Stratum II (Abbasid period; late eighth century – tenth century CE)
Two streets (I, II) that form an intersection, an alley and residential buildings were ascribed to this stratum.
The Streets. Street I, which was aligned in a general east–west direction, was exposed in the northern part of the excavation. The street extended between the walls of Building 1 in the north and those of Buildings 2 and 3 in the south. It was delimited in the north by W201, which was built of fine quality ashlars and in the south by W202, which also appears to have been built of ashlar construction; the western part of the latter wall was preserved to a height of two courses. Patches of plaster from the road’s surface (L152) were preserved in the central and western parts of the street. The plaster was laid over an earthen roadbed (L153) that covered sand devoid of finds; the remains of the road’s surface in Sq 6 abutted W201. The ceramic artifacts recovered from Fill 153 included a bowl (Fig. 3:1), a jar (Fig. 3:4) and a jug (Fig. 3:5), as well as a footed steatite bowl (Fig. 3:7), fragments of a pottery vessel bearing an engraved mark of unclear significance (Fig. 3:8) and a bronze handle (Fig. 3:9). Two bowls (Fig. 3:2, 3), a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 3:6) and a ceramic crucible (Fig. 4) used to melt iron were found in a layer of fill (L142) deposited on the sand in the eastern part of the street. An examination at the Geological Survey of Israel identified remains of iron inside the crucible, and it was ascertained that the vessel was exposed to high temperatures, which brought it near its melting point.
A gap in the middle of W202 served as an opening to an alley that led southward (Sq 6). The alley was delimited by the walls of Building 2 to the east and Building 3 to the west. The foundation course of the wall located to its east (W216) had survived, and three ashlars were preserved of the wall to the west (W210). Two walls in Sq 4 (W208, W209) were apparently the continuation of the alley’s walls. If this supposition is correct then the alley extended southward, beyond the limits of the excavation.
Street II ran in a north–south direction; only a small segment of it was uncovered along the eastern edge of the excavation, near the intersection with Street I (Fig. 5). The street was flanked on the west by the walls of buildings: W207 north of the intersection (Building 1) and W204 to its south (Building 2). A marble Corinthian capital (Fig. 6) was recovered from the fill (L141) overlying the street east of W207. An opening exposed in the street intersection was sealed with a square ashlar secured in place by small fieldstones (L159). The stone covered the opening of a pit, which was filled with sand and contained several pottery sherds. The excavation inside the pit reached a depth of just c. 0.5 m, when the pit widens to the east and west. The pit was apparently a main hole in a drainage channel installed beneath the street.
. Three buildings (1–3) were partially exposed on either side of Street I; part of a fourth structure (4) was revealed in the southeastern part of the excavation area. The structures south of the street (2, 3) were damaged when modern construction debris was buried there; most of the area of the building north of the street (1) extended beyond the limits of the excavation. One room (A; 4 × 9 m; Fig. 7) was exposed in Building 1, in the northeastern corner of the excavation. The room was delineated in the west by a wall (W206) that continued to the north, beyond the excavation area; in the north—by a wall (W205) that adjoined W206 from the east; and in the east and south by Walls 207 and 201. A short section of a wall (W211) preserved to a height of two courses of ashlars set atop a fieldstone-built foundation was exposed in the eastern part of the room. Wall 211, which adjoined W207, probably enclosed the northern side of a small room which was not preserved. Two phases were discerned in the western part of the room. In the first phase, smooth gray plaster was carefully applied on the inner face of W201, and a floor (L136) made of a light-colored plaster mixed with charcoal and olive pits was placed directly on top of sand devoid of finds; the floor abutted W201 from the northern and the foundation of W206 on the east. A new plaster floor (L117; see Fig. 16, below) was installed on top of Floor 136 during one of the repair phases in this stratum. Both floors were preserved along the length of W201, but were missing in the northern part of the room. Remains of a zir
jar placed on its side with its opening facing north were discovered in the room’s northeastern corner. The jar was lined with fieldstones that secured it in place. A terra-cotta pipe, part of which protruded from the excavation balk, led to the jar (Fig. 8). The use of jars for draining liquids was a common practice during the Abbasid period (Toueg and Arnon 2011
Building 2, which was exposed in the southwestern corner of the intersection, seems to have included three spaces: two rooms (A, B) and a courtyard (C). The building was delimited by W202 in the north, W204 in the east and W216 in the west; the southern wall was not preserved. In the corner room (A), by the intersection, the northern and eastern enclosing walls were preserved (Fig. 9). Wall 204 extended the entire length of Sq 2, into the balk separating that square from Sq 3; the continuation of the wall was robbed. Sandy fill (L138) containing a large quantity of pottery sherds was excavated inside the room in places where the floor from Stratum I was not preserved. These sherds included large fragments of jars (Fig. 9), as well as fragments of a chamber pot (Fig. 10:6), a juglet (Fig. 10:9) and a flask (Fig. 10:11). In addition, a bronze spatula (Fig. 10:16) was found in this fill. Room B was located between Room A and the alley. Only the room’s northern and western walls survived. Due to a modern disturbance, only a small portion of the room was excavated next to Walls 202 and 216; therefore its dimensions are not known. In Courtyard C, which extended south of Room A, a zir jar that was fixed in place with medium-sized fieldstones was exposed. This jar was also deliberately placed on its side so that its rim faced north (Fig. 11). A terra-cotta pipe that was not exposed presumably led to the jar, as was the case in Building 1. A soil fill (L125) was excavated in the rest of the square down to the level of the sand, without finding any architectural remains but yielding a bowl (Fig. 10:1) and a flask (Fig. 10:12).
