MONTFORT CASTLE PROJECT – A joint project of the SSCLE and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology University of Haifa – Professor Adrian Boas, Dr Rabei Khamisy
The Montfort Castle Project was established in 2006 with the aim of studying the principal fortress of the Teutonic Order in the western Galilee, Israel. In 2009 the SSCLE adopted the project as its co-sponsor together with the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa. The first years of the project from 2006 to 2011 were devoted to surveys. In the summer of 2011, the first season of archaeological excavations took place since which there have been an additional seven seasons. The fieldwork is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority with a permit from the Israel National Parks Authority and has been funded by the Israel Science Foundation (grants 1161/06 and 1032/14). Fieldwork is directed by Prof. Adrian Boas and Dr. Rabei Khamisy assisted by Dr. Rafael Lewis, with the participation of students and volunteers from the United States, Europe and Israel, and in recent seasons with participation of groups of students and scholars from Royal Holloway and the University of Reading.
Excavations have concentrated on a number of locations in the castle - the Great Hall (2011), the central domestic building (2012, 2013, 2016, 2017), and the outer fortifications, outer ward and stables (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017). These excavations have provided abundant evidence for the development of the castle, the function of its components, the daily life and activities of the garrison, of the two Mamluk sieges (1266, 1271), and of the conquest and dismantling of the castle in the summer of 1271.
The Seventh Season, Summer 2016: The Outer Fortifications and Outer Ward
In July - August 2016 a four week excavation season (funded by the Israel Science Foundation, ISF Grant 1032/14) took place in the southern section of the outer fortifications during which a round tower was excavated down to its lower (basement) floor. The tower is preserved a height of around 3.5 metres (internally). It had a doorway on the east, the threshold of which is preserved, and at that level there was a wooden floor supported on wooden beams. East of the tower a room was partly exposed with a broad doorway on its south, that at a certain time had been blocked and subsequently a well-constructed chute (possibly from a latrine in the upper ward) was built against its exterior. The initial conclusion from examination of this area is that the outer wall did not extend further south but, if it existed, extended back up the slope on the east to join the westernmost part of the upper ward.
Numerous small finds were recovered in the tower and in the adjacent chamber. These include large quantities of animal bones, local and imported ceramics, metal finds including many arrowheads, coins, mostly of thirteenth century date, a large quantity of fragments of glass vessels, iron waste from a forge and game pieces, a game board, and a cut bone industry for the manufacture of buttons, crossbow nuts and other objects.
The principal aim of the 2017 excavations was to attempt to expose the line of the outer defenses in the south. As nothing can be seen of these defenses beyond a round tower in the south-west, it was hoped that excavations in the area of the tower would enlighten us on the direction they took from this point. The excavations seem to support the wall having turned north-east at this point up the steep hill to join the main building in the west of the upper ward. During the excavations the tower was entirely cleared as were part of the adjacent defenses with a blocked gate and possible latrine chute. The numerous material finds included ceramics, weapons, glass vessels, coins, animal bones and an industrial waste from a workshop producing items of worked bone.
The Tower Excavated in 2016
A Gilded Bronze Buckle found in the Tower
The Eighth Season, Summer 2017: Discovery of a Previously Unknown Gothic Hall
In the August 2017 season (funded by the Israel Science Foundation, ISF Grant 1032/14) an area to the west of the administrative building of the upper ward was excavated in a four-week season. A layer of debris was exposed, consisting of a large quantity of ashlars of various shapes. A large number of these are of ribs similar to those found in other parts of the castle. Also found was a section of a half-octagonal pier, a decorated cornice and a tas-de-charge with the two forms of ribs, and a few pieces of grisaille-decorated stained glass. The position of the architectural pieces that lie in the order they once stood – pier, cornice, tas-de-charge and ribs, are the result of Mamluk undermining that brought down the previously unknown upper storey hall that was part of the westernmost structure of the upper ward of the castle.
Architectural Elements Found in Collapse in 2017. Remains of a Gothic Hall