In August 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted in the neighborhood of Umm Tuba in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-7781; map ref. 22172–4/62652–4; Fig. 1), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Ashraf Abu-Tir, was directed by Z. Adawi, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), D. Levi (GPS), A. Peretz (field photography), A. Hajian (surveying and drafting) and D. Yeger (preliminary archaeological inspection).
The excavation was carried out c. 300 m north of Kh. Umm Tuba, on a moderate slope descending northward toward one of the tributaries of Nahal Deragot. The slope is covered with agricultural terraces (width 10–15 m) planted mainly with olive, fig and almond trees and held up with retaining walls. A survey and excavations at the ruin and its vicinity yielded numerous remains, including building remains, subterranean cavities, ancient hewn caves, a columbarium and various installations from the Iron Age II, the Hellenistic, Hasmonean and Early and Late Roman periods. Also uncovered were building remains that apparently were part of a monastery at the settlement of Metopa, known from Byzantine sources, which existed from the Byzantine to the Abbasid periods (Cyril of Scythopolis:25; Hirschfeld 2002:365; Adawi and Eirikh-Rose 2018, and see references therein).
The excavated area (c. 9 × 20 m) was bounded on the south by a terrace wall (length >20 m, width 1 m, height 1.5–1.7 m; Fig. 2). Three small building-stone quarries were uncovered (1–3; Fig. 3). In Quarry 3, the northern quarry, three square installations were hewn. No datable finds were discovered.
Quarry 1 (L109–L111; c. 5 × 7 m; Figs. 3, 4) was covered with two layers: an upper layer of alluvial soil (average thickness c. 0.3 m) light brown in color, and a lower layer of white quarry debris (thickness 0.2–0.3 m). The quarry comprised two tiers of quarrying, as attested by stone-cutting lines, as well as negatives and detachment channels (width 0.1 m) at the bottom of the quarry. Apparently, the quarried stone blocks were of various sizes (length 1.1–1.8 m, width 0.4–0.6 m, height 0.3–0.4 m; Fig. 5). Large blocks of stone (length >2.4 m, width 1 m) were identified in the eastern part of the quarry; these may have been intended to be cut into building stones.
Quarry 2 (L106–L108; c. 5 × 9 m; Fig. 6), one level of quarrying was detected, with horizontal and vertical rock-cutting lines attesting to the size of the removed blocks (length 0.7–0.9 m, average width 0.4 m). Two rectangular hewn pits (L106, L107; Figs. 7, 8) were found in the western and middle parts of the quarry; large blocks were apparently quarried there to be later cut into building stones.
Quarry 3 (L101, L105; c. 7 × 8 m; Fig. 9) seems to continue beyond the excavation area. Vertical and horizontal rock-cutting lines could be discerned, as well as negatives on the quarry floor, attesting to the size of the quarried stones (average size 0.4–0.8 × 0.6 × 1.4 m). Three square installations of similar size were hewn in the floor of the quarry (L102–L104; c. 0.6 × 0.6 m, depth 0.6 m; Figs. 10–12); at the bottom of Installation 104 were five cupmarks. The function of these installations is unclear.
The quarries probably supplied building stones for the nearby settlement at Kh. Umm Tuba. The installations seem to have been hewn after the quarry went out of use; however, their function could not be determined. The terrace wall is part of preparing the slope for agricultural use; indeed, the cultivation of a variety of crops, including olives, grapes, almonds and figs, has been taking place there from antiquity to the present day. Without any datable finds, the chronology of the quarries could not be determined.
Adawi Z. and Eirikh-Rose A. 2019. Jerusalem, Khirbat Umm T
uba: Columbaria and a Burial Cave. HA-ESI 130
(Hebrew; English summary, pp. 21–23).
Cyril of Scythopolis: The Life of Monks in the Judean Deserts (Introduction and translation by L. Di Segni). Jerusalem 2005 (Hebrew).
Hirschfeld Y. 2002. Desert of the Holy City: The Judean Desert Monasteries in the Byzantine Period. Jerusalem (Hebrew).