|le Petit Gerin||French (Crusader)|||
Moorhead (1997:165) speculated that the decline in size of the settlement at the end of or just after the Umayyad period could be related to a mid 8th century CE earthquake.
The ceramic record probably shows that there was still a significant settlement in the Umayyad period. It is suggested here that it is at the end of, (or just after), the Umayyad period that the settlement was to decline in size, as was apparently the case at Beth-shan (see Cameron 1993:180, after Tsafrir and Foerster 1989-90). This might have been the result of several factors, namely the earthquake of 749 C.E., unrest in the region at the end of the Umayyad caliphate, the shift of the seat of the caliph from Syria to Baghdad, and the possible demise of rich landowners in the area.Grey (1994:611) also commented on this possibility.
Whether there is a reduction of, or break in, occupation following the earthquake of 747/8 A.D. and the political changes under the Abbasid Dynasty (ruling from 750 to c. 967 A.D.) is a very interesting question to consider.A fissure found in the bedrock of the apse at lower levels of a Crusader period church could be a result of seismic activity from an earlier earthquake - possibly one of the mid 8th century CE earthquakes. See Imprecisely dated and/or speculative archaeoseismic evidence.
There is evidence for a Byzantine columbarium on the slope to the east of the tel. Yogev investigated Cistern 150 and found deposits from several periods. The top stratum was ash associated with a Mamluke tabun. Below this, the remains were sealed by fallen stones from a collapse of the cistern, possibly caused by an earthquake.
The Church is dated to the Crusader period and was built atop an earlier structure. There is debate as to whether the earlier structure was from the Byzantine or Crusader period. Grey (2014) reports that this debate was never resolved. There is also speculation that the earlier structure may have been damaged by human agency or an earthquake and that a fissure found in bedrock in the apse may have been a result of seismic activity. Moorhead (1997:147-148) speculated that the fissure in the bedrock in the apse of a Church in Area E may have been a result of an earthquake.
The ChurchGrey (1994:51) commented on the dating of the Church:
The church (see PR:42-46; PR II:32-37; PRIII:42-52) is a contentious building, some of the problems and different opinions that exist are presented below. D. Pringle (1993:279) and A. Skelton (1994:18) both express the view that the superstructure is a single-phase Crusader church. The two styles of ashlar blocks (see PR II:34; Fig. 45) had led some, including the author, to believe that there were two phases, however, in the absence of more secure evidence to the contrary, it seems prudent to accept Pringle's and Skelton's view. What is certain is that the building was redeveloped as late as the Mamluke and Ottoman periods.
The substructure of the church, which is built deep into the Iron Age moat, does, however, present more problems. Firstly, the Crusader apse does not align with its substructure, which might suggest a Crusader construction on an earlier foundation (see PR II:35: Fig. 47). Secondly, there might be two phases of substructure. From the inside of the church, it is possible to see two building styles in the northern substructure wall which has been revealed by excavating through the east end of the church up against the inside of the northern wall. T. Grey (1994a), N. Slope and M. Bradley have given serious consideration to the sections abutting the church in the probe trench in Sq. PP/8 (see PRIII:36; Fig. 48). From these, not altogether clear sections, they argue that the apse substructure predates the 7th century C.E., a fact that might be supported by the find of at least one broken vessel (6th—8th century C.E. Palestinian Baggy Ware) on the inside of the apse close to the substructure. These sections might further suggest that the substructure for the northern wall is later than that for the apse. However, on architectural grounds, Woodhead has suggested that the entire substructure on the northern side was an earlier, pre-Crusader wall (not necessarily of a church) that was used by the Crusaders to build their church wall upon. Skelton does suggest that there was an earlier building on the site or in the vicinity that was robbed to build the Crusader church (1994:13).
The author has surmised that the large fissure in the bedrock in the apse (see PRIII: Fig. 38) was possibly caused by an earthquake after the initial structure was built. This is speculative, but there might be some connection between this and the two styles of substructure for the northern wall. Finally, more consideration should be given to the Arabic graffiti on one of the ashlar blocks (PRI:45; Fig. 33). M. Hawari (pers. comm.) did suggest that it was quite possibly pre-Crusader in style. If this is the case and if it was inscribed after the block was set in the wall, it might have ramifications for dating the structure.
