Stratum IV
Remains of a collecting vat of a winepress, dating to the Byzantine period and identified in the previous excavation (HA-ESI 120) are ascribed to the earliest stratum. Several tesserae survived in the vat. The collecting vat was nullified by a thick plaster floor, whose date has not yet been ascertained. The eastern part of the plaster floor was laid directly on top of the ground that was devoid of any finds.
A massive, poorly preserved stone floor was exposed in the west.
Stratum III
Repairs made to the stone floor of Stratum IV, which remained in use, should probably be attributed to this stratum. A staircase was exposed south of the stone floor (Fig. 3). The staircase’s foundation trench was dug in the natural soil and fragments of pottery vessels that dated to the Early Islamic period (eighth–tenth centuries CE) were found.
Stratum II
Four foundations (Phase IIb) and a water reservoir (Phase IIa) dating to the Crusader period (twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE) were exposed. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Crusader period and the early Mamluk period (late thirteenth century CE) were found in the loci relating to these complexes.
Phase IIb. The four foundations were arranged in a row: one in the west, two in the center and another in the east. The two middle foundations were opposite each other, in the north and south. All of the foundations were dug into the hamra soil and were carefully built of medium-sized fieldstones.
The western foundation (Fig. 4) was constructed in the stone pavement of Stratum III. It was shaped like an inverted L, with one side in the north (length c. 8 m, width c. 2.2 m) and the other in the east (length c. 6 m, width 2.1 m).
The foundations in the south and north were square but their corners were rounded (2.2×2.2 m, preserved height c. 1.2 m; Figs. 5, 6). Pinkish light gray mortar was preserved on the southern foundation. The mortar encased the outer surface of the foundation’s stones, indicating the use of a wooden frame that was not preserved. The two foundations served as bases for right-angled corners of pillars that were partly preserved. The pillars were built of very large ashlars, some of which were dressed diagonally, in a manner characteristic of the Crusader period (Fig. 7). A core of small and medium fieldstones bonded with hard pink-orange colored mortar was exposed between the ashlars.
A fourth foundation (4.0×at least 5.5 m; Fig. 8) that was poorly preserved was exposed in the east. The southern part of the foundation was not excavated because of a tree planted there and its northern face was not preserved; hence, it was not possible to estimate the maximum length of the foundation. The western part of the foundation was a rectangular wall (width 2.1 m) whose southern side was severely damaged by the tree roots. A drainage channel (min. length 21 m), severed in the east, was built on the wall in an east–west direction. The sides of the channel were a single course of undressed rectangular fieldstones. Three stones and one stone were preserved on the northern and southern sides respectively. The floor of the channel consisted of smooth fieldstones. The channel sloped to the east and became an underground channel with covering stones. The channel was poorly preserved; some of the covering stones were not found and only the foundation of the channel was exposed. At one point, the channel was severed by a refuse pit that dated to the Ottoman period (Stratum I).
Phase IIa. The western part of a water reservoir, built of medium and large fieldstones, was exposed. The reservoir’s western wall rested on the pillars of Phase IIb; hence, the reservoir postdated that phase. East of the wall were two rooms with floors that sloped to the east and walls that were coated with an especially thick application of hydraulic plaster (Fig. 9). The wall that separated the two rooms of the reservoir was not preserved.
A circular stone basin (diam. 1 m) with a drainage hole in its the bottom was discovered east of the two rooms. A large sarcophagus (interior dimensions 0.7×2.1 m) that had been adapted for use as a trough was supported on the southern wall of the reservoir; a drainage hole was drilled in its southeastern corner. A drainage channel that sloped from north to south and was covered with medium-sized fieldstones was exposed around the western wall of the reservoir (Fig. 10). This channel probably drained water from the roof of the reservoir, which was not preserved. An impressive capital from the Crusader period was exposed in the stone collapse above the northern side of the peripheral water channel (Fig. 11).
Stratum I
Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Ottoman period were found on the surface; however, only one sealed locus, a refuse pit that penetrated the line of the drainage channel from Stratum II, can be attributed to this period.
The current excavation greatly contributes to our knowledge about the site. The stone pavement that was built in the Byzantine period and remained in use in the Early Islamic period was probably part of a public building, whose preservation was particularly poor.
Impressive architectural remains dating to the Crusader period were exposed for the first time in this excavation in Petah Tiqwa. The four uncovered foundations are undoubtedly part of a large building complex of an installation, upon which arches or vaults were borne. The upper part of the installation did not survive and its stones were plundered. The reservoir and the hydraulic plaster that was found on the stones of the southern pillar support the assumption that these pillars were also part of an installation used in the conveyance of water. The source of the water for the installation has not yet been exposed. Numerous animal bones were found around the reservoir and these were probably remains of the local livestock and flocks that grazed in the region and quenched their thirst there. It is unlikely that rainwater was stored in the reservoir; the many drainage channels exposed show that the operation of the reservoir and the storage of water were continuous and therefore, they were not dependent upon the weather.
The site of Khirbat Mulabbis is located in a place that has been identified as Bulbus, which was probably a village in the Crusader period. This identification was already proposed in the nineteenth century by the French scholar J. Delaville Le Roulx. A source from the Crusader period written in the year 1133 CE states that the Count of Jaffa granted the region of the village Bulbus to the Hospitaller order, including “the mill/mills of the three bridges” (“des moulins des trios ponts”). If we carefully examine the name of the Ottoman village Mulebbis as it appears on the British survey map, we can see a linguistic closeness to the village name Bulbus from the Crusader period. We have here the key to understand the name Mulebbis (Arabic: sugar-coated almonds)—a familiar nicknameof Petah Tiqwa.