The excavated and inspected area extended across a strip of land, generally aligned east–west (c. 25×120 m; Fig. 2). The architectural complexes were discovered throughout the entire length of the strip. An underground cistern was discovered in the southwestern part of the area, and remains of at least five buildings were exposed along the entire excavation area (1–5; Figs. 3–6). The buildings were generally aligned northeast-southwest. Mostly wall foundations survived built of small and medium kurkar stones in dry construction and founded on sandy soil devoid of finds (L155, L186, L187; Figs. 3, 5, 6). Practically none of the floors in the rooms survived. Based on the fragments of pottery vessels found in the accumulations above, alongside and below the wall foundations, the structures can be dated to the Ottoman period.
A level of stones (L105, L112, L114, L117, L136; thickness 0.3–0.5 m; Figs. 4–6) was discerned above the building remains throughout the excavation area. This level included collapse of small and medium fieldstones and large well-dressed kurkar stones. The arrangement of the stone levels, particularly in the center part of the excavation area (Loci 105 and 112; Fig. 5) might indicate an attempt at preparing and reusing the area. An assemblage of pottery vessels dating to the Ottoman period was retrieved from this level, in which modern disturbances were noted.
The buildings are described from east to west.
Three rooms in a mediocre state of preservation survived from the building. The foundations were preserved two–six courses high. The southeastern room was the largest room (1; 4.5×5.0 m), and the best preserved of the three. A smaller room (2; 2.7×5.0 m) was to its northeast and a third room (3; 3.5×4.5 m) was in the northwestern corner of the building. The southwestern part of Room 3 was damaged by modern activity and mostly sections of walls were preserved in this part. A wall (W190) was discovered north of the western end of Wall 177. The wall was oriented northeast-southwest, similar to the general alignment of the building. The wall abutted W177 and was similar in construction, but its width (0.4 m) was smaller than that of the rest of the building’s foundation remains (average width 0.6 m) and therefore it is thought that this wall probably enclosed the building’s courtyard.
No remains that might indicate the continuation of W190 were located in probes conducted around the building; therefore, it is reasonable to reconstruct a structure (13×14 m) whose interior was partitioned into five rooms.
Wall sections (W191, W192) were discovered c. 6 m west of Building 1. Wall 191 was aligned east–west and formed a corner with the northern end of W192. A building of the same dimensions as Building 1 may have existed in this area, but the latter was damaged by modern activity and only segments of the walls were preserved. Fill and collapse of brown soil and potsherds dating to the Ottoman period, and modern debris, were excavated above the walls.
Two rooms in an average state of preservation survived (Figs. 4, 7). The foundations were preserved two–eight courses high (Fig. 4: Sections 1-1, 2-2). The southwestern room (3×4 m) was enclosed by walls on the south (W171), east (W170), north (W133) and west (W129). The continuation of W171 to the west indicates another room that was not preserved. Northeast of the room was a narrower room (width 2 m) of which the northern (W194), eastern (W193) and southern (W133) walls were preserved; the western wall did not survive and therefore the length of the room cannot be estimated.
A built complex (width c. 5 m) was discovered c. 1 m northeast of Building 2; its length cannot be determined because the closing wall on the northern side did not survive. The southern wall (W195), a segment of the eastern wall (W196) and a segment of the western wall (W197) were preserved. The southeastern corner of the unit was wider, forming a kind of pillar. Owing to the poor preservation of the complex, it was not possible to determine its purpose. The alignment of the complex toward the east is slightly less than Building 2 but its proximity to the latter might suggest there was a connection between them.
The building was discovered in the middle of the excavation area (Figs. 5: Section 1-1, 8). The building was not completely exposed due to the limits of the excavation area toward the north. One almost complete room (4×8 m) was discovered, enclosed with walls in the east (W199), south (W200), north (W166) and west (W173). A gray cement floor (L201; 2.5×4.0 m, thickness c. 5 cm) was preserved in the eastern half of the room; it abutted the walls and was set on a bedding of small fieldstones. Southeast of the room was a corner of a second room (W198, W199), whose size cannot be determined. Northwest of the large room was a third room (W166, W172, W173). West of W172, a wall (W118) aligned east–west was built, and a cesspit (L146; diam. 0.8 m, depth 1.55 m; see Figs. 5, 9) was located c. 1.5 m west of it. Presumably, Wall 118 enclosed the building’s courtyard because cesspits of this kind were usually built in the rear courtyards of the houses (examples were discovered in the Ottoman-period buildings excavated in Yafo [HA-ESI 123]). Although it is impossible to determine the general architectural plan of the structure, the size of the exposed room seems to indicate that this was a large building, relative to the other buildings that were discovered.
The building, damaged by modern activity, was completely covered with massive fieldstone collapse (L104, L105; Fig. 5: Section 2-2). The remains of a single room’s walls, generally aligned northeast-southwest, were preserved (North—W189, West—W159, East—W202). The southern wall of the room was not preserved, other than part of a corner (W132). The walls, preserved one–three courses high, were built of medium and large kurkar stones without mortar bonding. A floor (L174; thickness c. 3 cm) of cement mixed with crushed shells and set on a foundation of small fieldstones was preserved in the northwestern part of the room. The floor abutted the walls of the room. Wall 188, oriented east–west axis and bonded with W159, indicates the continuation of the building to the west. A clay tabun (L141; diam. 0.7 m, depth 0.23 m; Figs. 5: Section 3-3, 10) was discovered c. 4 m west of the room. An arrangement of small fieldstones was clustered around the tabun and used to raise and support the sides of the installation. Numerous fragments of non-diagnostic pottery fragments were found on the tabun’s floor; these were utilized for leveling, a method commonly used in the construction of baking ovens. A layer of brown soil mixed with charcoal and fragments of cooking pots and bowls dating to the Ottoman period was excavated alongside and above the tabun.