Building 3 was discovered in the western part of the area. Most of it extended beyond the limits of the excavation; only its northern (W202) and eastern (W210) walls were preserved. A drainage channel covered with smooth stones (L161) was exposed in a probe excavated below Fill 157, south of W202. The channel began at W202 and continued south; part of it protruded from the northern balk in Sq 9. Three bowls (Fig. 10:2–4) were recovered from Fill 157.
Building 4 extended east of the southern part of the alley; a small part of it was revealed in the southeastern corner of the excavation. This building was also damaged by the modern construction debris that was buried there; hence, its plan is unclear. The building was delineated on the south by W212 (length 1 m), which was bonded with W208 (Fig. 12), with which it formed a clear corner; it seems that the eastern end of W212 formed a corner with a wall that continued southward, beyond the excavated area. A fieldstone-built wall (W215) was discovered inside the building, near the corner, apparently the lining of an installation that was damaged by the modern construction debris.
The construction west of the alley was unclear. A zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 10:14) was found in a fill (L124) located west of W209. In the southwestern corner of Sq 4 were remains of a jar; it was probably set in a floor that did not survive. The northern end of a covered cesspit (L134) was discovered in Sq 8; it rested on dry-built fieldstone walls (Fig. 2: Section 2–2). Part of the cesspit’s covering was dismantled during the excavation, and some of the soil accumulation that filled the installation was excavated, yielding pottery vessels dating to the ninth–tenth centuries CE (not drawn). In the eastern half of Sq 9, an accumulation of soil (L129) was excavated, in which a cooking pot (Fig. 10:7), a jar (Fig. 10:8) and an oil lamp (Fig. 10:13) were discovered. Below it was another layer of accumulated soil (L147) that covered the natural sand. The accumulation included a jar (Fig. 10:5), a juglet (Fig. 10:10), a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 10:15) and a jar handle bearing a stamped impression (Fig. 19:4; Amitai-Preiss, below).
Stratum I (Fatimid period; tenth–eleventh centuries CE)
During this period, changes were made in both the streets and the buildings. These included a pronounced raise in the habitation level and replacing floors.
The Streets. Most of the changes were made in W202, the southern wall of Street I. Between the alley and W204, the wall was completely dismantled, whereas between the alley and the western end of the excavation its bottom course was left intact. The wall was rebuilt, and the entrance to the alley was blocked (Fig. 13). Ashlars of various sizes were incorporated in secondary use in the construction of the wall; tamped earth was used instead of building stones in several sections of the new wall (Fig. 2: Section 1–1[western part]). Wall 202 was not built in a straight line; hence the street’s uneven width. New plaster (L150) was applied over the Abbasid-period (L152) road surface. This level also abutted the southern face of W201; its continuation was exposed in Sq 10 (Fig. 14). A fill (L128) was excavated in the western part of the street, yielding whole pottery vessels, including a jug (Fig. 15:10), as well as a coin minted between the years 393–395 CE (IAA 143951).
In Street II, next to the eastern excavation balk, meager remains of a plaster level (L155) were discovered set on thin layer of soil fill that covered the natural sand. Pottery sherds dating to the tenth–eleventh centuries CE (not drawn) were recovered from the fill.
