How did 900-year-old rings, bracelets, earrings and hairpins materialize in the kitchen of a Crusader fortress tower in Modiʻin? This question has occupied a group of fourth- to twelfth-grade students from the Modiʻin-Maccabim-Reʻut Municipality who participate in an archaeological excavation at Givat Tittora, very close to home. The Israel Antiquities Authority has invited these students to discover tantalizing clues left by those who lived in their areas in the past. The excavation endeavor is both educational and social: to provide local residents of all ages an opportunity to uncover their town’s cultural heritage – directly and personally.
Tittora Hill is a unique archaeological site within the municipal boundaries of Modiʻin-Maccabim-Reʻut. Previous archaeological excavations on the hill revealed evidence of its various occupants from the Chalcolithic period (c. 6,000 years ago) up to the modern era. The hill is in a strategic location – on the main ascent route from the coastal plain to Jerusalem, surrounded by fertile valleys that were used as farmland and were able to support the hill’s inhabitants throughout the generations.
Avraham Tendler, excavation director for the IAA, said in a statement: “The students and volunteers from Modiʻin have exposed the inner courtyard of the Crusader fortress. Here, the fortress’s occupants cooked and baked for hundreds of years during the Middle Ages, some 900 years ago. Ancient clay ovens (tabuns), cooking pots, jars, serving dishes, and a table were discovered in the ancient kitchen, as well as numerous remains of food such as olive pits, pulses, charred grape pips, and animal bones. It seems that the cooks of the time were not sufficiently careful with the jewelry they wore while cooking and baking, since numerous pieces of jewelry have been found in the excavation, some made of bronze and silver.”
Most of the jewelry has been found by volunteer archaeologist Mati Yohananoff, who is a regular participant in the excavation. “Throughout the entire site, we have found many metal objects including coins, rings, bracelets and cosmetic tools,” Yohananoff said. “These finds indicate the kind of activity traditionally associated with women’s domestic work.” Long-standing residents of the town coming to excavate with other volunteers are exploring the foundations of the fortress and skillfully exposing a large building from the Roman period hidden beneath the Crusader fortress.
“I was excited to discover a mixed, cohesive, and caring community in the city of Modiʻin,” said Vered Bosidan, project coordinator on behalf of the IAA. “The local residents have a special connection to with Tittora Hill and I am sure that it will be strengthened even more as a result of the archaeological excavation. The enthusiasm begins with the younger generation, with activities carried out by the IAA in the schools, and makes its way into the homes, to the parents and the extended family. It is there that the seeds are sown that result in the development of an awareness of antiquity preservation.”
The Modiʻin-Maccabim-Reʻut Municipality is working on establishing an urban nature park on the hill, which will make the site more accessible to the public. They hope that the project will continue for many years and enable local residents to carry on peeling away the tell’s ancient layers, exploring its treasures, and being connected to them in an exciting, hands-on way.
Mayor Haim Bibas of Modiʻin said in a statement: “Tittora Hill symbolizes the connection between ancient Modiʻin and the glorious history of this part of the country, and the modern city that exists today. The hill contains many historical and archaeological finds and I believe that the many passersby who visit to it deserve the opportunity to find out about them, in addition to the right to enjoy this unique, green corner of the city. We will continue to work in cooperation with all the relevant authorities to make Tittora Hill an urban nature site that is accessible to all and provides a mine of information about the region’s local treasures.”