Evidence Found of Ancient Agricultural Activity in Ramat Ha-Sharon

YERUSHALAYIM -
Aerial view of the winepress. (Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

An Israel Antiquities Authority excavation has yielded evidence of human activity in the Ramat Ha-Sharon region from ancient times.

The history of Ramat Ha-Sharon, a city just south of Tel Aviv, is far more ancient than generally assumed. “The excavation unearthed evidence of agricultural-industrial activity at the site during the Byzantine period – about 1,500 years ago, according to IAA estimate.

“Among other finds, we discovered a large winepress paved with a mosaic as well as plastered installations and the foundations of a large structure that may have been used as a warehouse or even a farmstead,” said Dr. Yoav Arbel, Director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by laborers working in the fields here. We also recovered stone mortars and millstones that were used to grind wheat and barley and probably also to crush herbs and medicinal plants. Most of the stone implements are made of basalt from the Golan Heights and Galil.”

Storage jars and oil lamps unearthed in Ramat Hasharon. (Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

One of the rare and unexpected finds retrieved from the excavation is a gold coin, minted in 638 or 639 CE by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. An interesting addition to the coin is an inscription scratched in Greek, and possibly also in Arabic. This is probably the name of the coin’s owner, who ‘marked’ it as highly valuable property.

According to Dr. Robert Kool, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Numismatics Department, “The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam…and the local population who lived here.”

Installations built at the site after the Muslim conquest in the seventh century CE include a glass-making workshop and a warehouse, where four massive jars were found. The jars, which were sunk into the floor, were evidently used to store grain and other products as a precaution against pests and damp conditions.

“In this period, people were not only working at the site but also living there, because we discovered the remains of houses and two large baking ovens,” says Arbel. The pottery from this period includes complete pottery lamps for lighting, and local and imported serving ware, some of it decorated. Based on the assemblage of finds, the site continued to be inhabited until the eleventh century CE.

The excavation was prompted by Ramat Ha-Sharon Municipality’s plans to establish a new residential neighborhood south of a Holiday Park slated to be built on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.