During June 2006, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Sanhedriya neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-4827*; map ref. NIG 22080–5/63386–90; OIG 17080–5/13386–90), in the wake of construction work. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by R. Gutel, was directed by R. Bar-Nathan, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), A. Hajian and T. Kornfeld (surveying), T. Sagiv (field photography), D. Levite (geology), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and C. Hersch (drawing of pottery and metal artifacts).
An ancient masonry stone quarry, oriented east–west, was exposed in an elongated, rectangular lot (5.5 × 20.0; Figs. 1, 2). The quarry area was larger than that of the excavation and extended below the level of modern buildings. The lot was surrounded by three residential buildings and its western side faced the Sanhedrin Street. The quarry abutted on the southern end of the Second Temple period Sanhedrin tombs (today the Sanhedrin Park), between which extensive ancient quarries were also discovered. As a matter of fact, most of the burial caves in the Sanhedriya region were hewn in bedrock walls that were quarries (A. Kloner, 2002, Survey of Jerusalem, the Northeastern Sector
, Sites 142–145, 219).
The limestone bedrock in the region of the Sanhedrin Park is meleke of the Bina Formation, dating to the Turon Epoch. The meleke was preferred for quarrying, as well as for the preparation of masonry stones used in the monumental construction in Jerusalem, due to its coarse crystallized texture and relative softness. Running widthwise across the center of the quarry (L1013) was a natural fissure, generally aligned north–south (Fig. 3), which was a karstic void, created by a dissolution process, of the kind that is very common in the Bina Formation.
The remains of the quarry were preserved in close proximity to surface, which slopes from east to west (depth of the rock-cutting 2–5 m). Parts of the quarry were apparently exposed when modern construction had occurred in the area in the 1930s. Modern debris made its way into most of the quarrying pits and some of the pits were filled with debris up to the level of the original quarrying.
Several quarried units of various sizes (Loci 1011–1016), hewn as small ‘courtyard quarries’, were found at the site (Z. Safrai and A. Sasson, Quarrying and Quarries in the Land of Israel at the Time of the Mishnah and Talmud, 2001, pp. 4–5). The eastern part of the quarry was hewn to a depth of c. 2 m; it seems that once the quarrying of the hard limestone terminated, the quarrymen did not continue hewing the deeper soft limestone, but moved on to a new area. The two eastern courtyard quarries (Loci 1011, 1012; Fig. 4) were rectangular and surrounded by bedrock walls that remained dressed, straight and vertical after the quarried stones were extracted for construction. The rectangular Courtyard Quarry 1011 (4 × 5 m) was surrounded by four bedrock walls that formed a hewn courtyard (3 × 3 m). Four steps (height 0.17–0.39 m) were hewn in the northern wall (W 1031). Courtyard Quarry 1012 was smaller (3 × 4 m) and had a small rock-hewn courtyard (1.5 × 2.0 m). Based on the marks of rock-cuttings that remained in the area it appears that the hewn and dressed stones had various sizes (length 0.6–0.8 m up to 1.0 m, width 0.3–0.5 m, height 0.17–0.42 m). An iron quarrying chisel (Fig. 5:1) was found on one of the hewn steps (W 10314) in Courtyard Quarry 1012. A nail (Fig. 5:2) and a bent stake (Fig. 5:3) that may have been used in quarrying were found in nearby units Locus Nos. 1016, 10115. A bedrock-hewn corner, whose western and southern walls were exposed (L1017; 1.5 × 2.0 m) and its leveled bottom was at a depth of c. 0.4 m below surface, was discovered in the northeastern part of Quarry 1011. The corner seems to have been intentionally blocked with stones or stone collapse, but the limited excavation area precluded from ascertaining its nature. It is unclear if this was the corner of a building, a courtyard or a tomb, or part of the quarry.
Large blocks of rock in different quarrying stages had remained in the vicinity of the geological fissure in the center of the quarry (Loci 1013, 1014); severance channels were clearly visible (Figs. 3, 6).
At the western end of the quarry, at the bottom of the western slope, the quarrying had become deeper (W 1039) and was terraced in three steps to a depth of c. 5 m (Loci 1016, 10112, 10116, 10117; Figs. 1, Section 2-2; 7).
The quarry was covered with gravel debris after it was no longer used (Fig. 1, Section 2-2), indicating that the stones were dressed on site. The deep western quarry pit was especially filled with large quantities of gravel and large stones, among them an almost square ashlar stone (0.87 × 0.95 m, height c. 0.41 m) that was left behind, apparently because it was not fit for construction (Fig. 6). At the last phase of the quarry, it was covered with a farming terrace of terra rossa soil that was retained by W10311 (Fig. 8), which was built into the gravel layer.
It seems that the quarry was operated in the Roman period. The quarrying debris was devoid of coins and potsherds and the modern debris that had penetrated into the quarry made it difficult to date it. The dating was determined on account of a few pottery fragments from the end of the first century BCE–first century CE, which were found on the bottom of the quarry units (Loci 1011–1014, 1016), including small bowls with an everted rim (Fig. 9:1, 2), a cooking pot with a triangular rim (Fig. 9:3), jars with a thickened rim (Fig. 9:4–6), and the base of a jug (Fig. 9:7). Because of the quarry’s proximity to the Sanhedrin tombs of the Second Temple period, it can be assumed that the quarry was contemporary with them.
The exposed quarry has several characteristics that are consistent with a small courtyard quarry. Typical to such quarries was a variety of small-sized units that enabled the division of work among a small number of laborers. The quarrying methods involved severance channels that were marked by a chisel, weighing 2.35 kg. The stones were probably extracted from bedrock with the aid of hammers and chisels. Signs of wood or water usage were not discerned, since they were not necessary for the easily quarried meleke
bedrock. Based on the stone left behind in the area and the quarrying debris, it seems that the dressing was done on site. The quarrying in the western section that is located on the slope was done on steps, which provided access to the stone in the bedrock’s facade (‘Atiqot
55:37–44 [Hebrew], for an extensive discussion about quarries and quarrying methods).
The exposed quarry joins other large masonry stone quarries of the Second Temple period in northern Jerusalem. The region of Sanhedriya-Mahanayim has an abundance of ancient quarries, whose stones were utilized in the public construction of Jerusalem (A. Kloner, 2003, Survey of Jerusalem, the Northwestern Sector, p. 34). The quarry was probably used in the second century CE as well. The farming terrace that covered it (Loci 1015, 10111, 10113, 10115) contained potsherds, dating to the Iron Age, including bowls (Fig. 10:1–6), holemouths (Fig. 10:7, 8), juglets (Fig. 10:9, 10), a stand (Fig. 10:11) and a lamp (Fig. 10:12); to the Late Hellenistic period, including a bowl with a rim folded inward (Fig. 9:8) and a jar (Fig. 9:9) and the Early Roman period, including a jar with a square rim (Fig. 9:10) and a jug (Fig. 9:11). It seems that the ceramics originated in the agricultural soil that was brought from nearby sites. A ridged jug (Fig. 9:12), a trefoil mouth of a jug (Fig. 9:13) and particularly a krater with a ledge rim (Fig. 9:14), which were discovered at the bottom of the quarry and dated to the first–second centuries CE, indicate that the quarry was used at least until this time period and afterward the region was utilized for farming. With the renewal of construction in the 1930s, as well as in 1967, the builders damaged the quarry and probably quarried new stones for local building needs.