Dating Early Islamic Sites through Architectural Elements
A Case Study from Central Israel
The development of the chronology of the Early Islamic period (7th-11th centuries) has largely been based on coins and pottery, but both have pitfalls. In addition to the problem of mobility, both coins and pottery were used for extended periods of time. As a result, the dating of pottery can seldom be refined to less than a 200-300-year range, while coins in Israel are often found in contexts hundreds of years after the intial production of the coin itself. This article explores an alternative method for dating based on construction techniques and installation designs. To that end, this paper analyzes one excavation area in central Israel between Tel-Aviv, Ashdod and Ramla. The data used in the study is from excavations and survey of early Islamic remains. Installation and construction techniques were categorized by type and then ordered chronologically through a common stratigraphy from related sites. The results were mapped to determine possible phases of change at the site, with six phases being established and dated. This analysis led to the re-dating of the Pool of the Arches in Ramla from 172 AH/789 CE to 272 AH/886 CE, which is different from the date that appears on the building inscription. The attempted reconstruction of Ramla involved several scattered sites attributed to the 7th and the 8th centuries which grew into clusters by the 9th century and unified into one main cluster with the White Mosque at its center by the 10th-11th centuries. This dating method chiefly utilizes terminus post quem dates and index fossils to differentiate between the 9th and 10th centuries. This article emphasizes the potential of archaeology as an alternative to written sources in the dating of sites and offers a fresh perspective on the history of this region.
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