The spur where the excavation took place had been surveyed in the past and burial caves, rock-hewn installations and modern farming terraces were documented (A. Kloner. 2001. Survey of Jerusalem, the Southwestern Sector
, Site 33). Two salvage excavations were conducted in 2005 on the slope south of the current excavation area, prior to the construction of a residential building (HA-ESI 121
; HA-ESI 121
). A burial cave from the Early Roman period containing intact and in situ
ossuaries, as well as rock-hewn winepresses and meager architectural remains ascribed to the Roman–Byzantine periods were exposed in these excavations.
Installations were exposed on a bedrock ledge descending east. Some of them were hewn and some were built; they formed a steep bedrock terrace generally oriented northwest-southeast (length c. 17 m; Fig. 3). The installations are divided into two phases; the first dates at the very latest to the Hasmonean period (first half of the first century BCE) and the second to the Early Roman period (first half of the first century CE).
Several rock-hewn industrial agricultural installations and rock-cutting negatives are ascribed to this phase. They are described from north to south.
At the northern end was a winepress (L222; 4.0×5.6 m, height c. 0.7 m; Fig. 4) that had three rock-cut sides (max. height in the west 1.8 m). A shallow rectangular niche (0.46×0.50 m, depth 0.25 m) was hewn in the middle of the western side. The base of the niche was c. 0.45 m higher than the bottom of the winepress. This niche was meant to hold a wooden beam. The bottom of the niche was the leveled bedrock, with no plaster remains. The natural bedrock at the eastern end of the winepress sloped downward and it seems that the eastern side was built. The floor of the winepress was only exposed in the northwestern corner, where it was overlain with an accumulation of hard alluvium and several body sherds from Iron Age II and potsherds from the Hasmonean period, including a cooking pot (Fig. 5:1) and jars (Fig. 5:2–4).
An installation consisting of an open entry area and an underground cavity was hewn south of the winepress, at the end of a prominent bedrock ledge (L230; Fig. 6). The entrance was rectangular (1.05×1.53 m) and a step (height c. 0.25 m) led down to it from the leveled natural bedrock in the west. A rectangular opening (width 0.5 m, height 1.0 m) set in the western side of the entry area gave access to a small cavity (c. 0.8×1.0 m; height c. 1.1 m). The ceiling of the cavity was vaulted and its floor was roughly leveled. The installation was probably used as a storeroom connected to the winepress.
At the top of the prominent ledge, channels and shallow steps, which might have functioned as service steps for the installations, were hewn.
Installations were built in this phase on most of the surface, including a large storage pool (L210; 32 sq m; Fig. 7) and an industrial installation to its south (L211, L212). The northern part of the pool, built into Installation 230, was constructed next to the hewn bedrock as a straight side in the north and west. The outline of the pool was an uneven trapezoid because it was built up against the bedrock which was irregularly hewn. The eastern (W22) and western sides (W23) were built of ashlars in secondary use. The eastern side was built of two rows of stones of uniform width, whereas the western side was built of a single row of ashlars and small fieldstone fill reinforced with plaster and white mortar in the space between the side of the wall and the line of the bedrock to the west. The northern side was a combination of hewn bedrock and construction utilizing large ashlars (W25) that extended the line of the quarrying eastward. The built part of this side had a foundation of medium and large fieldstones that filled and negated the storeroom (L230) of the first phase (Fig. 8). The southern side was hewn in bedrock and completed in the west with an ashlar-built wall (W24). Next to the southern side were seven narrow hewn steps (L233, length 0.2–0.5 m, width 0.45–0.55 m, height 0.1–0.2 m; Fig. 9), aligned east–west, and two other steps that descended north to the bottom of the pool. Debesh comprising small fieldstones and mortar (thickness 0.05–0.20 m) covered with a thick layer of hydraulic plaster (thickness c. 3 cm; Fig. 10) was applied to the sides and bottom of the pool.
A bedding overlain with a plaster floor (L213) was preserved in the southwestern corner of the pool, atop the corner formed by the tops of Walls 23 and 24. An identical bedding (W21), without a plaster floor, was preserved at the top of the southern side, above shallow quarrying negatives (L214). The plaster level on top of this bedding probably represents the height of the original top of the pool. Fragments of pottery vessels dating to the Early Roman period (first half of the first century CE) were found in the dismantling the pool’s walls and in the fill in the niche of the storeroom of the first phase (L230), into which the foundation of the northern wall of the pool was built (W25). These included cooking pots (Fig. 5:5–8), a cooking jug (Fig. 5:9), jars (Fig. 5:10–13) and a nozzle of a pared lamp (Fig. 5:15). In addition, a stamped handle (Fig. 5:14) was found, joining a small group of locally produced stamped handles from the Hellenistic period that are decorated with crosses, wheels or crisscross patterns. The impression on the handle cannot be accurately identified. What makes this impression special is the fact that it was stamped on the handle of a jug rather than a jar.
The industrial installation to the south of the pool was hewn in a bedrock terrace that descended precipitously to the east. The installation consisted of a rock-cut rectangular surface (L211; length 1.95 m, width 1.55 m, depth 0.15–0.65 m), a shallow channel (length 0.7 m, width 0.2 m, depth 0.07 m) coming out of the northeastern corner of the surface and a hewn collecting vat (L212; depth 0.85 m) whose floor sloped sharply to the east. The vat was not completely excavated and its outline is unknown. Due to the poor quality of the bedrock and the natural weathering many grooves were formed in it and the sides of the installation were partly eroded. This was probably a winepress or part of an agricultural system designed to channel water. The function of the installation could not be determined with certainty due to the deterioration and poor state of its preservation.
The entire area was overlain with a heavy covering of alluvium that filled the installations. Pottery dating from the Iron Age (several body fragments; eighth–sixth centuries BCE) to the Early Islamic period (seventh century CE) was found in the alluvium. The pottery included a cooking pot (Fig. 11:1), jars (Fig. 11:2–5) and an amphora base (Fig. 11:6) from the Hasmonean period (end of the second–first half of the first centuries BCE); bowls (Fig. 11:7–12) from the end of the Roman and the Byzantine periods (third–sixth centuries CE); and jars (Fig. 11:13–16) and a jug (Fig. 11:17) from the Early Islamic period.
The shape of the winepress and the meager potsherds that were found in it might indicate that the first settlement in this region was in Iron Age II, when the region was used for agricultural industry and quarrying. Occupation in the Hasmonean period is evident from the many potsherds that were found in the initial alluvium that covered the installations of the first phase and the bedrock at the top of the slope. A large storage pool that was used as part of the agricultural irrigation system was built in the Early Roman period (first century CE). Following a long gap when the region was deserted, farming terraces were built on the slope incorporating ashlars in secondary use. The terraces were used by the villagers of the region until 1948.