The first excavation
(Permit No. A-5151) was conducted adjacent to the Third Wall excavations along Hel Ha-Handasa Street, where remains of monasteries and pilgrims’ hostels were discovered (Amit, Wolff and Gorzalczany 1995
; Shukron and Savariego 1995
). A narrow strip was opened along the perimeters of a church that was excavated in the past (Amit, Wolff and Gorzalczany 1995
:80; Fig. 81; Figs. 2–5). Southeast of the apse was the western part of a room (L400), whose walls (W300—length c. 1.5 m, height c. 1 m; W301—length c. 3 m, height c. 1.5 m) had thick foundations (width c. 1.5 m) that were laid on the bedrock. The floor of the room and its walls were treated with a thick layer of white plaster. Sections of a courtyard floor (L406) founded on a thick layer of fill (L418) consisting of layers of terra rossa and stones of various sizes survived south of the room. Bedrock surfaces bearing signs of quarrying (L429) were revealed below the layer of fill.
A number of bowl fragments dating to the Roman period (Fig. 6:1–3) were discovered in the soil that covered the bedrock. Bowls and kraters (Fig. 6:4–10), cooking pots (Fig. 7:1, 3), a cooking pot lid (Fig. 7:2) and jars (Fig. 7:4–8) dating to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were discovered above and below the floor of the room and beneath the courtyard pavement. Above the courtyard was a later habitation level, partly paved with stone slabs in secondary use (L405) that carried meager remains of a system of water channels (L409–L411), which was haphazardly constructed without a foundation. Another section of the pavement was discovered in the southern part of the area (L407). Finds dating to the Late Ottoman period, including jar fragments (Fig. 7:9–11), were discovered above and below the floors.
The walls of the room and of the courtyard are the continuation of the walls that enclosed the entrance hall of the church, indicating that the church complex extended to the east. The water channels from the Late Ottoman period were probably part of the agricultural development that was set up in the area north of the Old City. This irrigation system utilized the water reservoirs of the monasteries and hostels from the Byzantine and Early Islamic period that had long since ceased to exist.
The second excavation
(Permit No. A-5531) was conducted near Hel Ha-Handasa Street, opposite Turjeman House in the Musrara neighborhood, c. 15 m west of the monastery remains that included a chapel and rooms from the Late Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods (Baramki 1938
). Remains of a concrete building (A; W12, W13, W15; Figs. 8–10) were exposed in the southern part of the excavation area, and a room (L124) belonging to second building (B) was uncovered c. 10 m to the north. Building A was Steinitz House, and Building B apparently served as a British police station. In 1948, the buildings were in situated in the war zone that was fiercely contested by Jerusalem’s defenders in the Musrara neighborhood. After the war, the buildings in the Jordanian area served as military posts opposite Turgeman House on the Israeli side and were manned by the Jordanian Legion. Following the Six Day War, the houses that served as enemy outposts along the border that divided Jerusalem were demolished. Equipment used by IDF soldiers in 1948 was found on the floor of the room under the rubble of Building B. It included two helmets, an ammunition magazine for a Sten submachine gun, parts of ammunition belts for a MG34 machine gun, dozens of bullet casings (Fig. 11) and a crumbling leather wallet that belonged to one of the soldiers. The wallet contained Mandatory coins (grushim
with holes) and a 25 mil ticket issued by the Jerusalem bus company, Ha-Mikasher, for travel on the Dead Sea–Jerusalem line.
Five sections of a white mosaic floor which were severely damaged by modern construction were discovered below the rubble of Building A and slightly to its south and west (Fig. 12). Apart from the mosaic sections nothing survived of the building, and it was impossible to reconstruct its plan. Nevertheless, the mosaic remains are evidence of at least two rooms (Fig. 9: Sections 1–1, 2–2). Fragments of a mosaic pavement preserved in one of the rooms included a row of white tesserae that formed a frame (L140, L149, L155) and a section without a frame (L150). Judging by the mosaic’s frame, the room can be reconstructed as having a northwest–southeast orientation. A wall (W10; length c. 8 m, width c. 0.8 m; Figs. 9: Section 3–3; 13) built of a single row of fieldstones set on the bedrock and preserved to a height of two courses was exposed c. 9 m north of the mosaic. Below Building B were walls which formed a corner and were preserved to a height of two courses (W1, W14; c. 4 m and c. 15 m long respectively, width c. 1 m; Figs. 9: Sections 4–4; 14); they were built of two rows of medium fieldstones set on the bedrock. Sections of additional walls (W2, W5, W6, W8) were discovered slightly to the northeast. Some of the walls were constructed over an ancient quarry (L157, L158, L160, L161, L163, L167), exhibiting deep wide severance channels (max. width 2.5 m, depth c. 0.4 m) and chisel marks indicative of the large blocks quarried there (1.0 × 1.5 × 2.0 m; Fig. 15).
