In November 2006 a salvage excavation was conducted on Moshe Sharet Street, in the Ramat Sharet neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-4944; map ref. NIG 21750/62932; OIG 16750/12932), prior to the construction of residential buildings (Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Antiquities Authority with the financial support of the Azorim Company, was directed by A. Nagar, with the participation of R. Abu Halaf (administration), V. Pirski (surveying), R. Brin (drafting), T. Sagiv (field photography), I. Lidski-Resnikov (drawing), C. Amit (studio photography) and N. Ze’evi (archives photographs).
Two squares were excavated in which two rock-hewn, plastered cisterns were exposed that were used by the inhabitants of the Arab village of Malha until 1948. The eastern cistern is dated to the Ottoman period and the western one to the Byzantine period. The cisterns were severely damaged during the course of construction work.
The Eastern Cistern
The cistern (L100; 3.6 × 5.5 m, depth 3.8 m; Fig. 2) was hewn in the limestone bedrock and was irregular in shape; its ceiling, which was arched, was preserved only in the western part. The sides of the cistern were slanted inwards in the bottom part of the installation and its floor sloped to the east. At the eastern end of the floor was an oval settling basin (L100A; 1.15 × 1.60, depth 0.15 m). The northeast side of the cistern was preserved higher than its other sides (3.65 m). Two layers of plaster were applied to the sides (5 cm thick) and to the floor (7 cm thick). The bottom layer consisted of light gray plaster with a hard cement-like texture which contained crushed potsherds and gravel (3.5 cm thick on the sides, 5.5 cm thick on the floor), while the upper layer was modern cement (1.5 cm thick on the sides and floor). Water level lines were observed on the cement layer. The opening to the cistern was evidently situated in its eastern side. The finds that were recovered from inside the cistern date to the modern era and include a small glass bottle, a rifle bullet and a coin.
The Western Cistern
The cistern (L101; 2.95 × 3.50 m; Figs. 3, 4) was hewn in the limestone bedrock and was plastered. It was squarish in shape, although its northern side was curved. The cistern’s ceiling was not preserved; its floor sloped to the north. It seems that the opening to the cistern was in its northern side. The cistern was found blocked with poured, modern cement that covered the alluvium sediment at the bottom of the installation. Differences in the thickness of the plaster (as much as 15 cm), the number of layers (2–5) and their composition were noted on the walls of the cistern and its floor. The different layers of plaster were comprised of pale yellow limestone, white lime and large fragments of potsherds, white/pink lime with ground potsherds and cement in the upper layer (Figs. 5, 6).
The potsherds that were found in the walls of the cistern include jars from the Second Temple period (Fig. 7:1–3) and bowls from the Byzantine period (Fig. 7:4, 5).
The location of the cisterns indicates they were in use until 1948; however, they were constructed at different times. Based on the cement in the eastern cistern one can assume that it was built in the modern era. In contrast, the pink plaster in the western cistern, which contained potsherds from the Second Temple and Byzantine periods and was covered with a layer of modern cement plaster, proves that the cistern was quarried no later than the Byzantine period.