The excavation area lies within a long, narrow strip between ez-Zeituna Street to the east and modern development work to the west. Six excavation squares (3–4 × 5 m; Fig. 2) were opened: four in the southeast part of the strip, and two closer to its northwest end (Fig. 3). Prior to the excavation, soil fills mixed with modern refuse were removed from the surface by mechanical means, under archaeological supervision.
Four main phases of human activity were identified in the excavation area: the road’s main construction phase (Phase 3A) with a localized repair in the its curb wall (Phase 3B); two later construction phases, during which the road was narrowed (Phases 2, 1); and an earlier phase (Phase 4), which preceded the main construction phase of the road, the nature of which remains unclear.
Phase 4 comprises a surface of small fieldstones (L120; Fig. 2: Section 2–2) that lay beneath a clean fill of terra-rossa soil (L114; thickness 0.8 m). The surface may be associated with the paving of the road, but the limited scope of the excavation in this area made it difficult to confirm this assumption.
Phase 3A. Remains of this phase were unearthed in two parts of the excavation: in its southern part, in an area c. 18.5 m long and 1.0–1.5 m wide; and in the north, in an area 9.5 m long and 0.5–1.5 m wide. The remains comprise the western curb wall (W11, W13, W14), constructed along a southeast–northwest axis, which delimited the stone-paved road (L101, L102). The three wall sections differ slightly in their construction methods.
Wall 11 (length 11 m, average width 0.80–0.85 m; Fig. 4)—the longest section—was uncovered in the central part of the excavation area. Only its foundation was preserved. The eastern face of the foundation was built uniformly of square fieldstones (0.25 × 0.30 m, height 0.25 m). The western face was built of small- to medium-sized fieldstones (averaging 0.15 × 0.20 m, height 0.1 m) that lined the wall’s foundation core, whichconsisted of a terra-rossa soil and small fieldstones. The top of one of the stones bore traces of a yellowish material containing marl and crushed limestone, which served as bonding material between the foundation and the first course of stones.
Wall 14 (c. 5 m long) is the southern section of the wall. Only its western face was preserved.
Wall 13 (length 7.3 m, width 0.9 m; Figs. 2: Section 1–was exposed in the northwest part of the excavation; it was more substantially built than Walls 11 and 14. This wall was partly preserved up to the first course above the foundation. It comprised two rows of stones, much like W11: its eastern face was built of large fieldstones (0.5 × 0.6 m, height 0.3 m) that were placed on a fill of terra-rossa soil (thickness 5 cm) and reinforced with small stones on their eastern side; the western face was built of medium-sized fieldstones (0.30 × 0.35 m, height 0.3 m) that were embedded in a clean fill of terra-rossa soil. The eastern face was damaged by mechanical equipment prior to the excavation, partially exposing the top of the wall’s foundation stones. A thin layer (thickness 2–3 cm) of the yellowish material for bonding the foundation and the first course of stones was found on top of several of these stones (Fig. 6). 1; 5)
Despite differences in construction method and state of preservation, Walls 11 and 13 seem to belong to a single phase, since the western face of two walls was embedded in the same fill of clean terra-rossa soil, no continuous architectural remains were found to the west of these walls and the same layer of yellowish material was used as mortar in these walls. It therefore seems that the differences in construction method between the two sections should be attributed to a specific need to build a more massive wall in the northern part of the excavation area, perhaps because of topographical considerations.
Segments of the road’s paving during this phase (L101, L102; Fig. 7) were partially preserved throughout the excavation area. A modern disturbance, along the entire excavation area to the east, had penetrated to a depth of c. 0.5–1.0 m below the surface and removed parts of the paving. A section dug in the southern part of the excavation area (0.7 × 1.4 m), east of W14, indicated that the paving comprised hard limestone fieldstones (average dimensions 0.25–0.30 × 0.40 m, height 0.10–0.15 m) interspersed with larger stone slabs (0.5 × 0.6 m, thickness 0.15 m). The removal of several paving stones revealed a layer of light-colored terra-rossa soil mixed with a few small fieldstones (0.20–0.25 m) that covered large fieldstones. These stones were placed in natural hollows in the bedrock to level the planned course of the road; the overlying soil fill provided a level foundation for the paving stones. The paving stones at L102 were partly embedded beneath the foundation of W11, indicating that the paving preceded the construction of the wall. The paving stones along the eastern boundary of the excavation sunk eastward due to erosion of the underlying soil fill. Some of the paving stones were missing due to construction in Phase 2 (below).
Phase 3B. A segment of a wall (W12; length 4.5 m, width 1.1 m) was unearthedin the southern part of the excavation area, 0.3–0.4 m west of W14 and parallel to it. It comprised a western row of medium-sized fieldstones arranged as stretchers (average dimensions 0.4 × 0.5 m, height 0.2 m) and an eastern row of smaller fieldstones (average dimensions 0.2 × 0.3 m, height 0.15–0.20 m) placed against the western row. This may represent a local repair in the road following damage to W14.
