During July–August 2003 an excavation was conducted in the Hurva Synagogue, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (License No. B-276/03; map ref. NIG 22130/62960; OIG 17130/12960). The synagogue, which was built in 1860, was demolished by the Jordanian Legion during the War of Independence (1948). Prior to the excavation, the Antiquities Authority oversaw the removal of the synagogue's floor, which was renovated after the Six-Day War (1967), and most of the fill below it was excavated to a depth of c. 2 m. The excavation, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and the Israel Exploration Society, and financed by the Jewish Quarter Development Company of Jerusalem, was directed by H. Geva and O. Gutfeld, with the assistance of R. Nenner and I. Kalman, G. Laron (photography) and B. Arubas (surveying).
An area demarcated by the walls of the synagogue (c. 300 sq m) was excavated. It became evident that most of the ancient remains were destroyed during the later periods and only a few of the lower remains survived, either above or hewn into bedrock. The natural bedrock, which drops away from west to east and northeast, was exposed in most of the excavation area. Remains from four main settlement periods were discovered:
First Temple Period (eighth century to beginning of sixth century BCE). Sections of wall foundations and earthen fills were revealed in the northeastern corner of the site. A square, rock-hewn installation, whose purpose is unclear, was in the middle of the area. The finds from the period included a large quantity of potsherds, fragments of clay figurines and a stone weight.
Second Temple Period (Herodian period; the first century CE). Remains from this period were revealed in the center and west of the area. Three bedrock-hewn ritual baths (Miqwa’ot) were uncovered. One of the baths had an irregular contour and the natural bedrock was utilized as part of its ceiling. It went out of use in the first century CE and the earthen fill sealing it contained fragments of pottery, stone and glass vessels. A building was constructed on top of the miqwe, survived by fragments of a room's wall and a beaten-earth floor. Overlaying the floor was a collapse that consisted of dressed masonry stones, wall remains, carbonized wood and fragments of pottery vessels, all probably attesting to the destruction of 70 CE.
Byzantine Period. Two sections of pavement (overall length 10 m, width 3.7 m) were discovered in the southwestern part of the excavated area. The pavement was situated between two bedrock-hewn walls and was set directly on bedrock. It was composed of large carefully hewn stone slabs that were extremely worn and cracked due to prolonged use (Fig. 1). The pavement ascended from west to east due to a slight incline. Its southern side and eastern end were destroyed by later building activities. The construction of the pavement is identical to that of the cardo, which was exposed by Avigad in the Jewish Quarter and is located several meters away from the western end of the excavation area. The excavated pavement segment is the remains of a street that once ran from the cardo eastward, ascending toward what is now Hurva Square (east of the Hurva Synagogue).
The bedrock at the western end of the excavation area is c. 3.5 m higher than the pavement of the cardo to its west. It turns out that this section of the cardo was entirely hewn in bedrock, which reached a considerable height on either side of it.
The Later Periods. Building remains from the Early Islamic period until the Ottoman period were uncovered in the south and east of the excavation area. Several phases were discerned, including walls, a water cistern, water channels, an industrial installation and soil fill. Their foundations, particularly those hewn in bedrock, severely damaged the early period remains.
The Mamluk period. During this period the wall enclosing the northern side of the Byzantine street was renovated. The road continued to be used at the beginning of the period, though sometimes throughout, it was negated and soil and refuse accumulated on top of it to a height of 2 m. A rock-cut industrial installation and a narrow staircase that descended from it were incorporated into the northern side of the enclosing wall. Numerous finds, including pottery vessels, glass and others were discovered in the soil and refuse fills above the pavement and in the installation.