It seems that the western region was severely damaged by modern activity that left in its wake a massive level of collapse (L103, L114, L148; Fig. 6) the entire length of the section. A corner of a building (W153, W158) was discovered beneath the collapse. Wall 158, oriented north–south, was preserved one–two courses high. It formed a corner with W153, which adjoined it from the north and was constructed in a similar manner. It was neither possible to determine the general architectural plan of the building, nor estimate the dimensions of the room, due to the poor preservation of the remains.
Underground Water Storage System
A water storage system (L203; Figs. 6: Section 1-1, 11) was discovered in the southwestern part of the area. The system was built of three cavities that were completely preserved, including the ceiling, below the present ground level. For safety reasons, only the southern cavity (3.8×3.8 m) was excavated. The walls of the cavity were built of large dressed kurkar stones, bonded with mortar, and the inner faces were coated with white hydraulic plaster. Several plaster layers were discerned, indicating the maintenance of the installation. The ceiling was supported on arches and in its center was a square opening, through which rainwater was probably conveyed into the cavity and water was also drawn from it. The cavity was half filled with accumulations of brown soil, stones and modern debris. The two other cavities were built in a similar manner, as noted via a breech excavated in the northern wall of the southern cavity. The system of cavities was probably used for collecting and storing rainwater. The built opening in the ceiling, the absence of openings in the walls and the application of hydraulic plaster to the inner faces of the walls underline this contention.
Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods were discovered in the excavation (Fig. 12). Only several body sherds were found from the Byzantine period, including a base of an amphora from North Africa (Fig. 12:13) that was probably adapted for use as a stopper.
The pottery assemblage from the Ottoman period included bowls of brown clay (Fig. 12:1), bowls of gray and black Gaza ware (Fig. 12:2) and glazed bowls (Fig. 12:3); handmade cooking pots (Fig. 12:4–9) that are characterized by brown clay mixed with large white grits and mica and mostly decorated with stripes and perforations on the neck or handles of the vessel; cooking pots of this type first appear in the Mamluk period and continue to be used in the Ottoman period; as well as jars of brown clay (Fig. 12:10, 11) and Gaza ware jugs (Fig. 12:12) were also found.
Most of the pipes recovered from the excavation are of the lily type (Figs. 12:14, 13:1–3), which are slipped red and burnished and have a puffy end to their stem that is decorated with a rouletted pattern. This type dates to the second half of the nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE. Similar pipes were discovered in Belmont Castle (Simpson J. St. 2000. The Clay Pipes. In R.P. Harper and D. Pringle, eds., Belmont Castle, The Excavation of a Crusader Stronghold in the Kingdom of Jerusalem [British Academy Monographs in Archaeology 10]. New York. Pp. 147–171, especially pp. 157–164, Figs. 13.5:5–7). Another pipe is a bowl type set on a disc base with a folded pedestal (Fig. 13:4). This pipe is slipped red, burnished and decorated with a delicate rouletted pattern of circles bounded by two horizontal rouletted stripes. This type also dates to the nineteenth century CE (Dekkel A. 2008. The Ottoman Clay Pipes. In V. Tzaferis and S. Israeli. Paneas, Volume II, Small Finds and Other Studies [IAA Reports 38]. Jerusalem. Pp. 113–164, especially p. 148, Fig. 4.12: 67). A pipe ascribed to an earlier type (end of the seventeenth–early eighteenth centuries CE; Fig. 13:5) was also found. It is made of light gray clay without a slip. The short stem was preserved; its swollen end is decorated with three protuberances that have stamped impressions of a cypress tree between them. This decoration is surrounded by thin horizontal lines. The stem ends in a ring. The swollen end of the stem is attached to a loop handle that has a small hole perforated in its center (Dekkel 2008: 131, 136, Fig. 4.6:23). Although the pipe was found on the surface, it might allude to an earlier phase of the site.
Semi-precious stones (Fig. 14:1, 2), beads (Fig. 14:3) and a fragment of a bracelet (Fig. 14:4), which are analogous to the finds recovered from excavations at Yafo (HA-ESI 121; HA-ESI 122) and dated to the Ottoman period, were found.
Based on the proximity of the discovered architectural units, it seems that the region was densely settled and the identical orientation of the buildings points to a certain degree of planning. The pottery assemblage is domestic in nature and the tabun and cesspits indicate the region was a residential quarter and not an industrial one. In the mid-twentieth century CE the buildings went out of use and the area was leveled. It seems that the remains belong to the Arab village of Al-Qubeiba, corresponding to maps and historical sources. Besides the remains from the Ottoman period, body fragments of vessels that dated to the Byzantine period were discovered in the excavation, although, the focal point of activity in this period was not identified. The excavation findings contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the division of inhabited areas in the region.