Phase 2.Three wall sections of which only the foundations survived (W10, W15, W16) belong to this phase and indicate that the road was narrowed. The identical course of these walls and the similar style of their construction indicate that they formed a single, continuous wall built on top of the remains of the stone paving from Phase 3A (L101, L102). Wall 10 (length 8 m, width 0.2 m, preserved height 0.2 m), exposed at the southeast end of the excavation area, was built of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones (average dimensions 0.3 × 0.4 m), which were set c. 0.4 m apart, some arranged as stretchers and others as headers. Although the wall’s stones were not neatly arranged, the builders clearly took care to ensure that they were placed so that a smooth outer face was formed on each side. The south end of the wall was buried beneath W19 from Phase 1 (below), and it was therefore impossible to determine whether it continued southward. Wall 10 was truncated at its northern end by a water pipe from the 1990s. A section revealed the width of the fill preserved in the core of the wall (0.2 m), which was composed of terra-rossa soil mixed with small fieldstones (average dimensions 0.10 × 0.15 m, height 0.1 m) and was laid directly over the paving stones from Phase 3A (Figs. 2: Section 3–3; 8). Some of the large stones of the eastern face of the wall were placed directly on top of the paving, while the stones of the western face of the wall were embedded in a fill of terra-rossa soil (thickness 0.2 m), which covered the paving stones of Phase 3A. This fill was intended to compensate for the height differences due to the use of smaller stones in constructing the western face.
Two additional wall segments of identical width and construction style were unearthed 23–30 m from the northern end of W10 (W15—length 3 m, width 1 m; W16—length 1.50 m, width 1.05 m). They too were built directly on the Phase 3 road paving (Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 5; 9) and on the soil that was above the paving. Despite the considerable distance between the two walls and W10, their similar style of construction and their stratigraphic relation to the paving stones of Phase 3A seem to indicate that they belong to Phase 2.
Wall 10 resembles W11 of Phase 3A in several of its architectural features. This resemblance and the small differences in elevation between the foundations of these walls may indicate that only a short time lapse between Phases 3 and 2. Nevertheless, W10 intrudes 2.0–2.5 m into the Phase 3 road, and thus reflects a significant reduction in its width.
Phase 1. A section of a massive wall (W19; length 3 m, width 1.3 m) built of two rows of partially dressed large to medium-sized stones was exposed directly beneath modern deposits of soil and debris at the southeast end of the excavation area. The wall’s foundation lay directly on W10. The core of the wall consisted of small fieldstones mixed with a little terra-rossa soil. Small fieldstones incorporated in the southern half of the wall’s western face were closely arranged side-by-side as headers, possibly reflecting a localized repair that postdated the construction of the wall. The remains of a wall whose general course and architectural features were identical to those of W19 could be traced along c. 20 m at the southern edge of the excavation and beyond it.
A wall (W18; exposed length 1.1 m, width 0.4 m) perpendicular to W13 and abutting it on the west was partially exposed. This wall is the only architectural evidence of construction that is not part of the road. It may have belonged to Phase 3a, to which W13 belongs, but due to the limited scope of the excavation it is impossible to determine its architectural context or to link it to any of the construction phases uncovered in the excavation.
The Finds.The very meager ceramic finds came from the terra-rossa deposit above the walls from Phases 2 and 3 and from the Phase 3A paving (Fig. 10). This deposit cannot provide a separate date for the various construction phases, but only a general chronological range for the human activity in the excavation area. The finds include a jug from the Early Roman period (Fig. 10:1), a bowl from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods (Fig. 10:2), a Byzantine-period jar (Fig. 10:3), another jar from the Byzantine – Early Islamic periods (Fig. 10:4), a bowl from the Early Islamic period (Fig. 10:5) and a Mamluk-period cooking pot (Fig. 10:6). Two nails (Fig. 10:7) were discovered in the terra-rossa soil deposited over the Phase 3A paving slabs, but they do not provide a date either. Four coins were recovered in the excavation; however, due to their provenance—the terra-rossa soil covering the tops of the road walls from Phases 2 and 3—and their state of preservation—three that could not be dated, and one generally ascribed to the fourth century CE—they also cannot be relied upon for dating the road phases.
The road’s state of preservation in the current excavation prevents an accurate estimation of its full width. However, the road segments discovered in previous excavations and those surveyed (width 8.0–8.2 m; Fischer, Issac and Roll, 1996
:79–83; Yeger 2016
) indicate that it was at least 8 m across. Aerial photographs of the area from 1918 show a segment of the road flanked by massive stone walls on both its sides. Wall 19 (Phase 1) may be a remnant of these walls, which were damaged in the modern construction of ez-Zeituna Street in the 1990s. In any event, W19 ran alongside the road that passed here until modern times.
The excavation unearthed an additional section of the ancient Jerusalem–Lod (Diospolis) road, which was known from previous excavations and surveys.
In total, three construction phases were identified, representing a main construction phase and a subsequent narrowing of the road in two later phases. The most recent phase uncovered in the excavation was in use until the modern period. The meager finds recovered from the excavation did not allow dating each phase separately, providing only a general chronological range for the road’s use—from the Early Roman period to the present day. Previous excavations south of the current excavation identified seven construction phases (‘Adawi 2012; Yeger 2016), and it is therefore difficult to suggest an architectural correlation between the three phases identified in the current excavation and those identified in prior excavations.
Numerous quarries from the Roman and Byzantine periods have been discovered in numerous surveys and excavations conducted in the Beit H
anina/Shikune Nusseiba area; several were located very near the course of the road (Mizrachi 2008a; Mizrachi 2008b; Zilberbod 2012a; Zilberbod 2012b; Zilberbod 2013; ‘Adawi 2014; Yeger 2014a; Yeger 2014b; Yeger 2015; Yeger 2016). The extensive scale of the quarries probably points to a regional ‘specialization’in quarrying building stones destined for the city of Jerusalem. The stones quarried in this area were transported to the city via the road unearthed in this excavation and in other excavations to its south. Therefore, even though a date cannot be reached directly from the road segment unearthed in the excavation, its association with the quarries provides a general chronological link with the Roman and Byzantine periods (‘Adawi and Touri 2014; Yeger 2014a; Yeger 2014b; Yeger 2015), whereas the excavations conducted to the south provide a wider chronological range, from the end of the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods (‘Adawi 2012).