Two excavation areas were opened along Piqud Ha-Merkaz Street: a southern area (A; map ref. 221711–22/632559–69), between the Paz gas station and the US consulate building, near the intersection with Naomi Kiss Street, and a northern area (B; map ref. 221630–4/63241–5), near the northern end of the street. Area A yielded remains of a mosaic floor and a scant remnant of a wall belonging to a Byzantine building. The remains unearthed had been severely damaged by modern infrastructure work. Much of the floor was damaged and in many places the side of the building was not preserved. Nevertheless, the mosaic contained a well-preserved dedicatory inscription in Greek that dates the building to the mid-sixth century CE (Di Segni and Gellman 2017). Area B yielded a few remnants of a field wall, with no context and no diagnostic finds.
Area A (Fig. 2). The excavation uncovered remains of a mosaic pavement (L3, L10) made of white tesserae (average density 32 per sq dm) aligned northeast–southwest and set in a plater bedding (L4, L8; Figs. 3, 4). At the northern end of the excavation area were scant remains of a wall that enclosed the building on the north (W5, W12; Figs. 3, 4). Three rows of tesserae that were laid at a 45-degree angle to the rest of the mosaic floor abut W12. The floor also abuts this wall (W5), which was coated with plaster; a second layer of plaster (W6) was identified over the first layer. A few tesserae set in a different alignment were found near the southeastern end of the excavation (L3); they probably represent the southern end of the building. The location of the remains of the mosaic floors and the orientation of the tesserae suggest that the room was at least 9 m long (east–west).
A southward-facing Greek inscription, made of black tesserae (average density 44 per sq dm), was unearthed near the northwestern end of the excavation area. The inscription consists of six lines enclosed within a tabula ansata (length 1.14 m, width 0.8 m; Fig. 5). It is a dedicatory inscription recording the date of the building’s construction, in the 14th indiction (tax year) during the reign of emperor Justinian—apparently 550/1 CE. The inscription also mentions Constantine, the abbot in charge of the building.
Following the removal of the inscription, the material sealed beneath it was excavated. The plaster bedding yielded a coin which could not be identified, and the soil fill beneath the plaster—three coins, whose state of preservation allowed for only tentative identification based on size and shape to the first half of the sixth century CE. A few potsherds were also found, including arched-rim basins from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods (Fig. 6:1) and a Late Roman storage jar (Fig. 6:2). The Byzantine period was represented by Phocaean Red Slip bowls, Type 3 (Fig. 6:3–5) and roof tiles (Fig. 6:6). The coins and the pottery suggest that the building was constructed no earlier than the mid-sixth century CE. The excavation also recovered two shells from the Mediterranean Sea: one belongs to the Donax trunculus species, which was used as a food and has been found at several Byzantine sites, and the other is an example of Glycymeris nummaria, which was picked up along the seashore.
Late Roman–Early Islamic potsherds were found in the accumulations above the remains of the floor. The Late Roman–Byzantine finds included a stand (Fig. 7:1), bell-shaped lids (Fig. 7:2) and arch-rimmed basins (Fig. 7:3, 4); the Byzantine-period finds included Fine Byzantine Ware bowls (Fig. 7:5, 6), roof tiles (Fig. 7:7), oil lamps (Fig. 7:8) and cooking pots (Fig. 7:9); Early Islamic oil lamps were also identified (Fig. 7:10). A cluster of small fragments of iron artifacts, possibly pieces of a single item, was found about 2–3 cm above the floor. The finds above the floor are mixed and thus cannot be used to date the abandonment of the building with any certainty; the soil fill may have been brought here from an adjacent area during infrastructure work.
Area B. A row of stones, one course high and one stone wide, was unearthed (Fig. 8). No diagnostic finds indicating a context or a date were recovered.
The building remains were probably part of a complex of religious buildings located along the main road, at the entrance to Jerusalem.