The Settlement at Giv‘at Ram before the Hasmonean Period
The initial settlement at Giv‘at Ram was in the Iron Age, as evidenced by the potsherds from the eighth–seventh centuries BCE and a fragment of a zoomorphic figurine that were found above bedrock in several of the excavation squares. Remains from this period, including walls and potsherds from the eighth–seventh centuries BCE were also discovered in the excavations of Goldfus and Arubas. A hewn burial cave from the Iron Age was exposed on the western slope of the hill (License No. &-10/1956).
Potsherds dating to the Persian period were also found above bedrock, indicating a presence at the site in this period as well. Among the finds are a Philistine coin and two YHD coins that are characteristic of the provincial administration of Judah in Jerusalem. Artifacts from the Persian period were also found in Goldfus and Arubas’ excavations.
Stratum VIII: The Hasmonean Period
The earliest architectural remains, exposed at a shallow depth (from several centimeters down to 1.5 m) below the surface, are from the Hasmonean period. The remains include water installations (L450, L451), a pottery kiln and long retaining walls. These finds are a continuation of the complex exposed in Avi-Yonah’s excavations at the top of the hill, c. 100 m to the northwest. (150–37 BCE)
The pottery kiln was originally a domed structure divided into two stories. The underground bottom story was used to heat the unit and the actual firing occurred in the upper story. The surviving elements include the bottom part of the stoke hole, sections of the circumferential wall of the heating level and the foundation of the staircase that led to the firing level.
The heating level was built of large fieldstones, placed up against the sides of a dugout depression, and surrounded by high rocky ground. The kiln continued to be used in the Early Roman period.
The long retaining walls, erected east of the kiln, were meant to delimit the area where the kiln debris was discarded (Fig. 3). The walls were preserved thanks to the kiln debris, which was piled up between them and was heaped on top of the rocky ground. This waste consisted of potsherds, mud bricks, fired clay and burnt stones that had been dismantled from the kilns’ domes. The potsherds in the waste, mostly cooking vessels and jars, were fired in the kiln. The burnt stones indicate that the kiln was renovated occasionally and the dome was replaced when necessary.
Strata VII, VI: The Early Roman Period (37 BCE–70 CE)
Installations that were used in all stages of pottery production were exposed in the strata ascribed to the Early Roman period. These installations included underground storage facilities for collecting rainwater, stepped pools for filtering, mixing and soaking clay (e.g., L449 in Fig. 2), a shallow evaporation pond for drying the clay (L511) and an underground cave where the clay was stored and the pottery was produced (L496). Pottery kilns (e.g., L280 in Fig. 2), service buildings and a storeroom for the finished products were located near those installations. Thick layers of production waste that contained thousands of cooking vessels, which had been damaged during the firing process, were also found (L363; Fig. 4). It seems that each kiln had at least one unit of stepped settling pools for preparing the clay (Fig. 5). The potters worked in an underground cave hewn beneath a stone structure, at a lower level than the pools and the kilns (Fig. 6). Fragments of stone rollers, basalt slabs and heaps of pale white marl and dark brown clay were found on the floor of the cave, into which recesses for a drive wheel and a flywheel that was connected to the potter’s wheel were hewn. It seems that the vessels were made by a skilled potter, aided by an assistant who operated the drive wheel, which caused the potter’s wheel to spin. The potter sat on a low stone bench and was free to form the clay without having to turn the wheel. It appears that the prepared vessels were placed on squat stands—flat ceramic rings that were made on site and fired in its kilns. The vessels may have also been placed on the stands when being formed on the wheel, fired and after firing.
Kiln 280 (Fig. 7) was built at a higher level than the cave, in a natural depression that was enlarged (diam. 2–4 m, depth 2 m). A circular wall (W82) that consisted of two rows of fieldstones built against the sides of the depression. Large stones were utilized in the outer row and small flat stones were used in the inner row. The inner face of the walls was lined with mud bricks. The wall of the kiln’s vault (W72) was preserved to part of its height. An elongated tongue-shaped column (W84), which supported the ceiling of the bottom story, was built in the center of the heating level. A stoke hole was installed at the bottom of that level and right above it was an opening for the firing level, through which the vessels intended for firing were inserted and removed. A rock-hewn elliptical space in front of the kiln was used for consolidating the fuel and removing the debris from the heating chamber. The space contained black ash and burnt potsherds from the Early Roman period, evidence of the last time the kiln was used to fire pottery. A charred rectangular stone was found in the middle of this space. The stone’s dimensions, which match the opening of the stoke hole, indicate it was used to seal the opening in the final stages of heating.
