During April–May 2012, a salvage excavation was conducted at Kh. Sabiha in East Talpiyot (Permit No. A-6429; map ref. 221713–39/628008–30; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Jerusalem Municipality, was directed by D. Storchan (field photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), M. Kunin (surveying), A. Peretz (field photography) and N. Zak (final plans).
Archeological survey of Kh. S
a (Survey of Jerusalem, the Southern Sector,
Site 106/72) documented in the area the lower aqueduct to Jerusalem, which passes nearby and rock-cut cisterns. The survey also mentions a large burial cave with 12 kokhim
lined with nicely dressed stone slabs that was originally discovered by C. Schick (Survey of Jerusalem, the Southern Sector
:131, Fig. 106/72.1). More recently, as a result of the modern building projects in the area, multiple salvage excavations were conducted. These revealed the remains of stone quarries (HA-ESI 123, HA-ESI 123
), a hewn cistern (HA-ESI 123
), a rock-cut winepress and a cave with Roman-period occupation (HA-ESI 123
), and ritual baths and a columbarium (Permit No. A-5900).
A layer of earth that contained numerous potsherds from the Byzantine period and a nearby stone heap were excavated.
The Stone Heap: The oval stone heap (11×13 m, height in excess of 1 m) was composed of small and medium-sized flint stones. Once the upper stone layers were removed, two large support walls (W1, W2; Figs. 2, 3) were exposed. A limited probe trench (1.5×5.0 m) was positioned so as to allow a cross-section of the heap and the support walls. Wall 1 (exposed length 7 m) was the southern support of the heap. It was built of two rows of stones (width 1.5 m) with a core of earth and rocks (Fig. 4). The inner northern row of the wall consisted of large boulders and was preserved to a maximum of two courses high. The curved southern outer face of the wall comprised smaller stones and was preserved five–seven courses high. Wall 2, the northern support wall (exposed length 6 m), was built of two rows of flint boulders with a core of earth and chinking stones (width 1 m). The wall was set directly upon the natural ledge of the bedrock outcrop. Between Walls 1 and 2 was a dense fill of flint fieldstone cobbles (Fig. 5). The fill was excavated down to bedrock and contained potsherds from the Byzantine, Umayyad and Mamluk periods. Two additional walls (W3, W4) were discerned in the eastern part of the stone heap. These walls were built of a single row of stones and provided support for an enlargement of the heap.
The Potsherd Layer: Directly to the south of the stone heap, four excavation squares were opened. Almost immediately after topsoil removal, the natural steep sloped flint bedrock was exposed. A layer of cobbles (thickness 0.3 m) with a high concentration of potsherds was uncovered in the southeastern extent of the excavation area (Fig. 6). Little remains of the ceramic layer were uncovered in the rest of the excavation area.
Stone heaps (rujum in Arabic) are commonly found throughout Israel and the Levant. In most cases, the heaps were used as collection piles of small stones gathered from the immediate area. The removal and concentration of the stones would be used to free the area and use it for agriculture. The stone heap in East Talpiyot can be dated to the Mamluk period based on the latest dateable potsherds found within the heap’s fill. The potsherd layer, south of the stone heap, seems to have been washed in by natural water erosion. The dense accumulation in a limited area was most likely created by the natural curvature of the bedrock slope. The size of the potsherd cluster and density of the accumulation does however provide strong evidence for an intensive Byzantine period settlement and activity in the area above the excavation.