The current excavation was conducted in a building that includes three rooms, one on its north side (1; c. 5 × 6 m) and the other two on its south side (2, 3). The building’s floor is 1.7 m below the level of el-Qirami Street. All the rooms are covered with cross vaults. Two arched openings connect the three rooms. The eastern and southern walls of Room 2 were coated with concrete that conceals the original architecture. A third opening was breached in the south wall of Room 2, connecting Room 2 with the small entrance hall immediately to its south.
An excavation square (2.8 × 2.9 m) was opened in the southwest corner of the north room, beneath a new concrete floor, which was laid following the unauthorized digging. The excavation yielded remains from four phases (IV–I; Figs. 4–7), which according to the ceramic finds date from the Early Islamic to the late Ottoman periods. Phases IV and III date from the Abbasid period and predate the construction of the building. The building was built in Phase II, which dates from the twelfth century CE (Crusader and early Ayyubid periods). In Phase I, from the late Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries), repairs were made to the building.
Phase IV. A thick fill of soil mixed with small stones and limestone gravel was discovered in the east and south of the excavation square (L120, L122, L123; Fig. 8). The upper part of the fill was tamped to a level surface. The fill was cut into by later construction, and it may represent a sub-phase in Phase III construction work, since the Phase III floor (L119, see below) was laid directly on top of the fill. The pottery from Phases IV and III reinforces this assumption, since it all dates from one period—the Abbasid period.
Phase III. A wall (W125) with a foundation trench (L124) was unearthed in the south of the excavation square. Only one stone from W125 is evident in the southern cross-section of the square (see Figs. 5: Section 3–3; 7). The W125 stone is dressed and large, suggesting that it was inserted in the wall in secondary use; it may originally have been a lintel or a threshold stone. A pit discovered in the center of the excavation square (L117, L121; uncovered length 1.8 m, width 1.1 m) was probably the southern part of a refuse pit or a cesspit. The pit yielded potsherds, stones, and a fragment of a marble slab. Foundation Trench 124 and Pit 117/121 were sealed by a floor (L119) laid on the fill from Phase IV; the floor was made of tamped soil with a brown mortar bedding. Floor 119 abuts the north face of W125. Pit 117/121 and floor 119 were cut into by a wall (W126) of a Phase I Installation (L113, see below; Figs. 9, 10). Based on the ceramic finds, Phase III was dated to the Abbasid period.
Phase II. The building was constructed during this phase. A foundation (L118) belonging to the corner walls of the building (W101, W108) was unearthed in the southwest corner of the square. Foundation 118 cut into Floor 119 from Phase III. A wide opening was set in the west wall (W101); it was blocked at a later stage (Fig. 11). The building’s plaster floor (L114) was bedded on a fill of soil and stones (L116), which was placed on top of Floor 119 (see Fig. 10). Floor 114 covered Foundation 118 and abutted Walls 101 and 108. A pilaster (W107) in the south of the excavation square supported the arched opening between Rooms 1 and 2; it was built directly on top of W125 from Phase III (see Fig. 7). A section of thin white plaster, which was probably applied during this construction phase, was preserved on the north face of the pilaster’s stones. Phase II was dated according to the ceramic finds to the twelfth century CE (the Crusader and early Ayyubid periods). These finds include an intact cooking pot from the eleventh–twelfth centuries CE discovered above Floor 114 and below a wall of Phase I (W110, see below; see Fig. 14:7).
Phase I. Several alterations were made in the building during this phase. The entrance in the west wall (W101) was converted into a window. It is evident from the southern doorpost of this opening that the lower seven courses were part of the building’s original construction, whereas the courses above it were built at this stage, when the entrance opening was narrowed and turned into a window. The opening may have been blocked entirely later (see Fig. 11). A low wall (W110), possibly the foundation of some installation, was built beside W101. Wall 110 cut into Floor 114 of Phase II. A wall (W126) delimited on the west a rectangular subterranean installation (L113; Fig. 12), probably a cesspit; only the west part of the installation was excavated. The springer of an eastward vault was detected in the upper part of W126. The east side of Installation 113 was probably delimited by a wall situated outside the excavation area. The installation contained a fill of black soil with layers of limestone gravel. Installation 113 cut into Floors 119 and 114 of Phases III and II, the east part of Pit 117/121 of Phase III and the Phase IV fill. Traces of a plaster floor (L112; Fig. 13) laid on a tamped earth fill were discovered throughout the excavation square; the floor abutted W110 and the top of W126. The foundation of an east–west wall (W111) was discovered in the southeast corner of the excavation square, under the arched opening between the rooms; the wall’s stones had been robbed, and only its foundation was preserved. Floor 112 was cut to the north of the foundation of W111. This may have occurred when the stones of the wall were robbed, or—in the case that W111 post-dates the Phase I modifications—when the wall was built. No floor post-dating Floor 112 was discovered, but it is possible that some remains were destroyed during the renovation work that preceded the excavation. Phase I dates from the late Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE).
