In July 2017–December 2018, excavations were conducted in the Givʻati Parking Lot in the City of David in Jerusalem (License Nos. G-71/2017, G-11/2018; map ref. 22234/63128; Fig. 1). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University and funded by the Elad Association, was directed by Y. Gadot and Y. Shalev, with the assistance of N. Mizrachi (administration), E. Bocher and N. Shalom (senior field archaeologists), H. Machline, D. Gellman, H. Roth and A. Zilberstein (area supervision), R. Zalut, S. Aber, Y. Hockema and M. Hadash (area supervision assistance), V. Essman (surveying and drafting), A. Van-Zuiden (conservation planning and implementation), A. Peretz (field photography), Y. Izbozky (aerial photography), A. Wiegmann, A. Rose and O. Bejarano (photogrammetry), D. Tanami (metal detection), J. Regev and E. Boaretto (radiocarbon dating), D. Sandhaus, L. Freud and A. Berlin (pottery), Y. Wiener, S. Salem and D. Menahem (pottery restoration), C. Hersch (pottery drawing), A. German-Levanon (pottery scanning), D.T. Ariel (numismatics), C. Amit, E. Yannai and D. Gazit (studio photography), A. Erlich and A. Polokoff (jewelry analysis), Y. Vaknin (paleomagnetism), D. Langgut and Y. Hockema (archaeobotany), A. Spiciarich (archaeozoology), H. Kupershmidt and I. Naor (metallurgical conservation), Y. Zelinger (consultation and archaeological guidance), R. Cohen-Amin (transfer storerooms) and A. Karasik (digital documentation). Workers of the Elad Association participated in the excavation, as did students from premilitary programs and girls’ high schools, student groups of the ‘On Your Walls’ program, and students from the universities of Bonn and Heidelberg in Germany.
The primary purpose of the current excavation was to open a window to the remains of the city’s ancient periods: the Iron Age, the Persian period and the beginning of the Hellenistic period. The excavation also lowered the balks remaining around the excavation area, creating a terraced section that will allow future development, optimal preservation of the remains and appropriate representation of all the site’s layers. The current season’s excavation was conducted in seven areas (10, 30, 40, 50, 55, 60, 70; Fig. 2), five of which are described below.
Area 10 (Iron Age II, Persian and Hellenistic periods)
Throughout the excavation, this was the main excavation area. It extends beneath the previously excavated courtyard of a Late Roman villa and an Early Roman miqveh
(Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2010
). The area yielded architectural remains from three main periods: a Late Iron Age public building, razed during the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE; architectural and settlement remains of the Persian period; and a large public building of the Early Hellenistic period (late third–early second c. BCE). In the Hasmonean era, the public building was covered with soil and potsherds, which probably formed part of the fortifications uncovered nearby.
While excavating Area 10, conservation work was carried out on the walls that were deemed unstable. These walls were built in dry construction without mortar, and, after being exposed to rain, the gaps within them expanded. During conservation, the walls’ joints and cavities were filled with a preservative consisting of sand, soil from the excavation and hydraulic lime without adding or removing pieces of stone.
End of Iron Age II. A large stone structure was uncovered from the earliest phase (Building 100; c. 12 × 17 m; Phase 10/IX). Its outer walls and jambs were built of ashlars, while its interior walls were built of fieldstones. The eastern parts of the building were founded directly on bedrock, which was probably leveled prior to construction. The rock slopes westward, and further excavation on the building’s western side may reveal earlier remains beneath its floors. The building’s plan includes a row of three large square rooms. To their north, remains of additional walls were found, but a complete plan cannot be reconstructed due to damage caused in later periods (see below). The building’s rooms were filled with collapsed stones and earth (c. 2.5 m high) that contained a window frame, a large stone sink, fragments of thick, well-burnished plaster and large pieces of charred wooden beams (Fig. 3)—evidence that the building was destroyed by fire. Crushed pottery found in situ on the rooms’ floors date the destruction to the end of Iron Age IIC, probably the Babylonian destruction of 586 BCE. Two large stone pillars that supported the ceiling were found in the western room (Room A; Fig. 4). The building’s size, the use of large ashlars and the discovery of unique architectural features in the rubble indicate that these remains belong to a public building. A fragment of a proto-Aeolic capital found nearby in the past (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2015a) may have originated in this structure. Among the many small finds unearthed during the building’s excavation are some 70 fragments of stamps and seals, which reinforce the suggestion that this is a public building that was probably used for administrative purposes (Mendel-Geberovich et al. 2019).
