In 2015, documentation and conservation work of the foundations of the Western Wall in the Davidson Center Jerusalem Archaeological Park was conducted in conjunction with an excavation (Permit No. A-7320; map ref. 222305–20/631442–70), for the purpose of preparing the site for visitors. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the El‘ad Association, was directed by M. Hagbi and J. Uziel (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), H. Etun (surveying and drafting), A. Peretz (photography), A. Ajami and G. Berkowitz (foreman), O. Cohen and Y. Rosenthal (engineering supervision) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics). The soil removed from the excavation was sifted at the ‘Emeq Zurim (‘Tzurim Valley’) site under the supervision of I. Novoselesky.The conservation work was implemented by Y. Ivanovski, A. van Zaiden and S. Zach.
The Western Wall. The stones of the foundation courses of the Western Wall (W101; Fig. 2) were only partially dressed; they were cracked, their corners were broken, the surface of the boss was flaking, and part were broken and had fallen off. Some of the damage was caused during the wall’s construction, and additional damage occurred after the stones were exposed. The exposed section of wall was carefully documented prior to the conservation work. This included (1) drafting; (2) describing the marks left by the tools used to dress the stones; (3) documenting the stones’ state of preservation and damage; (4) recording cement and plaster repairs carried out at the time of construction, including lines incised on the repaired sections so as to simulate the joint between the stones (Fig. 3); and (5) an overview of the treatments and repairs performed on the Western Wall today. This record was made in order to facilitate future research of ancient repairs and avoid confusion with the modern repairs. The conservation work implemented on the surface of Western Wall stones included filling fissures with mortar and reinforcing the face of the wall (Van Zuiden, In press).
The System of Retaining Walls. During the excavations, some of the lateral walls were breached, leaving only short sections (length c. 0.5 m) that will preserve the plan of the retaining walls. The conservation work strengthened the face of the remaining wall sections, and mortar was injected into the core of the longitudinal wall (Fig. 4). In addition, the longitudinal wall (W102) was built in two sections set on soil fills (the northern section of the wall was designated W1504 for the purpose of the excavation). The earth in these sections was excavated and replaced with ashlars in order to stabilize the wall (Figs. 5–8). While sifting this soil a coin was found that dates to the time of Archelaus (4 BCE – 6 CE).
The system of retaining walls to the west of the Western Wall was built in order to raise the level of the city during the Early Roman period and support the stepped street. The construction of this set of walls was dated to the first century CE based on the coin discovered in the soil fill beneath W102. This date is consistent with the dates of both the fills previously excavated in the cells between the retaining walls (Hagbi and Uziel 2015; Hagbi and Uziel, In press) and the construction of the stepped street (Reich and Billig 1999; Szanton and Uziel 2015).
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