the assistance of E. Bachar (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing) and M. Hartal (guidance).
The Arab village of Iksal was built on soft chalky rock at the southern foot of the Nazareth hills, where no spring exists; hence it always relied on water collected in cisterns. The name of the village preserves the biblical name Kisalot Tabor, which is mentioned in the Old Testament (Joshua 19:12, 18). A fortress whose remains stand exposed to this day was constructed in the village during the Crusader period.
Rock-hewn caves containing sarcophagi, ossuaries and funerary assemblages of pottery, glass vessels and jewelry from the Roman and Byzantine periods had previously been exposed and excavated in the village (Permit Nos. A-1832, A-1916, A-2151; HA-ESI 115:27*). In addition, remains of hewn and plastered agricultural installations from the Byzantine period were discovered, including part of a winepress (ESI 19:17*–18*).
A single square was opened in the current excavation and remains of three construction phases of an ancient building, all dating to the Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE; Figs. 1, 2) were exposed.
The remains of the first phase consisted of two perpendicular walls (W11, W21) founded on the bedrock and abutted by a flagstone pavement (L19; Fig. 3). An opening in Wall 11 had survived by a threshold and doorjambs (see Fig. 2), whose shape indicates that the inside of the house was situated east of the wall and the area excavated to the west of the wall was its courtyard. Fragments of jars, bowls, kraters and a fry pan glazed dark brown on the inside (Fig. 4:1), all dating to the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE, were found above the floor of the early phase.
Two fragments of storage jars (Fig. 4:5, 8), dating to this period, were discovered when the floor of the building’s early phase was dismantled near the southern part of W11.
The remains ascribed to the second phase included two pillars affixed to W11, a blockage of the opening in W11 and a new pavement of flagstones (L17; see Fig. 3). It can be concluded from the presence of the pillars that the function of the area had changed from an open courtyard to a covered room. Fragments of jars, bowls, kraters and a potsherd belonging to a jug, glazed green on the exterior and interior and decorated with a pinched design (Fig. 4:6) were found above the floor of the second phase. In addition, a cooking-pot fragment (Fig. 4:7) and a bowl fragment of dark brown clay (Fig. 4:2) were uncovered. All the potsherds date to the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE. Fragments of green-glazed bowls (Fig. 4:3, 4) dating to the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE were found after the floor was dismantled.
Two other walls (W12, W14) and an adjoining flagstone pavement (L10) were built in the third phase.The orientation of Walls 12 and 14 was different than that of Walls 11, 21 and the pillars. Nevertheless, they adjoined W11 and show that the latter continued to be used. Wall 12 partitioned the inside of an area that was open in the previous phases. Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE, some of which are glazed, were discovered above the floor of this phase.
A section of a destroyed wall (W13) that probably belonged to another building complex was exposed. It was also ascribed to the third construction phase.