(Ar., Minet Rubin),

coastal site located 16 km (9 mi.) south of Tel Aviv-Jaffa (31°50′ N, 34°35′ E; map reference 1212 × 1479). The site was excavated for three seasons by Jacob Kaplan from 1967 to 1969, under the auspices of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipal Museum. The Israel Antiquities Authority undertook a series of rescue excavations under the direction of Fanny Vitto (1980) and Yosef Levy (1987) in order to save a building complex from being eroded by the sea. Moshe Dothan (1952) suggests that Yavneh-Yam may be ancient Mehôz, mentioned in the geographic lists of Thutmosis III and Alu-Muhazi in the Amarna letter no. 298. [See Amarna Tablets.] From Hellenistic times onward it is referred to as Jamnia (Iamnia). Arab geographers referred to it as Mahu Yubna. According to older views, a council of Jewish scholars completed the canon of the Hebrew Bible at Jamnia in 90 CE.

The site consists primarily of a square enclosure (approximately 800 sq m) bounded by a freestanding rampart. Based on the configuration of the ramparts at nearby Ashkelon, Israel Finkelstein (1992) suggests that the site may not have been enclosed on its western, seaward side. This would greatly reduce Kaplan's estimate of the site's size as 64 ha (160 acres). Kaplan was primarily interested in the rampart's construction and in fact found little evidence of occupation within the enclosure. He excavated two trenches, areas A and H, which cut across the rampart. The site dates to the beginning of the Middle Bronze IIA and continued in use intermittently through the Late Bronze I, when it was abandoned. It is possible that the site served as a harborage for the site of Yavneh 8 km (5 mi.) to the southeast.

In order to understand the rampart's construction, area A was cut from the top of the rampart down to its base. The sterile sand at the base of the rampart was leveled and covered with a thick layer of red clayey soil (Ar., hamra). The core of the rampart was a light-brown packed earth entirely covered with hamra. A glacis, composed of a layer of clayey soil covered by a layer of crushed kurkar, was then added to the rampart's exterior. In a later phase, this glacis was capped with stone to form a 30° angle. A series of three superimposed gates was found in area H, near the southeast corner of the rampart. The two earliest gates of strata III and II (MB II) were constructed of sun-dried mud bricks and flanked by towers. The LB stratum I gate was constructed of stone rubble. A second gate system was also detected along the eastern wall. Nine occupational layers on the inner rampart slope were excavated in area A. The earliest layer's ceramic horizon dates to MB IIA. Layers 8–3 date to MB IIB–C. LBI material, including Bichrome Ware, was found in layers 2 and 1. In area H, an MB IIA hearth was found on sterile soil in front of the stratum III gate. Fragments of ivory plaques were also associated with this hearth.

The site was reoccupied in the Persian period when it was probably a key administrative center. Based on the sherd scatter, the site expanded in the Persian and Hellenistic periods and was a large port in the Roman-Byzantine period. Judas Maccabaeus (Judah Maccabee) attacked Jamnia in order to destroy the Seleucid fleet (see Isaac, 1991, p. 140). A fragmentary Greek inscription on a limestone block, approximately dated to the reign of Antiochus V (164–162 BCE), is important for understanding the Phoenician influence on Jamnia. It appears that there was a strong Sidonian presence at the site beginning in the second century BCE. Vitto excavated the remains of a well-made polychromatic mosaic floor with a geometric decoration. [See Mosaics.] The floor was probably part of a large building complex that is dated to the Byzantine period. Levy excavated in this same area and found three Mamluk rooms with white mosaic floors and evidence of a wine press. Underneath the Byzantine and Mamluk mosaics earlier levels (Herodian, Hellenistic, and Persian) were found from which a Rhodian handle and a Hasmonean coin were recovered.

Bibliography

  • Ayalon, Etan “Yavneh Yam.” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 2 (1983): 109–110.
    Important update of the evidence for Byzantine and Early Arab irrigation efforts on the south slope of the rampart
    .
  • Bunimovitz, Shlomo. “The Middle Bronze Age Fortifications in Palestine as a Social Phenomenon.” Tel Aviv 19.2 (1992): 221–234.
    Very important discussion of MB fortification systems and elites
    .
  • Dothan, Moshe. “An Archaeological Survey of the Lower Rubin River.” Israel Exploration Journal 2 (1952): 104–117.
  • Eldar, Iris, and I. Nir. “Yavne-Yam, Well.” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 4 (1985): 114–115.
    Important for the later material at the site
    .
  • Finkelstein, Israel. “Middle Bronze Age Fortifications: A Reflection of Social Organization and Political Formations.” Tel Aviv 19.2 (1992): 201–220.
  • Isaac, Benjamin. “A Seleucid Inscription from Jamnia-on-the-Sea: Antiochus V Eupator and the Sidonians.” Israel Exploration Journal 41 (1991): 132–144.
    Excellent historical overview of Yavneh-Yam from the Hellenistic period, with an important discussion of the role of the Phoenicians in Judea (Judah) in the Persian and Hellenistic periods
    .
  • Kaplan, Jacob. “Further Aspects of the Middle Bronze Age II Fortifications in Palestine.” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 91 (1975): 1–17.
    Good synthesis of MB fortification systems, including the ramparts at Yavneh-Yam
    .
  • Levy, Yosef. “Yavneh-Yam.” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 7–8 (1988–1989): 188, 202.
    Important for the later material at the site
    .
  • Vitto, Fanny. “Yavneh Yam, 1980.” Israel Exploration Journal 33 (1983): 268–269.
    Site report of a salvage excavation of a Byzantine mosaic floor, with important information on the later periods at Yavneh-Yam
    .

J. P. Dessel