From November 2002 to January 2003, soundings were conducted in ‘Akko, along Remez Street, on both sides of the junction with Ben-‘Ami Street (Permit No. A-3749; map ref. NIG 2080–83/75865–900; OIG 1580–83/25865–900), prior to its expansion. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by G. Finkielsztejn, with the assistance of S. Yankelewich and S. Zagorski of Haifa University (area supervision), Y. Dangur (administration), V. Essman, V. Pirsky and Y. Salmon (surveying), A. Tatcher, D. Avshalom-Gorni and E.J. Stern (pottery reading and processing), D. Syon (numismatics), Y. Gorin-Rosen and N. Katsnelson (glass), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), Y. Somekh of Haifa University (geomorphology), E. Bar-On and I. Roll, of Tel Aviv University (Roman roads).
The investigated area along the street sides extended roughly north–south for c. 430 m. It was divided into four areas (A–D; Fig. 1), comprising twenty-four trenches and squares of various sizes, not all explored. Areas A to C were excavated as probes and a rescue excavation was carried out in Area D, due to a deep trench needed for a drainage pipe.
Very few architectural remains were uncovered in the excavation, located between Tel ‘Akko (Tell el Fukhkhar) to the east and the lower city-harbor to the west, which was devoted, in all likelihood, to transportation, as well as to burial.
Four squares (A1, A6, A2, A3) were opened and a narrow trench (A4) was dug to the west of Remez Street and c. 150 m north of the junction. A thin brown surface layer overlaid a white layer that covered a thick debris layer rich in pottery (depth c. 1 m), which was probably brought from nearby Tel ‘Akko in the 1960s, when a soccer field was built.
Square A1. The deep fill consisted of dark brown thick clay with very few sherds.
Two parallel lines of ashlars (W103, W159; length c. 2 m; Fig. 2) were found in the northwestern corner of the square. The walls, oriented east–west and c. 1.5 m distant from each other, covered three–four courses of collapsed stones. The heavy rains completely filled this square several times and the accumulating mud precluded its full exploration. The deep trench dug between these walls did not uncover any floor or surface and hardly contained any potsherds. The lack of pottery and the location of the square suggest that these walls may have been related to a causeway (the arch of a bridge?) whose date could not be determined.
Square A6. A partly preserved water-supply pipe (elevation 2.75 m above sea level; hereafter, asl), mainly oriented north–south, was uncovered. Its northern end curved to the east, as evidenced by a track of dark earth where the pipe is missing. It consisted of overlapping tubular units of rather thin dark clay (diam. 0.8 cm, length 0.4 m), protected by small stones embedded in cement. It was probably set along the east side of a road, not visible here (see Sqs A2 and A3, below). The date could not be clearly determined, but appears to be in the Late Ottoman period and may have been still in use in the twentieth century CE. The fill below the pipe was the same thick dark brown clay as in Sq A1. A deep bulldozer probe reached the kurkar bedrock (at 0.86 m asl) that was covered with a layer of black sterile clay (thickness c. 0.3 m).
Square A2. Another well preserved pipe (L125; elevation 3.6 m asl; Fig. 3) crossed the middle of the square from north to south. It was composed of ceramic tubular units whose workmanship was different from those in Sq A6 (diam. 0.1 m, length 0.41–046 m). The levels of the two pipes indicate that they were apparently not related, although both seem to date to the late Ottoman period. The pipe was set to the east of, and not associated with, a Roman road that consisted of a layer of small stones and debris superposed by a layer of bigger stones, visible only in the eastern half of the square (Fig. 4). Such pipes had previously been uncovered east of the street (ESI 15:27–28) and were dated to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The road to the west of the pipe was set on a succession of sand layers, which were manually excavated to an elevation of 1.5 m asl. Each sand layer was sampled for geological analysis, to find out their origin, whether eolian, sedimentary or artificial. Very few eroded potsherds were found in each of the sand layers, dated to the Hellenistic period.
