During September 2008, an excavation was conducted at a site near Route 40, c. 1 km west of Nahal Gezer and c. 0.8 km east of Old Ramla (Permit No. A-5519; map ref. 1895/6491; Fig. 1), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by Mr. M. Pines, was directed by L. Talmi, with the assistance of the late S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), M. Kunin (surveying), A. Dagot (GPS ), T. Sagiv (field photography), L. Yihye (preliminary inspections), P. Gendelman and E.J. Stern (ceramics), M. Shuiskaya (pottery drawing), A. Re’em and R. Lupu (IAA Central District), A. Gorzalczany (scientific consultation) and laborers from Umm al-Fahm.
A variety of remains, ranging in date from Middle Bronze Age II to the Ottoman period, had been exposed in many excavations in the region (HA-ESI 114:68*–69*; HA-ESI 117; HA-ESI 120; HA-ESI 120 and Permit No. A-5396).
A single square was opened and a circular installation that was probably a cesspit, dating to the Mamluk period, was excavated.
The probe trenches dug in the area with the aid of mechanical equipment revealed a modern refuse layer (thickness c. 0.5 m), overlying a sandy layer (thickness c. 0.8 m) that superposed a layer of sandy red hamra (thickness c. 1.7 m) and a layer of dark clay. A circular installation (diam. 1.1–1.6 m, depth 1.5 m; Fig. 2), built inside the layers of hamra and clay (Figs. 3, 4), was exposed in the eastern part of the square. The well-preserved installation was meticulously built of various size fieldstones (0.10×0.10×0.15–0.30×0.35×0.40 m), with small fieldstones inserted between them. Light gray sandy fill (L104) that contained small fieldstones, a large dressed stone (0.40×0.45×0.50 m), animal bones and numerous fragments of pottery vessels was discovered in the installation.After excavating the installation, a probe was dug (L106; depth 2.5 m; Fig. 4) to a depth where the soil was devoid of finds.
The ceramic artifacts recovered from installation dated to the Mamluk period (thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE) and included coarse bowls (Fig. 5:1, 2), coarse carinated bowls (Fig. 5:3, 4) and a brown glazed bowl with a prominent stripe decoration (Fig. 5:5), as well as vessels used in industry and for storage, such as a thick, handmade krater with a straight side and thickened rim, adorned with a rope ornamentation (Fig. 5:6), a “molasses” jar (Fig. 5:7), a body fragment of a jar decorated with a combed pattern (Fig. 5:8), a jar base with a thick side (Fig. 5:9), a flaring jar rim (Fig. 5:10) and the base of a jug (Fig. 5:11).
Kraters similar to Fig. 5:6 have been identified as vessels used in the sugar industry (‘Atiqot 42: Fig. 13), which were discovered at Horbat Borin (‘Atiqot 51: Fig. 15:2, 3) and at Khirbat al-Ni‘ana (‘Atiqot 57: Fig. 10). It is presumed that “molasses” jars, such as the example in Fig. 5:7 were used in the sugar manufacturing process; however, it has recently been suggested that they were used as beehives and for producing honey (Levant 38:203–212, 41:223–237).
The installation, used as a cesspit, was probably built and gone out of use during the Mamluk period. The area most likely served for agriculture or industry, possibly for manufacturing sugar or producing honey, but its purpose cannot be precisely determined because of the later damage it sustained. It can be assumed that the cesspit served a building, which was connected to these activities but had not survived.