During 2005–2006 several short excavations were conducted in the area of the Hurva Synagogue and in the square to its east, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The excavations, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with the aid of the Israel Exploration Society and the funding by the Corporation for the Renovation and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, Ltd., were directed by H. Geva and O. Gutfeld, with the assistance of R. Nenner-Soriano and B. Arubas (surveying).
The Hurva Square
An excavation was conducted in October 2005 prior to placing a crane on the western side of the Hurva Square, next to the eastern wall of the synagogue (License No. B-301/2005). The excavated area was an extension to the west of Area N-2 that was excavated in the 1970s by N. Avigad, within the framework of the archaeological expedition to the Jewish Quarter.
The area (4 × 5 m) was excavated to bedrock (depth 2 m), revealing part of a room, whose northern and southern walls and a section of the floor survived. The walls, founded on bedrock and oriented east–west, were built of fieldstones and partly of dressed stones. An ashlar-built doorjamb was in the northern wall. Two small sections of the white mosaic floor in the room were preserved next to the northern and southern walls. The mosaic was set atop a bedding of small stones and light colored cement. Below the bedding was a soil fill (0.4 m thick) that contained a few potsherds from the time of the First and Second Temples, as well as several potsherds from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (?).
The building remains were part of a room from the Early Islamic period, associated with the built complex that was exposed east of Area N-2 in the 1970s. The remains may also be related to a room whose western part was discovered on the eastern side of the Hurva Synagogue (below).
The Hurva Synagogue
(Area X-9, East)
During January 2006 an excavation was conducted on the north-eastern side of the Hurva Synagogue (License No. G-7/2006), aiming to complete the excavations undertaken in 2003.
The area (3.5 × 4.0 m) was excavated to bedrock (depth 2 m). The western part of a room, a small section of which had been uncovered during the previous excavation, was exposed. The southern corner of the room was hewn in bedrock. Its white mosaic floor was laid atop a bedding layer of small stones and crushed chalk. The southern section of the mosaic bedding was set atop bedrock, leveled for this purpose; the northern section was atop a layer of soil fill, deposited on bedrock that descended northward. A small section of the mosaic itself was preserved close to the corner, while in the rest of the room only the bedding survived. The room’s western wall (0.3 m thick), oriented north–south, was built of small irregular stones with gray material between them and coated with a thick layer of light plaster. Its western side was adjacent to a wide wall built of large fieldstones, which had mostly been exposed in the previous excavation. A gap at the northern end of this wall may attest to an entry or niche that originally existed here. Thin walls were built in a later phase, forming a square installation (0.6 ´ 0.9 m) that was coated with light plaster. A complete ceramic jar, dating to the Early Islamic period (ninth–tenth centuries CE), was found in the soil fill below the installation.
This was probably the western part of the room whose remains were discovered east of Area N-2 in 2005 (above). Fragments of pottery vessels, dating to the Mamluk period, were found in the soil fill that blocked the room.
The Hurva Synagogue
(Area X-9, Southwest)
An excavation was conducted in November 2006 in the southwestern corner of the Hurva Synagogue (License No. G-7/2006).
The area (3.5 × 4 .0 m) was excavated to bedrock (depth 2 m), revealing the western continuation of the Byzantine-period street (exposed length 4 m) whose remains were discovered along the southern side of the synagogue structure in 2003. Only several small sections of the flagstone pavement were preserved along the northern and southern edges of the street. Most of the pavement was destroyed during the installation of a later water channel (Mamluk?). The street was flanked on either side by walls, some were bedrock hewn and some were built of roughly hewn stones. The corner of a room or an installation, which had a white mosaic floor and predated the street, was discovered in the southwestern corner of the area.
A fully preserved arch (Fig.1) was discovered at the western end of the area. Its western side had previously been known and is visible today in the rear wall of a shop on the Street of the Jews. The arch, exposed now to its full height on the eastern side, is built of a row of large well-dressed stones (1.3 m long). Its foundations rested on bedrock, on either side of the street, which extended westward below the arch. The exposed side street branched off from the Cardo––the main road of Byzantine Jerusalem, whose remains were excavated west of the Hurva Synagogue by N. Avigad in the 1970s.
A complete vault built of large well-dressed stones was discovered in a water cistern slightly north of the arch, below the anteroom to the Hurva Synagogue (at the entrance from the Street of the Jews). The vault was the roof of a shop in a row of shops whose extension northward had been exposed in the past, along the eastern side of the Cardo.