It became clear that the boundary between the dark clay to the north and the sand layers to the south lies somewhere between Sqs A6 and A2.
Square A3. Substantial fragments of several ceramic sarcophagi were found in the upper debris layer. Similar sarcophagi were found across the street in 1992 (ESI 15) and in Sq C1 (see below).
More of the water pipe in Sq A2 appeared in this square, with a probable extension to the east, visible in the northern balk. Most of the square was occupied by the Roman road (L156; elevation 3.3 m asl; Fig. 5). The road, oriented northeast–southwest, consisted of a thin layer of debris set directly on the sand, covered with a bed of rounded stones and a surface of lime cement, which mostly disappeared. The uncovered western edge of the road was composed of a line of ashlars. I. Roll, and E. Bar-On, specialists of Roman roads, suggested that this road––dated by the pottery finds to the first century CE––was probably built by Emperor Nero in 56 CE, to link between Antioch in Syria and ‘Akko-Ptolemais. The width of the road was reconstructed to be 6.7 m (see Trench A4 below) and its eastern edge should be under the paved Remez Street. The Roman road was set on the same sand layers found in Sq A2.
Trench A4. This last minute bulldozer trench was solely aimed at uncovering the eastern edge of the Roman road. A line of small stones and an ashlar were discerned at the southeastern end of the narrow trench. Its location suggests that the road made a sharp turn to the southwest, which raised the question of where the road was heading, to the coast and a harbor, or toward the city of ‘Akko-Ptolemais, through a gate. The latter is the logical assumption and a general map should show where the road may have reached the theoretical prolongation of the fortification from the Hellenistic period, uncovered by M. Dothan in 1973 in his Area E, west of our Area D, which may have still served the city in the Roman period (see Fig. 1).
This area, on both sides of Remez Street, was c. 100 m south of the Ben-‘Ami–Remez junction. Five squares were opened, three on the west side (B1, B2, B3) and two joined squares on the east side (B4, B5).
A deep bulldozer probe uncovered solely a thick layer of sand, probably corresponding to a dune; it was rapidly closed.
The only feature excavated was a surface of small stones that extended across the whole square. It was probably a road surface, as in Sqs A2 and A3. Although not fully analyzed, the potsherds seem to date it roughly to the medieval period (or later?). A probe undertaken to a level of 3 m asl was closed, as soon as sand was reached and no built structure was discerned.
A high voltage electrical cable was uncovered by the bulldozer during the removal of the upper layers. Work was suspended and the trench was closed.
Squares B4 and B5
Near the surface was a fill that appeared to be a late disturbance, as the stratigraphy was clearly reversed. Well preserved jar bases of the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic periods (fourth–third centuries BCE) covered a thick layer of small stones and fragments of pottery from the Late Roman-Byzantine periods (fourth–fifth centuries CE).
All the squares of Areas B and C on the eastern side of Remez Street revealed a hard white surface (elevation c. 4.9 m asl), which was tentatively identified as a road. It systematically covered the eastern half of each square and was aligned north–south, with some curves. However, it was not always clearly defined and seems to have been covered with whitish sandy silt that may have derived from the flooding by still waters in a later period.
The white surface in Sq B4 was simply a compressed light earth with some lime; in Sq B5 it was a fairly hard compressed lime. The layers below the white surface produced Byzantine pottery, which was quite numerous in Sq B4 and this seems to be the date of laying it. Byzantine pottery was also found within a stone collapse above a sandy floor in Sq B4.
Two non contemporary (?) perpendicular walls were uncovered in Square B5. The western face of the lower wall was visible in the eastern balk and its top was 0.1 m lower than the top of the upper wall along the northern balk, which was connected to a sandy floor. These walls, whose function is unknown, were associated with Hellenistic pottery.