That there was a Byzantine church somewhere at Tel Jezreel seems most likely and it is possible that the Crusader church was built on an earlier church. If it had been a Byzantine church, it would have stood out on the horizon for pilgrims to see as they travelled down the road from the northeast. The finding of a burial without grave goods (Sarcophagus No. 17, below), might be used as evidence for some Christian inhabitants in the Roman/Byzantine period. Finally, the find of a 4th-6th century C.E. terracotta mirror plaque (Area F; Locus 428), for use in religious ceremonies, points towards either a Christian or Jewish presence on the site in the Byzantine period.
(The western end of the tell where a twelfth century Crusader period church overlies an earlier construction, perhaps sixth to eighth century A.D., which is deeply founded in the upper fills of the Iron Age moat)
Excavation so far has yielded ceramic material from stratigraphy extending from c. fourth century A.D. and on through c. seventh to c. eleventh century A.D. (Early Islamic period) deposits to the twelfth century A.D. Crusader period and beyond. Detailed quantification of the ceramic material from 1992-3 is under way based on total collection and retention of all excavated material which was recovered with the aid of sieving.
Ussishkin and Woodhead (1997:42-50) also commented on the fissure and dating of the church
A wide fissure crosses the southern part of the rock projection, but only part of it has been exposed in the probe (Fig. 38). Presently it is impossible to judge whether the rock split before the hewing of the moat or at a later date, possibly as a result of an earthquake.
... Stratigraphic Observations.
It is clear that the church has more than one stage in its history. Founded in the debris-filled moat, it had deep-set foundations supported by constructional fills. The data retrieved from the probe raised more than one possibility for reconstructing the history of the building. Below, the stratigraphic interpretations first proposed by S. Moorhead and by Peter Woodhead are presented.
The wall of the apse above (the present) floor level is built of medium-sized ashlars, and its face shows remains of plaster. The wall sits on a lower apse wall which curves beneath the (present) floor level on a slightly different line than that of the superimposed apse, thus creating a kind of step at floor level. At first sight it appeared as if we had two superimposed walls representing different structures, and, indeed, this was our assumption in 1993 (PRII:35). However, the probe trench indicated that both apse walls in fact belong to a single entity, and that the `lower' wall is merely the foundation of the `upper' apse wall.
The foundation wall is deeper at the northern end of the apse (above the debris-filled moat), and only three courses high on the southern end, where it extends above the rock projection in the moat (see above). The foundation wall is built in a different style — courses of medium-sized roughly squared stones and rubble with small stones filling the spaces between them. The side edges of the apse wall, in both the foundation wall and the superstructure, end in a right angle or corner. On both sides of the nave, beyond these angles, the southern and northern side walls of the building are aligned with the foundations, though constructed in a different style.
The deep foundations of the northern part of the apse and a segment of the continuing northern side wall of the nave were uncovered in the probe trench (Fig. 40). The bottom of the foundation wall was reached at elevation ca. 99.90 m., hence the foundations of the building at this point are ca. 3.40 m. beneath floor level. The angle (i.e., corner) in the line of the wall at the northern edge of the apse does not continue in the lower part of the foundations where the line of the wall face is straight. The bottom of the foundations uncovered in the probe trench rests on two large blocks of stone (Figs. 40-41). They were possibly placed here as a base for the foundations, but more likely they belong to a lower stratum and are probably associated with the threshold in Sq. QQ/8 (W 945).
