Table 1. Excavation stratigraphy
Period (CE)
Main finds
Synagogue prayer hall
Mamluk and Ottoman
Two phases of reservoir ‘Birkat al-Burāq’
Early Islamic
Pits and walls (W4244, W4246)
Late fourth century
Wall (W4206) of Building F
Fourth century
Refuse accumulations
Third century
Thick fill of earth and stones, and water channel (L4261)
Second century
Small theater-like structure
Early to Late Roman
Construction of two cavities (L4401, L4403) in northern part of Wilson’s Arch pier (L4202)
Early Roman
Western Wall courses, southern part of Wilson’s Arch pier (L4202) and drainage channel (L4513)
Early Roman
Northern part of Wilson’s Arch pier (L4204) and drainage channel (L4517)
Massive wall (W4493)
Stratum 8. The earliest element uncovered in the area is a wide solid wall (W4493; over 8 m wide) built on a southwest–northeast axis. The wall was constructed by casting yellowish mortar mixed with small fieldstones, and its southeastern face was faced with a row of large fieldstones; the northwestern face was not exposed as it lay beyond the excavated area. The northeastern part of the wall was cut by the Western Wall (W4205), which it therefore clearly predates. Similarly constructed and aligned wall segments have been discovered in several places to the west of the excavation area, and they are probably parts of the same massive wall (Onn, Weksler-Bdolah and Bar-Nathan 2011; Onn and Weksler-Bdolah 2016). The function of this wall has been widely discussed: it has been proposed that it was part of the First Wall (Warren and Conder 1884:206–207; Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2017), the foundation of the great causeway (Hamilton 1932; 1933), a dam wall (Bahat 2000:38) and a road-bearing dam wall (Weksler-Bdolah 2015). Based on the stratigraphy and data from previous excavations (Onn, Weksler-Bdolah and Bar-Nathan 2011; Bahat 2013), this solid wall probably dates to the Hasmonean period.
Stratum 7. The pier of Wilson’s Arch (W4202, W4204), the Western Wall (W4205) and drainage channels (L4513, L4517) are attributed to this stratum (Figs. 2, 3). Three construction phases (7C–7A) have been identified in the western pier supporting Wilson’s Arch (W4202, W4204; c. 15 m total length; Fig. 4). This pier is composed of two adjacent piers, a northern one W4204; 5.0 × 7.5 m) and a southern one (W4202; 5.0 × 7.5 m), exhibiting different methods and dates of construction. In the earliest phase (7C), in the Early Roman period, the northern pier (W4204) was built of eleven courses of stones with drafted margins. Pier 4204 probably originally bore an earlier arch that was as wide as the pier (7.5 m; not preserved). A small cavity built in the center of the pier (L4402; 2.45 m long) had an arched opening leading to it (1.3 m wide. 3.15 m max. height) with a stone lintel surmounted by a relieving arch. Pier 4204 was built on top of the Stratum 8 massive wall (W4493), which served as its base. In the interim phase (7B), within the Early Roman period, the southern pier (L4202) was built of six courses of large stones without drafted margins. Wilson’s Arch itself was also built of similar large stones, and the southern pier and the existing arch were probably constructed at the same phase. Two small rectangular cavities (L4404—1.5 × 2.4 m, height 3.5 m; L4405—1.5 × 1.8 m, height 3.5 m) were built inside the southern pier. The openings to the two cavities are constructed in a similar manner, with a large stone lintel supported by the entrance doorjambs. Cavity 4405 was excavated in the past by Warren while digging the western of the two shafts that he dug at the site. The Western Wall was evidently built in this phase (below). In the latest phase of the stratum (7A), probably in the Late Roman period, two additional cavities (L4401—1.4 × 2.7 m; L4403—2.1 × 2.3 m) were cut into the northern pier (W4204). It seems that W4493 from Stratum 8 was probably leveled and used as the floor for the two cavities. Despite the different dimensions of the cavities in the northern and southern piers, their construction technique is similar, and they were therefore probably opened up at the same phase. Sockets for lintels were cut in the upper courses of the entrances to the two cavities; the lintels, presumably made of wood, were not extant. Since the socket in the southern jamb of cavity L4403 was cut into the southern pier (W4202), it can be established that the two cavities post-date the construction of the W4202 pier, and that they belong to the final construction phase (7A) of the western pier of Wilson’s Arch.