The pottery sherds discovered in the soil accumulation throughout the excavation area included bowls and jars from the end of the Iron Age (Fig. 16:1–4); cooking pots (Fig. 17:5), juglets and jugs (Fig. 17:6–12) from the Roman period; and bowls (Fig. 17:1–4) and jars (Fig. 17:13, 14) from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. Two lamps from the late Byzantine period found in the southern part of the excavation were bore partial inscriptions, the remains of a blessing written in Greek. One (Fig. 18:1) was found in a layer of earth near the mosaic floor (L121), and the other (Fig.18:2) was found in soil west of Building A (L143). A clay loom weight (L156; diam. 5 cm; Fig. 18:3, 4) and fragments of glass vessels from the late Byzantine period were found below the mosaic floor. Two coins were discovered in the quarrying channels: one from the end of the Second Temple period (L134; 54 CE; IAA 123294) and the other from the time of the Great Revolt (L129; 67/68 CE; IAA 123291). A Byzantine coin (L132; 450–550 CE; IAA 123292) was discovered in the soil debris east of W14. Two coins from the end of the Byzantine period – the beginning of the Early Islamic period (L112, L144; sixth–seventh centuries CE; IAA 123289, 123297) were found in the soil that had accumulated between the sections of the mosaic. A coin from the Abbasid period (ninth century CE; IAA 123288) was discovered on the surface in the southern part of the excavation. Three coins ascribed to the Mamluk period were found in the soil overlying the bedrock: south of W8 (L116; IAA 123290), east of W14 (L164; IAA 123296) and west of Building A (L143; IAA 123295). The numismatic finds from the quarrying channels date the activity in the quarry to the late Second Temple period. The size of the stones produced at the quarry suggests that they were used for the construction of the Third Wall during the reign of Agrippa I.
The remains exposed in the excavation were meager, making it impossible to reconstruct the plan of the ancient building. Judging by the finds, the building was constructed in the late Byzantine period or at the beginning of the Early Islamic period, and it was probably related to the nearby monastery.
The third excavation (Permit No. A-5559) was conducted several meters east of Area A of the first excavation (Figs. 19, 20). South of a modern building, probably a continuation of Building A, were parts of two rooms paved with mosaics (Fig. 21), which belonged to the monastery complex excavated in the past (Baramki 1938). A section of a colored mosaic pavement decorated with geometric and floral patterns was exposed in the northern room (L177; Fig. 22). Part of a white mosaic (L178), with remains of a frame in the north, was uncovered in the southern room. A wall (W24; length c. 2 m, width c. 1 m, height c. 0.4 m) exposed between the two rooms was set on top of a wider wall (W25, width c. 1.5 m, height 0.6 m), which was built of two rows of ashlars along a rock-hewn step. Remains of a wall (W26; length c. 3 m) built of two rows of stones that adjoined W25 from the north were exposed beneath the colored mosaic floor; remains of plaster were preserved on the inner face of the wall. The frame of a white mosaic floor (L193) was exposed beside Wall 26, to its east. A plaster floor (L194) was found west of W26, at a similar level as that of the mosaic floor. Scattered tesserae discovered above the plaster suggest that it was a foundation for a mosaic floor that did not survive. A wall (W27; length c. 2 m, width and height c. 0.5 m) was revealed c. 0.3 m west of the floor. Floor 194 was damaged as a result of modern construction, and its relation to W27 is unclear. Meager remains of a hewn channel (L188; Figs. 19: Section 1–1; 23) were covered south of Floor 178, under an accumulation of soil; the channel probably led to a cistern. The ceramic finds from under the lower mosaic floor (L193) and from under the plaster floor (L194) included bowls (Fig. 24:1–4) and a Gaza jar (Fig. 24:9) from the Late Roman period. Bowls (Fig. 24:5, 6), jugs (Fig. 24:7, 8) and lamps (Fig. 24:10, 11) from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were discovered beneath the upper floors (L177, L178). Other finds include a bone implement (Fig. 24:12), fragments of glass ware, glass windows, bowl lamps, a wine goblet and glass tesserae; these were found mainly below the upper floors, and date to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. Two tiny bronze items from the Byzantine period were discovered in a layer of soil between the floors in the northern room (L181): a cast, unstruck flan (450–550 CE; IAA 123999) and a nummus that dates from the fifth–sixth centuries CE (IAA 123300). A coin dating from the fifth century CE (IAA 123301) and a half follis from the reign of Anastasius I (498–512 CE, Constantinople mint; IAA 123298) were discovered below the mosaic floor in the southern room.
In the fourth excavation (Permit No. A-5578), located near the first excavation, an area (c. 4 × 6 m; Figs. 25, 26) containing an accumulation (depth c. 1.5 m) of soil and large stones was excavated. Below it was a large courtyard and adjacent cesspits and other installations. The courtyard was delimited by walls (W1–W3; width 1.0–1.5 m) built of four rows of small stones founded on a fill of soil and stones. The western part of the courtyard was paved with square stone slabs (L101), and the eastern part (L110) was covered with elongated stone slabs; a cesspit (L112), a drainage channel (L103) and toilets (L117) were incorporated in it. A section of a plaster floor (L113, L116), sections of a stone pavement (L107, L114) and two cesspits (L106, L108; max. depth 2.5 m; Fig. 27) connected by a channel and pipes to a sewage system in the courtyard were exposed outside the courtyard, to its south. A channel discovered at the bottom pf Cesspit 108 descended into a large pit (Fig. 25: Section 4–4); only one of the outer walls was exposed, as its interior was situated beyond the limits of the excavation area. The cesspits and channels were founded on a thick layer fill comprising soil and stone (L115; Fig. 28), in which a tiny coin from the fifth century CE (IAA 125884), mosaic fragments, bowls (Fig. 29:1–4), a juglet (Fig. 29:5), jars (Fig. 29:6,7) and lamps (Fig. 29:8–10) from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods were discovered. The courtyard and the sewage system are part of a building that apparently belonged to the ‘Eshel Avraham’ neighborhood, where Jewish families of immigrants from Georgia resided until the riots of 1929.