During April–June 2005, an archaeological excavation was conducted in the southeastern area of Karm er-Ras (Permit No. A-4418; map ref. NIG 23165/73935; OIG 18165/23935), in the wake of private construction. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the landowners A. and R. Abu Daud, was directed by Y. Alexandre, with the assistance of Y. Laban (administration), V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), H. Smithline (photography), E. Belashov (drafting), H. Tahan (pottery drawing) and D. Syon (numismatics).
The excavation was first conducted as a trial excavation (50 sq m) and then expanded (90 sq m). The squares were located between the olive trees in the plot and topsoil (depth c. 0.4 m) was removed with a backhoe. The excavation reached bedrock at a depth of c. 1.8 m below the new ground level.
A sequence of four strata was uncovered in the excavation.
Strata VI, V, the Hellenistic period (third–second centuries BCE)
Stratum IV, the Early Roman period (first century BCE –first century CE)
Stratum III, the Middle Roman period (first–third centuries CE)
Stratum I, the Byzantine Period (fifth century CE)
Since pottery has not yet been processed, the information in this report is preliminary and may be subject to some revision in the final report.
Strata VI, V
The earliest architectural remains uncovered in the excavation were two parallel long stone walls, W548 and W539/W569, built directly on bedrock (Figs 1, 2). Wall 548 (length over 7 m), underlying a later wall (W525), stood up to three courses high. Wall 539 (length over 13 m) ran parallel to and at a distance of c. 2.5 m from W548. Wall 539 was built of large dressed stones and consisted of several segments, including a segment (W569), which was set back from the original line and seems to be a later addition. One segment of W539, built of massive blocks dressed with drafted margins (Fig. 3), was preserved 1.2 m high, yet other segments of W539 were badly damaged by later activities. An additional wall (W579) formed a corner with W539 and was also built of large stones. Between W539 and W548 was an accumulated fill that contained fragments of terracotta water pipes and significant quantities of Hellenistic potsherds. No floor was found, yet the top level of the Hellenistic debris was rather clear. It seems that W539 was the northern wall of a large building and W548, the southern wall of a different building; the strip between the two walls was a road or a path. The excavation to the south of W539 revealed no data on the presumed Hellenistic building and it seems that the evidence was entirely cleaned out by the later Roman occupation. The small strip to the north of W548 was not excavated down to the Hellenistic levels.
Strata IV, III
There is evidence for the reuse of the Hellenistic W539 in the building of this period and the segment W569, set back from W539, might have been built at this time. Several stone walls (W563, W565, W570, W576, W577, W578 and W590) were built to the south and against W539, creating a series of small rooms that were partly interconnected with doorways and thresholds (Fig. 4). The floors of these rooms were mainly of packed earth, directly overlying bedrock. Significant quantities of Early Roman pottery were found on these floors, including several complete vessels. Evidence for some burning indicated that this stratum (IV) may have terminated in a fire.
Signs of changes, as well as additional floors overlying the earlier ones, were noted in several of these rooms. The potsherds found on the later floors dated to the Middle Roman period (Stratum III).
The Hellenistic path or road on the northern side of W539 seems to have continued to serve the same function. The parallel Hellenistic W548 seems also to have continued in use. A paved stone layer (L551; Stratum IV), covered over with several layers of plaster (L543, L531; Stratum III), overlaid the Hellenistic accumulated fill between the two walls. It seems that this was a road or path that ran to the north of the Roman building.
Several stone-wall stubs were found above the debris of Stratum III, including segments of a new long wall (W525) that was built at a higher level, but followed a similar line to the old W548. A layer of hard plaster (L520 and reused L531) covered much of the old path/road area to the south of W548. A long robber’s trench adjacent to the old W539 was cut though this plaster layer, allowing access to the large stones of W539; it is probable that the stones of this wall were robbed sometime in this period. Some areas of stone paving (L521) were found adjacent to W525 and W526, overlying Plaster Layer L531; remains of a circular installation that cut into and destroyed the earlier W539, were noted. Potsherds and glass fragments dated Stratum I to the Byzantine period.
The excavations in Area U exposed significant architectural strata from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Of particular interest are the building remains from the Early Hellenistic period (Strata IV, III), which seem to have been part of a large and probably a public building, whose nature remains enigmatic. The road and the terracotta water pipes reflected a degree of town planning. Unfortunately, the small scale of the excavation did not allow further investigation of the building. The Roman period witnessed reuse of the Hellenistic walls for domestic occupation. There may well have been a destruction level in the Early Roman period and it seems that a gap in occupation may have existed between the Roman and Byzantine periods.