As Ramat Hasharon approaches its centenary year, evidence is emerging that its history is far more ancient than previously thought.
Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavations ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood in the area have unearthed finds including a large winepress paved with a mosaic, a gold coin, and a bronze chain that was used to suspend a chandelier some 1,500 years old.
“The excavation unearthed evidence of agricultural-industrial activity at the site during the Byzantine period,” IAA Excavation Director Dr. Yoav Arbel said.
The discovery included plastered installations and the foundations of a large structure that may have been used as a warehouse or even a farmstead. Inside the buildings and installations, the archeologists found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by laborers working in the fields in the area.
They 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 Galilee.
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. On one side, the emperor is depicted with his two sons and the reverse shows a cross on the hill of Golgotha where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified.
An interesting addition to the coin is an inscription etched in Greek, and possibly also in Arabic. This is probably the name of the coin’s owner, who "marked" it as highly valuable property.
Dr. Robert Kool, head of the IAA’s Numismatics Department, noted that “the coin encapsulates fascinating information on the decline of Byzantine rule in the land and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population that lived here.”
Another unusual find is a bronze chain that was used to suspend a chandelier containing glass lamp holders. Chandeliers of this type are usually found in churches.
Installations built at the site after the Muslim conquest in the 7th 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,” said 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 the finds, the site continued to be inhabited until the 11th century CE.
IAA Tel Aviv District archaeologist Diego Barkan pointed out that this is the first archaeological excavation ever conducted at the site, and only part of it was previously identified in an archaeological field survey.
Ramat Hasharon Mayor Avi Gruber stated that he is “thrilled by the finds” and is working on plans to “integrate the current finds into the future neighborhood.”
“As we plan heritage-related events for the upcoming centenary, this opens up a whole new perspective on how people once lived in this part of the country,” he said.