The Buildings. In Building 1, W211 was dismantled during this period, except for a small part perpendicular to W207, and the level of Room A was raised considerably by means of fill (L132). A foundation of loose fieldstones (L126), in which the remaining section of W211 was incorporated was placed on top of Fill 132; only scant remains of this bedding were preserved in the southeastern corner of the room, and they constitute the only evidence of the floor in this room (see Fig. 7). A narrow drainage channel (L148; Fig. 16) running from north to south was constructed in the western part of the room. The northern end of the channel was missing; its southern end ran along the upper course of W201, which was preserved. It seems that the channel emptied into Street I through an opening fixed in W201. A spout of a jug (Fig. 15:11) was found in the excavation of soil fill east of the channel (L116, L145), and a bowl (Fig. 15:1) and a basin (Fig. 15:6) were collected from the accumulation (L137) on either side of W206. A zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 15:15) was retrieved from the layer of topsoil in this part of Building 1 (L106).
In Room A of Building 2, a new floor (L111) was installed in this stratum. Its eastern part, which abutted W204, was made of large roughly hewn stone slabs that were meticulously set in place; its western continuation was made of fieldstones bonded with white mortar. A bowl (Fig. 15:2) was found on the floor. A jar with a truncated base that was lined with medium-sized fieldstones was found in the fill (L139) in an unpaved section in the eastern part of the floor. In addition, large fragments of other jars and other vessels were found, including a jar that had been repaired with lead (Fig. 15:8), a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 15:16) and a jar handle bearing a stamped impression (Fig. 19:2; Amitai-Preiss, below). Fills (L131, L140) and remains of meager construction, the nature of which could not be determined, were exposed in Room B. Two bowls (Fig. 15:3, 4) and a cooking pot (Fig. 15:7) were retrieved from the fill in L131. The zir jar from Stratum II that was placed in Courtyard C of Building 2 was covered with a thick accumulation of soil (L113), in which a number of vessels were discovered including a basin (Fig. 15:5), a jar (Fig. 15:9), a jug (Fig. 15:12), a strainer jug (Fig. 15:13) and a fragment of a lamp (Fig. 15:14).
It seems that during this period, several changes were made in Building 3, in addition to the dismantling and rebuilding of W202 (see above). The habitation level in the building was raised with a fill (L112), in which a frying pan handle (Fig. 18:9) and a jug (Fig. 18:14) were found.
Several courses of the building’s eastern wall (W210) were dismantled and replaced with a new, poorly-built wall. A new wall (W203) whose base was substantially higher than that of W202 was constructed in the west. Only two stones were preserved of W203; the wall extended south into the balk, but its continuation was not found in Sq 9. The doorway to the building was exposed near this wall, at the western end of W202. A threshold built of three stones was preserved in the entrance, with sockets installed at both ends. No remains that could be ascribed to Stratum I were discovered in the narrow excavation area between W203 and the southern balk of the square.
In the western part of Sq 9 were the meager remains of an installation (L121; Fig. 17), consisting of a white plaster floor and several fieldstones that probably belonged to its walls. A Fill (L120) in which a bronze item (Fig. 18:19) was found was excavated north of the installation.
In a layer of accumulation (L114) that covered the remains of Building 4 were two bowls (Fig. 18:1, 2) and a basin (Fig. 18:8) that should be ascribed to the Fatimid period. An intact Fatimid-period lamp (Fig. 18:16) was found in the fill that between the walls of Building 4 (L154; W208, W212, W215).
Cesspit 134 that was installed in Stratum II in the southwestern corner of the excavation area (Sq 8) was no longer used. It was blocked and covered with a fill (L119, L146) that yielded bowls (Fig. 18:3–6), a krater (Fig 18:7), jugs (Fig. 18:10–12), one of which has an engraved rim (Fig. 18:10), a small bottle (Fig. 18:15), a lamp (Fig. 18:17), a zoomorphic vessel (Fig. 18:18) and a bronze spatula (Fig. 18:20). Two walls that formed a corner (W213, W214) were constructed above the fill. The walls were preserved to a height of one course of roughly hewn stones that were set on their narrow side and alongside them–small fieldstones that formed the inner face of the walls. A fill of soil (L107), in which an intact juglet (Fig. 18:13) was found, was excavated above a thin layer of hamra clearly visible in the section above L119.
