In August and September 2018, a salvage excavation was conducted in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood (Permit No. A-8345; map ref. 221003/636935; Fig. 1) prior to the construction of a school. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Moriah Company, was directed by R. Cohen, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), Y. Billig (archaeological inspection), K. Arbiv (preliminary inspections), D. Tanami (metal detection), A. Wiegmann and O. Bejarano (field photography and photogrammetry), A. Zakaim (plans), A. Lidsky-Reznikov (finds drawing), T. Gonen (pottery restoration), A. Reznitsky (metallurgical laboratory), G. Bijovsky (numismatics) and B. Touri.
Many quarries have been uncovered on the Shu‘fat–Beit Hanina ridge (for background and references, see Cohen 2021), and most of these date from the Roman and Byzantine periods. The ridge is characterized by white Judea Group limestone rock from the Nezer Formation, easily quarried. The excavation uncovered four quarries (L100–L103; Fig. 2), two of which (L100, L101) are adjacent to each other but have different quarrying surfaces (Fig. 3). These two quarries are courtyard quarries with stepped quarrying—a method that made it easier to cut stones and detach them from the rock; the dimensions of the steps are determined by the dimensions of the stone blocks (Safrai and Sasson 2001).
Quarry 100 (10–14 × 20 m, max. depth c. 5.5 m). A large, deep courtyard quarry was excavated. The southern and eastern vertical rock walls of the quarry were revealed; the northern side of the quarry is delimited by a concrete wall, beyond which the quarry extends northward, past the limits of the excavation area, while the quarry’s western side contained a soil fill (thickness c. 1.6 m) extending westward to a concrete wall that separates the quarry from a built-up area. Damage discerned in the upper, northern part of the eastern wall (Fig. 4) and the center of the southern wall (Fig. 5) had been caused by controlled dynamite blasting, which began to be used locally in the eighteenth century CE. In the southeastern corner of the quarry, the mouth of a cistern was discovered (L104; diam. c. 0.5 m; Fig. 6) that may have been used in the quarry’s final phases. A rock-cut groove (Fig. 7) was detected in the vertical bedrock wall c. 4.5 m above the cistern’s opening; it may have been used to fix wooden poles for an installation for pumping water or extracting stones from the quarry. Quarrying channels (max. width c. 0.1 m) and detachment marks of stones (average dimensions 0.35 × 0.35 × 0.60–0.70 m) were discerned beside the cistern. The soil fill that covered the quarry yielded potsherds from the Byzantine period, including a bowl (Fig. 8:1; B1008.1), a jar (Fig. 8:2; B1010.7) and two jugs (Fig. 8:3, 4; B1002.2, B1004.2 respectively).
Quarry 101 (5 × 10 m, max. depth c. 3 m; Fig. 9). The excavation revealed a courtyard quarry containing quarrying steps. Three quarrying channels were detected in the upper side of the quarry’s southern wall (Fig. 10). Severance channels (width 5–10 cm) found in the quarry’s courtyard attest to the size of the blocks extracted from the site (average dimensions 0.35 × 0.40 × 1.00 m). The soil dumped in the quarry yielded a blank coin flan (IAA 166525) dated to between the second half of the fifth–first half of the sixth centuries CE.
Quarry 102 (3.5 × 7.0 m, max. depth 1.6 m; Fig. 11). The northeastern corner of a poorly preserved quarry was excavated. The quarry extended westward and southward, beyond the limits of the current excavation. Damage caused by rock blasting was identified in the upper part of the quarry’s corner. Rock-hewn severance channels were found south of the excavated part of this quarry.
Quarry 103 (3.0 × 5.3 m, depth 5.1 m; Figs. 12, 13). The quarry’s northern and western vertical rock walls were uncovered; the quarry extends southward, beyond the limits of the current excavation. Steps descending to a low bedrock surface (2.0 × 2.5 m) were hewn in the rock walls. The bedrock surface contained quarrying channels (width 0.1 m) and severance channels of building stones (average dimensions 0.30 × 0.45 × 0.45 m) smaller than those quarried in Quarries 100 and 101.
Quarries 100 and 101 yielded finds that date them to the Byzantine period. The landscape evidently contained many rocky areas that could not be used for agriculture and was therefore used for quarrying building stones. Before the start of quarrying, the area was prepared by removing the topsoil. Once the quarrying ceased, the quarries were restored for use as farmland by filling them with the same soil that had been removed, mixed with quarrying debris and stone chips (Billig 2019).
Billig Y. 2019. Jerusalem, Shikune Nusseiba. HA-ESI 131.
Cohen R. 2021. Jerusalem, Beit Hanina. HA-ESI 133.
Safrai Z. and Sasson A. 2001. Quarrying and Quarries in the Land of Israel at the Time of the Mishnah and Talmud. Jerusalem (Hebrew).