Three excavation squares were opened (Fig. 3) after the mechanical removal of a late soil fill. A quarry, ancient field walls and an ancient road were exposed. The remains are presented below from the earliest to latest.
Stratum III (Fig. 4). The bedrock was leveled with a terra-rosa fill, and in several places with small fieldstones as well (L16). A road (L28; width 1.5 m) was constructed atop this leveled surface: crushed limestone and light gray mortar, with a second phases (L27) above it—crushed limestone and light brown soil mixed with gravel. In a later phase, a new, wider road (L20; width 2 m) was built of crushed limestone and gravel, which was covered with a layer of thin, light-colored loose soil (L15) that was probably meant to slow the rate of the limestone’s erosion or facilitate more comfortable travel along the road (Fig. 5). This later phase of the road was only partially revealed (length 7 m). The pottery found in L15 included handles of Judean flasks from the first century CE, suggesting that this was when the latest phase of the road was in use.
A level of roughly hewn rectangular stones (L25; Fig. 6) was exposed south of the road. Its time of construction could not be determined, as no datable finds were discovered neither when dismantling the level nor in the fill beneath it (L22). However, judging by the fill that covered this layer (L24), which was dated to the third–fifth centuries CE, the stone level went out of use during this period at the latest. The southern part of the latest road phase (L20) was severed by a robber trench (L26). It was apparent in the section that the phases of the early roads (L27 and L28) abutted an element of some sort, possibly curbstones, that had been plundered; all remained of them was the robber trench (Fig. 6).
Stratum II (Fig. 4). A field wall (W2; length 10 m, max. width 1.7 m, height 0.7 m; Fig. 7) running in a northwest–southeast direction was exposed; its southwestern side faced downhill. The wall was constructed of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones and was preserved to a height of three courses. Between the two rows of stones was a fill comprised of small fieldstones and soil (L21, L22). The wall’s foundation course (width 1.7 m) was wider than its upper course (width 1.2 m), and the northeastern face of the foundation course was constructed of large, roughly hewn fieldstones (W13; Fig. 8). Wall 2 was founded on the soil fill (L15) that covered the last phase of the early road. In several places it was set directly on the bedrock, exploiting the natural topography in combination with the stones from the field wall where the bedrock rises slightly. A fill of light brown soil mixed with gravel and small stones abutted the wall to its full height. A fragment of a dark-colored glass bracelet (B137; Fig. 9) adorned with three alternately arranged rows of knobs was found in the fill in W2 (L21). The knobs were formed by pressing a mold on the hot strip of glass; once the pattern was formed, the ends of the strip were connected in the shape of a bracelet. This type is less common than twisted bracelets and ribbed braceletes. A bracelet of this type was found at Bet Sheʽan, and others are found in the collections of the Israel Museum and the Rockefeller Museum, where they have been dated to the Late Roman period (third–fourth centuries CE; Spaer 2001:200, Cat. No. 450). Pottery sherds from the third–sixth centuries CE were collected inside the wall and in the fill. A soil fill (L15) discovered on the southwestern side of the wall covered the upper level of the road (L20). Pottery sherds that date to the third–sixth centuries CE were found in it, probably dating the construction of the wall. A layer of collapsed stones (L6; Fig. 10), probably from the wall, was discovered on top of this level. An Ottoman coin was found in it—a copper one-para coin of ‘Abd el-Medjid I (AH 1255–1277/1839–1861 CE) from AH 1271 (1854/5 CE). Nevertheless, it is likely that the wall collapsed earlier, around the sixth century CE, because no finds that date between that century and the nineteenth century CE were discovered.
Stratum I (Fig. 4). An agricultural terrace wall (W7; 0.8 × 6.5 m, height 1 m; Fig. 11) was exposed south of W2; like W2, it faced downhill. Wall 7 was built of one row of variously sized fieldstones preserved to a maximum height of five courses; its northeastern face was abutted by a loose terra-rosa fill (L9). The wall was founded partly on bedrock and partly on an earthen fill (L24). In the bedrock in front of the wall were several shallow rock cuttings, which could not be dated (Fig. 12). The pottery sherds from the fill that abutted W7 are from a variety of periods, the latest of which is the Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE), to which the construction of the wall is dated.
