During April 2003, a salvage excavation was conducted in the northeastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. 3883; map ref. NIG 231650/739455; OIG 181650/239455), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowner P. Safuri, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), D. Syon (photography and numismatics), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
The excavation, despite its limited area of a single square, revealed a significant stratigraphical sequence of archaeological remains from Iron IIB (Stratum IX), as well as the Hellenistic (Stratum VI, V), Roman (Strata IV, III, II) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods (Fig. 1).
Prior to the excavation, the landowner removed the topsoil layer (depth c. 0.6 m), causing slight damage to one wall and trial trenches were carried out by the IAA to determine the presence of archaeological remains at the site.
Stratum IX. The excavation reached bedrock at a depth of c. 1.8 m below the removed topsoil layer. No architectural remains from the Iron Age were recorded but diagnostic potsherds from Iron IIB were found directly on bedrock (L981, L984) in the northern part of the square. It is possible that some building activity from the Iron Age occurred in this area, but all traces of it were removed by later construction.
Strata VI, V. Part of a plastered floor (L978) with Hellenistic potsherds was revealed c. 0.2 m above bedrock in the northern part of the square. This floor was cut by the foundation trench of the building from the Roman period.
Strata IV, III, II. Major building activities were carried out in the Roman period and at least three building phases are evident. Two stone-lined circular pits or installations were built directly on bedrock in the southern part of the square (L982—diam. c. 2.4 m; Fig. 2; L983—diam. c. 1.2 m). It is probable that these pits removed any earlier (Iron Age or Hellenistic) building remains that may have existed here. The stones of the pits were roughly worked and traces of plaster were visible in Pit L983. The smaller pit L983 was cut by the larger pit, L982, indicating their chronological sequence. The discovery of a mass of burnt stones in Pit L982 suggests that it might have been an oven or furnace, although no additional finds to corroborate it were discerned in its vicinity. The recovered pottery from the installations, including an Early Roman intact lamp, dated them to the Early Roman period. At some stage, the installations fell out of use and a building, some of whose walls consisted of roughly worked stones, was constructed (W146–W151; Fig. 3). Stone floors (L969, L971, L977) and superimposed living floors (L968, L970) indicate that this building was in use for a fairly long time. The pottery and coins in this house are dated to the third–fifth centuries CE. It remains to be checked whether this occupation was continuous or intermittent, as evidenced in other excavated areas.
Stratum I. The top courses of the walls from the earlier house were leveled out and incorporated into a plaster floor (L966), which was preserved in patches. No walls survived from this period and it is probable that they were dismantled after the site was abandoned, as a result of recycling building materials and the subsequent agricultural activities carried out at the site. Floor L966 was overlaid with a large quantity of Byzantine potsherds and some complete vessels and in one of its corners was a small tabun (clay oven; L967).
The small-scale excavation in Area P exposed significant architectural strata from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Of particular interest is the possibility to examine whether a single house had an uninterrupted, continued use from the Early Roman to the Byzantine periods, or was there a period of abandonment and subsequent reuse. It is probable that the pottery analysis will supply an answer to this question.