Well (L114; inner diam. c. 3.3 m; Fig. 4). The well was round and built of kurkar ashlars (average dimensions 0.2 × 0.4 × 0.5 m). No notches or signs of abrasion were detected in its wall. Accumulations of sand were discovered inside the well. The excavation reached a depth of 4 m from the top of the well (L118; Fig. 2: Section 1–1) and was halted because of safety constraints. In the upper part of the well were two pillars (W135, W268) that apparently supported wooden beams inserted in slots in the side of the well. The wooden beams secured the axle connected to the wheel that turned the saqiye jars.
Water Channel (W110; length 7 m; Fig. 5). A poorly preserved wall that served as a base for the water channel was all that survived. It was oriented in a southeast–northwest direction and was built of a single course of large fieldstones with small fieldstones in between. Its southeastern part was discerned embedded in the ground, and pieces of pink-gray plaster, which probably covered the inside of the channel’s walls, were discerned above it. The channel evidently collapsed as a result of ground subsidence.
Water Reservoir (8.4 × 8.4 m; Fig. 6). The reservoir was square and divided into two rectangular pools by a partition wall (W137). Its exterior walls (W127, W128, W144, W146; width 0.7–0.8 m, preserved height c. 0.3 m) were built of gray mortar mixed with small fieldstones. Wall 128 was widened by a step-like feature (0.3 m), characteristic of pools, designed to strengthen the structure so that it could withstand the water pressure. The inside corners of the reservoir were rounded. A circular profile—a rolka—made of light pink plaster characteristic of the Byzantine period was cast along the corners and the inside walls of the reservoir. This type of casting was used in junctures between horizontal surfaces (e.g., a floor or ceiling) and vertical surfaces (e.g., walls), thus enabling a better seal and preventing the formation of cracks. The floors of the pools (F124, F152) abutted the walls of the reservoir and to the partition wall; they were made of thick gray plaster that was applied to a layer of smooth light pink plaster. A small probe (L157; Fig. 7) was excavated in Floor 124. It was ascertained that the plaster floor had a thick bedding (0.5 m) of fieldstones and rubble consisting of ground yellowish material mixed with numerous glass fragments founded on virgin soil.
A small pier was constructed mid-way along the outer face of W146. An elongated low opening (L154), probably used for drainage, was exposed in the northern part of the wall. A shallow round sump (L153; diam. c. 0.4 m) was revealed in the center of the eastern pool.
Broken saqiye jars were discovered in situ outside the reservoir, adjacent to the W128 (L147; Fig. 8). The remains of two walls (W216, W245) that formed a corner were also exposed. The walls survived to the height of a single course built of kurkar ashlars. A wall, apparently the continuation of W245, was identified next to W128; it may be the remains of a building that was used for storage or as a dwelling near the reservoir. A small elliptical refuse pit was exposed c. 4.5 m south of W245, in which a cluster of saqiye jars dating to the Early Islamic period was found (L237; Fig. 9).
In the northeast of the excavation area was a poorly preserved fieldstone foundation, probably the bedding of a floor that did not survive. The bedding sealed a small cesspit (diam. c. 0.5 m; Fig. 10). A round kiln (Fig. 11) was exposed south of the bedding. Fieldstones used in the construction of the installation’s curved wall were evident in the southern part of the kiln. On top of the fieldstones and south of the kiln was a large amount of soot and a section of a white limestone floor overlain with the remains of red unfired brick material. The kiln may have been used in the manufacture of bricks. Several non-diagnostic pottery sherds were found inside the installation.
Pottery. Sherds dating to the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were found at the site, including vessels from the fifth–seventh centuries CE: a krater (Fig. 12:1); frying pans (Fig. 12:2, 3): a cooking pot lid (Fig. 12:4): bag-shaped jars (Fig. 12:5, 6); and Gaza jars (Fig. 12:7,8) that were common in the fourth–sixth centuries CE, but continued to appear in the Early Islamic period. In addition, buff ware type jug bases (Fig. 12:9, 10) characteristic of the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE) were found, as well as roof tile fragments (Fig. 12:11, 12). A find unique to the operation of this type of site is the Saqiye jars dating from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The jars were tied to a rope, forming a ‘chain of water vessels’ that the waterwheel turned (see the Well, above). Saqiye jars generally have a broad rim and no handle; however, there is a depression where the neck joins the body that was designed for tying a rope. Some vessels had a button base that was fastened to the rope (Ayalon 2000). Usually only the upper portion of the saqiye vessels is found because when they break their bottom part falls into the well, while the neck of the jar that remained tied to the rope was discarded nearby. Several fragments of vessels dating to the Late Roman – Byzantine periods were found (Fig. 13:1–6). Two clusters of broken saqiye jars were also uncovered. One was found near the reservoir’s eastern wall (L147; Figs. 9, 13:7–10). These vessels have a straight rim and bi-conical body sharply carinated at the bottom part of the jar (for parallels, see Milo 2001: Fig. 5:1, 2). A second cluster was found several meters to the east (L237; Figs. 10, 13:11–13), and included fragments of the upper parts of saqiye jars that date from the Early Islamic period (cf. Ayalon 2000:222, Fig. 3:5–6). These vessels have a straight rim and long, narrow neck; the point where the rope was tied was almost in the center of the jar. Vessels 11 and 12 are made of buff-colored clay. Saqiye jar bases were also discovered, two of which were found in contexts that could not be dated (Fig. 12:14, 15), and one base (Fig. 12:16) was recovered from the refuse pit, which was dated to the Early Islamic period.