Quarry. An ancient quarry (L10; 7.0 × 15.0 m, max. depth 1.6 m; Fig. 13) was unearthed southeast of the road. This was an enormous quarry (Safrai and Sasson 2001:4) that accessed the melekeh limestone characteristic of the region. Only part of the quarry was excavated, and its continuation extended to the west and south, down and across the slope. The walls of the quarry were upright, bearing long, continuous chisel marks (Fig. 14). Severance channels were visible at the bottom of the quarry, and a stone whose quarrying was incomplete was left in the northwestern corner (Fig. 15). Judging by these finds, one could estimate the average size of the stones that were produced at the quarry (1.0 × 2.9 × 3.0 m). It seems that the stones were removed from the quarry via an opening in its southwestern corner or on its eastern side, where the wall is missing. Inside the quarry was a layer of terra-rosa soil, which should be dated to the Byzantine period (sixth century CE) at the latest; however, it is unclear whether it was an intentional fill or simply a natural accumulation. A stone clearance heap (L3; Fig. 16) between cracks in the bedrock to the southeast of the quarry was probably where the quarrying debris was discarded, although no datable finds were discovered within it.
Another rock-cutting (L17; 2.5 × 8.5 m, max. depth 1.7 m; Figs. 17, 18) was unearthed northwest of the quarry. It consisted of an upright wall that faced south, facing down hill. The wall was covered with long, continuous diagonal chisel marks (Fig. 19), similar to those noted on the western wall of Quarry 10. A probe (2 × 2 m) was excavated in the quarry’s southeastern corner, yielding a layer of terra-rosa soil devoid of any datable artifacts that extended down to the quarry floor. Here too, it is unclear whether it was a natural accumulation or an intentional fill. Judging by their location and their similar characteristics, one can ascribe the two quarries to one enormous quarry that continued along the slope, only the upper part of which was exposed.
The pottery finds represent a typical assemblage from the end of the Roman period and the beginning of the Byzantine period (third–sixth centuries CE). The finds include a
basin with an everted rim that curves down from the third–sixth centuries CE (Fig. 20:1, 2); a basin with a curved, slightly upturned everted rim from the third century CE (Fig. 20:3); a bowl rim pinched on the outside and adorned with a rouletted decoration, dated to the third–fifth centuries CE (Fig. 20:4); a bowl with a somewhat vestigial outward pinched rim from the third–fifth centuries CE (Fig. 20:5); a jug with a thickened rim and a loop handle that extends from the rim, dated to the fifth century CE (Fig. 20:6); a jar with a plain rim and a slightly bent neck that widens toward the top, dated to the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 20:7); a jar with an outwardly folded rim from the third–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 20:8–10); and a juglet from the second–fourth centuries CE (Fig. 20:11).
The Shuʽfat–Beit Hanina ridge is composed of soft melekeh limestone of the Turonian epoch. This rock is easily quarried, and exposure to the sun and heat dries and hardens it; hence, it was the favored building stone used by ancient masons. The ridge is at a higher elevation than Jerusalem and situated adjacent to an ancient road that led to the city. Due to this combination of conditions, the region was the preferred location for producing the city’s building stones. This is indicated by the dozens of quarries that were opened along the ridge. Since the quarrying methods have not changed throughout the ages and since there are no datable finds, we can assume that the enormous stones produced in the quarry were not intended for private construction in Jerusalem’s agricultural hinterland but rather for the city’s major building projects. The quarry may have operated during the Second Temple period, since the earliest phase of the road exposed in the excavation dates from the first century CE and was apparently associated with the facility. The early road apparently facilitated work and movement around the quarry. Once the quarry and road were no longer in use, the area became agricultural again.
The Shuʽfat plateau, where the road leading to Ramallah (Derekh Shuʽfat) and an ancient settlement along it were situated, is surrounded by deep, precipitous slopes. These topographical conditions necessitated the agricultural terraces as preparation for cultivation. It is difficult to date the agricultural terraces based on the ceramic finds discovered in them, since there is no way to determine where their soil fill originated (Davidowich et al. 2012).
Wall 2, built on the road, is dated to the Late Roman–Early Byzantine periods (third–sixth centuries CE). As the road shows no weathering or bears no later depositions, it can be concluded that the wall was constructed shortly after the road ceased to be used. Hence, the wall should be dated to the early part of these periods. Agricultural cultivation at the site continued into the Ottoman period, as evident by the construction of W7, which was in use until the modern era.