During September, November and December 2005, a salvage excavation was conducted in the ‘Ir Gannim neighborhood in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-4590; map ref. NIG 21630–44/62876–81; OIG 16630–44/12876–81), prior to the construction of residential buildings. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Kotler-Adika Construction Company, was directed by A. Nagar, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography), R. Berin (final plans), C. Amit (studio photography), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory), F. Vitto and R. Bar-Natan (pottery reading), C. Hersch and I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
Area E (Fig. 2). A farming terrace covered Cave A, which was exposed by means of mechanical equipment. A rectangular courtyard (L506; 2.4 × 3.8 m), on whose floor a layer of black ash was discerned, fronted the cave. A rectangular entrance (0.4 × 0.6 m; Fig. 3), whose blocking stone was discovered nearby (Fig. 4), was hewn in the northern side of the courtyard. The entrance led to a burial chamber (2.5 × 2.6 m) that had three rectangular kokhim (I–III; Fig. 5) in its northern side. The entry to Kokh I was c. 0.4 m higher than the floor of the chamber and its blocking stone was lying alongside it, unlike the blocking stones of Kokhim II and III that were found in situ. All the kokhim were empty. Four stone ossuaries, two fragments of ossuary lids and scattered human bones that were not examined were discovered in the burial chamber, mostly along its eastern side. Two of the ossuaries were intact (1—0.15 × 0.34 m, height 0.16 m; 2—0.25 × 0.52 m, height 0.24 m; Fig. 6) and contained human bones. Ossuary 1 is especially small and one of its long sides is decorated with two incised complete rosettes and two half rosettes within a ring frame. Ossuary 2 has an arched lid. An intact lamp decorated with seven crosses and dating to the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 7) was discovered in the northwestern corner of the burial chamber, as well as a bronze earring (diam. 1.6 m, thickness 0.1 m; Fig. 8) next to it. The plan and the stone ossuaries indicate that the cave was apparently hewn in the Early Roman period and continued to be used until the third–fourth centuries CE.
Cave B consisted of just a rectangular courtyard (3.5 × 5.5 m) that had two hewn sides. The beginning of an entrance (0.6 × 0.7 m, depth 0.1 m) was discerned in the northern side of the courtyard and remains of plaster, composed of ground chalk and small fragments of stone, were discovered on the eastern side of the courtyard. The proximity to Cave A and the plan of the courtyard indicate that this cave should also be dated to the Roman period. Burial caves from the Early Roman period had been documented nearby in the past (A. Kloner, 2000, Survey of Jerusalem, the Southern Sector, Site 33) and this region seems to have been a large burial field during this period.
The southern part of a wall (W1; length 4.8 m, max. width 0.3 m; Fig. 9) was exposed in an area of farming terraces above Cave A. The wall, built of medium and large fieldstones, was preserved a single course high. This was probably a retaining wall of a farming terrace that was part of the farming terraces system in the region.
Area F (Figs. 10, 11). A wide wall (W1; length 5.45 m, width 0.50–0.95 m; Fig. 12) was discovered in the western part of the excavation area. Wall 1, built of two rows of various size ashlar stones with a core of fieldstones and preserved three courses high (1.05 m), was founded on bedrock. The southern face of the wall was mostly built of extremely large stones. Wall 1 extended to the east and west, beyond the limits of the excavation. South of Wall 1 were the scant remains of another wall (W2; length 3.25 m, width 0.3 m), which was built on bedrock of fieldstones and ashlars and was preserved a single course high. It seems that this was a retaining wall of a farming terrace that was dismantled when the area was exposed prior to the excavation. A wall (W3; length 2.25 m, width 0.65 m, height 0.85 m) in the center of the excavation area was founded on soil fill (thickness 1 m), deposited on bedrock and above W1. Wall 3, preserved two courses high, was built of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones. The northern end of W3 adjoined another wall (W4) that was built of very large stones, which were founded on alluvium fill that covered bedrock. Two hewn pits (installations ?; L113—0.6 × 0.9 m, depth 0.8 m; L114—0.35 × 0.85 m, depth 0.4 M; Fig. 13), separated by a partition wall (W5), were exposed in the eastern part of the excavation area.
The ceramic finds from Area F were mixed and dated to Iron II and the Early Roman and Byzantine periods. The Iron II finds included a bowl fragment (Fig. 14:1). The finds from the Early Roman period included a bowl (Fig. 14:2), cooking pots (Fig. 14:3–6), jars (Fig. 15:1–16), jugs (Fig. 14:7–13), juglets (Fig. 14:14–18), two of which were fragments of fusiform ungentaria (14, 18), a flask (Fig. 14:21) and lamps (Fig. 14:19, 20). The finds from the Byzantine period included a bowl with a rouletted design (Fig. 16:1) and basins (Fig. 16:2–12). Other artifacts in Area F included a mother-of-pearl shell and two coins: one was struck in Jerusalem during the reign of Alexander Yannai (104–76 BCE.; IAA 110023) and the other was minted in Ashqelon during Trajan’s reign (112/113 CE; IAA 110022). A loom weight of blue glass was discovered 20 m east of the excavation area (Fig. 17).
It seems that the remains in Area F belonged to two construction phases. The early phase consisted of Wall 1, which may have been part of a building that was not preserved. The pottery finds of the wall dates to no later than the Byzantine period. After Wall 1 was no longer in use, Walls 2 and 3 were built in the later phase and apparently served as retaining walls for farming terraces that were dominant in the region.