In July 2019, an excavation was conducted in the Al-Ashqariya quarter in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-8557; map ref. 221214–62/636533–77; Fig. 1), prior to construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Abu Layl Nasser, was conducted by R. Cohen, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), A. Yarovsky (archaeological supervision and preparation of excavation), S. Halevi (photography and photogrammetry), O. Rose and B.A. Litvak (plans), B. Touri from the IAA Jerusalem District, and field workers.
The excavation focused on documenting large parts of an extensive quarry (Fig. 2) that was part of the quarried landscape characteristic of the Shu‘fat–Beit Hanina ridge, and of northern Jerusalem in general (Sion et al. 2011). Surveys and excavations have shown that these quarries functioned from the Roman period down to at least the Early Islamic period (Kloner 2000a: Sites 27, 75, 116; ‘Adawi 2007; ‘Adawi 2009; Billig 2016; Zilberbod 2017; Yeger 2017; see further references therein; Permit Nos. A-8233, A-8345, A-8352, A-8474). In these periods, two roads passed near the Shu‘fat–Beit Hanina ridge: the Jerusalem–Nablus road and the Jerusalem–Bet Horon–Lod road (Kloner 2000a: Site 28; Kloner 2000b:37). The proximity of the quarries to the roads facilitated the transportation of building stones to Jerusalem and the vicinity.
Prior to the excavation, a soil fill layer (max. depth c. 4 m) that had apparently been laid after the quarry was abandoned, was removed mechanically from most of the quarried area; similar soil fills mixed with chips of quarrying debris and stones are known from other quarries in the area. The quarry extended beyond the limits of the excavation area.
The quarry (L100–L104; c. 35 × 60 m; Fig. 3) was composed of quarrying courtyards with quarrying steps and negative marks from the extraction of various-sized stone blocks (0.3 × 0.3–0.4 × 0.6–0.7 m; 0.30 × 0.45 × 1.00 m; 0.3 × 0.6 × 1.2 m; Figs. 4, 5). Quarrying in courtyards enabled the contemporary preparation of different-sized blocks, possibly also permitting the assessment of the work output. Quarrying in steps facilitated the detachment of the blocks from the rock, since there was access to almost all the faces of the stone (Safrai and Sasson 2001:4).
The eastern part of the excavation area (L100; 3–11 × 20 m; Figs. 6, 7) lay at a higher elevation than the rest of the area, and it sloped down from east to west and northwest. A brown soil fill layer overlying the bedrock contained various-sized stones, the visible traces of drill holes for explosives showing that some of the larger stones probably came from modern rock-blasting activities. The soil fill yielded a few worn potsherds as well as the remains of a tree trunk, indicating that the area was converted into farming land after the quarry was abandoned (see, for example, Billig 2016).
Three courtyards (L101, L103, L104) containing quarrying steps were uncovered in the center of the quarry. Courtyard 101 was the largest (c. 15 × 22 m, max. depth c. 4 m; Figs. 8, 9). Courtyard 103 (3.8–5.0 × 8.0 m, depth 1.30–2.15 m; Fig. 10) was open to the north and was therefore probably quarried southwards in steps from the north, from Courtyard 101. The quarried stones were probably taken away on the northern side of the quarry. In Courtyard 104 (2.5 × 7.5 m, max. depth c. 2.7 m; Fig. 11), a small rectangular hole (c. 2 × 4 cm; Fig. 12), hewn in the upper part of the rock was probably used to insert a crowbar, designated ‘ar‘in or ‘ar‘ar in ancient Jewish sources, to detach the unhewn side of the stone. If one side of the stone was undetached, a wedge was cut on the underside of the stone, and the stone was then pried loose with a crowbar (Safrai and Sasson 2001:27–28).
The southwestern part of the quarry contained stepped rock at a higher elevation than the center of the quarry, with signs of stone quarrying (L102; c. 5.7 × 12.0 m; Fig. 13). Stone-severance channels (Fig. 14) and vertical quarrying channels were detected (average width 0.15 m; Fig. 15).
The soil fills in the quarry area contained at least two large stone blocks (0.5 × 0.7 × 2.0 m; Fig. 16), two of whose faces were well dressed in preparation for use in monumental construction work. The stones were left in the quarry, either because the standard of quarrying and dressing was not satisfactory, or because the stones were not finished.
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‘Adawi Z. 2009. Jerusalem, Shikune Nusseiba (North). HA–ESI 121.
Billig Y. 2016. Jerusalem, Shikune Nusseiba. HA–ESI 128.
Kloner A. 2000a. Survey of Jerusalem: The Northeastern Sector (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Kloner A. 2000b. Survey of Jerusalem: The Northwestern Sector (Archaeological Survey of Israel). Jerusalem.
Safrai Z. and Sasson A. 2001. Quarrying and Quarries in the Land of Israel at the Time of the Mishnah and Talmud. Jerusalem (Hebrew).
Sion O., Sasson A., Zilberbod I. and Rapuano Y. 2011. Quarries and Quarrying Methods in the Second Temple Period in the North of Jerusalem. In M. Billig ed. Judea and Samaria Studies 20. Ariel. Pp. 39–48 (Hebrew).
Yeger D. 2017. Jerusalem, Shu‘fat (B). HA–ESI 129.
Zilberbod I. 2017. Jerusalem, Shu‘fat (Highway 21). HA–ESI 129.