During July–August 2001 two excavations were conducted in the northeastern part (Area H) and the southeastern part (Area J) of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-3465; Area H map ref. NIG 231630/739525; OIG 181630/239525; Area J map ref. NIG 231625/739320; OIG 181625/239320), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowners, B. Salaame (Area H) and J. Safuri (Area J), was directed by K. Covello-Paran, who kindly granted publication rights to Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), H. Smithline (photography, Area H), L. Porath (pottery restoration, Area J), D. Syon (metal detection, numismatics, Area H), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass, Area H), E. Belashov and I. Berin (drafting) and H. Tahan (pottery drawing).
The results of previous excavations, which evinced the intensity of the archaeological remains at the site, determined the size of the excavation area to be 100 sq m. The four excavation squares were placed between the extant olive trees, which proved to have damaged the upper archaeological strata. The excavation revealed archaeological remains from the Iron Age (Stratum IX), the Hellenistic (Strata VI, V), Roman (Strata IV, III) and Byzantine (Stratum I) periods (Fig. 1).
Stratum IX. Bedrock was reached in small areas at a depth of c. 2 m below surface in three of the four squares. On the basis of associated potsherds, the extant stubs of two walls (W746, W747) built of single rows of boulders directly on bedrock could be from the Iron Age.
Strata VI, V. A layer of fine gray debris found directly over bedrock contained both Iron II and Hellenistic potsherds. Some pits close to bedrock may have been dug in the Hellenistic period, although this will be clarified only after the pottery analysis.
Strata IV, III. A building that consisted of several rooms was exposed. The eastern exterior wall (W759) of the structure ran the whole length of the excavation (c. 10 m) and was probably bordered on the eastern side by a courtyard (L720). The other exterior walls were not found as they lay beyond the limits of the excavation. All the walls were built of roughly-hewn stones of varying widths (0.3–0.6 m) and several of them were plastered. The rooms were interconnected by doorways, often with extant thresholds. The floors were of packed earth or flagstones (Fig. 2) and some installations were in the rooms, including Installation L758 in L724, which may have been an internal courtyard. A plastered miqwe (ritual bath; L735; Fig. 3) with three steps in Room L737 may have been added to the house at some stage during its occupation. The building was in use over a considerable period of time, during which several changes were carried out, including the addition of walls and entrances and the raising of floors. The finds in the rooms included pottery, some glass fragments and chalk stone vessels. On the basis of the finds, the house was in use during the Early and Middle Roman period (first–third centuries CE). These strata were destroyed by fire, evidenced by the presence of burnt wood, plaster and gray ashy debris.
Stratum I. Three stubs of walls (W710, W715, W719), constructed from a single course of boulders and associated with some patches of a plaster floor, overlaid the walls of Strata IV and III. Stratum I, badly damaged by the cultivation and roots of the olive trees, was dated to the Byzantine period (fifth century CE) on the basis of pottery in the accumulated fill, which contained a most important find––a marble fragment that had an inscription mentioning the tenth legion––no doubt a relic from the Roman period.
The excavations in Area H exposed significant architectural remains from the Early and Middle Roman periods, attesting to an intensely-occupied village from these periods at Karm er-Ras. The discovery of a house with a private miqwe and fragments of chalk stone vessels, similar in nature to the finds in the house from Area C, suggests that these areas of the village were occupied by a Jewish population who was concerned with issues of purity.
Prior to the excavation, the topsoil layer (depth c. 0.4 m) was removed by mechanical equipment. Archaeological strata from the Early and Middle Roman (Strata IV, III) and the Byzantine (Stratum I) periods were exposed (Fig. 4).
The excavation reached virgin soil directly above bedrock, which was uneven and protruded in one place, at a depth of c. 1.5 m below surface. Above virgin soil were several stone walls (width c. 0.7–0.8 m). One wall (W805; length 10 m; Fig. 5) traversed the whole length of the excavation from east to west. Another wall (W814) abutted W805 and two additional walls (W817 and W820) seem to have been contemporary to this wall. No coherent plan of a building could be obtained. Associated with these walls were two patches of stone pavements (L812, L818), which bore no finds that could reliably date the structures. However, they may be dated to the Early–Middle Roman period (Strata IV–III) on the basis of potsherds recovered from the vicinity and the overlying accumulation. Indeed, a layer of gray soil (L803, L806, L810), containing significant quantities of layered gravel, flints, bones and potsherds, overlaid these walls. The nature of the layer clearly suggests that it was deposited by water activity, probably by inundation from the over-swelled wadi Kanna, located 100 m to the south. This phenomenon has not been perceived in any of the other excavation areas; hence, it may need to be explained as a more local occurrence. Middle Roman potsherds in the deposit probably date it to this period.
A stone wall (W804), constructed from large fieldstones above the water-laid deposit was uncovered. It incorporated a single large dressed stone with a north–south carefully-hewn channel cutting through it. No floors were found in association with this wall, which is dated to the Byzantine period (Stratum I) on the basis of potsherds.
The excavations in Area J revealed a few walls from the Early–Middle Roman periods and a single wall from the Byzantine period, but no coherent plan could be restored from this data. The architectural remains do not seem to have been part of domestic units. The new information from this excavation concerns some inundation that seems to have occurred in the Middle Roman period, although its nature is unclear.