Magnificent 10th Century Fountain Uncovered in Central Israel

Find shows extent of the town's strength and wealth a thousand years ago.

Archaeological salvation excavations carried out by the National Roads Company prior to road work near Ramle have uncovered the farm of a wealthy family from the Fatimid era, between the late 10th century and early 11th century. The excavations, led by Hagit Turga, discovered to the west of the farm the remains of a mosaic fountain covered with stone boards.

Similar fountains have been uncovered in the area before, but this is the first to be found outside the historical center of the city. This is also the first time the clay pipes leading to the fountain have been so well preserved.

“It seems that this was the home of a wealthy family,” says Turga, adding that the fountain was mainly an ornamental object.

This is the first time such a fountain has been discovered outside the wealthy quarters of ancient Ramle. “Most of the fountains we are familiar with from this period were located in the area of the White Tower, which was the center of ancient Ramle. Furthermore, this is the first time we have found a pipe system that was completely intact. Other pipes didn’t survive the earthquakes of 1033 and 1068.”

The discovery of the farm and fountain reflects the strength and wealth of Ramle at the time. The town was established in the 8th century as the Palestine district capital by caliph Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik. In following centuries the town grew and was an important economic stop between Cairo and Damascus, and between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Other findings included a blacksmith's furnace that served to create iron tools, remnants of dolls made of bones and oil candles. The fountain has been removed to Ramle's Pool of the Arches compound, where it will be displayed.

Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.