Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Vol 3, No 1 (2016)

Majdal Yābā: The History and Material Culture of a Fortified Village in Late Ottoman- and British Mandate-Palestine

Tsvika Tsuk, Iosi Bordowicz, Itamar Taxel
Issued Date: 12 Sep 2016

Abstract


Majdal Yābā, located at the western fringes of the Samaria Hills, was a village founded in the 13th century around the former Crusader castle of Mirabel, which in its turn was built at the site of ancient Migdal Aphek. The importance of the place was raised again in the 17th century, when the village was taken over by the Rayyān family, who emigrated from Transjordan. The latter established there their own estate center in the form of a monumental, two-storey manor house built atop and around the remains of the medieval castle. This magnificent structure, though, is dated to not before the 18th century, and it had undergone several additions and renovations in the course of the 19th to early 20th centuries. In 2006, 2009 and 2010 several units of the Ottoman-Mandatory manor house, including parts of the Crusader castle, were excavated following the site’s announcement as a national park. The excavations revealed much evidence about the architecture of the manor house, which includes some urban oriented characteristics such as built-in toilet chambers that can be considered rather unique in a rural setting. In addition, the synthesis of the ceramics and other artifacts retrieved in the excavations sheds important light on the material culture of the residents of this affluent rural complex, against the broader regional cultural and socio-political context. Specifically, some of these finds testify for the extensive process of “modernization” and globalization which started its first steps in Palestine during the 19th century, while combining pan Ottoman and Western/European trends. This process brought about a gradual but irreversible change in many aspects of local lifestyle during early modern times.

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DOI: 10.1558/jia.v3i1.31876

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