Stamped Jar Handles
Five handles bearing round stamped impressions belonging to five different jars were found in the excavation. An inscription is impressed on one of the handles (Fig. 19:1), three handles are stamped with geometric patterns (Fig. 19:2–4) and one handle bears a floral decoration (Fig. 19:5). Apart from No. 2, no parallels for any of the impressions were found at other sites. All five handles were made of clay from the Moza Formation (Cohen-Weinberger, below). The stamped impressions are described below.
Handle 1. L103 (topsoil), B1076 (Fig. 19:1)
Two impressions appear on the handle, each of which is a different inscription. The inscriptions were stamped side by side, but in opposite directions and on slightly different planes. The impressions are small (diam. 16–17 mm) and are only 2 mm apart at their closest.
Translation: work-product of Mutayir
Translation: the quality of the jar is excellent
The impression can be dated to the period between the end of the seventh century CE, during the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik, and the year 715 CE, when his son and heir, the caliph al-Walid, died. This dating is based on the formation of the letter ق
(q)—the last letter in the word wathīq
—which descends down below the line as in the word tariq
(road) which appears in milestone inscriptions that mention the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik. These inscriptions date to the period when he or his son and successor, Caliph al-Walid, ruled (Sharon 2004
The handles were stamped before the jar was fired. The reason for the double stamping and its significance are unclear. This is presumably a manufacturer’s mark or the symbol of a particular product, or it might have been meant to indicate the jar was placed in a particular storeroom. It seems that one inscription bore the manufacturer’s name and the other a quality marking issued by the manufacturer.
Handle 2. L139, B1114 (Fig. 19:2)
The stamped impression (diam. 24 mm) on this handle is an eight-pointed star with dots between the points and a dot in the middle of the star. An identical pattern was found on two handles of a well-preserved jar discovered in Ramla (South; Tal and Taxel 2008
Handle 3. L145, B1132 (Fig. 19:3)
The handle is stamped with a reticulated pattern (diam. 13 mm) consisting of two perpendicular pairs of lines forming four squares; a flat, prominent dot is in each of the squares. The four corner squares are circumscribed by the outline of the round seal and therefore resemble triangles.
Handle 4. L147, B1139 (Fig. 19:4)
Two identical impressions are stamped on a ridge that runs the length of the center of the handle. A very shallow depression of identical diameter to that of the two impressions is located on a higher part of the ridge and may be indicative of a third stamped impression that was canceled or not implemented. A line was first marked out along the center of the ridge, and only afterwards were the three stamps impressed in it. The two distinct impressions are Stars of David consisting of two intertwined inverted triangles. Each seal impression was stamped at a slight incline of several degrees with respect to the other stamping. The points of five of the six triangles in the pattern are not closed; this is not a common characteristic of the triangular patterns of seal impressions appearing on jar handles from the eighth–ninth centuries CE.
Handle 5. L104 (topsoil), B1014 (Fig. 19:5)
The handle seems to be stamped with a schematic floral impression set within a circle. A stylized branch that extends the length of the central axis and two branches placed at a similar angle to the right and left of the central branch were identified. Other stalks of branches inclined diagonally to the sides are below the two side branches. The side branches differ from each other both in number and density. The lower left branch is slightly abraded; this probably stems from the wear on the seal used to stamp the impression.
Petrographic analyses were conducted on the five handles bearing stamped impressions. The jars were produced with clay from the Moz
a Formation, exposed in outcrops on the hills of Judea and Samaria. The jars may have been manufactured during the Early Islamic period in a pottery workshop at Nabi Samuel (Magen 2008
) or in one of the other pottery workshops operating at that time in this geographical area, as suggested by a recent research undertaken by N. Amitai-Preiss and A. Cohen-Weinberger.
Remains of two streets and several adjacent buildings were exposed in the excavation. The buildings were well-preserved, which is unusual in the city of Ramla, where a series of devastating earthquakes led to its destruction. The pavement in the streets did not survive, apart from two layers of plaster in the middle of Street I. In an excavation conducted on Danny Mass Street, c. 2.5 km to the southwest, several street levels from the Abbasid and Mamluk periods were also exposed, all made of plaster with no evidence of a stone pavement (Toueg 2012
). A drainage channel seems to have been installed below the street level. A diverse assemblage of pottery and glass ware (see appendix) dating to the Abbasid and Fatimid periods was found in the excavation. The remains discovered in the excavation are very important in that they help clarify the town plan of Ramla during the Middle Ages, about which there is little information.