The Crusader City Wall
Remains of a massive wall oriented north–south, were exposed (W101; width 1.85 m, preserved height c. 2 m; Figs. 1–3). The eastern side of the wall was well-built of roughly dressed basalt stones and fieldstones (Fig. 4). The western side of the wall was rough and it seems to have lined a moat. Artifacts dating to the Abbasid and Fatimid periods were collected west of W101, similar to the finds discovered in the municipal park. The fill east of the wall consisted of dark soil mixed with a few finds, mostly fragments of ceramic bowls from the twelfth century CE. The continuation of the wall was identified in two soundings, as far as c. 30 m south of the excavation area.
It seems that during the construction of the wall in the late eleventh–twelfth centuries CE, strata that dated to the Early Islamic period were destroyed. Since no construction remains were found east of the wall, it could have delimited a moat. And indeed, a section of a city wall (W105; width 2.35 m) with a moat in front of it (width c. 10 m), was discovered in a probe trench, dug in an east–west direction. Due to limitations of area and time constraints, it was not possible to expose the city wall and the moat properly and date them more precisely.
The Ottoman Tower
Remains of a circular tower (diam. c. 8.5 m), which was part of the Ottoman city wall whose remains can still be seen in the city, were visible on the surface. The northwestern part of the tower was cleaned and an excavation was conducted next to its western foundations (Figs. 5, 6). The excavation revealed that the tower was founded on a base of small stones (diam. c. 9.5 m, height c. 1.8 m), which was overlain with a floor of crushed chalk in the tower and with potsherds that dated to the eighteenth century CE, among them a pipe, outside the tower.
Despite the limited scope of the excavation, it adds an important contribution to the history of Tiberias during the Middle Ages. Beginning in the ninth century CE, during the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, Tiberias served as the capital of the northern part of Israel. This was a period of prosperity in the city’s history when it extended from the area of the municipal park in the north to Hammat Tiberias in the south (HA-ESI 121). The size of the city was greatly diminished in the late eleventh century CE, for a reason that is still unknown. The neighborhood situated in the area of the municipal park was also abandoned in this period. The excavation has shown that the city was reduced to the limits of what is today the old city and was enclosed within a wall. A moat was dug in front of the wall, which destroyed the remains of the residential quarter in the municipal park. A similar moat along the southern wall of Tiberias was recently discovered (Permit No. A-5534) and it too had cut through buildings from the eleventh century CE. It is reasonable to assume that the two sections of the moat belonged to the city’s fortifications in the Crusader period. However, the artifacts, which indicate that the size of the city was further reduced before the Crusader conquest, imply that the fortifications were erected already in the late eleventh century CE and protected the small city that was conquered by the Crusaders. Hopefully, future excavations will shed light on this issue and enable us to date the construction of the fortifications more precisely.
In the eighteenth century CE, during the rule of Daher el-‘Umar, the city was enclosed within a wall that was built very close to the line of the city wall from the Crusader period. This wall survived until the twentieth century CE and today, very short sections of it are still visible.