The Hurva Synagogue Tunnel
The purpose of the excavation was to open a tunnel for visitors beneath the Street of the Jews, which will connect the Byzantine cardo in the west with the archaeological site in the basement of the Hurva synagogue in the east. The main finds in the excavation of the tunnel (length c. 12 m, width 1.5–3.0 m) were sections of pavement of the Byzantine cardo and remains of walls and water channels dating to the Late Islamic period.
The Byzantine Period (Figs. 1–3). Numerous stone slabs of the cardo’s street pavement (L233) were discovered in the western part of the excavation. The stones abutted the eastern side of a robber trench (L235) of the eastern stylobate in the eastern cardo’s colonnade, which did not survive. Dressed bedrock that served as a foundation for the pavers in the cardo’s eastern sidewalk (L229) was exposed east of the robber trench; only several of the pavers survived. The sidewalk pavement abutted the eastern end of a well-dressed bedrock step, at the western foot of the Byzantine arch which was found fully preserved in Geva and Gutfeld’s excavation in the Hurva Synagogue complex (Geva and Gutfeld 2007). A side street ascending to the east branched off from the cardo where the section of pavement was exposed and passed beneath the aforementioned arch. The remains of the paved Byzantine road were exposed and conserved in the basement of the Hurva Synagogue.
The Late Islamic Period (Fig. 4). Remains of several water channels that extended beyond the limits of the excavation were exposed on the upper level. The walls of the canals were built of medium-sized fieldstones and were not plastered. A water channel (L216; length c. 6 m, width 0.3–0.4 m, more than 1 m deep) running from east to west was found in the upper northern part; it was covered with stone slabs (0.3 × 0.5 m, thickness c. 0.1 m) that were mainly preserved in its western part. The floor of the channel consisted of earth mixed with gray plaster. Another channel (L219; length c. 1.8 m, width c. 0.2 m) connected from the south to the western end of Channel 216; It was also covered with stone slabs. One of the covering slabs served as a filter through which water drained into the channel. It was a soft square piece of dressed limestone with a circular depression and eight round holes in it (each c. 2 cm in diameter).
On a slightly lower level, in the eastern part of the excavation, was another water channel (exposed length c. 2 m, width c. 0.45 m, depth 0.45 m), aligned along a north–south axis and covered with stone slabs (0.6 × 0.3 m). Although the top of the channel was lower than Channel 216, their floor levels were identical, indicating that both were used at the same time.
An elliptical stone-built installation (L217; diam. c. 0.9 m, depth 0.84 m) was found inside a wall (W46) in the upper southern part of the excavation area. The floor of the installation was made of tamped earth mixed with a small amount of gray plaster. Wall 46 delimited the excavation area on the south; on the north it was delimited by another wall (W48), which was also the northern wall of Water Channel 216. The two walls were built of two rows of medium-sized fieldstones and set along an east–west axis.
Rock-hewn Installations West of the Cardo (Fig. 5)
During the conservation work executed by the Israel Antiquities Authority, remains of rock-hewn installations were exposed on top of the bedrock cliff that enclosed the Byzantine cardo on the west, within Area X-7 of Avigad’s excavations in the cardo (Permit No. A-6498). The main installation was a rock-hewn ritual bath (miqveh; L3913; c. 1.1 × 1.6 m, depth c. 0.75 m); all that survived was its floor and one step treated with gray plaster characteristic of the Second Temple period. The lower part of a cooking pot and fragments of two small bowls dating to the first century CE (Fig. 6:1, 2) were found in the mortar fill at the bottom of the miqveh. A rock-cut channel (L3914; length c. 2.2 m, width c. 0.10–0.15 m) reached the miqveh from the north. The northern end of the channel extended to a rock-hewn elliptical installation (L3915; diam. c. 0.85 m, depth 0.25–0.30 m). The Miqveh and installation were evidently connected via the channel, and were part of a Second Temple-period building. These installations survived the quarrying of the cardo by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the sixth century CE, due to their location on the western side of the bedrock cliff.