The entrance to the building is set in the northern wall. The current threshold leads to a ground floor that has a single room (5.2×6.8 m; 749.82 m above sea level; hereafter asl) and a cellar below it is of similar dimensions (5.4×7.5 m; Figs. 2, 3), surrounded by walls on all four sides. An ancient opening (748.38 m asl; Fig. 3: Section 4-4) is visible in the northern wall (W100). It seems that the current threshold was raised when the road was newly paved during the renovation of the Jewish Quarter following the Six Day War. The habitation level that related to the previous threshold was completely removed and the area in the cellar was lowered in excess of two meters (down to c. 746.25 m asl). Trenches (depth 0.4–0.5 m) dug into this level damaged the ancient remains and reached the bedrock in most of the area (746.0–745.6 m asl). The bedrock level in the southwest is relatively high (747.5 m asl) and the walls in this area were founded on it. The bedrock drops off toward the north to the Transversal Valley and to the east, toward the Tyropoeon Valley, and is especially low in the northeastern corner (L12; 744.18 m asl).
The walls of the cellar in the east (W102–W104) and west (W109) are straight and nearly parallel to each other, extending north and south beyond the limits of the excavation. Wall 109 (length 7 m; Fig. 3: Section 1-1) is founded in the south on high bedrock. It continues in the form of an arch (width 1.6 m, height 2 m) above a rock-cut niche (see below), c. 1.3 m from the southern corner. The arch’s northern pillar is resting on a high bedrock wall (height c. 1.8 m) and north of it, until the northwestern corner, the wall is on top of soil fill (thickness c. 0.75 m).
Walls 102–104 (Fig. 3: Section 3-3) is composed of several sections: its northern end (W102; height 5.1 m) is built of sixteen courses on bedrock that descends to a considerable depth; its continuation to the south rests on a wall or stone fill and its end is built again, right on the bedrock. Several column sections are incorporated in secondary use in the wall. A wall segment (W103) abuts it c. 5.5 m from the northern corner and an opening to a cistern was installed in the angle formed by the two walls (see below).
The walls in the north and south, which seem to be later than the walls in the east and west, were probably added as partitions to isolate the cellar as a room. The northern wall (W100; length 5.2 m, height 3.15–3.85 m; Fig. 3: Section 4-4) was founded on soil fill (depth 2.1 m) in the east and on bedrock and soil fill (max. thickness 0.25 m) in the west.
A cement wall, lined with stones and founded on a concrete foundation (W101), was recently affixed to the middle of W100. The southern wall (W105–W108; Fig. 3: Section 2-2) was built of four inset and offset segments, in accordance with the level of the high bedrock. Walls 104 and 105, in the southeastern corner, were probably built recently to reinforce the support of the floor above.
A curved channel or trough (L11; length 3.34 m, width 0.4 m, depth 0.18 m) is hewn at the foot of the southern wall sections. Remains of a vertical gutter that descends into the channel can be discerned above it; the hewn niche (L2) is to its west. The carelessly hewn niche is not deep and probably not completed. Channel 11 has no outlet and it seems that it was destined to convey water to a cistern in the niche, which was never completed. Meager remains of a wall (W111), oriented north–south, which possibly formed a corner with the bedrock wall north of Niche 2, survived on the floor of the cellar.
The cistern (L8; min. diam. 3 m, min. depth 3 m; Fig. 4) is round and bell-shaped; its excavation was not completed. The sides are coated with plaster that contained grog and was applied to potsherds, which is a characteristic feature of the Byzantine period. The cistern has two openings. The original opening is in the west, matching the plaster on the inside of the cistern. In a later phase, the eastern opening was breached in the corner formed by Walls 102 and 103, thereby breaking the plaster in this spot. This opening is higher than the first one and was set in a frame of stones and gray cement mixed with lime (see Fig. 4: Section 2-2). In the floor above it was probably a hole through which water was drawn.
The fill in the cistern contained modern refuse mixed with fragments of pottery vessels dating mostly to the Ottoman period. Several fragments of a crushing basin (yam) of an olive press and three fragments of basalt millstones were also found. These finds seem to indicate that the cistern was used until the modern era and only recently was filled with refuse.
Due to the disturbances in the area, both in antiquity and in the modern era, no sealed assemblage was discovered. The finds consisted of several potsherds dating to the time of the First Temple, including bowls (Fig. 5:1–4) and a lamp (Fig. 5:5). Most of the finds dated to the Second Temple period and comprised a wide variety of pottery vessels, including bowls (Fig. 6), some of which are painted and decorated; most are local (Fig. 6:8, 9) and one is Nabatean (Fig. 6:7), kraters (Fig. 7:1, 2), cooking pots (Fig. 7: 3–7), amphorae (Fig. 8:1, 2), jars (Fig. 8:3–13), jugs or juglets (Fig. 9:1, 2), bottles (Fig. 9:3, 4), a flask (Fig. 9:5) and a lamp (Fig. 9:6). Other finds included fragments of chalk vessels (Fig. 10:1–3), a limestone grinding stone (Fig. 10:4), a bone pin (Fig. 10:5), bronze rod (Fig. 10:6), pieces of fresco (Fig. 11:1), a triangular floor tile, possibly from a floor that was decorated with opus sectile (Fig. 11:2), animal bones and glass vessels (see below).