A stone staircase that led from the heating level to the outer part of the firing level survived in one of the kilns; it was intended for operating the kiln during the firing process.
A long narrow building was exposed next to the kilns; it was probably used to store the pottery vessels prior to sale. Several superposed floors were revealed in the building, indicating that the structure was used in the Herodian period, during the rule of the Roman procurators and the years between the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba uprising.
The activity in the potter’s workshop decreased in Stratum VI. A large public building (L441), whose essence is unclear, was erected on the production area and negated one of the kilns (L280), the pool complex adjacent to it (L449, L454) and the evaporation pond alongside it (L511).
The pottery workshop operated for more than 170 years, from the time of the Hasmonean kingdom until the destruction of the Temple. Numerous finds recovered from the excavation evince the Jewish identity of the potters, including a ritual bath (miqwe), which was used by the potters and ensured their cleanliness and the purity of the pottery vessels; fragments of soft limestone measuring cups and bowls; jar handles stamped with "YRSLM" and "YHD", which are characteristic of the Judean region in the Hasmonean period; Hebrew inscriptions and names that were incised on clay stands before they were fired; and hundreds of coins of the Hasmonean kings, the rulers of the Herodian dynasty and the Roman procurators. Coins from the Year Two and Year Three of the Great Revolt against the Romans indicate that pottery production continued at the site until the eve of the destruction.
Stratum V: Between the Revolts
The conquest of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple did not bring about an end to the manufacture of pottery at the site. It seems that in the aftermath of the conquest, the pottery workshop resumed operation. This is evidenced by the renovation of the ritual bath (miqwe) and the continued usage of most of the architectural complexes, including the pools, service buildings and one of the kilns (L151a; Fig. 8). Production in this period concentrated on bricks, pipes, roof tiles and pottery vessels characteristic of the Legion. Most of the ceramics produced in this phase were of a military nature, although no seal impressions of the Tenth Legion were discovered. (70–132 CE)
Strata IV, III: The Period of the Tenth Legion Activity (second–third centuries CE)
The location of production was moved further north, to the region of Binyene Ha-Umma, in Stratum IV and a massive structure (L521), of which only small parts were exposed, was built in the excavation area. To its north, the foundations of a rectangular burial structure built of ashlars, with a hewn burial trough in its center, were exposed. The water reservoirs from the earlier periods continued to be used.
However, the kilns went out of use and the pottery workshop was buried beneath the Legion’s debris. Thus, the Jewish presence of almost two hundred years ended in the area of Giv‘at Ram. The potsherds and coins show that the Legion’s presence at the site lasted at least until the third century CE. Close to the time when the Legion left (Stratum III), all the pools were filled with soil, stones, pottery vessels and roof tiles, some of which bear the stamped impression of the Legion.
Stratum II: The Late Roman and Byzantine Periods
After the Tenth Legion left, the massive structure (L521) was dismantled and its foundations were used for a large rectangular winepress, equipped with two collecting vats (L121, L122; Fig. 9) that was built at the end of the Late Roman period. A late phase in the usage of the winepress shows that it continued to operate in the Byzantine period, when it probably served a nearby monastery that was constructed shortly after the legion abandoned the site. (third–eighth centuries CE)
Stratum 1: The Ottoman Period
The area was used for agriculture and farming terraces, cultivated by the villages of Lifta, Sheikh Badr and Deir Yassin, were built.
The excavation finds shed light on Jerusalem’s past in general, and the manufacturing technology of pottery vessels in the vicinity of the city, in particular.It seems that the workshop, whose earliest activity is already visible in the second century BCE, supplied pottery, primarily cooking vessels, to Jerusalem and the surrounding settlements until the year 70 CE, at least. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the manufacture of pottery at the site resumed, although its nature had changed and was intended to provide for the needs of the Roman army. During the Byzantine period, the site changed from a pottery production center to an agricultural monastic compound, and it continued to be agricultural until 1948.