During May–June 2002, a salvage excavation was conducted in the eastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-3642; map ref. NIG 23165/73943; OIG 18165/23943), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowner Y. Safuri, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), D. Syon (photography, metal detection and numismatics), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass).
The excavation area (100 sq m) whose size was determined on account of previous excavations at this part of the site, revealed extensive building remains from the Hellenistic (Strata VI, V), Roman (Strata IV, III) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods (Fig. 1). Prior to the excavation, trial trenches exposed the top of two stone walls. Wide balks (2 m) were left between the squares, which were dug down to the top of the walls with mechanical equipment at the end of the excavation, to fill in the basic plan.
Strata VI, V. The excavation reached bedrock (depth 1.6–1.7 m) in a very limited area, in two of the four squares. The earliest building phase consisted of small segments of several walls, underlying the later buildings, yet combining to present a reasonably coherent plan. The bottom course of these walls was laid just above bedrock. Sections of four stone walls (W122, W123, W125 and W126) were running parallel in an east–west direction, 2.0–2.8 m apart from each other. Another wall (W127), oriented north–south, probably linked these walls together to form part of rooms in a single house; Wall 114 may have also belonged to this early complex. A clear tendency is apparent in this, as well as in later periods, although not universal, to ‘break’ the line of walls, avoiding the weakness of a single long continuous wall. Several floors (L927, L929, L932, L933, L935–L938) abutted these walls. Since bedrock is sloping down from north to south, the house was built in terraces, the northern sections lying slightly higher than the southern ones. Many potsherds from the Hellenistic period were found on the floors, despite the limited exposure. Evidence for a significant burnt layer, which overlaid some of these floors and contained ashy earth and charcoal, was discerned. This may have been a local fire or perhaps the result of enemy destruction some time during the Hellenistic period, a more precise date of which may be determined after the processing of pottery. It should be pointed out that a similar burnt layer was found in some of the other excavated areas.
Stratum IV. Wall 116, and its probable continuation W135, belonged to this stratum together with two well-dressed wall stubs, which may have been once part of a vaulted structure, similar to the one observed in Area C. Several adjacent floors (L914, L916, L919 and L922) seem to be contemporary with these limited building remains. The associated potsherds indicate an Early Roman date for this stratum.
Stratum III. A stone-walled house that consisted of several rooms was exposed (Fig. 2). The house followed a slightly different orientation from the house of Strata VI, V. Five rooms were uncovered, yet it is unknown whether this was the complete house plan, or if additional rooms were located beyond the limits of the excavation. Packed-earth and sometimes plastered floors were discerned in all rooms (L907, L911, L918, L925 and L926); two superimposed floors were in one of the rooms (L908 over L912). Entrances with thresholds led from one room to another. Room L918 was a courtyard with a flagstone floor (Fig. 3). Considerable quantities of pottery in this house dated it to the Middle Roman period. Fragments of soft chalk vessels were found, hinting to the presence of a Jewish population that was concerned with issues of ritual purity.
Stratum I. Evidence for a limited occupation, subsequent to the period of abandonment after the Middle Roman period, was noted in the area. The floor in the courtyard was raised and another stone pavement was laid down (L909). A tabun on this floor may date to the Byzantine period, or later. A collection of small worn bronze minimi coins (Fig. 4) that was found hidden under a raised floor in the corner of one of the rooms dated the occupation to the fifth century CE.
The excavation in Area L exposed portions of complex houses from the Hellenistic, as well as the Early and Middle Roman periods. These excavations consolidate our understanding of Karm er-Ras as an intensely occupied village during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.