In March 2018, a short-term salvage excavation was conducted at the Focolare community compound on the eastern slope of Mount Zion (Permit No. A-8252; map ref. 222114–54/631018–54; Figs. 1, 2), prior to the development of their visitor center. The excavation, carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by Y. Tchekhanovets (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), M. Kahan (surveying), A. Wiegmann (photogrammetric documentation), O. Rose and N. Zak (drafting), Z. Matskevich (digitization consulting) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
The excavation was undertaken following a systematic survey of the eastern slope of Mt. Zion (c. 7000 sq m), which revealed a thick accumulation of archaeological finds dating from the late Iron Age (seventh–sixth centuries BCE) through the Ottoman (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE) periods.
Previous excavations in the nearby Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu uncovered architectural remains and rock-hewn structures, mainly belonging to an Early Roman-period residential area, and the remains of a Byzantine church, richly decorated with mosaics and marble (Germer-Durand 1914); more recently, excavations at the site revealed remains from the Early Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods (Díaz 1999; Díaz and Prieto 1999).
The current excavation (c. 100 sq m) yielded several walls (W10, W12, W13, W16, W17) in an undisturbed archaeological layer preserved in the southwestern corner of the excavation area (Sq B2; Figs. 3, 4). Simply built of fieldstones of various sizes, these walls apparently belonged to one structure, possibly a residential unit, with a courtyard to its south. Floors related to the walls were not discovered, but a few nearly complete pottery vessels were found in the corner formed by W10 and W12 (Fig. 5). These include a small, plain deep bowl with a slightly carinated profile and a simple rim (Fig. 6:1), a large basin with a folded-out rim (Fig. 6:2) and a plain-ware jug with a tall vertical neck (Fig. 6:3). Based on known parallels, these vessels can be safely dated to the ‘Abbasid period, most probably to the mid-ninth century CE.
Further east of the exposed structure, the archaeological layers were disturbed by massive modern fills, likely post 1967, containing rubble and earth. Several mechanically dug trenches showed that these fills reach a depth of at least 3.0–3.5 m.
The poor state of preservation of the remains and the limited area of the excavation leave no possibility for a more detailed interpretation of the finds.
The results of this excavation have expanded our knowledge of settlement patterns on the slopes of Mt. Zion, adding the previously unattested ‘Abbasid period to the archaeological sequence in the area. They have also provided a better understanding of post-depositional processes in this area, which may serve future studies of the eastern slopes of Mt. Zion.
Díaz F. 1999. Jerusalem, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu –1995. ESI 19:62*–63*.
Díaz F. and Prieto I. 1999. Jerusalem, the Church of Sant Peter in Gallicantu – 1996. HA-ESI 109:79*.
Germer-Durand J. 1914. La maison de Caïphe et l’église Saint-Pierre à Jérusalem. RB 11:222–246.