During January–February 2002 a salvage excavation was conducted in a parking lot near the south beach hotels in Tiberias (Permit No. A-3584; map ref NIG 25118/74346; OIG 20118/24346), prior to the construction of a public restroom. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Government Tourism Corporation, was directed by E.J. Stern, with the assistance of Y. Dangor (administration), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), H. Smithline (photography), Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass), L. Porat (pottery restoration), Y. Alexandre and Y. Stepansky.
Remains of the city from the Roman to the Fatimid periods in the south of the excavated area were contiguous to the city remains from the Crusader to the Ottoman periods in the north. Therefore, the remains exposed in the excavation dated from the Roman period to the modern era. Previous excavations in this zone revealed antiquities from the Ayyubid, Crusader and Mamluk periods, which contribute greatly to our knowledge of the city from these periods (ESI 1:110; HA 61–62:9; 47:4; 16:15).
An area (c. 5 × 5 m), revealing at least five occupation layers, was exposed. The excavation was conducted under extreme conditions, in muddy soil that was frequently flooded; hence, floor levels could hardly be discerned.
(Byzantine to Fatimid periods; fifth–eleventh centuries CE). Accumulations of potsherds were found in three loci, which could be excavated to a greater depth, below the later remains. A wall was discerned; it was not exposed to its full height and its date could not be ascertained.
(Crusader period; twelfth century CE). The eastern wall of a building was exposed. It had an entrance that was later blocked during Stratum 2. The wall was constructed from two rows of basalt ashlars and a core of small fieldstones and bonding material. A floor was uncovered at the elevation of the entrance threshold, upon which fragments of pottery vessels were found.
(the Crusader–Ayyubid–Mamluk periods; thirteenth century CE). The use of the building from Stratum 4 continued. Its floors were raised and two partition walls were added. One wall, whose southern face was coated with hydraulic plaster, was probably used to retain a water reservoir that extended south of the excavation area. A dark brown tamped earth floor that was overlaid with numerous pottery vessels, some of which were restored, as well as glass vessels and a fragment of a marble mortar, was identified north of one of the walls. On the southern side of this wall and the elevation of the floor was an accumulated layer that contained ashlar collapse and numerous fragments of pottery vessels, but no floor per se was discerned.
(Mamluk period; fourteenth century CE). The building continued to be used and the entrance in the wall was blocked with ashlar stones. No distinct floor was recorded; however, the soil accumulations in this layer contained pottery vessels that were identical to the types found in the excavation of the sealed entrance.
(Ottoman period to the British Mandate era; seventeenth–twentieth centuries CE). Residential levels dating to this period of time were removed by a backhoe prior to the excavation. Yet, in the western part of the square a wall that was built of small basalt ashlar stones and white bonding material survived. Based on the construction style of the wall and the remains of blue painted plaster, it should probably be dated to the seventeenth–twentieth centuries CE. A block of cast concrete, which had penetrated into the ancient building remains, was exposed. It seems the concrete had been poured after a small manual excavation was carried out, as no signs of mechanical equipment’s work were apparent. The pouring of the concrete block was probably undertaken during the British Mandate era or the early years of the State of Israel.
Despite the limited scope of the excavation, the difficult working conditions and the later disturbance (the concrete block), exposure of the residential quarter of Tiberias in the twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE is of significant importance. The pottery assemblages, especially those from the thirteenth century CE, in addition to the glass vessels and the stone mortar, contribute to our knowledge of the material culture in Tiberias during these periods.