During January 2001 excavations were renewed east of Herod’s Gate, in the Old City of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-3558*). The excavations, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Ministry of Tourism, were directed by Y. Baruch and B. Zissu, with the assistance of V. Essman and T. Kornfeld (surveying and drafting), N. Ze’evi (pottery drawing), R. Vinitzky and L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory), K. Zitrin-Silverman (pottery reading), D.T. Ariel (numismatics) and members of the Jerusalem district of the Antiquities Authority.
This season, which lasted only two weeks, was a small-scale continuation of the excavation in 1998 (HA–ESI 113:76*–79*). The excavation was continued in Area A and another excavation area (C) was opened adjacent to the interior of the Old City wall. The impressive building remains discovered west of the excavation area were re-examined.
A square (2.5 x 6.0 m) south of the wall that was excavated in the previous season (W1062, HA–ESI 113: Fig. 180:9) was opened. At a depth of c. 0.6 m below surface, underneath a soil accumulation that included pottery fragments from the Mamluk period, a fresco floor painted in lustrous red was exposed (Fig. 1). The floor abutted the interior face of W1062, which was built of small fieldstones and coated with white plaster. A thickening at the eastern end of the wall could be a corner pilaster, one of four that supported a vault. The limited excavation area precluded evaluating the architectural connection between the floor and the building remains to its west. Wall 1062 was dated to the Second Temple period in the previous season; however, the fresco floor remains may point to a later date. Further excavation below this floor should provide the dating of the wall.
A rock-cut cavern filled with accumulated soil was discovered during the previous season (HA–ESI 113: Fig. 180, west of 6). This season a probe was excavated within the soil fill (depth c. 2 m), revealing a plethora of potsherds dating to the Roman period, including a roof tile bearing the stamp of the Tenth Legion (Fig. 2), as well as pottery fragments from the Byzantine period. The excavation to the bottom of the cavern was not completed.
This new area was opened between Areas A and B, adjacent to the Old City wall. A probe that consisted of several phases was excavated (depth c. 4 m, Figs. 3, 4). The Ottoman-period Old City wall in this section was founded on earlier walls (W3003, W3004) built of roughly hewn stones. A large built block that seems to be a pilaster (L3005) abutted W3004 on the south; its plan was similar to the built blocks in Area A from the previous season. A crushed-chalk surface (L3006; thickness 0.4–0.7 m) of an open area abutted the walls on the south and sealed a layer of accumulated soil and stone (L3008). A stone collapse (L3009) below the accumulations consisted of intact masonry stones. A probe excavated within the collapse layer revealed three fragments of building stones that possibly indicate the existence of a gate or an opening in this segment of the city wall. The latest pottery fragments in the collapse dated to the end of the Early Islamic period. This is probably the first archaeological evidence for the destruction of Jerusalem’s Fatimid city walls by the Crusaders at the time of the city’s conquest.
Vaulted Structure (Fig. 5)The remains of a large building, to the west of the excavation area, were re-examined. The impressive remains were adjacent to the Old City’s wall and served as the foundation for its later parts, probably from the Ottoman period. The building’s inner space was filled with accumulated soil, stones and debris, except for its upper part. Its ceiling, which was mostly preserved, was composed of groined vaults with pointed arches, supported by pilasters. The construction used large ashlar stones marked with diagonal stone chiseling, characteristic of the Crusader period. Several stones with stone mason’s marks that were incorporated into the Old City wall were observed in the section bordering the excavation area. The remains may have belonged to a large and impressive Crusader building that was connected to the line of the city wall.