As observed in the probe trench, the northern side wall of the nave (at both foundation and superstructure level) is built of two distinct parts which adjoin one another, representing two stages in the history of the edifice (Fig. 40). The `eastern' wall part — which includes the apse — has been described above. The `separating line' between the two parts can be seen at a distance of ca. 2 m. to the west of the angle at the edge of the apse wall. To the west of this `line' the straight foundation wall of the `western' wall part continues in a slightly different orientation; it is built with larger stones and the spaces between them are carefully filled with small stones. The superstructure of the `western' wall part is faced with large ashlars cut of hard white limestone which differ from the smaller, yellowish ashlars used in the `eastern' wall part and in the apse (see also PRII: Fig. 45). Significantly, several of these large white ashlars are specific parts of distinctive architectural elements which were in secondary use — an indication that the white ashlars might have also originated from the earlier church structure. Finally, we must note that the exterior face of the `western' wall part has been uncovered and studied during previous seasons in the probe trench outside the church in Sq. PP/8 (PRII:36; Fig. 48).
The southern wall of the nave differs somewhat from the northern wall. Here the wall rests on bedrock; it, at least in the part excavated, does not have deep foundations like the northern wall (Fig. 42). The southern wall is constructed mainly of the smaller, yellowish ashlars, and the wall is bonded to the apse, forming a single structure with no indication of later rebuilding or repairs. It also lacks the clear division (observed in the northern wall of the nave) between the yellowish ashlars to the east and the white ones to the west; here the white ashlars are incorporated into the upper courses of the wall as an integral part of the original construction. It is only in the blocked side entrance, constructed in the centre of the southern wall (PRII:35; Fig. 46), that later repair work may be observed.
According to the suggestion of Moorhead (which in the opinion of Ussishkin is the most convincing stratigraphical interpretation), the `eastern' part of the northern wall and the apse represent the original stage of the structure. The `western' part of the northern wall - foundations and superstructure alike — represent a rebuilding stage, in which a large part of the building had to be reconstructed in its entirety. It is quite possible that these two structural stages may also be discerned in the southern side wall of the nave. It seems that the `eastern' part of the southern side wall, extending between the apse and the blocked side entrance, is contemporary with the apse and belongs to the original stage of the structure. The `western' part of the southern side wall, that is the part of the southern side wall from the blocked side entrance to the southwest corner of the edifice, belongs to the rebuilt stage. In addition, the poorly preserved front western wall of the church seems to belong to the rebuilt, rather than the original stage of the church. This implies that the original church might have perhaps been smaller, its original front wall extending along a more easterly line.
Regarding the blocked side entrance, it seems that its eastern jamb, made of larger blocks carefully fitted to the wall, should be assigned to the original structure together with the side wall of the nave to its east. The western jamb of the entrance, however, although also built of larger blocks, is carelessly constructed and probably belongs to the rebuilt structure. If this observation is correct it implies that the side entrance existed in both stages of the building, and that it was blocked during a later phase of the rebuilt stage.
According to the suggestion of P. Woodhead, the `western' part of the northern foundation wall represents the original stage of the structure which extended in a straight line across the moat. At a later stage part of this wall was removed in order to construct the apse, and above it both the `western' and `eastern' parts of the superstructure were incorporated. The southern wall of the nave belongs to the stage of construction of the apse, while the blocking of the side entrance is from a still later date. The western, front wall of the church also shows at least two construction phases. The centrally located entrance of the earlier phase — possibly contemporary with the earlier part of the northern wall of the nave — was later blocked and had its white ashlar blocks removed. A new entrance was probably constructed in the western front wall, but closer to the northwest corner of the building.
The fills beneath the floor of the nave were studied in the probe trench. At least one stone wall (W 8017) several courses high was constructed in order to support and consolidate the fill. It crossed the apse between the face of the rock projection and the northern wall of the apse (Fig. 37). Quite possibly another wall(?) containing a single course of stones which extended along the western edge of the probe trench (see Fig. 41, at left side of deep probe trench) fulfilled a similar function (both these walls are not shown in the plan in Fig. 36).
The constructional fill of the foundations apparently dates to the time of the original stage of the structure. It appears that the fills adjacent to the `eastern' part of the northern wall of the nave, as well as to the apse, were laid against the walls. This situation is visible in the north-facing section perpendicular to the centre of the apse published in PRII: Fig. 47. On the other hand, a wide trench exists between the fills and the `western' part of the northern side wall of the nave. This trench can be discerned in the east-facing section through the fills oriented perpendicularly to this wall (Fig. 41). In Ussishkin's opinion, this trench should be understood as a foundation trench cut in the fill when the `western' part of the nave wall was rebuilt.
