During November–December 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted in the Qiryat Menachem Begin neighborhood in Ramla (Permit No. A-3781*; map ref. NIG 198906/638437; OIG 148906/138437), following the installation of sewage and drainage conduits at a construction site. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by V. Shlomi, with the assistance of D. Porotski (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), I. Berin (drafting), M. Avissar (pottery reading and dating), M. Shuiskaya-Arnov (pottery drawing), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass finds) and C. Hersch (glass drawing).
The remains of floors and a wall that dated to the Early Islamic period were exposed in an area of 25 sq m (Fig. 1). The southern side of the wall (W5; width 1 m, height 1.9 m) was built of ashlar stones (average size 25 × 35 cm), coated with a layer of light gray plaster. The excavation did not reach the foundation of W5. Its northern, inner side was built of fieldstones and light gray bonding material mixed with chalk.
The upper southern part of W5 slanted inward and a robber trench was visible in the section above it. The wall had no evidence of having two phases and it seems that it was a single wall whose upper part was narrower than its base. Wall 5 was probably connected to Walls 3 and 4 that formed part of a built-up space, but most of W4 was beyond the limits of the excavation area. Almost all that remained of W3 was a robber trench. Several levels of mortar/chalk to the north of W5 were founded on alternating layers of soil or sand (thickness 5–20 cm) and served as floors in the building. The loci were not sealed.
The potsherds collected in the excavation area represented a wide variety of vessel types, including bowls (Fig. 2:1–6), kraters (Fig. 2:7, 8), cooking vessels (Fig. 2:9, 10), jars (Fig. 2:11–15), jugs (Fig. 2:16, 17) and lamps (Fig. 2:18–20). The decorative techniques included incising, molding, relief, painting and glazing. Most of the vessels dated to the ninth–tenth centuries CE and a few were from the eighth century CE.
Noteworthy among the ceramic finds are a fragment of a jug with a molded decoration and an Arabic inscription (Fig. 2:21) and a fragment of an animal figurine (Fig. 2:22).
The ceramic and glass finds from the excavation, as well as the location of the area in proximity to previous excavations in Ramla (HA-ESI 110:51*), are in keeping with our knowledge about Ramla as the capital of the country during the Early Islamic period.
The Glass Vessels
Forty-three glass items were found, eleven of which were unidentifiable body fragments. Types characteristic of the Umayyad period were discerned among the identified fragments, including a bottle with an infolded and flattened rim, bowls with rounded and slightly inverted rims, trail-decorated vessels and a fragment with a tonged decoration. Other vessels were dated to the Abbasid period and included plain vessels, bowls and bottles and two special objects.
The first is a small intact bottle, decorated with cutting, which was a surface find. It is made of very light green bluish glass covered with silvery iridescence and sand deposits (Fig. 3:1). This tiny cosmetic bottle, in an excellent state of preservation, represents a group of small decorated bottles, mostly made of colorless glass, which were used for cosmetics in the Early Islamic period.
The vessel is entirely decorated with cutting. The neck has a row of irregular, elliptical or rectangular facets, oriented vertically. The body has a center row of four heart-shaped patterns, arranged head-to-tail; in the space left between them an ellipsoid was inserted instead of a heart, for which the room did not suffice. A deeply cut wide strip is found below the row of hearts. The base is not entirely symmetric. A similar vessel from Fustat is slightly larger and decorated with two rows of heart-shaped patterns that are referred to as ‘chevrons’. It is dated to the ninth century CE based on the Fustat stratigraphy (Scanlon G.T. and Prinder-Wilson R. 2001. Fustat Glass of the Early Islamic Period: Finds Excavated by the American Research Center in Egypt 1964–1980. London. Pp. 92, 98; Fig. 42-u).
The second object is a base and wall fragment (Fig. 3:2) of very light green glass covered with a layer of black and silver weathering. This is a honeycomb-patterned mold-blown bottle fragment, made in a deep mold. The vessel is blown and removed, without being further blown, so that the pattern remains distinct and rather uniform. The decoration begins in a protruding horizontal strip above the base, followed by the main pattern, unlike many other bottles whose honeycomb design begins from the middle of the base and ascends up the walls. The quality of the vessel and the molded pattern is very fine in comparison with other mold-blown vessels that were recovered from salvage excavations at Ramla.