In November–December 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted in the basement of the Harp of David restaurant on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7271; map ref. 221804–45/631045–74; Fig. 1) following damage to antiquities and the removal of more recent layers. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by A. Peltsig, was directed by N. Sapir, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), M. Hagbi (field photography), T. Lieberman (pottery reading), T. Winter (glass reading), A. Goel (numismatics), J. Uziel, A. De Groot and Y. Tchekhanovets (scientific consultation), C. Amit (studio photography), I. Lidsky-Reznikov (finds drawing), I. Reznitsky (metalurgical laboratory) and R. Berin (plans). The excavation was preceded by clearance and documentation work directed by R. Forestani, prior to casting concrete reinforcements in the building.
The excavation area lies c. 20 m east of the ‘David’s Tomb’ compound. A few excavations were previously conducted in the vicinity, including a late nineteenth-century excavation by a German expedition (Vincent and Abel 1922:431–440) and excavations by Broshi (1973; 1976). A salvage excavation was recently conducted to the south of the current excavation area (Sapir 2015). An excavation is undergoing for several years now close to the current site, to its northeast (Gibson 2010). These excavations unearthed remains ranging in date from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period, including substantial finds from the late Second Temple period.
Prior to the excavation, an Ottoman cross-vaulted complex with two chambers was cleaned and documented; the current excavation took place in the west chamber. An area of 25 sq m was cleaned, and a square (c. 12 sq m) was opened at its center. The excavation yielded architectural remains from three phases: the earliest remains were dated to Iron Age IIB; above them were monumental remains of luxurious homes from the end of the Second Temple period; and above them was a monumental wall built after the earlier homes were no longer in use. The pottery from the excavation dates from the Iron Age IIB and the Early Roman period; while much of it was found in mixed earthen fills, part of it was found in clearly stratified contexts, thus providing a chronological framework for the architectural remains of the two ancient settlement phases at the site.
Iron Age IIB. Two parallel walls of a building were preserved (Figs. 2, 3). The northern wall (W12), preserved to a height of three courses (height c. 0.5 m), was built of medium-sized, dressed rectangular stones with an earthen bonding material. Only the north face of the southern wall was excavated (W15; length 3.3 m). The foundations of the building were not reached, and no floor was unearthed between the two walls. The fill layers (L108) excavated between the two walls, which abutted both walls, contained pottery from the ninth–eighth centuries BCE (below). Similar pottery was found to the north of W12 (L109).
Late Second Temple Period. New walls (W10, W11; Fig. 3) were built over the remains of the earlier building. Wall 11 (max. preserved height c. 0.6 m) was constructed on top of W12. The wall was robbed and in a poor state of preservation; its eastern part was preserved to a height of one course above the foundation, but only the foundations were preserved its western part. The wall was built of medium-sized stones with a single ashlar coated on both its sides with smoothed, high-quality plaster. The north face of the wall retained traces of stucco fashioned in imitation of building stones with drafted margins (Fig. 4). A layer of smoothed plaster preserved on the southern face was roughened in preparation for a new layer of plaster (Fig. 5).
Wall 10 was partially uncovered in the southern part of the excavation area; it was a massive wall (uncovered length 4 m, 2.8 m of which was in the excavation area, preserved height c. 0.8 m) built over W15. The wall was constructed of large dressed stones with a core of medium-sized roughly dressed stones held together with a yellowish elastic bonding material. What seems to be the continuation of this wall (W13) was visible in the south section and may have continued eastward beyond the excavation area.
Wall 11 was abutted on the north by a partially preserved floor (L107) made of crushed chalk (2 cm thick). A few collapsed stones as well as numerous pottery sherds and pieces of stucco were found on the floor. The layers of fill between W10 and W11 (L102, L104) and to the north of W11 (L105) also yielded a large number of potsherds from the end of the Second Temple period (below), a fragment of a large basin made of chalk (Fig. 9:23) and a few glass shards from the first century BCE. The fills also contained numerous pieces of plaster and stucco that had decorated W11 and probably also other walls in the building, although these did not survive. Decorative stucco and fresco elements have been discovered in the past in luxurious homes on Mount Zion and in the Jewish Quarter. The fill below the level of the floor between the two walls (L108) yielded four bronze coins from the Hasmonean period (IAA 158261–158264); three are from Alexander Jannaeus’s reign, two of which belong to a type dated up to 79/80 BCE (IAA 158262, 158264), and the third from the last years of his reign, bearing the inscription yntn (ינתן; IAA 158261). A medium-denomination bronze from the reign of Mattathias Antigonus (IAA 158265) was discovered in the bedding of Floor 107.
Post-Second Temple Period. The remains of a massive building (W9; length 2 × 3 m, preserved height 2.3 m; Fig. 6) were preserved above the surface to the north of the excavated area were. This building was found at a level higher than that of the building remains from the end of the Second Temple period, and is therefore later, but its date could not be determined.
Finds. The pottery from the excavation was found in mixed soil fills and dates from two main periods: Iron Age IIB (ninth–eighth century BCE) and Early Roman (first century CE). The Iron IIB finds include straight-walled bowls (Fig. 7:1–3), bowls with a thickened rim (Fig. 7:4–7), kraters (Fig. 7:8–10), cooking pots (Fig. 7:11, 12), a juglet made of black fabric (Fig. 7:13), jars (Fig. 7:14–17) and a ‘doughnut-shaped’ spindle whorl (Fig. 7:18; Shamir 1996:136). Some of the vessels, especially the bowls, are wheel-burnished, and some are rough-burnished (Fig. 8). The Iron Age pottery assemblage resembles large assemblages published from the excavations at the City of David, Strata 10–15 (De Groot and Bernick-Greenberg 2012:57–248), and assemblages from excavations in the Jewish Quarter, Strata 7–9 in Area A, Strata 6–7 in Area W, Strata 8–9 in Area X2 and Strata 4 and 6 in Area E (De Groot, Geva and Yezerski 2003; Yezerski 2006:84–93). These assemblages were dated to the Iron Age II. Based on these parallels, and particularly on the rough-burnished bowls and kraters, the assemblage should be dated to the ninth–eighth centuries BCE.
The late Second Temple-period finds include a bowl (Fig. 9:1), the base of a terra sigillata bowl (Fig. 9:2), cooking pots (Fig. 9:3–8), jars (Fig. 9:9–14), a bottle (Fig. 9:15), jugs (Fig. 9:16–18), a juglet (Fig. 9:19), a jar handle incised with two parallel lines and intersecting horizontal lines (Fig. 9:20) and the handle of a flask (Fig. 9:21). A similar jar handle bearing an incision was found in the Jewish Quarter, where the incision was compared with similar stamps found on jar handles at the City of David, which bear the Proto-Hebrew characters y (י) and h (ה; Ariel and Shoham 2000; Reich 2003). A knife-pared oil lamp (Fig. 9:22), a fragment of a large basin made of chalk (Fig. 9:23) and a few glass shards dating from the first century CE were also recovered. The assemblage resembles assemblages from the Jewish Quarter dating from between the first century BCE and the first century CE (Geva and Rosenthal-Heginbottom 2003; Geva and Hershkovitz 2006).
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