The current excavation was carried out in the center part of the Muristan compound, in two separate squares (each 3 × 8 m) along the southern side of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Three construction phases that included two massive walls, three channels, a cistern and several floors were exposed (Fig. 2). The remains were dated from the Byzantine until the Ottoman periods.
The First Phase. A channel (T1; length 5 m), oriented east–west, was ascribed to this earliest phase. It contained fill (Loci 107, 153; thickness 1 m) that was devoid of any datable finds. The floor of the channel consisted of small plastered fieldstones, unlike its unplastered sides. It was covered with five large fieldstone slabs (average size 0.3–0.4 × 0.6–0.8 m, thickness 0.15–0.35 m). One of the slabs was cracked and small fieldstones were placed below it for support, possibly when the channel was no longer in use. Walls 1 and 10 formed the southern side of the channel and Wall 2, built of nine courses, was its northern side. Wall 10, aligned east–west, was built on an incline of ashlar stones and only three of its courses were exposed (length 2. 7 m, height 0.6–0.8 m, average width 1.5 m). The layers of fill to the south of W1 (L204) contained pottery vessels; some dated to the Byzantine period and included a jar (Fig. 3:8), whereas most dated to the Early Roman period (first century BCE–first century CE) and included cooking pots (Fig. 3:1–6) and a jar (Fig. 3:7).
Wall 1 was built of two–three courses (width 1.4 m, height 0.7–0.8 m) and deviated 0.1 m north of W10’s line, which was below it and may have served as its foundation. If this was the case, then W1 probably belonged to the second phase. A tamped level of small white stones (L203) that was only discovered in the western part of the square abutted the base of W1.
The Second Phase. A floor (F2), two channels (T2, T3) and a wall (W3) were ascribed to this phase. The floor (F2) consisted of beige-colored limestone (thickness 2–5 cm) on top of very small stones (average size 5 × 10 cm). Two openings were discerned in the floor; the first, in the northwestern corner of the square, belonged to a built cistern that was filled with silt and whose opening was blocked with a stone slab at floor level. The second opening (20 × 30 cm) was the top of Channel T2, which was built of small fieldstones and a small fieldstone blocked it. Although the function of the channel (length 3 m, width 0.3 m, depth 0.3 m) is unclear, it was probably used to feed the cistern or convey overflow. Its northwest-southeast direction may have connected it to Channel T1.
Channel T3, aligned east–west (length 1.8 m, width 0.2 m, depth 0.3 m), was discovered at a lower level than Channel T2; it may have been connected to the opening in the northwestern corner of the built cistern and it was probably used as a feeder channel or for overflow. The two channels (T2, T3) were coated with gray plaster that contained limestone/lime, fine gravel and charcoal.
Wall 3 (length 2.5 m, height 1 m), built of roughly hewn fieldstones, was preserved three courses high; it crossed the middle of the square in an east–west direction and probably served as the southern wall of the cistern. The fill above the wall (L104) contained fragments of pottery vessels that included the base of a bowl (Fig. 4:7), with a double slip, a dark yellow monochrome glaze and sgraffito decoration, dating to the Fatimid and Crusader periods (beginning of eleventh to middle of the thirteenth centuries CE) and a plain bowl (Fig. 4:5) that dated to this time period. Hence, the cistern was dated to the Fatimid period or at the latest to the beginning of the Crusader period, which was consistent with the finds documented by Schick north of the excavation area and the historical sources that claim the building had existed in the Early Islamic period and was renovated in the Crusader period.
The fill along the sides of W3 (Loci 105, 106, 108) contained potsherds that dated to the Early Islamic period, including bowls (Fig. 4:1, 2), glazed bowls with a double slip on the interior and exterior of the rim (Fig. 4:4, 6), a glazed Fayumi-type bowl (Fig. 4:3) and jars (Fig. 4:8–11).