In September 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Ben Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7215; map ref. 221664–91/630630–45), prior to the construction of a climbing wall. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Jerusalem Municipality, was directed by A. Wiegmann, with the assistance of R. Abu Halaf (administration), M. Kahan (surveying), D. Tanami (metal detection), T. Kornfeld (plans), B. Dolinka (ceramics), I. Lidski-Reznikov (pottery drawing) and D. Levy (location map).
Remains of a quarry in a strip of hard meleke limestone were exposed (length c. 30 m, width 3–4 m; Fig. 2). A modern wall that was built along the edge of the cliff was removed with mechanical equipment. The quarry remains were covered by accumulated dark brown soil, stone chips and fieldstones (max. depth 1.5 m). Severance channels hewn on a north–south axis (2.5–3.0 m apart) were discerned inside the quarry and two boulders, partially quarried, were discovered near the eastern and western edges of the excavation.
In the western part of the area was a trapezoidal boulder (L102; 1.50 × 3.06 × 1.66 × 2.53 m; Fig. 3) whose underside was not worked. Right-angle corners and straight edges on its western and southern sides, show the beginning of stone masonry work. A severance channel (depth 0.2 m) below it on the west, runs along the entire length of the boulder. A roughly shaped limestone column drum (diameter 0.68–0.70 m; length 0.7 m) was found next to the boulder on the south, in an accumulation of stone chips and dark brown soil (L103; Fig. 4). As was the case with Boulder 102, the quarrying of the column drum seems to be incomplete.
Several pottery sherds of diverse dates were found in the accumulation of stone chips and dark brown soil that abutted Boulder 102 and the column drum. They included a body fragment of a ridged black vessel decorated with a “tree of life” motif in pink paint, probably the shoulder of an ibriq—a type of jug—dating to the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE (Fig. 7:1; Israel 2006: 153, Fig. 132); a pointed base of an alabastron that was common in the second half of the first century BCE (Fig 7:2); and a foot of an unguentarium from the first century BCE–first century CE (Fig. 7:3).
In the eastern part of the excavation area was a trapezoidal boulder (L104; 2.3 × 2.8 × 2.0 × 3.1 m), whose northern part protruded beyond the edge of the cliff (Fig. 5). It was bounded on the west, south and east by severance channels that were particularly broad and deep (western channel: width 0.32–0.62 m, depth 1.1 m; eastern channel: width 0.45 m, max. depth 0.25 m; the southern channel was not excavated because of safety issues). East of Boulder 104, at the eastern end of the excavation area, were three hewn stones that formed part of a foundation course of a wall built directly on the bedrock in an east–west orientation (W1; length c. 1.7 m, height 0.55 m; Fig. 6). Pottery dating to the first century BCE–first century CE was found in the accumulation of stone chips and dark brown soil that covered Wall 1 and abutted Boulder 104: an upper body of a flask with a thickened rim, high cylindrical neck and two twisted loop handles (Fig. 7:4), and a complete bowl with a thickened inverted rim, an almost spherical body and a rope-cut base (Fig. 7:5). An ashlar block (0.53 × 0.55 × 1.57 m), was also found.
It seems that the masons who quarried Boulder 102 intended to produce an ashlar c. 1.2 × 2.2 m, but never completed their work. The similar dimensions of Boulders 102 and 104 and their location indicate that boulders were quarried with the intention of producing large ashlars c. 2 m long. A mixed pottery assemblage was found in the western part of the excavation area whereas in the eastern part only pottery dating to the Herodian period was found, in the accumulation layer that sealed the quarry. It is therefore possible that the quarry dates to the Herodian period, and the stones hewn in it were utilized in the monumental construction in Jerusalem. The nature of W1 is unclear.
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