In February 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted in a private lot in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-6765; map ref. 221074–110/637875–920), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by ‘Abed Hassan Makhsan Mahmud, was directed by D. Yeger, with the assistance of N. Nahama and R. Abu Halaf (administration), A. Hajian and M. Kunin (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (field photography), S. Al-‘Amlah (metal detection), Sky View Company (aerial photography), Y. Billig (inspection) and B. Touri.
The excavation was conducted on el-I’am Street, on a northern hillside north of Abed al-Hamid Shoman Street. The excavation area was bounded on the east and north by the road to Bir Naballa and on the west by Highway 50 (Fig. 1). Two adjacent ancient quarries were excavated that continued east into the neighboring lot; they were not exposed in their entirety.
Several quarries were spread out along the Shu‘fat–Beit Hanina ridge. Two ancient Roman roads, Nablus road and Bet Horon road, which led to Jerusalem, ran past the ridge (Kloner 2001b:46*). The proximity of the roads facilitated the transportation of the building stones to Jerusalem and to the settlements near the quarries. Many ancient quarries were surveyed and excavated in the past (Kloner 2001a:26*, 37*, 49*, Sites 27, 77, 116; ‘Adawi 2009: Sites 1, 2, 7, 9–12, 14–19), some dating to the Roman–Byzantine period (‘Adawi 2007; Mizrahi 2008a; Mizrahi 2008b; Zilberbod 2012).
The two quarries (A and B) were large courtyard quarries (Safrai and Sasson 2001:4, Figs. 2, 3). The rock-cutting technique used to quarry the stones and the size of the stones were identical in both of them, as evidenced by the stones that were not detached (most common dimension: 0.36 × 0.30 × 0.64 m, average dimensions of other stones 0.30 × 0.40 × 0.46 m; Fig. 4), the negatives that remained after the stones were detached, the severance channels on the quarry’s floor (Fig. 5) and the chisel marks on its walls. The severance channels, which have a trapezoidal cross-section (width of upper part 10–13 cm, width of lower part 3–4 cm), are uniform in accordance with the size of the stones produced in the quarry. Identical diagonal chisel marks were discerned on the walls of both quarries (width 1–2 cm, depth 0.5 cm; Fig. 6).
The northern quarry (Area A; L100–L102; length 25.5 m, width 12.5 m, depth 0.6–3.2 m; Fig. 7) was H-shaped. It consisted of a northern and a southern wing of identical size, connected by a narrow wing. The quarry’s eastern walls were straight while seven quarrying steps in the west descended to the east.
Debris accumulation layers were exposed in both quarries: a top layer of dark brown alluvium (depth 0.5–1.0 m) and a lower layer of quarrying debitage that extended to the bottom of the quarry (L101), consisting of light brown sediment and numerous white limestone chips. The size of quarrying chips decreased toward the bottom of the quarry (from 8 × 10 cm to 2 × 4 cm); those at the very bottom were extremely small (1 × 2 cm on average). At the bottom of the quarry was a compacted calcareous encrustation. The layers were removed from most of the quarry by mechanical equipment, apart from one square where they were manually excavated (L100; 4 sq m; see Fig. 2).
The southern quarry (Area B; L200–L202; length 25.5 m, width 21 m, depth 0.7–4.4 m; Fig. 8) was rectangular. Its southern and northern walls were straight, with quarrying steps in the east and west that led down to the center of the quarry. Stones still attached to the bedrock remained in the quarry. The accumulated debris layers were similar to those in Area A, and included an upper layer of dark brown alluvium (depth 1.0–1.5 m) overlying a layer of quarrying debris composed of light brown sediment and numerous white limestone chips (1 × 2 cm, 7 × 10 cm, 15 × 20 cm). A modern disturbance (L201; Fig 9) was noted in its southeastern corner, where the quarry’s walls were cracked and filled with a grayish colored sediment with broken stones and weathered lumps of metal. The damage might have been the result of an attempt at quarrying or modern building activity. In the middle of the quarry, a square was opened for manual excavation (L202; 4 sq m; see Fig. 2). A fragment of a black glass bracelet with a rope ornamentation wrapped around it was found on the floor of the northern part of the quarry. Bracelets of this type date to the third–fifth centuries CE (Spaer 2001:199, Pl. 33:443).
Both quarries have identical characteristics and might have been operated during the same period. The method utilized in producing the stones and the layout of the quarry attest to skill, advanced planning and organization that enabled groups of laborers to work simultaneously. It is difficult to date quarries because the techniques used to cut the stones were identical or similar for centuries; therefore it is necessary to check the correlation between the size of the settlement at its height and the size and the number of contemporary agricultural installations located in its vicinity (Safrai and Sasson 2001:2). These quarries and others previously excavated and surveyed, such as Khirbat Hawanit, Khirbat el-Mughram and Kh. ‘Addasa (‘Adawi 2007), supplied building stones to the city of Jerusalem and possibly to sites on the city’s northern outskirts, near the quarries, as well. Despite the meager finds, it seems that the quarries date to the time when Jerusalem thrived in the Roman–Byzantine period (third–fifth centuries CE).
‘Adawi Z. 2007. Jerusalem, Shikune Nuessiba (A). HA-ESI 119.
‘Adawi Z. 2009. Jerusalem, Shikune Nuessiba (North). HA-ESI 121.
Kloner A. 2001a. Survey of Jerusalem: the Northeastern Sector (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Kloner A. 2001b. Survey of Jerusalem: the Northwestern Sector (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Mizrahi, Y. 2008a. Jerusalem, Shikune Nuessiba.HA-ESI 120.
Mizrahi, Y. 2008b. Jerusalem, Shikune Nuessiba. HA-ESI 120.
Zilberbod I. 2012 Jerusalem, Beit Hanina. HA-ESI 124.
Safrai Z. and Sasson A. 2001. Quarrying and Quarries in the Land of Israel in the Period of the Mishnah and Talmud. Jerusalem (Hebrew).
Spaer M. 2001. Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum, Beads and Other Small Objects. Jerusalem.