This City is Older Than Originally Thought

Ramat HaSharon was founded in 1923. But excavations show that 1,500-years-ago people lived and farmed there.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: archaeology
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Ramat HaSharon, 16 kilometers northeast of Tel Aviv, was founded in 1923 by Polish Zionists as Ir Shalom (City of Peace). Today more than 47,000 people live there. In its first decades the town was dominated by agriculture. Excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority have now shown agricultural and industrial activity dating back 1,500 years.

The treasures found in the course of planning a new neighborhood include a large wine press, a gold coin and a heavy bronze chain. Excavation director Yoav Arbel: “Our finds come from the Byzantine period. Among other things, we discovered a large wine press tiled with a mosaic, as well as plastered installations and the foundations of a large building, possibly a warehouse. It may even be the remains of a farm. Inside the buildings and facilities we found many fragments of storage vessels and cookware, including stone mortars and millstones. Most of the stone tools are made of basalt from the Golan Heights and Galilee.”

A very special find is a gold coin, minted in 638 or 639 AD by Emperor Heraklius. The obverse shows the emperor with his sons, the reverse the cross of Golgotha. An exceptional feature of the coin is an inscription that has been scratched in Greek and possibly also in Arabic. This is likely the owner’s name. Robert Kool, head of the numismatic department of the Antiquities Authority, is fascinated by the data provided by the coin: “From the decline of Byzantine rule to the Persian invasion to the rise of Islam, the piece provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism. This allows conclusions to be drawn about the population who lived here.”

Facilities that existed on this site after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century include a glassmaking workshop and a warehouse where four massive jugs were found. The jugs set into the ground were probably used to store grain and other products protected from pests and moisture. “In this place, people not only worked, but also lived. We found remains of houses and two large ovens,” says Arbel.

The pottery from the era includes completely preserved ceramic lamps as well as local and imported, partially decorated dishes. Another unusual find is a bronze chain that was used to hang a chandelier with glass lamps. The site was inhabited until at least the 11th century. The ancient remains are to be integrated into a future city park.

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