In June 2014, a small salvage excavation was conducted alongside the Armenian-Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm, in the Old City of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7077; map ref. 222118/631928), following the exposure of a wall while renovating the hostel there. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Armenian-Catholic Church, was directed by N. Sapir, with the assistance of N. Nahama (administration), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), D. Porotzky (plans), V. Naykhin (field photography), D. Tanami (metal detection), R. Kool (numismatics), V. Nosikovsky (metallurgical laboratory) and T. Winter (glass).
Four phases of walls and foundations were exposed, all apparently related to the construction of the church at the end of the nineteenth century and the renovations carried out in it (Figs. 3, 4).
The foundation of a modern concrete wall running the entire length of the northern side of the excavation area was exposed and is ascribed to the latest phase. The wall was built in the1950s in order to support a building addition north of the church. The foundation trench (L102) was completely excavated to its bottom. The three earlier phases were probably technical phases of the church’s construction in the 1880s. The latest of them is the stone wall of the church’s northern apse, which was entirely exposed and only its foundation (W12; below) was excavated. The wall of the apse was built on top of a wall aligned in a north–south direction (W10; length 2.2 m, width 0.4 m, total height including the foundation 1.60–2.33 m; Fig. 5), of which three foundation courses and four courses of large dressed stones (average size 0.40 × 0.40 × 0.44 m) were preserved. The two upper courses were exposed above ground level, and the plaster remains on them were incised with a herringbone pattern. The upper foundation course protruded east from the line of the wall. The later concrete wall severed the upper courses at the northern end of W10, and abutted the lower courses of that wall. The foundation trench of W10 (L106) was not excavated to its entire depth. The southern end of the wall was built on top of a curved wall (W12; length 1.35 m, width 0.32 m, height 0.9 m; Fig. 7) preserved to a height of four courses of medium-sized fieldstones (average dimensions 0.11 × 0.15 × 0.19 m). Wall 12 was probably the foundation of the church’s northern apse, dating from the late nineteenth century. The foundation was not exposed to its full depth, but the foundation trench (L105) was revealed alongside it; the trench was back-filled with earth and medium-sized stones when following the construction of the foundation. The exposure of the circular outline of W12 shows that Vincent and Abel’s documentation, which indicates that a straight wall enclosed the northern apse (see Fig. 2), is incorrect, and that the wall was actually curved (Fig. 6).
The ceramic finds from the excavation (not illustrated) consist mainly of pottery fragments from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE: large, hand-made bowls, jars and jugs, including a strainer. In addition, many brick fragments covered with various types of mortar were found. These were probably from the Ottoman bathhouse, Hammam Al-Sultan, on whose remains part of the church was constructed in the nineteenth century. Fragments of pottery vessels from the Mamluk period were found in the fill and foundation trenches, in addition to the artifacts dating to the Ottoman period. The finds include bowls, among them a green glazed bowl, and fragments of coarse jars, one of which is painted with geometric patterns. The finds from the foundation trench of W10 (L106) are exceptional because they comprise artifacts from several periods. Among other things, they included a jar from the Second Temple period, fragments of Byzantine roof tiles and an FBW bowl, characteristic of the Early Umayyad period.
The excavation yielded about ten small fragments of glass vessels. Among them are specimens characteristic of the Byzantine period, including a rounded rim of a bottle or wineglass adorned with a thin trail (from L100), a wineglass stem (from L101), and a lamp wick-tube (from L105). The pieces from the foundation trench of W10 (L106) are typical of the late Byzantine and Umayyad periods, and include a rounded rim probably of a bowl/beaker, a wineglass adorned with a thin trail wound on the rim and wall, and a body fragment possibly bearing a pinch.
Three copper Mangir coins minted in Egypt were discovered. Two of them (L104; IAA 147097, 147098) date to the reign of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed III (1595–1603 CE); the third coin could not be identified.
The stratigraphy of the remains indicate that three technical phases are related to the construction of the church in late nineteenth century CE. These include the building of the apse foundation (W12), the building of W10 on the apse foundation and the building of the outer face of the northern apse.
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