Construction of a modern highway once again has exposed an ancient site, this time a 900-year-old fountain in a garden, the first time a fountain has been discovered outside the known wealthier districts of Old Ramle
The excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority were carried out at the entrance to Ramle, in an area where a bridge is slated to be constructed as part of the new Highway 44 that will pass over e railroad tracks and relieve drivers from a bottle neck and very long delays during rush hours.
Two residential rooms were exposed of a wealthy estate that was built of ashlar stones. Archaeologists date the structure to the Fatimid period (late 10th century and first half of the 11th century CE).
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,” said Hagit Torgë, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “This is the first time that a fountain has been discovered outside the known, more affluent quarters of Old Ramle. Most of the fountains that we are aware of from this period in Ramle were concentrated around the White Mosque, which was the center of the Old City of Ramle.
“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. Ramle grew and expanded during the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, and it was an important economic center in Israel as a result of its strategic location on the road from Cairo to Damascus and from Yafo to Jerusalem.
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.