Monday, 2 November 2015

Israel, November 2015

Day One and the Night Before: Jaffa, Ramla, Arsuf and Caesarea Maritima

Starting out on the first expedition of
Re-evaluating the Crusades, Israel!
The Night Before the whole group arrived, those who were already assembled in Tel Aviv had the chance to tour the Crusader sites of the port of Jaffa (modern Yaffo) with Dr Yoav Arbel of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The tour took the participants around the standing Crusader remains and also focussed on the topography of the Crusader settlement. It was a great way to start the trip and made those of us who couldn't make it jealous of the chance to take a look around this extremely significant Crusader location. 

A night view of the port

The group assembles for Robert Kool's presentation.
Day 1 in Israel dawned bright and sunny, and far too warm for anybody to accept Gil’s generous offer of some red hot chilli flavoured chewing gum. We got going with a presentation by Robert Kool of the Israel Antiquities Authority, on coinage of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which raised a number of fascinating issues and questions. It was a particular privilege to see images and get a preview description of a hoard of Fatimid gold coins discovered in the harbour of Caesarea only this February. 

From there Robert joined us for our journey to Ramla, where unforeseen circumstances altered our original plans but presented new opportunities. We had planned to spend some time in the Ramla mosque and enjoy a presentation by Heba Mustafa, but for reasons beyond our control could not spend as long there as planned. We had time for photographs and a short historical background and archaeological analysis by Heba.

Listening attentively to Heba's exposition of the Ramla mosque.

And this talk revealed numerous historical and architectural relationships between the Ramla Mosque and the now-ruined White Mosque in Ramla, including the mysterious transposition of inscriptions concerning the Ramla Mosque to the White Mosque and vice versa. With our visit to the Ramla Mosque cut short, therefore, it made perfect sense to spend our additional time visiting the remains of the White Mosque. 

The barrel vault of the mosque, with modern reinforcement.
The White Mosque as it stands today

Here, after additional information about the Mamluk minaret on the site of the White Mosque, Robert Kool very kindly negotiated permission for us to visit not only the standing remains of the main mosque complex, which are usually restricted access, but also the cistern of Harun al-Rashid, which was built beneath the mosque complex.

The minaret at Ramla

In the cistern of Harun al-Rashid.

From there a superb lunch in Ramla sustained us for a short drive to Arsuf/Arsur, and a tour of the Crusader archaeology there by Oren Tal of the Israeli Archaeology Service. This site, perched on a sandstone promontory, features mainly thirteenth-century visible remains, which give a vivid insight into the brutality of conflict during the crusader period. 

Getting in touch with old friends at Arsur.

With collapsed outer walls as a result of Mamluk mining, evidence for burned walls and piles of stones used as missiles against the walls, it testifes eloquently to the struggles of the Knights Hospitallers and their Mamluk adversaries to control this small port and defensive outcrop.

The crusader castle at Arsuf.

Our last site visit of the day was to Caesarea, where a presentation by Rebecca Darley focussed on the Crusader church and the walls and gatehouse. Both are attributed in their current form to the late thirteenth century, and especially to the seventh Crusade and the activities of Louis IX of France. 

Outside the crusader church at Caesarea, as the light begins to fade...

Extensive restoration and the complex archaeology of a site which seems to have undergone continuous modification and repair, as well as larger phases of development and dereliction, however, makes it difficult to and perhaps fruitless to attempt too close a reading of textual and archaeological sources.

The gatehouse of Caesarea, with reconstructed vaulting.

Finally, the day ended in the fittingly-named ‘Crusaders’ restaurant beneath the walls of Caesarea, where there was an opportunity to discuss many of the themes of the day’s visits, before taking a bus to our next destination - Akko, whence more to follow tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Very comprehensive and interesting post Rebecca. Thank you for keeping us updated.