This area was c.60 m south of Area B on the east side of the street and extended c. 40 m to the south. Seven squares were opened (C1–C7). While Sq C1 was a rectangular independent trench, Sqs C2 to C7 branched off from a long bulldozer trench. The white surface uncovered in Sqs B4 and B5 was much better defined in Area C, where it consisted of a hard plastered surface. The discovery of tombs caused the suspension of work in Sqs C2 to C7, except for the exploration of the white surface. Some important building(s), such as a church, a monastery or a villa, is presumed to have existed in the area, as evidenced by the many marble elements found.
This was the richest and most complex of all squares. It was divided into two halves by a north–south oriented balk (Fig. 6). The hardened earthen white surface was discovered in the eastern half of the square. Overlaying the surface was a layer of whitish sandy silt, visible throughout the square.
The corner of a room (W331, W332) was uncovered in the southeastern corner of the square. The walls were built of fieldstones and plastered on the interior; the floor was plastered as well. To the south and mainly to the west of this structure, c. 10 Greek amphorae and Levantine jars were standing upright (Fig. 7). They included amphorae from the island of Chios, basket-handled jars, either Levantine or Cypriot and the top of an Attic amphora. The amphorae and jars appear to date to the fourth–early third centuries BCE (NEAEHL 1, 1993:24, Area E1).
Significant numbers of Northern Aegean (Thasos, Mende) and Chian amphorae were found in the debris of the excavation, as well as two stamped amphora handles, one Cypriot (beginning of the third century BCE) and the other, Rhodian (c. 127–125 BCE), accompanied by numerous fragments of local Phoenician jars, mainly with twisted handles.
To the south of the square’s eastern half, a heavily disturbed stone-built tomb was found partly under the central balk. It contained fragments of a ceramic sarcophagus and roof tiles, comparable with those in Sq A3. Some bones were visible outside the remains of the tomb.
The stratum below the white surface in the western half of the square contained randomly arranged graves that were identified mainly by a few bones, the darker color of their fill and sometimes by an irregular lining of stones. The bones were often dissolved, except for two cases, where parts of the lower limbs were in articulation. The only offerings were about a dozen mostly intact glass bottles, isolated or grouped, dating the graves to the first–second centuries CE (Fig. 8). Similar tombs were found in the 1960s on the coast, north of the city of ‘Akko (ESI 9:16). Both locations seem to indicate two limits of the Roman city.
The hard lime plaster white surface, with some potsherds mixed in it, was clearly visible in these squares (Fig. 9). It was set on a foundation of earth and stones that extended beyond the limits of the plastered area. It was mainly visible in Sq C3, yet disappeared progressively in Sq C4. This fact casts some doubt on the identification of that surface as a road. A probe to the east showed that it extended toward that direction. Its eastern edge was not found, indicating that its original width was over
At least three channels (width 0.6 m) built of fieldstones and entirely plastered were found in Sq C2, immediately west of the white surface. Their orientation was northwest–southeast and the plastered white surface covered them to the east. They appeared to be built graves that contained a few human bones, perhaps a collective burial of unidentified nature. They seem to date to the Byzantine period and one may tentatively suggest that they could have belonged to a monastery. Some stone tesserae of industrial mosaic, typical of the same period, were discovered, as well as some tesserae made of glass; however, no connection with the structure was evident. The white surface may thus be interpreted as the floor of a large building, maybe the bedding for a now completely missing mosaic.
A row of three ashlars, covered by another disturbed one, was uncovered in a very small probe. Expanding the probe could assist in outlining the structure to which the ashlars belonged. Yet, combined with the previous finds, it may point to a building of some stature.
Squares C5 and C6
These squares were hardly explored; some fieldstones that may have covered graves were discerned, but could not be examined.
A partly destroyed tomb, oriented east–west, was uncovered in the southeastern corner of the square. It was built of fieldstones and some ashlars and was completely plastered on the interior. The tomb was filled with fieldstones and only a skull was discerned to the west. The proximity of the tomb to surface, only a few meters from today’s cemetery, may point to it being a modern interment.
This was a trench across the street from Area C, extending 35 m to the south. It was divided into seven squares (D1–D7), three of which (D1, D6, D7) yielded substantial remains.
