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Eleventh-century villa discovered in Israel

Archaeologists working near the central-Israeli city of Ramla have discovered the remains of an eleventh-century villa that had its own garden fountain.

Pictures of the fountain and the plumbing - Photographic credit: Assaf Peretz; courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The site was uncovered during prepatory work in building a highway. Two rooms of the villa have been excavated, which seems to have built in the late tenth century and first half of the eleventh century. A fountain made of mosaic covered with plaster and stone slabs was uncovered west of the building. A system of pipes consisting of terra cotta sections and connectors made of store jars led to the fountain. A large cistern and a system of pipes and channels that was used to convey water were discovered next to the residential building. A smithy’s forge built of bricks and used for manufacturing iron tools was exposed c. 20 meters south of the structure.

“It seems that a private building belonging to a wealthy family was located there and that the fountain was used for ornamentation,” explains Hagit Torgë, who directed the excavation. “This is the first time that a fountain has been discovered outside the known, more affluent quarters of Old Ramla. Most of the fountains that we are aware of from this period in Ramla were concentrated around the White Mosque, which was the center of the Old City of Ramla. In addition, this is the first time that the fountain’s plumbing was discovered completely intact. The pipes of other fountains did not survive the earthquakes that struck the country in 1033 and 1068 CE.”

It seems the entire area was abandoned in the mid-eleventh century CE, probably in the wake of the earthquake.

Ramla was established at the beginning of the eighth century CE. Its founding is ascribed to the ruler Suleiman Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, and it was built as the district capital (Jund Filastin) and in certain periods its importance even eclipsed that of Jerusalem. Ramla grew and expanded during the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, and it was an important economic centre of the region.

Numerous oil lamps, a baby’s rattle and parts of dolls made of bone were discovered in the excavation area.

Upon completion of the archaeological excavation, the fountain, which was in an excellent state of preservation, was removed from the area and was relocated in the Pool of the Arches compound in the city where it will be displayed.

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority

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