Persian Period. The devastating collapse rendered the three rooms of Building 100 unusable, but it was not abandoned entirely. Its northwestern part continued to be used during the Persian period (Phase 10/VIII). Several large pits were found in this area, dug into the Iron Age ruins, and a few narrow fieldstone walls in the corners of the rooms. The finds include pottery dated to the Persian period, including a fragment of a Bes jug depicting a face (width 6.5 cm; Fig. 5); it is of a type hitherto only found at sites of the coastal plain and the Shephelah.
Early Hellenistic Period
. Directly above the collapsed layer of the Iron Age Building 100 was a large stone structure (Building 110; Shalev et al. 2021) made of ashlars and fieldstones, which also stretched across most of Area 10 (Phase 10/VII). Building 110’s size and its walls’ method of construction suggest it was a luxurious house. In some places, it was evident that the upper part of Building 100’s detritus was leveled to make room for the walls of Building 110, while, elsewhere, the later building used earlier walls as foundations (Fig. 6). Two architectural phases were revealed in the building: In the early phase, two rectangular rooms were built in the western part, and, in the later phase, the western part of one of the walls was removed, and the area was converted into an expansive rectangular space. A thick yellowish plaster floor (L1051) was laid across this space, covering the trench formed by the wall’s removal (Fig. 7). A wide stone threshold was incorporated into the building’s front wall. This wall was partially excavated in the past when an Iron Age date was proposed based on pottery from nearby fills (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2013
). The present excavation exposed this wall in full, demonstrating it should be dated to the Hellenistic period.
The earth fills that abutted the walls and those sealed beneath the yellowish plaster floor inside the building yielded an assemblage of some twenty bullae. Half of them bear Greek motifs, including depictions of people, animals and vegetal designs. Prominent among these is a bulla depicting a gymnast and another bearing the figure of the goddess Athena in battle attire (Athena Promachos; Fig. 8). Two pieces of delicate Greek-style gold jewelry were also discovered in the building: a bead and an earring shaped like a horned animal, dating from the third century BCE (Fig. 9; Shalev, Polokoff and Gadot 2009). These finds reinforce the hypothesis that the building belonged to the Jerusalem elite and was not a simple place of residence. It is not yet clear when the structure was erected, but pottery dating from the late third or early second century and coins of Antiochus III (198–187 BCE) found beneath the plaster floor provide a terminus post quem for the late renovation phase.
Late Hellenistic Period. After Building 110 was abandoned, it was deliberately covered with a thick layer of fills (Phase 10/Vb), consisting of earth, potsherds, small stones and gravel, deposited in a northwest–southeast gradient. These fills, which contain copious amounts of Hasmonean pottery, are similar to the fill layers that previous excavations uncovered in the eastern part of the area and were identified as part of the Acra fortress’s glacis (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2015b). However, the fills discovered in the current excavation were oriented differently than the glacis’s fill layers.
Above the fill layers, a thick layer of ash was observed (Phase 10/Va; Fig. 10), containing concentrations of unrestorable tabun and Hasmonean jar fragments. These are probably the remains of installations that were concentrated in a small area, attesting to an industrial or cooking area. Some installations appear to have been dug into the deliberate fills, sometimes reaching as deep as the top of the Early Hellenistic building’s walls.
