Between July and November 2003 two salvage excavations were conducted in Shu‘fat, on Ramallah Road (Permit No. A-3955; map ref. NIG 221670–221720/635840–636240; OIG 171670–171720/135840–136240), due to primary work by the Moriah Company on the planned line of the Jerusalem Light-Rail Train system. The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, were directed by D.A. Sklar-Parnes, with the assistance of A. Nagar, O. Abed Rabo and Y. Rapuano (area supervison), R. Abu-Halaf (administration), T. Sagiv and M. Saltsberger (field photography), T. Kornfeld, V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), L. Kupershmidt and R. Vinitsky (conservation laboratory), Y. Bukengolts (ceramic restoration), I. Reznic (artifact drawing), G. Bijovsky (numismatics), R. Bar-Natan (pottery consultation), N. Katsnelson and Y. Gorin-Rosen (glass processing) and workers from East Jerusalem.
The area is located under the main thoroughfare, Ramallah Road (Local Road No. 1), which bisects the neighborhood of Shu‘fat in northeast Jerusalem. Due to traffic and safety concerns, the excavations were limited to the width of one traffic lane (c. 4.5 m) in the center of the road. The two seasons were undertaken in areas opened north and south of a main intersection, with a combined total of 770 sq m excavated. The site is estimated to be c. 11 dunams (length, at least 310 m, width c. 35 m), excluding agricultural and other peripheral installations.
The ancient road from Jerusalem to Nablus (the watershed road) was not exposed in the area adjacent to the site. According to sections recorded to the north and south of the excavated area, it should have passed to the west and within close proximity to the site (50–100 m from the border of the excavation).
Two other sites are known in the immediate vicinity, Tell el-Ful to the northeast and Khirbat es-Soma to the east (A. Kloner. 2001. Survey of Jerusalem. The Northeastern Sector: Sites 79, 87).
Two areas were opened for excavation, Area A to the north and Area B to the south of a main intersection. As soon as the asphalt of the present road and earlier road surfaces were removed, the ancient layers were reached immediately. A single-period occupation was identified on the basis of architecture and finds.
Area A. A wall, perhaps designating a field road, or part of a pen, was found in all of the squares, oriented north–south. It was built of hewn masonry stones in secondary use and field stones; a thin layer of small stones rested on its eastern side. A few body sherds that may indicate use in the medieval period were recovered from excavating the wall; this date, however, is not well supported.
Once this wall and associated fills were removed, large building stones, both in situ and in rubble, were exposed. This massive rubble layer was discerned throughout the site, effectively sealing the deposits in the squares.
The layout of this area comprised a line of rooms/buildings divided by courtyards and passageways, without breaks or disruptions. In some instances, hewn stones found in the rubble indicated vaulted ceilings. Two crushed lime and chalk floor layers, denoting two phases, existed in the rooms and courtyards, separated by a layer of fill (average thickness 0.20–0.35 m); walls preserved with the two floors, had only minor changes. Two bathhouses, and possibly a third, decorated with colored frescos and recognized by hypocausts and distinctive pipe fragments, were revealed among structures that were identified as living quarters.
Area B. The Ottoman road, marked by a thick layer of densely packed marl and lime, sealed the deposits in this area. A bright red-orange soil below this layer extended down to the tops of the walls. In a few instances, later agricultural installations (a stone clearance heap, a fence) were detected, producing ceramics that dated, at the earliest, to the Abassid Period.
As in Area A, the walls were constructed from both well-dressed masonry and fieldstones. They were better preserved toward the southern end of the excavation, where some walls stood 1.2–1.6 m high. The floors usually consisted of a densely packed crushed lime/chalk layer or packed earth. Two rooms yielded unique finds on the upper floor level––an assemblage of glass vessels, including bottles and bowls in one room and a layer of ceramic, metal, glass, and stone finds in the other room.
Coins. All of the coins were on floors or within their super- and sub-fills; a few examples were retrieved directly from bedrock. The assemblage represents an occupation between the two revolts (c. 70–c. 132 CE). The earliest coin was of the procurator Festus (59 CE); the range included Roman provincial coins, with and without countermarks, especially of the early second century CE. Coins attributed to the years of the Bar-Kochba Revolt, or coins post-dating the first quarter of the second century CE were absent from the excavation. The numismatic evidence enables us to establish an occupation range from the second half of the first century CE through the first quarter of the second century CE.
Ceramic Assemblage. The pottery appeared to be quite homogeneous and little, if any, development was observed in the ceramic forms between the first and second occupation phases. The pottery was, for the most part, of local origin, having coarse fabric. However, fine ware was present, including medium-sized bowls with a sponge-applied marbled gloss and true Terra Sigillata Wares and their local variants. There were also a limited number of foreign amphorae.
The ceramic assemblage indicates a range from the end of the first century CE to the first quarter of the second century CE. However, the morphological development of the types, as well as the disc and molded lamps, suggest that it should probably be dated, more precisely, toward the end of this range.
Glass. The assemblage of glass vessels in Area B included bottles and bowls with crimped trails around the rims. According to Y. Gorin-Rosen, these vessels are dated specifically to the beginning of the second century CE.
Stone Vessels. A wide variety of chalk vessels were recovered from nearly every square in the excavation. Small and large forms of both lathe-turned and hand-carved vessels were found. A unique group of bowls and basins, which seems to be unparalleled at sites whose occupation ended at the First Revolt, was identified within the assemblage. In fact, the only comparisons for these vessels came from the Roman Villa in Jericho, in a post-Herodian layer, explicitly dating to the period between the revolts.
Inkwells. An unusual group of five mold-made, ceramic inkwells were found together on a floor in Area B. The decorations on the superior surfaces are reminiscent of those located on the molded lamps. Other finds deriving from this room included a cooking casserole, a metal box, iron fittings, bronze implements, glass bottles, stone loom weights and spindle whorls.
As mentioned above, Shu‘fat is a single-occupation site with later use limited to agricultural installations. The excavation was an arbitrary cut and, with a few exceptions, the walls continued on the same axis throughout the excavation. Due to the narrow width, it was difficult to establish where buildings ended and courtyards or alleys began. At the same time, it was evident that the site was not a single-family unit enlarged through the generations, but was rather well planned prior to construction, as attested by the outstanding uniformity of the walls and buildings. The two floors indicate a continuous duration of use until the end of the occupation.
The lack of hiding complexes and Bar-Kochba Revolt coins lends foundation to our assertion that this site was not occupied by the time of the Second Revolt. The absence of a destruction layer may indicate desertion, rather than uprising of the inhabitants. The material evidence reflects this observation, as the dating is quite narrow and the time span is short. The site attests to the presence of a large Jewish settlement built around the time or immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. Furthermore, it provides evidence that the vicinity of Jerusalem, at a marginal distance of less than 3 km, continued to thrive in the aftermath of the Great Revolt, until the Bar Kochba uprising brought about a swift change in the population of this area.