From August 2016 to April 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted on Ma‘alot ‘Ir David Street in Jerusalem, opposite the entrance to the City of David Visitors Center (Permit Nos. A-7760, A-7884; map ref. 222383–400/631288–311; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the ‘Ir David Foundation (El‘ad), was directed by S. Dan-Goor and Y. Tchekhanovets, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), D. Tanami (metal detection), N. Zak and I.E. Delerson (plans), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
A rectangular area (9 × 16 m) was opened up between the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavation in the west (Ben Ami, Tchekhanovets and Dan-Goor 2018
) and an excavation at the entrance to the City of David Visitor’s Center (Uziel 2013
) in the east. Seven settlement strata were unearthed, dating from the late Hellenistic (Stratum VII), Early Roman (Stratum VI), Late Roman (Stratum V), Byzantine (Stratum IV), late Byzantine–early Islamic (Stratum III), Abbasid (Stratum II) and Mamluk–Ottoman (Stratum I) periods. The west part of the excavation area included the edges of a trench excavated in the 1960s by K. Kenyon; it was covered with earth, stones and construction waste at the end of that excavation.
Stratum VII (late Hellenistic period; second–first centuries BCE; Fig. 2). The excavation uncovered a water reservoir containing a vertical rock-hewn shaft (L173; c. 1.6 × 2.0 m; Fig. 3). Remains of a quarry spread throughout the entire excavation area contained quarrying marks of rectangular building stones (c. 0.5 × 1.3 m); some of the stones were left undetached from the rock. The earliest of the pottery fragments found on the bedrock inside the quarry date from the Early Roman period. The quarry workers were aware of the reservoir entrance and worked around it without damaging it, indicating that the reservoir predates the quarry. A similar water reservoir dated to the Hellenistic period was discovered in a nearby excavation in th Giv‘ati Parking Lot (Ben Ami and Tchekhanovets 2013). Based on the similarity between the two reservoirs and the stratigraphic relationship between the reservoir opening and the quarrying, the reservoir was dated to the Hellenistic period. The quarry was dated to the same period, since it was overlain by architectural remains from the Early Roman period (below, Stratum VI).
Stratum VI (Early Roman period; Fig. 2) comprised the remains of buildings and installations founded on the quarried bedrock and dated to the Early Roman period based on their stratigraphy and associated ceramic finds. A large, partially hewn and partially built water reservoir was uncovered in the center of the excavation area. It consisted of two chambers connected by a narrow passage (L243—3.75 × 4.00 m; L244—2.8 × 3.0 m; 4.3 m preserved height; Fig. 4). The lower, hewn part of the reservoir was cut into the Stratum VII quarry and was wider than the upper, stone-built part. The reservoir’s walls and floor were coated with three thick layers of gray and white plaster. The reservoir’s roof was not preserved; however, the spring line of a vault in the upper part of the walls and the shape of collapsed stones found in the reservoir suggest that the roof was vaulted. The reservoir probably contained at least 92 cu m of water. Two plastered piers constructed (width 1 m, height 4.3 m) between the two chambers of the reservoir probably supported the roof. Quarrying marks of undetached stones (L245) were discovered in the east chamber; the quarrying may have been terminated for fear of breaching a channel (L247, below) and endangering the reservoir.
A square rock-hewn and plastered installation (L242; excavated dimensions 2.0 × 2.5 m) was found in the northwest of the area. A vault (L234; excavated dimensions 2.5 × 3.0 m; Fig. 5) was unearthed to its east; its southern wall was preserved to a height of four courses. Within the vault were an internal partition wall (W246), a rock-cut cupmark and channels, which were probably used to drain off any water that seeped into the vault. Similar vaults, which form part of the basement floor of a building, were unearthed in the nearby Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavation (Ben Ami and Tchekhanovets 2008). An installation (L229) coated with several layers of white plaster laid directly on the bedrock in the southern part of the excavation area. A cupmark (c. 0.4 m deep) cut in the rock floor of the installation was obliterated when the upper layers of plaster were applied. Any structure that may have existed above Installation 229 and Vault 234 were probably destroyed when later layers were built.
