During March 2001 an excavation was conducted in the southwestern tower of the Crusader city wall at Banias (Permit No. A-3390*; map ref. NIG 264830/794556; OIG 214830/294556), following the construction of a new bridge over the Nahal Sa‘ar channel. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by M. Hartal, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying) and N. Zak (drafting).
A preliminary examination, carried out by mechanical equipment, ascertained that only the foundation of the tower, which was filled with stone below the floor levels, had survived. No artifacts were discovered in the fill and the excavation’s purpose was to document the remains.
The tower had two phases (Fig. 1). A city wall was built in the first phase (W1 and W2; c. 2.4 m thick) of well-dressed travertine stones, without drafted margins. The exposed southern face of W1 (40 m long) consisted of ashlar stones (0.35–1.50 m long, 0.9–1.5 m wide, 0.55 m high) that created a straight outer facade. The wall was excavated to six courses high (c. 2.75 m) east of the tower. Wall 2 (19 m long), which was revealed to its full width (c. 2.4 m), was built of two rows of stones and a core of stone and soil, without debesh binder. The tower (10.6 × 15.7 m) was erected at the point where W1 and W2 met. It comprised three walls built of travertine masonry stones, similar to the city wall (eastern wall [W3]––length 3.5 m, width c. 5 m; southern wall [W4]––length 15.8 m, width c. 7 m; western wall [W5]––length 3 m, width c. 1.5 m). The southern face of W4 was exposed to a height of two courses (c. 1 m) and its top was covered with a thick layer of cement that served as the foundation for a modern Bailey bridge. The entrance to the tower was not found, yet it seems to have been located at the western end of W1.
The wall continued to be used in the second phase and a new tower was built around the earlier tower. The enlarged tower (18.8 × 26 .0 m) was survived by its foundation, built of hard, dressed limestone masonry blocks with bosses and bonded with hard mortar. The walls had a built exterior face and the space between them and the earlier tower was filled with large stones, some of which were broken ashlar stones bonded with debesh cement. The eastern wall survived to six courses high (c. 3 m; W6; 12.6 m long) and clearly abutted the southern wall (W7); its stones were not joined with those of W7 and its method of construction was different, having ashlar stones preserved in its southern part. The stones in its northern part had been plundered and only the core, built of roughly hewn stones bonded with debesh cement, survived.
The middle part of W7 (26 m long) was damaged in a blast and destroyed almost to its foundation. It survived to thirteen courses high (c. 6.5 m; height per course c. 0.5 m) in its two corners. The upper five courses were built of ashlar stones with drafted margins and the bottom courses consisted of ashlar stones with bosses, smooth ashlar stones and coarsely dressed stones (0.88–1.33 m long, c. 0.8 m thick). Most of the ashlar stones were robbed from the northern part of the western wall (W8; 18.8 m long; c. 6.5 m high in the southern corner), which was survived only by the lower courses. Wall 8 was covered with dense vegetation of trees and raspberry bushes so that only its two ends were examined.
The architectural finds clearly indicate a two-phase construction. The interior of the early tower was very small, unlike the other towers of the city wall from the Middle Ages. It is feasible that W4 served as a fighting ramp and was not a closed tower.
The large tower of the second phase differed from the earlier tower in the kind of stone (hard limestone), the method of stone dressing (drafted margins with a prominent boss) and the method of construction (use of mortar to bond the stones and a core of large stones bonded with debesh cement). The history of Banias during the Middle Ages evinces the construction of fortifications on several occasions. During the eleventh century CE, the city was encircled with a wall by the Muslims and became a center for the Ism‘aliya sect. In the twelfth century CE, it was handed over to the Crusaders who invested enormous efforts in its fortifications. Therefore, the first construction phase should probably be ascribed to the Muslims and the second to the Crusaders, although this assumption cannot be corroborated in the absence of finds.