Immediately below surface, a well built water-wheel (antilia) was uncovered. It consisted of a rectangular well, surrounded by a walking surface, enclosed within a circular wall (diam. 6 m). About half of it was covered by Remez Street to the east and Gedud 22 Street to the south. The debris inside the well contained only modern material, down to c. 2 m below surface. The construction fill between the well and the external circular wall produced a Marseille roof tile at the bottom of the foundation, indicating a twentieth century CE date for the well. An intact Hellenistic arrowhead was found in the debris comprising pottery of various periods.
Squares D2 and D3
Sand was discovered in these squares, down to 3 m below surface.
Squares D4 and D5
A hard earthen surface was found in these squares. A few walls in Sq D5 appear to have belonged to a modern building, set on sandy layers.
Squares D6 and D7
The corner of a big plastered pool, extending to the east, which was probably a reservoir, was discovered in the western half of these squares (Fig. 10). Its walls (width 1.85 m, max. preserved height 3.9 m) were built of fieldstones and some ashlars. The bottom of the pool was not reached at c. 2 m below the preserved edge (1.28 m asl). A stone with a painted fresco, perhaps of the Late Hellenistic–Early Roman period (first century BCE–first century CE) was found in the debris. The date of the pool remains to be established, but its location, not far from the Hellenistic fortification discovered by M. Dothan in his Area E (BASOR 224, 1976:40–45), as well as its construction technique and the level of its walls, roughly correspond to the bottom of the fortification and suggest a tentative dating to the Hellenistic period. A probe immediately south of the pool revealed only a thick layer of sand.
The excavations in Remez Street exposed several important features, relating to the topography and history of ‘Akko-Ptolemais.
The area appears to have been the location of a main north–south road during several periods. The geology of the region implies that the area was often flooded by the sea or by marshes, or both and comprised dunes, south of the kurkar ridge and the clay bed. It seems the area was unfit for habitation. Roads are evidenced in this area and apparently the first important road was built in the Early Roman period. Some doubt remains as to the exact purpose of the long stretch of plastered surface found in Areas B and C. In the Ottoman period, the springs in the area were exploited, lasting well into the twentieth century CE.
A concentration of tombs from the Roman period and probably the Byzantine period as well, was uncovered in the area, which is nowadays occupied by the Muslim and Christian cemeteries. In the past, cemeteries were built along roads at the entrance to cities and our discoveries seem to fit well such an arrangement.
Evidence concerning the limits of the Hellenistic Lower City partially occurred in our excavation. Commercial activities were apparently taking place in the area between the tell (acropolis) and the lower city, with a building connected to some storeroom of amphorae, as well as a very large pool. These activities may have been connected to the nearby sea, as suggested above.
The numerous ceramic finds, mainly from the Hellenistic and especially the beginning of the period, clearly shows the orientation of imports from Greece. During the fourth century and beginning of the third century BCE, pottery was imported from the Northern Aegean down to the island of Chios. Gradually, the Southeast Aegean got more involved in production and export of wine to the Levant and from the second half of the third century down to the first century BCE, Rhodes, Kos and Knidos were the prime suppliers for the Levantine markets. The city of ‘Akko-Ptolemais, which was re-established early as a royal Greco-Macedonian city, is an ideal site to study this phenomenon.
If the area of Remez Street was a focal point of trade, with the creation, or expansion of the lower city, pottery, rather than architecture, testifies to the continuity of this activity, whose variations were probably due to climatic or geologic changes, such as the fluctuation in sea levels, creation of marshes or formation of dunes. Other well-represented eras are the Early Roman period (mainly graves), the Byzantine period (the white surface and a stratum in Sq B4), the Crusader/Mamluk periods (some potsherds), as well as the late Ottoman period down to British Mandate times.
The results of our excavations will be better understood after a thorough study of the numerous coins, pottery, marble and glass fragments, as well as the geological data.