Square A11 (Fig. 3) was opened to explore the corner of a large structure that was identified in the northeastern section of the 2012 excavation area. The corner was formed by two large walls (W111, W143); the area abutting W111 to the south revealed in 2012 multiple superimposed beaten-earth surfaces associated with a number of poorly constructed curvilinear walls. The area was thus interpreted as a courtyard or an open area outside the large structure that extended to the north.
Loose stones, of modern deposition, were cleared from the tops of W111 and W143. The massive walls (width 1.7–2.0 m, preserved height 1 m; Fig. 3), set directly upon the bedrock, were built of two rows of large stones, with a fill of smaller stones between them. Enclosed within the corner of the two walls were two plastered rectangular cisterns (L103, L106; Fig. 4). The interior faces of W111 and W143, which delimited Cistern 103 (1.6 × 1.8 m) on the south and east, were coated with a layer of plaster, pink in color due to a high quantity of crushed ceramics. Where the plaster was not preserved in the central part of the cistern’s floor, a layer of bedding composed of earthen fill and flat stones that lay right on the bedrock was uncovered. The northern wall of the cistern (W401), was not preserved; it was probably robbed or intentionally dismantled. The ceramic finds from the robber’s trench (L108) along the course of W401 and from the fill within Cistern 103 date from the Mamluk period, suggesting that the cistern was taken out of use during this period. A foundation course of a partition wall (W400) separated Cistern 103 from Cistern 106. A stone slab in the center of W400 covered a plastered channel that connected the two cisterns. Due to various limitations and safety considerations, Cistern 106 could not be completely excavated. A comparison of the elevation of the exposed portion of the cistern and that of the surrounding bedrock indicates that Cistern 106 must have been at least partially hewn. Following the excavation, both cisterns were dismantled, leaving no datable material.
Square A12 was opened after the area west of the 2012 excavation area was mechanically leveled. It revealed the northeastern corner of a large plaster-lined installation (L201; Fig. 5) enclosed by a corner formed by two poorly preserved walls (W402, W403). The interior faces of the walls were lined with plaster that rounded the corner adjoining them. Within the installation were three superimposed white plaster floors (Fig. 6). Below the floor, a layer of reddish soil containing Byzantine-period pottery covered the bedrock. A similar soil matrix with Byzantine-period ceramic finds was found below nearly all the floors belonging to the Mamluk phase found in the 2012 excavation.
Square A13. After modern construction activities dismantled near completely the archaeological remains exposed during the 2012 excavations, a deep, hewn pit installation was found just to the south of the previously uncovered area. The earthen fill within the cavity was removed mechanically; the pit was then manually cleaned, revealing its circular plan (L300; diam. 3.0 m; Fig. 7). Within the installation and encircling its perimeter was a small carved step. A short segment remained from a wall (W404; preserved height 1.5 m) that was built atop the hewn step in the northern section of the pit; it is probably part of a wall that ran along the entire circumference of the pit. A well-dressed ashlar block was found on the step on the western perimeter of the pit. At the bottom of the pit, a layer of blackish soot and earth was uncovered (Fig. 8) and the bedrock walls of the pit were discolored, possibly as a result of exposure to intensive heat.
The Finds presented here further attest to the agrarian and rural character of the site—a Mamluk-period farmstead. The finds will be published in full with those from the 2012 excavation.
Ceramics datable to the Mamluk period were found in all three squares. The assemblage from each square is dominated by Handmade Geometric Painted Ware, comprising bowls (Fig. 9:1, 2) and jars (Fig. 9:3). Also found were fragments of Mamluk-period cooking pots with a strap handle (Fig. 9:4) or a horseshoe-shaped handle and an applied rope decoration (Fig. 9:5). In topsoil in Sq A12 was a fragment of a seventeenth century CE tobacco pipe (Fig. 9:6) made of a grey-colored fabric and bearing a stamped and rouletted decoration.
A large fragment of a basalt grinding slab (Fig. 10:1) was found in Cistern 103. A smaller basalt slab (Fig. 10:2) and a smoothed green steatite or soapstone block with a small perforation at one end (Fig. 10:3) were found in Sq A12 above the plaster floors in Installation 201. The smoothed stone bearing mutilple parallel striations on one side was probably used as a whetstone for sharpening metal objects. Numerous similar stones bearing groove marks and perforations were found during the 2012 season. Similar stone artifacts were uncovered at Ha-Palmah
Street in Ramla (Kletter 2009
) as well.
At the base of the robber’s trench in Sq A11, a metal knife featuring a rectangular blade was found (Fig. 10: 4); the knife’s handle was not preserved.
The current excavation expanded the exposure of the Mamluk-period occupation level at the site to the north and west. When the corner formed by W111 and W143 was exposed in 2012, it was tentatively dated to the Byzantine period. The excavation inside the corner revealed a water collection system comprising two interlinked cisterns, possibly for collecting runoff from the structure’s roof; the water collected in Cistern 103 would have flowed through the channel at its base into the upper part of Cistern 106. The cisterns were intentionally dismantled during the Mamluk period. The construction for the cisterns must therefore have taken place earlier, possibly in the Byzantine period. Although no clear dateable material was found within the structure of the cisterns, the pinkish-colored plaster seems rather similar to well-dated Byzantine waterworks within and around Jerusalem.
The white-plaster layers on the floor and walls of the installation in Sq A12 have parallels in the western area of the 2012 excavation. The ceramic assemblage from the area the installation can be clearly dated to the Mamluk period.
Installation 300 may have been a limekiln. Support for this interpretation can be inferred by the internal discolorations of the bedrock and the layer of blackish soot and earth at its bottom. The ashlar block found in the western section of the installation may be the remains of a built air conduit or a stoking opening.
The current excavation and the previous, 2012, one indicate that the site was settled in the Byzantine period and was even more intensely occupied during the Mamluk period. The architectural and small remains attest to the rural nature of the site. The site of Khirbat Beit Mazmil is thus of great importance in understanding the hinterland of Jerusalem during the Mamluk period.