site located at the crossroads leading from Israel's western seacoast (Jaffa) to Jerusalem on the east, and from Syria in the north to Egypt in the south, about 4 km (2.5 mi.) south of Lod (map reference 138 × 148). The name ar-Ramla is believed to derive from the Arabic word raml, meaning “sand,” referring to the sand dunes of the region. Ramla was the only new city founded in Palestine during the Islamic period; its founder was Sulayman, son of ῾Abd al- Malik, who, as governor of the Jund Filastin, established his capital there. This must have taken place sometime between 712 and 715, when Sulayman became caliph after his brother Walid I.

The first excavation at the site was conducted by Jacob Kaplan In 1949, on behalf of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Department of Antiquities of Israel. The excavation focused on the White Mosque, which was at the core of the first buildings constructed at the site in the eighth century. Excavation established that the mosque was built in the form of a quadrangle (93 × 84 m), with its walls oriented to the cardinal points. The right half of the mosque deviates some 6° to the north of the traditional east–west orientation. The major remains are the foundations of the east and west porticoes, the qiblah wall (the wall oriented toward Mecca) on the south with its miḥrab (niche) in the middle, and two rows of massive pillars running parallel to the qiblah wall. These remains appear to be from a later restoration under the Ayyubids, after the Crusader period, as there are clear remnants of cross vaulting for the roof. The mosque's most prominent feature is its square minaret, which was rebuilt in the Mamluk period and still preserves an inscription giving the name of Sultan Muhammad ibn Qala'un and the date AH 714/1318 CE. Another building was discovered in the center whose function is as yet unidentified (it may be an ablution basin). Three subterranean cisterns were revealed in the courtyard.

In 1965 Myriam Rosen-Ayalon and Avraham Eitan, on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, conducted an excavation that concentrated on the southwestern part of the town; they also made several smaller-scale trial soundings that contributed to understanding the city's topography and urban development in antiquity.

A large number of finds—mainly pottery, but also glass, stone, and metal—were recovered immediately beneath the surface. The material was homogeneous in character and could be ascribed to the eighth or beginning of the ninth century CE. Although this suggests a relatively brief period of occupation, four settlement levels were distinguished, the lowest resting directly on virgin soil. The nature of the finds, together with evidence of elements of installations, points to what might have been a potter's workshop.

In 1973, in the southeastern part of the town, (the Old Quarter), in the courtyard of a private house, Magen Broshi excavated a mosaic pavement comprised of three “carpets.” Two are geometric compositions reminiscent of pre-Islamic patterns; the third bears an inscription of a Qur'anic verse in an early Kufic script set within an arch supported by two columns. The ceramic material found with the mosaic also lay on virgin soil, confirming the eighth-century date.

Bibliography

  • Conder, Claude R., and H. H. Kitchener. The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology, vol. 2, Samaria. London, 1882. See pages 264ff.
  • Kaplan, Jacob. “Excavations at the White Mosque in Ramla.” ῾Atiqot 2 (1959): 106–115.
  • Le Strange, Guy, trans. Palestine under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500. London, 1890. See pages 15–16, 20, 28, 39, 41, 56, and 303–308.
  • Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam, and Avraham Eitan. Ramla Excavations: Finds from the VIIIth Century C.E. Jerusalem, 1969.
  • Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. “The First Mosaic Discovered in Ramla.” Israel Exploration Journal 26 (1976): 104–119.
  • Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand, ed. Jacut's Geographisches Wörterbuch, vol. 11, p. 817. Leipzig, 1866–.

Myriam Rosen-Ayalon