During July, November and December 2005, a trial excavation was conducted in the ‘Bet Ha-Tira’ Compound in the City of David (Permit No. A-4529*; map ref. NIG 22244/63115; OIG 17244/13115), prior to development. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the El‘ad Association, was directed by Z. Greenhut, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), V. Essman and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), S. Al-Amla (metal detection) and B. Artzi, G. Solimany and K. Ben-Or (assistance in excavation).
The excavation was conducted in the heart of the City of David, c. 10 m southwest of the entrance structure to the Warren’s Shaft. The limited excavation area (5 × 6 m; Figs. 1– 3), was bordered on the east by a high terrace and on the north and west by the residential units of ‘Bet Ha-Tira’. The excavation reached a depth of c. 2.3 m below surface in a soil fill that contained mixed finds, the latest of which were modern. Due to safety precautions, the excavation was suspended and the depth of bedrock was determined by drilling (carried out by the ‘Oganim Company). The drilling ascertained that bedrock was c. 9.5 m below surface in the southeastern part of the square and c. 8.5 m in the northwestern side. To facilitate digging to this depth a circular shaft (top diam. 3.5 m, bottom diam. 2.9 m), lined and supported by the Avner and Amir Gilad Company, was excavated. Soil fill and stones, including mixed ceramic finds, were recovered from the shaft. A modern water cistern was documented north of the excavation area.
The excavation of the shaft’s upper part to a depth of c. 6 m below surface, revealed fill that consisted of soil and different sized stones. Mixed ceramics from the Iron Age and the Early and Late Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods were recovered from this fill, as well as modern roof tiles, coins and an iron stake. A similar fill of soil and stones was found in the bottom part of the shaft, down to bedrock (depth 3.5 m), mixed with potsherds from the Middle Bronze Age (scant), Iron II, Hellenistic period (scant) and Early Roman period (most). While excavating the shaft a brown vertical strip of wood was discovered in the southern part above bedrock. It is noteworthy that M. Parker excavated several shafts and underground galleries in this area within his work in the City of David (Vincent L. H. 1911. Jerusalem sous terre: les recentes fouilles d'Ophel. Pl. VI). This find was probably the end bottom part of one of the shafts that Parker excavated. It seems that the origin of the fill in the shaft was intentional spill deposited either during the construction of ‘Bet Ha-Tira’ or the blocking of the shafts and galleries that Parker dug.
A rectangular water cistern (3.5 × 9.0 m, depth 9 m; Fig. 4) was documented 7 m north of the excavation area and lower than it. The cistern’s opening (0.6 × 1.2 m) was installed in the northern part of the eastern wall. The lower part of the cistern was bedrock hewn (depth of southern wall 4.3 m, depth of the northern wall 5.4 m), whereas the upper part was built of partially dressed medium-sized stones. The ceiling of the cistern was a barrel vault, coated with modern plaster, which also lined its bottom. The eastern side of the cistern’s floor was at least 1.2 m lower than its western slanting side. Based on the construction and the plaster, as well as the location of ‘Bet Ha-Tira’ above it, it seems that the cistern was installed at the time ‘Bet Ha-Tira’ was built, during the latter part of the nineteenth century CE or the beginning of the twentieth century CE.