The constructional fills were investigated down to the bottom of the probe at elevation ca. 98.90 m. For a metre or so above this point the fill was of dark soil which contained mainly Early Bronze Age pottery. The parts of the fill above it contained mainly Byzantine—Umayyad pottery and some medieval pottery in the uppermost layers of the fill.
The floors of the church were examined in previous seasons and have now been studied again. The remains of two distinct floors can be discerned in the church. A stone pavement extends in large parts of the nave, but is missing in the apse. It includes parts made of rectangular stones which appear to belong to the original pavement, and other parts which appear to be later repairs (PRI:44; Fig. 35). A lime plastered floor covered the flag stones beneath the present surface. Apparently the same floor extends in the area of the apse where the stone pavement was missing, reaching the apse wall at the same level as the top of the foundation wall (PRII:34-35; Fig. 47). The floor in the apse is medieval or later; the dating is based on the evidence of pottery found beneath the floor.
Summing up, both stratigraphic interpretations detailed above observe two clear stages in the building of the church. The first claims that due to an unknown event —perhaps a willful destruction or an earthquake — the western part of the building was replaced. Deep, massive foundations were prepared for the new walls which extended above the debris filling the moat, and dressed stones of the original walls were reused. The second view claims that an earlier structure, which may or may not have been a church but in any event did not have an apse where it is located today, was robbed, modified, and rebuilt as a church. It is clear that the later stage in the history of the church is medieval and dates to the time of Le Petit Genin, the Crusader period village. Opinions differ, however, as to the earlier history of the church. Ussishkin, who adopts the first stratigraphic interpretation presented above, believes that the church was established in the Crusader period, and that the church of the Byzantine settlement must be looked for elsewhere. Moorhead and Slope, who hold the same stratigraphic view, believe, however, that the church was founded in the Byzantine period and rebuilt in the Crusader period. J. Woodhead, who adopts the second stratigraphic interpretation presented above, keeps an open mind on the date of the western northern wall, but believes that the church was constructed in the Crusader period.
The main arguments for dating the earlier stage of the structure (based on the second stratigraphic interpretation) to the Byzantine period are as follows. The ashlar blocks in the original stage of the western wall of the church are similar to those in the superstructure of the northern wall where they are in secondary use. Many of them, as well as several architectural elements incorporated into the floor of the church or lying in its vicinity, are shaped in styles familiar to Byzantine buildings. The `Byzantine' horizon uncovered in the probe trench in Squares PP-QQ/8 to the north of the church was either contemporary with the earlier stage of the structure but constructed at a lower level inside the moat, or more likely of an earlier date but still of the Roman—Byzantine period. Those who hold to an earlier Byzantine church in the first stage do so mainly on the basis of large amounts of Byzantine period pottery found in the constructional fills, including nearly complete jars which were probably found in situ rather than shifted to this place as part of the fills.
The main arguments for dating the earlier stage of the church to the Crusader period according to Ussishkin are as follows. First, the floor of the original church must have been above the flat top of the rock projection. This would mean that the floor of the church — if indeed it was Byzantine — must have been several metres higher than the contemporary Byzantine horizon to the north of the church as exposed in Squares PP-QQ/8 (see PRII:36; Fig. 50). Such a situation is difficult to accept. Second, no indicatives of Byzantine architectural remains were uncovered here or in the vicinity, e.g., tesserae, the absence of which indicates that no mosaic floor was built here. Third, the walls of the rebuilt church include many ashlars and architectural elements in secondary use; these elements date to the period of the Crusades, and hence we have to conclude that the earlier structure from which these architectural elements were taken for reuse must have been medieval as well. Fourth, we assume that the constructional fills of the church date to the time of the original structure, however, a large part of the fill is debris containing Byzantine—Umayyad pottery; hence, the structure postdates this period. Furthermore, some medieval pottery was found in the uppermost layers of the fill, another indication for the date of construction of the edifice.
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