Ancient Jaffa from the Persian to the Byzantine Period. Kaplan Excavations (1955–1981)


Tsuf, Orit, Ancient Jaffa from the Persian to the Byzantine Period. Kaplan Excavations (1955–1981) (Zaphon - Studien zu Geschichte, Kultur und Religion Ägyptens und des Alten Testaments Band 89, 2018), pp. 640 + XVI.
Ancient Jaffa from the Persian to the Byzantine Period. Kaplan Excavations (1955–1981)


The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project Series, Volume 3 – Aaron A. Burke and Martin Peilstöcker, Series Editors.

With contributions by Yonatan Adler, David Amit, Etan Ayalon,
Avner Ecker, Adi Erlich, Peter Gendelman, Ruth E. Jackson-Tal, and Kate Raphael

The present investigation of Jaffa’s archaeological remains is based on Kaplan’s excavations, which were conducted from 1955 to 1974. The focus of the present research is the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine archaeological remains of the port city of Jaffa. The Abu Kabir cemetery of Jaffa is also discussed in the Appendix. The archaeological remains from the Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age will be studied in detail by Aaron Burke and Martin Peilstöcker.

During their lifetime, the Kaplan couple published preliminary reports of the excavations. In addition, they published the most significant artifacts, with a direct or indirect connection to historical events (Kaplan 1980/1; Kaplan 1964a; Ritter Kaplan 1982). However, over the past century, several studies have been published. All of them dealt with the historical and political background of Jaffa during the time of the Hasmonean Wars and the Great Revolt. Most of them were based on written historical (Tolkowsky 1928; Radan 1988) and epigraphic sources (Applebaum 1985; Kindler 1954; Lupu 2003; Price 2003). At this point, before proceeding and conducting additional excavations and studies of the remains of Persian to Byzantine periods of Jaffa, it is essential to reconstruct the material culture framework as part of the historical background of the site.

Kaplan left behind an extremely rich assemblage of diverse finds. Some of the artifacts are on display in the Old Jaffa Museum.* The overwhelming majority of the finds were, however, left in the storerooms of the Old Jaffa Museum awaiting final publication. To this day, no complete study has been undertaken of Jaffa’s archaeological remains that were excavated by Kaplan. The enormous quantity of objects and finds are of immeasurable importance and are the fundamental basis of the present research. The creation of a complete and comprehensive picture of Jaffa’s finds will provide a framework for a deeper understanding of the cultural background of Jaffa’s history. For example, the classification of the pottery assemblage and the identification of the “Judean Pottery” from the dwelling house in Area C enables an understanding of Jaffa’s Jewish inhabitants and their relations with Jerusalem during and after the destruction of the Second Temple (a full discussion is given in Tsuf 2011:271–290).

Under normal circumstances, namely, with the preservation of all documentation, it might have been possible to arrive at a vivid picture of Jaffa as a port city from the Persian to the Byzantine periods. Unfortunately, the surviving evidence and the available written documentation complicated the current study more than I had first anticipated. The finds are, indeed, diverse and plentiful. However, no written documentation of the most important and longest seasons of excavations has surfaced. For example, the documentation of the 1955 to 1958 excavation seasons in Area A as well as the 1961 season in Area C is limited in nature. Yet both were the main excavated areas and revealed the most significant discoveries in Jaffa. In Area A these included Jaffa’s Late Bronze Age Egyptian fortress, the city gate, in addition to Persian and Hellenistic fortifications. In Area C the remains of a Roman period Jewish dwelling were discovered. For both areas, A and C, we lack the diaries and notebooks from the excavation seasons (except for the Area C 1965 diaries) and possess only a few sketches, preliminary area plans, and pottery bucket information. For this reason, after an initial examination of the materials, I realized that the crucial architectural features lacked clear and reliable documentation.

Because of this unfortunate situation, and in order to achieve the best results, I chose to redefine the approach to this project. My first goal was to reconstruct the stratigraphy of the areas according to the best available documentation. I soon realized that in order to avoid a recourse to speculation for the areas that lack critical documentation, I should divide the areas into two categories: areas that were documented in the diaries, and Areas A and C that lack documentation particularly in the diaries. Part I of the study presents a reconstruction of the architectural phasing, which has survived in the documentation in direct relation to the in situ finds, as well as a reconstruction of the two main excavation areas, A and C. The comparative discussions are based on the surviving documentation and finds that are presented in Part I and in the catalogues in Part II.

My second but no less important goal was to create a full picture of Jaffa’s material culture from the Persian to the Byzantine periods. Part II is devoted to the presentation of the complete corpus of Jaffa’s finds according to a combined chronological-typological approach. This part presents the material finds discovered in Jaffa during the Kaplan excavations (1955–1982) (see Table 1.1). Recently more documents of Kaplan’s excavations in Jaffa and elsewhere were found. These documents, which include diaries, plans and illustrations, were found stored at his residence. Unfortunately, the new discoveries are not included in this work, since they were not available to me during the time this research was conducted. However, it encourages me to go on and continue my research in the future.

* The museum is currently under the supervision of the Old Jaffa Development Corporation.

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ISBN: 978-3-96327-030-7
ISSN: 0720-9061
Last updated on 09/05/2018