The Western Wall stands c. 13 m to the east of the Wilson’s Arch pier and it was probably built in Phase 7B, together with the southern pier (W4202). The excavation unearthed nine additional well-preserved, stone courses of the Western Wall (Fig. 5), dressed with double drafted margins. Based on the historical sources and archaeological excavations, the Western Wall was constructed in the Early Roman period, namely between the rule of Herod the Great and the period of the Roman procurators (Reich and Baruch 2017).
A drainage channel (L4513, L4517; c. 0.95 m wide; Fig. 6) unearthed in the center of the excavation area was built on north–south alignment, parallel to the Western Wall and c. 7 m to its west. The channel was sealed beneath a building attributed to Stratum 6 (below). The northern part of the channel (L4517) was hewn into W4493 of Stratum 8, whereas its southern section (L4513) was constructed of two thick walls (0.55 m wide) built of ashlar stones. The upper courses of the built channel (L4513) appears to have been dismantled when the Stratum 6 theater-like structure was built. The floor of the northern rock-hewn channel is higher than that of the southern, stone-built channel. The northern channel may have been hewn in an early phase of the stratum (7C), veering slightly to the west; the southern section may have been built in a later phase (7B), with the widening of the Wilson’s Arch pier and renewed planning of the area.
Stratum 6. A small theater-like structure (Fig. 6) was unearthed that contained an orchestra, a stage area, entrance passages, staircases and a seating area; the building was not completed. The structure was built over the Stratum 7 drainage channel, and above Stratum 8 Wall 4493, parts of which were removed and leveled to create a base for the structure. The outer perimeter of the structure is rectangular, and it is delineated by Wilson’s Arch in the west, the Western Wall in the east and by walls in the south (W4430) and in the north (W4451). A semi-circular wall (W4420) curving delineated the area of the orchestra (6 m diam.) was preserved in the center of the structure; pilasters, only partially finished, were preserved at each end of the wall. The stage is narrow (c. 3.0 × 10.5 m) and bounded to north and south by two pedestals (0.7 × 1.0 m), that are 1.2 m higher than the stage; the profiles of the pedestals were not fully finished. The stage was founded mainly on top of W4493, but large protrusions discovered in the wall in this area are evidence of preparations for a superstructure that was not completed; the stage was apparently therefore not finished. The passages (aditi maximi; c. 1.5 m wide) led into the structure from the north and south and their walls were built of well-dressed stones. A staircase (0.6 m wide) found at the end of each passage led to the seats, whose construction was not completed. Steps were installed in the seating area as a base for an array of stone seats (cavea); the seats themselves were not found, either because they were never built, or as a result of secondary use of the stones in a later period (see for example, Reich and Billig 2000). The steps found in the area of W4493 were built into the wall itself, whereas the steps to the east and south of W4493 were built using a system of supporting walls with large stones between them. Architectural elements from the walls of the Temple Mount were found within these stone fills (for a review of methods of fixing theater seats, see Sear 2006:71–80). A retaining wall (W4409) uncovered in the center of the seating area and built of roughly dressed small and medium-sized stones, abutted the Western Wall. The wall, which clearly post-dates the Western Wall, provides a stratigraphic anchor with which to date the structure. Two sections were excavated in the foundations of the seating, south of W4409 and W4451, in an attempt to date the structure. The sections retrieved ceramic finds as well as roof tiles, bricks and clay pipes characteristic of the period following Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 CE (first half of second century CE; for discussion see Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2017), thus dating the structure’s construction. The theater-like structure unearthed in the excavation is the smallest to be discovered so far in the country (Segal 2000: Theater Table Appendix; Mazor 2007; Weiss 2014:81–100). Although the building was not fully completed, it may have been used by the citizens of the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina from the time when it was built early in the second century CE until it was deliberately buried under a fill of earth and stones in the latter half of the third century CE (below, Stratum 5).
