One square was opened (5 × 5 m; Fig. 2), and three strata were exposed: from the Mamluk period (3), from the Ottoman period (2) and a top soil layer (1). Due to the limited scope of the excavation, virgin soil was not reached.
Stratum 3. A wall stump built of roughly hewn stones was exposed in the northeastern corner of the square. A layer of brown soil with several pottery sherds (L9) was found on the southern side of the wall. The ceramic finds included unglazed vessels, sugar vessels, cooking vessels and glazed bowls. The unglazed vessels are made of red, levigated clay and are well fired, which is characteristic of the pottery from this period in the north of the country; these include a thickened and everted rim of a krater (Fig. 4:1; Avissar and Stern 2005:84, Fig. 36:4, Type II.1.2.3). The sugar vessels are made of the same pale red clay and include conical sugar pots with a plain thickened rim (Fig. 4:2, 3; Avissar and Stern 2005:86, Fig. 37:5, 6, Type II.1.3.2), in which loaves of crystalline sugar formed, and molasses jars, into which molasses would drain, with an everted rim and no handles (Fig. 4:4; Avissar and Stern 2005:104, Fig. 43:8, Type II.3.1.6). Also found, were a jar with a tall neck, a folded-out rim and a prominent ridge on the neck (Fig. 4:5; Avissar and Stern 2005:102, Fig. 42:9, 10, Type II.3.1.4) and a rim of a jug with a carinated neck (Fig. 4:6; Stern 2014: Fig. 4:2). The cooking wares are made of yellowish-reddish clay; they include open vessels, one of which has a clear glaze on the inside (Fig. 4:7; Avissar and Stern 2005:97, Fig. 41:4, 5, Type II.2.3.3), and a closed wheel-made cooking pot of a type characteristic of the north of Israel (Fig. 4:8; Stern 2014: Fig. 6:12). Among the glazed bowls were vessels decorated with a green monochrome glaze (Fig. 4:9–11; Avissar and Stern 2005:12, Fig. 4:1, 2, Type I.1.4.1) and a yellow-glazed bowl with green splashes (Fig. 4:12; Stern 2014: Fig. 9:2). Many green and yellow glazed bowls decorated with crude incising were also found (Fig. 4:13–15; Yellow and Green Gouged Ware; Avissar and Stern 2005:16, Fig. 6:5–7, Type I.1.5.2). A very small body sherd of a carinated bowl that has a perforated ridge on the outside and green glaze and an incised decoration on the inside (Fig. 4:16). This bowl is a relatively rare vessel in assemblages in the northeast of the country; it is import from northern Italy and dates from the fourteenth–fifteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:72–73, Fig. 31:1–3, Type I.9.4). Interestingly, fragments of polychrome bowls (Graffita Arcaica) imported from Italy during the same time period were found in a previous excavation at Migdal (Abu-‘Uqsa 2005; Fig. 8).
Apart from the vessels imported from Italy, the pottery assemblage from Stratum 3 is characteristic of the Mamluk period and the beginning of the Ottoman period (fourteenth–sixteenth centuries CE) in the north of the country. Similar assemblages were found at Zuq el-Fauqani (Hartal 2008a), Khirbat Sumeiriya (Stern 1999a) and at Khirbat Din‘ila (Stern 2014).
Stratum 2. Remains of a corner of a building (W4, W5) and a wall (W7) can be ascribed to this layer. These walls were associated with three floors, one above the other: two tamped-earth floors mixed with crushed chalk (L2; Fig. 2: Section 1–1) and a basalt pavement (L3; Fig. 3). Judging by the ceramic finds, this stratum is dated to the Ottoman period (nineteenth century CE). Among the vessels found were very common glazed bowls imported from the Ottoman Empire: a Çanakkale Ware bowl from Turkey, with a ledge rim, a yellow-glazed background and manganese painting (Fig. 5:1; Vroom 2005:180–183) and a Didymoteichon Ware bowl that has a triangular rim decorated with slipped strips and yellow glaze that was imported from Thrace in northern Greece (Fig. 2:5; Vroom 2005:186–187). Also found was a Rashaya el-Fukhar type jar that originates from a workshop in the village of that name at the foot of Mount Hermon, where fine-quality vessels were produced and marketed throughout the north of the country (Fig. 5:3; Zevulun 1978).
Stratum 1. Buildings of the Ottoman village and more ancient remains were damaged during the construction of the access road from Migdal Junction on Highway 90 to Resital Beach. The area was covered with earth containing medium and large fieldstones, as well as roughly hewn stones, a large amount of pottery sherds from the Roman period and modern refuse (L1). The origin of the soil covering is unclear; it may have been removed from elsewhere in the site at the time of the road construction.
The excavation yielded remains of the village of Majdal from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, which is mentioned in written sources. The excavation finds, particularly the architectural remains and the ceramics that date from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, assist in understanding the location of the village.
The pottery assemblage from the Mamluk period, which includes vessels that were used in the sugar industry and vessels that were imported from Italy alongside locally produced vessels, adds important information about the village during this period and offers us a glimpse of its inhabitants’ economy. The vessels from northern Italy and similar vessels from an earlier excavation at the site are an extraordinary find at rural sites in eastern Israel—evidence of visiting Christian pilgrims, who arrived at Magdala from Europe by way of ‘Akko harbor. Although there are no written references of the village as a pilgrimage site in the Mamluk period, it is reasonable to suggest that Christian pilgrims continued visiting the site during the thirteenth–sixteenth centuries CE. Judging by the vessels that were used in the sugar industry, it also seems evident that part of the village’s income came from growing sugar cane and from sugar production. Historical sources mention sugar production during the Crusader period in the Kinneret region (Peled 2009:192–203), and pottery vessels used in sugar manufacturing during the Crusader period (twelfth century CE) have been discovered at the site in the past (Abu-‘Uqsa 2005: Fig. 3:18–20). Although no such vessels typical of the thirteenth century CE were discovered, sugar production likely continued at the site during that century. Recent discoveries in the Kinneret basin indicate that during the Crusader and Mamluk periods it was home to a prosperous sugar manufacturing center thanks to the abundance of water and the climatic conditions that were favorable for growing sugarcane (Stern 1999b:83–88; Hartal 2008b; Zingboym and Hartal 2011; Cinamon 2012: Fig. 4:10–12). A similar phenomenon of continuous sugar production from the Crusader period into the Mamluk period was documented in the western Galilee, at Lower Horbat Manot (Stern 2001:277–308) and at Umm el-Faraj (Damati 2011). Although the installations that are characteristic of sugar production – a sugar works, millstones, a press, ovens and water basins – were found neither in this excavation nor in others at the site, it seems that the ceramic vessels indicate the production of sugar crystals at Migdal. It is possible that the sugar works was located in the opening of Wadi Hammam, near a source of water and fields of sugarcane in the valley.
The importance of this excavation is in understanding the size of the settlement during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, as well as in the finds that are associated with the sugar industry at the site.