During December 2010–January 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted in Nahal Zofim (Permit No. A-6076; map ref. 221106–745/634647–974), following damage caused to an ancient quarry while preparing the route for a bicycle track. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Moriya Company, was directed by S. Kisilevitz (photography), with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf and N. Nehama (administration), M. Kahan and M. Kunin (surveying) and D. Levy (GPS).
The excavation area, located downstream in Nah
ofim, was a small part of a quarry, whose full extent is unknown (Fig. 1), and another part of it had been excavated in the past (HA-ESI 123
). The region was surveyed within the Jerusalem survey (Survey of Jerusalem, the Northeastern Sector
: 57*–61*, Sites 147–166).
An area (c. 130 sq m; Fig. 2) was excavated; in its northern part, a backhoe dug a trench. It is part of an enormous quarry that extends along much of the stream and its exact border is not known. Some 10 m south of the excavation area was an upright bedrock wall with hewn cavities that might have been used for burial (Fig. 3). The northern part of these cavities was removed by later quarrying activity, probably modern.
Remains of a soft limestone quarry (max. depth 2 m) were exposed. The rock-cutting was done in quarrying steps that descend east, north and west toward the center of the area (3–6 steps) where a large quarried rock surface (length 8 m, width 5 m) was completely depleted (Figs. 4, 5). The quarrying marks were clearly visible on the side of the bedrock in the west, as well as in several shallow rock-cut channels (length 0.2m, width 0.10–0.15 m). The marks indicate that the quarrying was done using a broad pointed instrument and diagonal blows at length of c. 0.3 m.
On some of the steps and on the bottom surface, grooves that served as stone separation channels were noted (Fig. 6); these channels facilitate reconstructing the size of some of the stones (e.g., length 0.7 m, width 0.45 m, height 0.3 m). The deep part of the quarry was filled with soil and rock-cutting debris overlain with additional soil fill. Several potsherds from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods were found in the fill.
The excavated area is a small part of a large quarrying complex in Nahal Zofim that is dated to the Early Roman period. The complex included burial caves, among which the dominant one is the Umm el-‘Amid cave, northeast of the excavation (Survey of Jerusalem, the Northeastern Sector: 60*, Site 162). The damaged cavities south of the excavation and the dominant burial cave upstream indicate that the region was used for both quarrying building stones and burial caves. The quarry produced hundreds of kilograms of building stones in a variety of sizes and it probably went out of use in the Roman period. Quarrying was resumed in the region for a short time in the twentieth century CE.