Pottery Finds
Edna J. Stern and Benjamin Dolinka
The few ceramic finds from the excavation date from the Byzantine, Abbasid, Fatimid, Crusader, Ayyubid and late Ottoman periods. They allow us to date the various phases of construction, although some of the potsherds are residual and date from periods that predate the architectural remains.
Phase IV. A Fine Burnished Ware jug was retrieved (Fig. 14:1). It seems that this ware family represents a continuation of the Fine Byzantine Ware (FBW) family. The difference between the two ware families is evident in their fabric: the vessels recovered from the excavation were made of clay that was not as well levigated as the clay used in manufacturing the FBW vessels. The quality of the potters’ workmanship remained the same, as indicated by the thin walls and the high-quality firing of the vessels recovered from the excavation. Similar ware has been found at many excavations in Jerusalem, one example being the Giv‘ati Parking Lot (Cytryn-Silverman 2013:172, Fig. 7.5:5); they date from the Abbasid period (the second half of the eighth to the tenth centuries CE); since they are the latest pottery from this phase, they serve to date the phase.
Phase III. A Fine Burnished Ware juglet (Fig. 14:2), dated to the Abbasid period, was found on Floor 119, which was laid on top of the Phase IV fill, and dates the floor to this period. Pit 117/121 (Phase III) yielded a Gaza Ware bowl (Fig. 14:3) from the nineteenth century CE (Salem 2009:35, Fig. 4.3:16). This late bowl probably originated in a penetration from Installation 113 (Phase I), which cut into Pit 117/121.
Phase II. Fill 116, beneath Floor 114 of Phase II, yielded an Arched-Rim Basin (Fig. 14:4), which was common in Jerusalem and the nearby region in the Byzantine period (third–sixth centuries CE; Magness 1993:204–207, Form 1; Balouka 2013:153, Fig. 6.4:16); a Fine Burnished Ware cup from the Abbasid period (Fig. 14:5; Cytryn-Silverman 2013:168–169, Fig. 7.5:1); and a simple bowl made of light-colored fabric with a reddish core, a simple rim and a sharply carinated shoulder (Fig. 14:6), of a type common in Jerusalem and its surrounding region in the Crusader and Ayyubid periods (twelfth to mid-thirteenth centuries CE; Tushingham 1985:142, Fig. 35:1; Avissar and Stern 2005:82, Fig. 35:1). An intact cooking pot (Fig. 14:7) was recovered above Floor 114. It is made of red fabric containing a large quantity of white grits and inclusions. The pot has no neck, and its rim is simple and slightly everted. The bottom part of the interior of the pot bears a transparent glaze. The form of this vessel resembles cooking pots manufactured in Beirut and distributed in the southern Levant during the Fatimid period (tenth century CE; Waksman 2011) and the Crusader period (twelfth–early thirteenth century CE; Waksman et al. 2008:163, 178–180, Fig. 7). However, its fabric differs from that of the Beirut-made pots, which is well levigated, with no inclusions, and well fired. It therefore seems that our cooking pot was manufactured in a different workshop. Nevertheless, cooking pots similar to the one found in the current excavation have been found in other excavations in Jerusalem, alongside cooking pots that were apparently manufactured in Beirut (e.g., the excavation along the Mughrabi Ascent; Permit Nos. A-6510, A-6697, A-7038). It can therefore be assumed that their dates are similar—eleventh–twelfth centuries CE (for examples and discussion, see Avissar 2003:434, Pl. 19.1:12; Stacey 2004:125, Fig. 5.32:16, 17). Phase II should probably be dated to the Crusader and Early Ayyubid periods (twelfth century CE).
Phase I. Most of the potsherds recovered from this phase are Gaza Ware types made of a fabric ranging in color from dark gray to black and dating from the late Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE; Salem 2009). These included fragments of a jar (Fig. 14:9) and of a jug (ibriq; Fig. 14:10). Installation 113 yielded part of a chamber pot made of buff fabric with a ledge rim (Fig. 14:8). Chamber pots changed very little over the periods and are known from the Early Islamic period onward. This example resembles a chamber pot found in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter and dated to the Mamluk period (Avissar 2014:239, Fig. 7.1:13, 14). Based on the most recent ceramic finds, Phase I dates from the late Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE).
The building (Room 1) was constructed in the twelfth century CE. Judging by the architectural similarity of the walls, it probably included Rooms 2 and 3 as well. The plan of the complex (see Fig. 3) suggests that the room to the south of Room 3 belonged to the same building. Today, there is no access to this room from House No. 14, and it appears to be connected to the living quarters in the east wing of el-Madrasa el-Badriya. Based on repairs detected in the building’s walls, it is evident that the upper parts of the original architecture, including the cross vaults, were not preserved; they were probably replaced in Phase I, when repairs were undertaken in the building. The long entrance hall to the courtyard of el-Madrasa el-Badriya seems to indicate that the courtyard was constructed when the building adjoining it to the east was already standing. The construction phases are not visible when looking at the building façades along el-Qirami Street, as these are concealed by the vault built over the street. The perceived lengthy time gap between the construction of the building (Phase II; twelfth century CE) and its repairs in Phase I (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE) is probably due to the removal all signs of any previous renovations during the Phase I repairs.