A wide stone wall (preserved height c. 1.5 m; Phase 10/IV) was uncovered above the layer of ash and tabun
debris. The wall was built of fieldstones of various sizes without adhering to straight courses, and it was dated to the Hasmonean era according to pottery and coins discovered inside it. The wall passes beneath the wall of the Early Roman miqveh
and continues northward, beneath the foundations of the northern wall of the Late Roman villa’s peristyle courtyard (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2010
). The wall’s construction method suggests it was a terrace or a retaining wall and not part of a building. It was overlayed by a layer of brown soil containing Early Roman pottery sherds, which, in turn, was superimposed by a wall built of large boulders arranged in an arc from the northwest to the south (Phase 10/III). This wall was cut on its southern side by the Early Roman miqveh
Area 40 (Hellenistic and Early Roman periods)
The area was opened inside the northern rooms of the previously excavated Late Roman villa (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2010
). Two large stone walls were revealed (W4041, W4094), enclosing two rooms (Phase 40/IV; Fig. 11). Hellenistic pottery was found on top of a thick yellowish plaster floor inside the eastern room (L4132). This floor resembles the plaster floor excavated inside Hellenistic Building 110 (above), and their elevation is almost identical. This fact, along with the walls’ alignment and the Hellenistic pottery found above the floor, indicates that this was probably another part—a northern wing—of the same building. An unidentified architectural feature (W4155) found in the western room may belong to a bench, a pavement, or a wall that abuts W4041 from the west.
Above these remains and beneath the villa’s floors, a stone wall and fills dating from the Early Roman period were found (Phase 40/II).
Area 50 (Hellenistic period)
Area 50 was opened to the south of the Late Roman villa (Phase 50/I) and to the west of the tower tentatively identified as an element in the Seleucid citadel’s fortifications (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2015b). The excavation focused on uncovering remains that predate the tower’s construction, revealing two Hellenistic construction phases.
The early phase consists of walls and installations (Phase 50/III), in which at least two architectural subphases are distinguished. A wide, northeast–southwest wall (W5075; Fig. 12) is attributed to the early subphase (Phase 50/IIIb). It is founded on bedrock, built of fieldstones, and has an ashlar-built western face. The southern part of the wall had been excavated in the past (W696; height 3.4 m; Ben-Ami 2013: Pl. 2.7, section 2–2). East of the wall, c. 1 m below its head, a soil fill containing fourth–third-century BCE pottery was identified. Above this fill, between W5075 and a rock-hewn step to its east, a large east–west stone wall (W5007) was built, marking the second subphase (Phase 50/IIIa). Together, the two walls delimited a narrow triangular space. In this space, a floor was uncovered with a round, stone-built installation sunk into it, probably used as a large oven or kiln (L5070). Beside it, a large basalt krater was found (Basket 50616). To the east of W5007, two square rooms were uncovered, containing several floor levels and tabuns. The pottery found on and between the floors dates from the third–second centuries BCE, while the pottery beneath the lowest floor dates from the fourth–third centuries BCE. These remains join previously excavated Early Hellenistic (third–second c. BCE) walls west of and below the Acra tower, Building 110, and walls revealed by Kenyon in a trench north of the current excavation. Together, these remains indicate the presence of a large residential neighborhood.
The second construction phase (Phase 50/II) is associated with the Acra tower and some tilted soil fills in the eastern part of the area. These fills were part of an array of slanting soil fills that originally abutted the tower and were identified as the Acra’s glacis (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2015b).
Area 60 (Late Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Abbasid periods)
This area was opened at the parking lot’s southeastern edge in order to lower the balks left by past excavations. Late Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Abbasid remains were uncovered. According to the current excavation’s publication plan, the final publication of this area will be long in the making. It is, therefore, presented below in greater detail than the other areas.
Late Hellenistic Period
. A short ashlar wall (W6135; Phase 60/VI; Fig. 13) was built in a natural hollow in the bedrock in order to block it. The wall’s western face was well built, while the eastern face rested against the bedrock. The wall stones were carefully dressed with a central boss and made to fit perfectly into the bedrock’s varying angles. It was impossible to date the wall, as only a short section was exposed, its top was preserved to the height of the rock, and the fills abutting it on the outside had been disturbed by later construction. However, its construction and marginal dressing resemble sections of the First Wall, parts of which were uncovered in various places in the city (Zelinger 2010
; Weksler-Bdolah and Szanton 2014
). It is, therefore, probably a wall (city wall?) from the Hasmonean era.
Early Roman Period. A large rock-hewn cistern was uncovered east of W6135, comprising two square plastered pools separated by a built wall (Phase 60/V). The southern pool was coated with several overlaying thick plaster floors. All ceramics from within, between and below these floors date from the Early Roman period (first century CE). The northern pool, which was only partially excavated, was blocked by a Byzantine wall that was built across it, and its upper floor was cut in its center by an Abbasid pit (Phase 60/II).
Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods. Of the Late Roman period (Phase 60/IV), only a short section of an east–west wall built of small fieldstones was uncovered. The wall abutted an escarpment near the exposed section of W6135 and served as a foundation wall for the Late Roman villa uncovered in a previous excavation. The wall’s upper part seems to have been robbed and removed in the Byzantine period, as fills of this period cover its preserved section.
In the eastern part of Area 60, above the uppermost Early Roman plaster floor, the southern end of a wide ashlar wall (W6038) was found. An aperture was identified, comprising a dressed threshold with a socket at the southern end for a door hinge and a bolt socket in the center (Fig. 14). The northern part of this wall, containing another threshold, was uncovered in a previous excavation. It is the facade of a Byzantine building (Phase 60/III). A small section of stone paving with a white mosaic floor beside it was uncovered to the west of W6038, near the entrance. All the pottery from these architectural assemblages, including an intact oil lamp, dates from the Byzantine period.
. As elsewhere in Givʻ
ati Parking Lot, no Umayyad remains were found in this area, and the Byzantine remains were superimposed by floors and walls of the Abbasid period. Two phases were identified: The earlier phase was associated with refuse pits, while the later phase was associated with a building with floors and installations. These phases probably correspond to the two Abbasid phases identified elsewhere across the excavation area (Phases 60/II–I; Tchekhanovets, Ben-Ami and Dan-Goor 2018
In the early phase, Three large refuse pits were uncovered. The eastern pit contained a dark, moist, loose soil fill that yielded potsherds, fish bones and other finds such as eggshells and seeds. Preliminary analysis found no parasite remains, suggesting that the pit is unlikely to have been a cesspit but a refuse pit. The other two pits contained mostly pottery sherds and animal bones. Many pits of this sort have been found in the past throughout the excavated area. They have been attributed to Stratum III, and it has been suggested that they attest to a large open-air market on the site (Tchekhanovets, Ben-Ami and Dan-Goor 2018
In the late phase, The southern part of a small building with thick plaster floors and installations was excavated; its northern part was uncovered in the past. The building was probably associated with a small-scale industry. Similar buildings uncovered in previous excavations were attributed to Stratum II (Tchekhanovets, Ben-Ami and Dan-Goor 2018
). The remains of the building uncovered in the current excavation include a fieldstone wall with thick plaster floors on either side. Two small installations (Fig. 15) were embedded in the floor to the east of the wall, consisting of keyhole-shaped sockets; their function is unclear. Half of a similar installation was also discovered in the floor to the west of the wall; it was filled with ash and charcoal, possibly the remains of a tabun
Another plaster floor was laid over the floor with the installations. It contained no installations, but the lower part of a small tabun was sunk into the floor at its eastern end. At the bottom of the tabun, an intact ceramic oil lamp (length 14 cm; Fig. 16) and a small clay amulet were found. The amulet that was probably set in a ring or pendant carries an Arabic inscription (L6014, Basket 60184; width 1 cm; Fig. 17). It reads, “Kareem trusts in Allah, Lord of the Worlds is Allah,” and dates from the ninth–tenth centuries CE (N. Amitai-Preiss, pers. comm.).
In a later phase, another floor superimposed the wall and the floors, thus converting the area into one long space. Above this floor were collapsed fieldstones, probably from the building’s destruction, superimposed by a thick soil fill. This fill was cut at its western end by a broad channel containing a large amount of twentieth-century pottery and finds. Based on its location, this channel appears to be the southern end of Kenyon’s Trench M.
Area 70 (Iron Age IIB, Hellenistic and Late Roman periods)
Excavation in this area began with the removal of the southern part of one of the Late Roman villa’s walls (Phase 70/IV) and two Early Roman cisterns (Phase 70/V). The purpose of the excavation was to reveal and underscore the fortification wall (W7009) and the tower (W7110), which were previously excavated and attributed to the Acra (Phase 70/VI; Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2015b). Once the later remains were removed, it became apparent that the tower did not abut the wall but was cut by it (Fig. 18; Shalev et al. 2019). Due to safety considerations, the excavation was halted in this area, and the finds will be examined in depth as the excavation will proceed after the high earthen balks surrounding the area are removed.
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