A section of pavement (L101), built of large flagstones and flat stones, was discovered south of the wall. It was placed on top of a bedding of fieldstones and hard gray plaster used as mortar. It was ascertained that the bedding was built on top of fill consisting of soil and stones in a probe conducted in the southeastern corner of the room, where several of the pavers were missing (L105). The pavement covered the top of the wall and overlapped the line of its northern side. The level of the pavement gently descended south and extended beneath the walls of the room in the existing building.
Remains of another pavement were discovered north of Pavement 101. It consisted of small and medium fieldstones that continued across the northern part of the room and also extended beneath its walls (L102).
A probe trench (L103, depth 1.3 m) was excavated along W104 and north of it, below Pavement 102, part of which was dismantled for this purpose (Fig. 4). A layer of soil and small stone fill was exposed in the trench and several courses of W104 (height c. 1.2 m) were revealed. Large fieldstones were found at the bottom of the trench and a kind of retaining wall built of one row of roughly hewn stones was exposed close to the wall in the trench’s southwestern corner. The flagstones of Pavement 101 and its plaster bedding also sealed the top of this element.
Numerous fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period (fourteenth century CE; see below) were found in the fill of Trench 103.
The Pottery from Locus 103
Benjamin J. Dolinka
A good representative ceramic assemblage of Mamluk pottery, dating from the late thirteenth through early fifteenth centuries CE, was discovered in L103. The vessel forms (Fig. 5) include bowls, a lid, a glazed cooking pot, jars and the ‘horn’ from a brazier; all these types are commonplace in Jerusalem during the fourteenth century CE.
Of particular interest is the bowl with molded decoration (Fig. 5:1), which has a well-adhering green glaze on its interior and exterior. The relief decoration is divided into two registers. The upper register of these bowls usually carries a formulaic Arabic inscription, either a blessing to the emir or a statement that the vessel was made by order of the emir; these bowls were apparently issued to soldiers in Mamluk garrisons as part of their mess-kit. The inscription on our bowl differs from these and appears to be new and previously unknown. Although not enough of the vessel is preserved to render an exact reading, the first word to the left of the blazon reads al-fakhr (glory) and the word next to it reads biqa (everlasting/forever/enduring). Therefore, the inscription should be seen as a well-wishing and not for use by the military (B. Walker, pers. comm./translation). The lower register consists of superimposed triangles, a frequently-occurring motif. Large numbers of these molded relief bowls are found at Mamluk administrative centers, such as Jerusalem, Kerak and Heshbon, while lesser quantities are attested around the Jerusalem region; however, a kiln site from the Jewish Quarter, along with complete examples of these vessels, point to Jerusalem as their production center.
An imported bowl in the assemblage consists of a high ring-base from an Italian glazed carinated bowl (Fig.5:2), which is broken off at the point where the carination of the bowl’s upper part begins. Unlike the contemporaneous monochrome sgraffito bowls from northern Italy, imported to this region between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries CE, these vessels are undecorated and much less frequent. Our base has a high-quality, shiny glaze on its interior that is dark yellow–light brown in color.
Two fragments from Mamluk plain bowls, dating from the fourteenth century CE, are also present in the assemblage (Fig. 5:3, 4). Both are made of very coarse ware characterized by large calcite inclusions and burned out organic temper, and both have comparisons in the Armenian Garden in the Old City. The first bowl (Fig. 5:3) is an incurved bowl with a beveled rim and the second (Fig. 5:4) has a flat, T-shaped rim, more commonly found on the Handmade Geometric-Painted (HMGP) bowls.
A HMGP decorated bowl, similar to a group of vessels found in the excavations at the Damascus Gate and dating from the fourteenth century CE, was uncovered in L103 (Fig. 5:5). It has an appliqué impressed rope-pattern design on its exterior, below the rim zone. Although the painted decoration on the interior and exterior of the vessel is worn and barely visible, traces of light reddish brown paint in diagonal bands are preserved on the top of the rim.
An often-ignored and under-published ceramic vessel form is the lid (Fig. 5:6), for which it is nearly impossible to find comparisons and therefore, it is presented here. Made of medium coarse ware, it has a buff interior and exterior with a weak red core. Due to its small size and ware, it was probably not meant to cover a cooking vessel, but is more suited for a jug, e.g., the typical bulbous-neck water jugs common in Mamluk assemblages. Given its context, a date in the fourteenth century CE is suggested.
Another infrequently occurring vessel form is the chamber pot (Fig. 5:7). It has the reddish yellow fabric typical of the Jerusalem production, an everted ledge rim, and its interior is covered with a thick dark yellow brownish glaze that drips onto the rim exterior. Both glazed and un-glazed chamber pots were recently published from Areas X-4 and X-5 of the Cardo excavations, where they were dated to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries CE (Avissar M. 2012. Pottery from the Early Islamic to the Ottoman Period from the Cardo an d Nea Church. In O. Gutfeld, ed. Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, Conducted by Nahman Avigad, 1969–1982 V: The Cardo (area X) and the Nea Church (areas D and T). Jerusalem. Figs. 10.6:8, 10.10:4).
Storage and water jars form the core of any Mamluk assemblage; two are represented in the assemblage. The first (Fig. 5:8) is part of a well-known type, referred to as the “Jerusalem Ridge-Neck Jars,” which dates from the late thirteenth through the fourteenth centuries CE. It has a buff fabric with a light gray core and an incurved, collared rim that is externally thickened. Spouts from water jars or strainer-neck jars are ubiquitous in both the Mamluk and Ottoman ceramic repertoires. A well-made example in buff ware (Fig. 5:9) is part of the assemblage. It dates from the fourteenth century CE and has numerous comparisons from Jerusalem and its surrounding hinterland.
The final piece is perhaps the most unique. It is the decorated ‘horn’ from the top of a brazier (Fig. 5:10) made of local reddish yellow ware, and its interior and top are carbonized. The only published context for this ‘horn’ comes from the Armenian Garden where it is dated to the fourteenth century CE (Tushingham A.D. 1985. Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967, Volume I: Excavations in the Armenian Garden of the Western Hill. Toronto. P. 151-S, Fig. 45:19), which fits well with its presence in the assemblage from L103. Recent excavations in the Old City—at the Austrian Hospice (Permit No. A-6433), at Mizgav Ladach 26 (Permit Nos. A-5746, A-5902, A-6422) and at the Gloria Hotel (Permit No. 5654)—have provided similar evidence for this rare ceramic form, and a complete example was recovered from the excavations at the Western Wall Plaza (M. Avissar, per. comm.).
Taken together, the small ceramic corpus from L103 provides a good representative example of a typical Mamluk assemblage in Jerusalem, dating from the fourteenth century CE.