Stratum 5. A uniform fill of gray-brown soil uncovered throughout the excavation area contained a large quantity of small stones and gravel (L4258, L4305, L4339, L4341; at least 3 m thick; see Fig. 3). The fill was deposited from different angles, abutting the Western Wall and the piers (L4202, L4204) of Wilson’s Arch, as well as W4420 of the theater-like structure. The fill sealed the Stratum 6 theater-like structure. A water channel (L4261; 0.3 m inner width, 0.64 m outer width, depth 0.5 m; Fig. 7) unearthed in the upper part of the fill led from north to south, veering westward in the southern part of the excavation area. The channel had small fieldstone walls and a stone slab roof, and was not plastered, and its floor was covered with a hard layer of moist brown sediment. The channel was cut by the foundation trench of a wall (W4206) from a previously excavated Building F, attributed to Stratum 3 (below). Based on pottery finds and coins retrieved from the stratum, the channel probably dates from the latter half of the third century CE (for further details, see Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2017).
Stratum 4. Dense deposits of ash, moist red clayey soil and chalk were discovered (L4304, L4310; max. thickness 2 m; Fig. 8) on a southwesterly descending slope. The deposits yielded a large quantity of organic matter. Judging by the gradient, the accumulations were probably not habitation levels but were the result of prolonged dumping of refuse. Based on the pottery found in the stratum, it probably dates from the fourth century CE (for further details, see Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2017).
Stratum 3. The northern face of the northern wall of Building F that was uncovered in previous excavations was unearthed (W4206; Onn, Weksler-Bdolah and Bar-Nathan 2011; Onn and Weksler-Bdolah 2016). Wall 4206 (12.6 m long) was built of dressed stones and preserved to a height of ten courses (5.2 m preserved height), including the upper part of the wall foundation, which was wider than the wall. The foundation trench of W4206 cut into the Stratum 4 accumulations and the Stratum 5 Channel 4261 (see Fig. 3), dating Building F accordingly to not before the end of the fourth century CE. Wall 4206 abuts the western end of the northern wall of  previously excavated Building E, that was dated to the second–third centuries CE (Onn, Weksler-Bdolah and Bar-Nathan 2011).
Also attributed to this stratum was a channel with a trapezoidal cross-section hewn into the Western Wall stones, which was discovered at the bottom of Course D of the Western Wall (according to Warren’s numbering; Warren 1884: Plan XXXIII). This channel was unearthed in Warren’s eastern shaft next to the Western Wall (Wilson and Warren 1871:81), and it continues to the northern end of Robinson’s Arch. Four rectangular hewn niches unearthed at the bottom of Course E may possibly also be attributed to this stratum; they lie c. 3.5 m apart and were apparently used to support wooden beams. The niches were evidently hewn in the Western Wall stones after the destruction of the Second Temple, and they may be related to the construction of a large water reservoir to the north of the excavation area.
Stratum 2. Pits and walls (W4244, W4246) unearthed cutting into the Stratum 4 accumulations, yielded Early Islamic pottery. These pits and walls are sealed beneath the foundations of the Stratum 1 water reservoir (‘Birkat al-Burāq’; below) and therefore predate its construction.
Stratum 1. A plastered water reservoir was unearthed that extended across the entire excavation area (Birkat al-Burāq’; at least 15 m long, 13 m wide; Fig. 8); it was dismantled at the beginning of the excavation and hence does not appear on the plan. It was encountered directly beneath the synagogue’s stone floor. The eastern part of the reservoir may continue southward, as documented by Wilson (Wilson 1865:28–29; Bahat 2013:222–241). The reservoir was founded in the west on the western pier of Wilson’s Arch and in the east on the Western Wall. The base of the reservoir walls is curved at the junction with the floor. Two construction stages were identified in the reservoir, the earlier from the Mamluk period and the later from the Ottoman period. In the earlier phase, the reservoir was built on a thick foundation of stones and hard mortar, coated with two consecutive layers of pinkish plaster. In the later phase, the floor of the reservoir was covered with another layer of stones and bonding material, and the reservoir was coated with a new layer of pinkish plaster. Based on the traces of plaster preserved on the Western Wall, the reservoir wall after its later plastering evidently stood to a height of 3.2 m.
The excavation under Wilson’s Arch uncovered remains from the Hasmonean to the Ottoman periods, beneath the recently built synagogue. The remains are an important part of the urban complex of Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount and provide information about the area’s development from the Hasmonean era, through the height of its settlement in the Early and Late Roman periods, to the changes undergone in the area during the Byzantine era and in subsequent periods. The remains unearthed are associated with previously excavated remains to the west of Wilson’s Arch, along the line of the Great Causeway, and to the north and south of the arch.