During October–November 2007, a trial excavation was conducted in two areas in Ramla (south; Permit No. A-4910; map ref. Area A1: NIG 18756–75/64697–706; OIG 13756–75/14697–706; Area B1: NIG 18811–34/64672–700; OIG 13811–34/14672–700), prior to development. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by A. Gorzalczany, with the assistance of P. Spivak (Area A1 supervision), E. Yehuda (Area B1 supervision), R. Haim and R. Asis (assistant area supervisors), E. Ashkenazi (registration), E. Bachar (administration), V. Essman, V. Pirsky and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), O. Marder and H. Khalaily (prehistoric consultation) and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass). Prior to the excavation, I. Kornfeld conducted preliminary inspections and R. Lupu and T. Kanias performed a preliminary prehistoric survey.
Surveys (Area A1) and soundings (Area B1; Fig. 2) were conducted at the site prior to the excavation. Numerous prehistoric finds, mostly swept over as a result of agricultural activity and erosion in the wadi channels, were discovered in Area A1. It seems that the prehistoric site was situated on the hamra outcrops in the higher part of the area, c. 400 m east of the excavation. The great importance of the site lies in the fact that little is known about the prehistoric period in Ramla. The continuation of the industrial region, dating to the Early Islamic period, was uncovered in Area B1. The remains in the area were of average preservation and some had been looted in antiquity.
Prior to the excavation, several concentrations of flint artifacts in black clayey soil, along the southern bank of a shallow channel that ran east–west, were found. Four rounded concentrations (A1–A4) of flint artifacts (diam. 0.3–0.5 m, max. depth 5 cm) were discovered in the excavation. The concentrations consisted of flakes and flint chunks, partially burnt, which included two small irregular flake cores, fully exploited and characteristic of the Lower Paleolithic period, a heated blade core characteristic of later periods, flakes (length of complete ones 1.7–2.1 cm) that are mostly lateral and knapped with a hard hammer, as well as a retouched blade that cannot be easily ascribed to any particular period and a bladelet from the Epipalaeolithic period. The size of the flint items in each of the concentrations does not exceed 4 cm and most are broken. One of the concentrations (A1) was especially well preserved and included flakes and flint chunks of an unknown period, potsherds dating to the Middle Bronze Age and a limestone hammer.
Other flint items (Fig. 3) were picked up while surveying a hamra hill and its environs to the south of Area A1, within the framework of the excavation. These items, which were fifty percent more in size and quantity than those discovered in Area A1, consisted of flint flakes (average length 3.3. cm; the largest over 5 cm long), including Levallois flakes, large Levallois cores, cleavers and bi-facial tools that dated to the Early Acheulean culture. Most of the flint items from the hill and its environs originated in the flint outcrops from the Mishash and Menucha Formations in the area of Oligocene rock reserve, 1.5 km east of the site. An increase in the number of items toward the top of the hamra hill, the techno-typological and chronological uniformity of the flint items and the homogeneity of the raw material indicate an Acheulean and Mousterian habitation in the region.
Area A1 was severely damaged when the ground had been prepared for cultivation. The hamra hill was shaved and leveled. It seems that the size of the prehistoric sites in the hamra outcrops was more extensive in the past.
Twelve squares, comprising industrial installations, water channels and building remains, ascribed to four phases, were excavated. Remains in close proximity to surface were exposed in some squares and in others, a thick hamra soil fill that superposed the military base remains, was discovered. The area was extremely disturbed by construction and roots of eucalyptus trees.
Phase I. Square industrial installations were ascribed to this latest phase. The installations, built of stone and coated with grayish white plaster (max. height 0.5 m), were best preserved in the northern part of the excavation (Fig. 4). Toward the end of the installations’ use they were made smaller by constructing inner partition walls. The installations in two of the squares (1, 5) were abutted by tamped earthen floors, plaster and gray bonding material. A storage jar embedded in the floor was discovered in Sq 5. The best preservation of this phase occurred in Sq 9, wherein two built installations whose walls were thick and coated with hydraulic plaster on the interior and exterior, were exposed. Several phases of use were discerned in both installations. Exposed in Square 9 was also a hewn and plastered bell-shaped water cistern, at the top of which four ashlar stones were placed (Fig. 5). A plastered and tamped earth floor abutted the top of the cistern. The water cistern contained soil fill and a large quantity of black, red, yellow and white tesserae, mostly made of stone (average size 1.2 x 1.2 cm) and a few tesserae made of green, turquoise and blue glass (Fig. 6). It seems that the tesserae originated from an imposing building (church? bathhouse?) that stood nearby. Above the water cistern was a rectangular, built installation whose walls (height 0.5 m) and foundations were founded within the collapse of stones that covered the fill with the tesserae.
Phase II. An extensive network of channels, mostly exposed in Squares 1 and 3, was assigned to this phase. All the channels were built beneath the floor levels and may have been connected to the installations of Phase I. One of the channels (width 0.6 m, height 0.4 m), oriented north–south and built of stones, was well preserved; having flat rectangular covering stones placed on top of it. Another channel, discerned in the balk, formed a right angle with the first channel and was connected to it. Another channel was partly exposed.
Phase III. A level of potsherds that probably dated to the transition between the Byzantine and Umayyad periods was attributed to this phase. The ribbed potsherds belonged to large store jars. This phase, discovered in Sq 3, was deeper in Sq 4 and probably formed part of a large refuse pit. However, the potsherds may have also been placed intentionally to ensure a dry environ.
Phase IV. Ascribed to this phase were building remains that included a partly robbed wall, whose foundation trench was severed by a foundation trench of a water channel from Phase II. Below the Phase III potsherd horizon was another wall built of two rows of stones and oriented east–west. Next to this wall were the poorly preserved remains of a tabun that was built of bright red clay.
The finds in Area B1 were composed of fragments of pottery vessels (numerous) and glass vessels that dated to the Early Islamic period, six coins, a bronze ring and a barrel- shaped bronze weight that is characteristic of the Early Islamic period (Fig. 7). The weight may perhaps point to commerce that was conducted at the site. The debris of ceramic kilns and glass furnaces could possibly indicate the presence of these industries at the site. The industrial region in Area B1 seems to have existed for a short time during the Early Islamic period and was not reoccupied after its abandonment.