A barely legible ostracon (Fig. 12) was found among the pottery fragments. H. Misgav thinks that the letters tet, yod, kaf and lamed probably appear and they are a writing exercise practiced by a scribe. The letter tet is formal and the rest of the letters are cursive; the script can be dated to the first century CE. R. Reich believes this is the end of a titulus pictus inscription on a wine jar, many of which were found at Masada.
Fifteen of the sixteen coins that could be identified were minted in Jerusalem and are dated to the Second Temple period: one of Antiochus VII (IAA 121420); eight from the time of the Hasmonean rulers, six of which are of Alexander Jannaeus (IAA 121408, 121414, 121415, 121419, 121422, 121423) and two of an unidentified Hasmonean ruler (IAA 121409, 121417); two are of Herod (IAA 121410, 121421); one is of a procurator during the reign of Nero (58/9 CE; IAA 121411); and three are from the Great Revolt (all from the year 67/8 CE; IAA 121412, 121416, 121418).
Artifacts from the Late Roman–Byzantine period were also discovered. The pottery finds from this period included numerous fragments of thick bowls (Fig. 13:1–3), as well as pieces of roof tiles, a fragment of a marble bowl (Fig. 13:4) and one coin (Constantius II; IAA 121413) from the mid-fourth century CE.
The houses of Jerusalem’s wealthy were built in this region during the Second Temple period and it appears that one such building once stood in the excavation area and was demolished in the destruction of the city in 70 CE; it was afterward dismantled to its foundations for the purpose of reusing the stones. A new complex was built in its place, to which the walls in the east and west of the room belonged, and the remains that abutted them dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine period. The last construction phase in the cellar, for which there is no chronological data, consisted of the walls built in the north and south, thereby forming the shape of the building that exists today.
Glass Vessels from the Early Roman Period
A few fragments of glass vessels were found in the excavated fill. The vessels include five molded bowls that date to the late first century BCE and the early first century CE (Fig. 14:1–3); one of the bowls is a luxury vessel made of mosaic-glass. Blown fragments of a small blue bottle from the Early Roman period were also found, as well as a few pale green fragments from the Byzantine period (not drawn).
All the molded bowls were together in the same basket that came from a mixed fill in L12. The bowl in Fig. 14:1 deserves special attention: it is large (rim diam. 0.18 m) and ribbed, made of purple mosaic-glass richly decorated with a pattern of circles and lines in white opaque glass, which resembles marble. The bowl rim and the tops of the symmetric vertical ribs are semi-polished. The fragment is covered with golden brown weathering encrustation that almost completely conceals the vessel’s original purple color.
Bowls made of this mosaic-glass type are quite rare in the eastern Mediterranean basin and were apparently imported to the region from northern Italy, where their production took place in the first century CE. However, two fragments of similar bowls were found in the villas uncovered in Avigad’s excavations in the Jewish Quarter: one was found in the ‘Burnt House’ next to Shonei Halachot Street; it belongs to a shallow and ribbed bowl of blue and purple translucent glass, and is decorated with dots, circles and lines made of white opaque glass (Israeli Y. 2010. Glass Vessels. In H. Geva, Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem Conducted by Nahman Avigad, 1969–1982, Vol. IV: The Burnt House of Area B and Other Studies, Final Report. Jerusalem. Pp. 221–235, Pl. 6.3: G48). The second mosaic-glass fragment was found in Area E; like our bowl, it is made of purple translucent glass with a pattern in white opaque glass, but it belongs to a deeper bowl (Gorin-Rosen Y. 2006. Glass Vessels. In H. Geva, Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem Conducted by Nahman Avigad, 1969–1982, Vol. III: Area E and Other Studies, Final Report. Jerusalem; Pp. 239–265, G60).
Two ribbed bowls made of blue and green monochrome glass were also found in the same basket as the molded bowls but were not drawn because of their poor state of preservation.
The bowls in Fig. 14:2, 3 were cast of almost colorless glass with bubbles that has a bluish greenish hue. The fragment in Fig. 14:2 belongs to a hemispherical bowl (rim diam. 0.13 m) and the fragment in Fig. 14:3 belongs to a deeper bowl (rim diam. 0.14 m) that has an upright side, with horizontal incising on its inside. These bowls belong to later types, popular in our region from the late first century BCE until 70 CE, the likes of which were found in previous excavations in the Jewish Quarter.
This small but interesting group of cast bowls from villas in Jerusalem enriches our knowledge about the assemblage of drinking vessels that were used in the city in the late first century BCE and early first century CE.