During November–December 2007, a trial excavation was conducted in the old compound of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-5287; map ref. 21942–51/63238–57; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of a residential quarter. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the B. Yair Company, was directed by D. Levy, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), M. Kunin (surveying and drafting), E. Belashov (drafting), R. Avner and R. Bar-Natan (pottery reading), C. Hersch (drawing of finds), C. Amit (studio photographs), R. Vinitsky (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).
The excavation area is located along the fringes of the Binyene Ha-Umma site, where
extensive archaeological excavations had been conducted in the past (The Bulletin of the Israel Exploration Society 15:19–24 [Hebrew]
; B. Arubas and H. Goldfus [eds.]. 2005 Excavations on the Site of the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’Uma): The Pottery and Other Small Finds [JRA Supplementary Series 60], Portsmouth; HA-ESI 123
). The remains in these excavations ranged in date from the Iron Age to the Byzantine Period.
Seven and a half squares were excavated on a spur descending from north to south. A stone quarry, a partly built cistern that was damaged during the course of construction work, and a level of different size fieldstones (Fig. 2) were exposed. The recovered ceramic finds, not found in situ, dated to the Iron Age, and the Hasmonean and Early and Late Roman periods.
A quarry (L101; 5.2 × 6.5 m) of hard limestone was exposed (Fig. 3). It included severance channels around various size stones (0.50 × 0.65–0.80 × 1.10 m), and rock-cut sides from which building stones were extracted. The rock-cuttings continued to the east and south, beyond the limits of the excavation (HA-ESI 122).
The quarry was cut in the west by a partly built and plastered cistern (L100; max. length 6.5 m, preserved height 2 m; Fig. 4). The shape of the cistern was irregular because it was adapted to the bedrock and had two built sides. The northern side (W1; length 4.4 m, width 0.5 m, preserved height 0.5 m) was founded on and rested against the bedrock; it consisted of a row of large building stones in the side facing the cistern and small and medium fieldstones on the exterior side of the wall. The western side (W2A; 1.15 × 1.20 m, preserved height 0.5 m) was composed of two rows of large building stones with a core of small to medium-sized fieldstones; it continued northward (W2B; length 2.8 m, width 1 m) and its purpose is unclear. The mortar was gray and contained white inclusions and charcoal specks. The floor of the cistern sloped toward its center and was stepped in its western part. Five layers of plaster (thickness up to 0.1 m) were applied to the cistern. The bottom layer consisted of gray plaster with white inclusions and charcoal specks similar to the mortar. This was overlain with a layer of light pink hard textured plaster mixed with ground potsherds and stones. The other upper three were cement layers, indicating that repairs were made to the cistern in its final phase of operation. A piece of modern iron was exposed below the plaster floor.
A level of small to medium-sized fieldstones (L110) was exposed west of the cistern. This was apparently meant to level the slope. A large concentration of potsherds that was probably not in situ was exposed in the eastern part of the level.
The ceramic finds were mostly discovered west of the cistern and included vessels from various periods: a bowl fragment (Fig. 5:1) from the Iron Age; a bowl (Fig. 5:2), a cooking pot (Fig. 5:3) and a jar (Fig. 5:4) from the Hasmonean period; cooking pots (Fig. 5:5–10), a jar (Fig. 5:11), a jug (Fig. 5:12) and stands (Fig. 5:13–15), including a stand with an engraved letter or mark (Fig. 5:15) whose significance is unclear, from the Early Roman period; a jar (Fig. 5:16) and a stamped ceramic plaque that is apparently an image of Dionysius (Fig 6) from the Late Roman period (first–third centuries CE), which is identical to the one discovered in a previous excavation at the site (J. Magness. 2005. The Roman Legionary Pottery. In: B. Arubas and H. Goldfus [eds.] Excavations on the Site of the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’Uma): The Pottery and Other Small Finds [JRA Supplementary Series 60], Portsmouth, pp.69–194). A coin of Constantius II (351–361 CE; IAA 115440) was discovered c. 8 m south of the excavation area.
Two phases could be discerned in the excavation. The area was used as a quarry in the first phase. A cistern was installed in the second phase (the Ottoman period) and it severed the quarry, and was used by residents of the Arab village Sheikh Badr until 1948.