The Glass Finds
Brigitte Ouahnouna
About one hundred glass fragments were found in the excavation. Several are very small fragments belonging to vessels from the Late Roman – Byzantine periods (Fig. 14:1–3), but the majority of the fragments are remains of glass production (Fig. 14:4–8).
The fragment in Fig. 14:1 belongs to a beaker with a solid base, one of the most common types of fourth-century CE dinking vessels. These beakers have a rounded rim and thin, vertical or slightly concave walls decorated with a horizontal trail below the rim, often of a color contrasting the color of the body. This type was produced in large quantities at the glass workshop at Jalame, which is dated to the second half of the fourth century CE (Weinberg and Goldstein 1988:60–61, Fig. 4.23, and see discussion therein).
The fragment in Fig. 14:2 is the upper part of a bottle with a rounded rim and a blue applied trail on the neck. This type of bottles, with several variants, was most common during the fifth–sixth centuries (Barag 1970:193, Pl. 42:20, Type 15:20).
The fragment in Fig. 14:3, made of light blue glass with a dark blue trail, is a twisted stirring rod. Such objects have been found in early Islamic contexts at Ramla (Gorin-Rosen 2010:254, Pl.10.11:7, 8, and see therein discussion about the origin of this type in the Roman period) and were apparently a local product made for a specific purpose.
The fragment in Fig. 14:4 belongs to a deformed ring-base. Also indicative of glass production are several chunks of raw glass (Fig. 14:5, 6) and two lumps of material containing glass (Fig. 14:7, 8). The chunks of raw glass are triangular or trapezoidal in section, of a greenish blue shade and are characterized by a fine, clear fabric that is clean of debris; they were probably prepared for melting in the glassmaker’s furnace. The lump in Fig. 14:7 comprised a layer of glass and debris beneath it; such lumps were usually formed at the bottom of the glassmaking furnace. The lump in Fig. 14:8 is a brick from a furnace, with one side, apparently the one that faced the inside of the furnace, coated with a layer of glass. Chunks and lumps are waste that is characteristic of the lower part of glass furnaces. Together with the deformed vessel fragment, they evince the existence of glass production at the site or its vicinity.
This is the first large saqiye well exposed in this Yarkon basin. Many saqiye wells operated in Israel since Roman times, but few have been studied. Similar wells from the Byzantine period were found in Yavne-Yam and Tel Ashdod (Ayalon, and Drey 2005:245). Recently, saqiye wells that date to the Early Islamic period were revealed in the vicinity of Ramla (A. Gorzalczany, pers. comm.). The groundwater was raised to the surface by means of a complex mechanism operated by an animal that rotated a set of gears located outside the well; these turned the axle to which the chain of saqiye jars was fastened. The vessels went up and down in the well in a conveyor belt-like manner; when the jar reached the apex and began its descent back into the well, the water spilled into a channel that was constructed above and alongside the well, which supplied water to the nearby reservoir.
The well exposed in the excavation was rather large, situated c. 150 m from the northern bank of the Yarkon River. By exploiting gravity its location made it possible to irrigate an agricultural area nearby. Judging by the ceramic artifacts, the well was presumably constructed during the Byzantine period and continued to operate in the Early Islamic period. Most of pottery sherds that were found are of storage vessels dating from the Byzantine period, particularly saqiye jars that were utilized in the well. The water system was apparently used to water crops and to provide drinking water. The well probably went out of use after it became clogged with the sand that accumulated inside it during the Early Islamic period. The glass artifacts recovered in the excavation date mainly to the Late Roman – Byzantine periods and corroborate the dating of the complex. Evidence was also discovered of the existence of a glass industry in the area.
It is not surprising that saqiye jars were found in two excavations conducted nearby (Elisha 2000; Sa’id 2004); they were probably associated with the operation of the well that was revealed in the excavation.