The Stratum VII reservoir (L173) was apparently deepened during this phase (c. 6 m deep; Figs. 2, 3), and its lower part was joined to a natural channel (L247; length c. 4 m, width c. 1 m, height 1.5 m); both were plastered together using the same typical Early Roman plaster. Fifty-five intact pottery vessels were found at the bottom of the reservoir. These included mostly cooking pots from the late Early Roman period (first century BCE–first century CE; Fig. 6), some of which had been deliberately perforated, as well as very small pottery vessels, including bowls, bottles and cooking pots. Numerous potsherds, including a few Gaza Ware jars, dating from the second century CE were also found. This pottery indicates that the reservoir was rendered obsolete at around the time of the city’s destruction in 70 CE. It is unclear whether the intact vessels discovered in the reservoir fell into it while it still contained water and therefore remained unbroken, or whether they were preserved from a time when the reservoir was used as a hiding complex in the final days before the destruction of 70 CE.
Stratum V (Late Roman period; Figs. 7, 8) comprised the remains of a magnificent residential building that canceled out the Stratum VI reservoir. In the southeast part of the excavation area, two rooms of the building were uncovered (L166, L171) delimited by walls (W149, W169, W213). The east part of the rooms had been uncovered in a previous excavation (Uziel 2013: Stratum VI). The mosaic pavements found in the rooms were made of white tesserae, apart from a small colorful section discovered in the floor of Room 166. The colorful section was poorly preserved, but it was possible to make out a border decorated with a geometric pattern of guilloche motifs with triangles in several colors. Pottery dating from the third–fourth centuries CE and including numerous roof tiles was discovered on the floor and beneath it. A lead weight (height 10.5 cm; Fig. 9) decorated with motifs characteristic of the Late Roman–Byzantine transition period was found above the mosaic floor (L170). A soil fill to the west of W149 yielded a metal figurine of the Roman goddess Isis-Fortuna (height 8.4 cm; Fig. 10).
Stratum IV (Byzantine Period; Fig. 11). Two rectangular plastered installations were unearthed beside each other in the southern part of the excavation area.
Stratum III (Late Byzantine–Early Islamic period). An agricultural terrace wall (excavated length 6.5 m) was built across the excavation area in a north–south direction; it sloped southward, following the natural topography. To the east of the wall were layers of topsoil that contained a few potsherds from the Byzantine and early Islamic periods. Similar agricultural topsoil layers were well documented in the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavation (Ben Ami and Tchekhanovets 2013). A drainage channel found in the south section of the excavation was built of stones and covered with stone slabs.
Stratum II (Abbasid period). Meager remains from this period were identified. A refuse pit and a tabun were unearthed in the center of the excavation area. Abbasid refuse pits are well-known from the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavation (Ben Ami and Tchekhanovets 2010). In the southwest part of the excavation, inside Kenyon’s trench, a wall and an abutting white plaster floor were uncovered. Pottery sealed beneath the plaster floor dates from the Byzantine and the Abbasid periods, thus dating the floor and the wall to the Abbasid period.
Stratum I (Mamluk–Ottoman periods). The most recent remains in the excavation area consisted of three agricultural terrace walls (W107, W116, W119; Fig. 12) and a stone surface (L127–L131) abutting W116 on the west. The stone surface contained four superimposed levels of small fieldstones; Mamluk–Ottoman potsherds were retrieved from between the stones. The stone surface was probably designed to level the area for some agricultural purpose. The west side of the stone surface was cut by Kenyon’s trench.
The excavation is great importance, since it is strategically located on the summit of the hill over which the City of David extends. The excavation area also lies between two important excavations conducted to its east and to its west. The large Stratum VI reservoir is particularly important, since it sheds new light on the city’s water-storage facilities during the Early Roman period. At this time, the summit of the City of David no longer lay in the center of the city, as it did in the Iron Age, but on the fringes of a city that was expanding ever northward. Public efforts were apparently directed at the pilgrims’ welfare, so that the local residents, who were apparently sufficiently affluent, were obliged to maintain their own water supply for drinking and ritual purposes, and therefore constructed large reservoirs such as the one discovered in the excavation. The assemblage of intact Early Roman vessels in the Stratum VI rock-cut reservoir is also very significant. The magnificent residential structure from the Late Roman period, with its mosaic floors, attests to the area’s importance during this period as well.
Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y. 2008. Jerusalem, Giv‘ati Parking Lot. HA-ESI 120.
Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y. 2010. Jerusalem, Giv‘ati Parking Lot. HA-ESI 122.
Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y. 2013. Jerusalem, Giv‘ati Parking Lot. HA-ESI 125.
Ben Ami D., Tchekhanovets Y. and Dan-Goor S. 2018. Jerusalem, Giv‘ati Parking Lot. HA-ESI 130.
Uziel J. 2013. Jerusalem, City of David (A). HA-ESI 125.