In June 2014, a salvage excavation was conducted in a private lot in the Umm Leisun neighbourhood of Jerusalem, within the precincts of the Khirbat Umm Leisun site (Permit No. A-7161; map ref. 223169–88/627562–86), prior to development work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by N.Baradeiwas directed by D. Yeger, with the assistance of N. Nahama (administration), V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting) and B. Touri.
The excavation was conducted on el-‘Adel Street, on the northern slope of the hill of the Umm Leisun neighbourhood, which faces Wadi el-Lauz
, a tributary of Nah
al Kidron (Fig. 1). Remains of a small monastery from the Byzantine–Early Islamic periods were previously exposed on top of the hill, in Khirbat Umm Leisun, and beneath the monastery, the remains of a ritual bath (miqwe
) from the Roman period (Seligman and Abu Raya 2002
:127). Rock-hewn cupmarks, caves, pits and winepresses were found in a survey of the site (Kloner 2000
: Sites 102
), as well as a cistern that could not be dated (Mizrahi 2013
). Remains of walls, rock-cuttings and agricultural installations from the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods were discovered at H
orbat Berekhot, south of Khirbat Umm Leisun (Zilberbod 2012
). West of the site are the remains of an ancient road that ran from Armon Ha-Naz
iv southeast toward the Monastery of Theodosius, and from there east to Nah
al Kidron (Kloner 2000
: Site 123
Quarries, rock-cut installations and an ancient wall were exposed in the current excavation.
Two small courtyard-type quarries (L1, L4; Fig. 2; Safrai and Sasson 2001:4) were revealed. The technique used to hew and extract the stones is known from other quarries in the vicinity. The stones were separated from the bedrock by channels on three sides, and then detached from the fourth, open side. This process can be reconstructed from stones that were not detached (Fig. 3), from the imprints of the extracted stones, the severance channels at the bottom of the quarry (Fig. 4), and the chisel marks on the walls of the quarry. Uniform diagonal chisel marks (width 1–2 cm, depth 0.5 cm) were visible on the walls of the quarries. The stones were generally uniform in size (0.36 × 0.40 × 0.70 m), although stones of other dimensions were also hewn (average 0.26 × 0.50 × 0.70 m). The severance channels had trapezoidal cross-sections (upper width 10–13 cm, lower width 3–4 cm) and their dimensions conformed with the stones that were produced in the quarry.
Quarry 4 was square (4 × 4 m, depth 0.4–0.6 m) and two strata accumulated in it: a stratum of dark-brown alluvium of variable thickness (0.1–0.2 m), and below it, down to the bottom of the quarry, quarrying debris consisting of numerous white limestone chips (8 × 10 cm, average size 2 × 4 cm) mixed with light-brown sediment. The chips became progressively smaller toward the bottom of the quarry, where they were tiny (average size 1 × 2 cm). The surface at bottom of the quarry was a hard, firmly compacted calcareous encrustation. An insubstantial field wall consisting of a single course of roughly hewn limestones and flint rubble (W100; length 3.6 m, width 0.4 m, height 0.3–0.6 m; Fig. 5) was built on the stratum of quarrying debris between the eastern and western walls of the quarry. Collapsed fieldstones were found on the northern side of the wall. No datable artifacts were discovered in the layer of quarrying debris or the wall.
Quarry 1, northwest of Quarry 4, was a small rectangular courtyard-type quarry (length 6 m, width 4 m wide, depth 0.2–0.6 m; Fig. 6) with the same structure of accumulated strata as the southern quarry. No datable material was recovered from this quarry either.
Pottery that dates from the Byzantine–Abbasid periods was discovered in the top soil covering the quarries. Seven rectangular rock-hewn installations (L5–L11; 0.5 × 0.9 m, average depth 0.55 m, Figs. 2, 7) were excavated between the two quarries and farther to the northeast. The accumulated alluvium in the installations yielded pottery from the Early Roman–Umayyad periods, and from the Mamluk–Ottoman periods.
The shallow quarries that were discovered in the excavation area indicate a small-scale production of building stones, or an experimental quarrying to ascertain the quality of the rock. Since quarrying methods did not change over time, and there were no archaeological finds in the stratum of quarrying debris which would indicate the latest date of use, it is impossible to date the quarries.
Some researchers view rectangular quarries such as the ones exposed at the site as installations to store water or food, others see them as attempts at random quarrying, and there are those who consider them to be pit graves. Pit graves are known from the time of the Second Temple and the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, however in the absence of any finds it was not possible to determine the date of these quarries or identify their function.
Mizrahi Y. 2013. Jerusalem, Khirbat Umm Leisun. HA-ESI 125
Safrai Z. and Sasson A. 2001. Quarrying and Quarries in the Land of Israel in the Period of the Mishnah and Talmud. Elkana (Hebrew).
Seligman J. and Abu Raya R. 2002. A Byzantine ‘Monastery’ at Khirbet Umm Leisun, Jerusalem. ‘Atiqot 43:127–140.
Zilberbod I. 2012. Jerusalem, H
orbat Berekhot. HA-ESI 124