Late Roman–Early Byzantine period. The earliest architectural remains uncovered at the site comprise a large rectangular installation with rounded corners (L32; 1.0 × 1.5 m, depth 0.52 m; Fig. 4). It is built of small fieldstones and is coated with a thick layer of white plaster. The function of the installation is not clear, and no floor was discovered in association with it. The accumulated fill found inside the installation contained Byzantine-period pottery sherds and two shards belonging to glass vessels of this period (see Gorin-Rosen,below), indicating that it should be dated to the Late Roman–Early Byzantine periods and that it went out of use during the Byzantine period (see below).
The fill abutting the installation (L31) contained numerous Roman-period bricks, fragments of tubuli and stamped roof tiles (not illustrated), as well as part of a hypocaust colonette made of bricks (Fig. 5). As the brick and tile fragments were found scattered throughout the fill, some of them upside down, and since no hypocaust floor was found and it does not seem that the construction of Installation 32 disturbed such a floor—in all likelihood, these finds were not in situ. It can thus be concluded that they belonged to a nearby bathhouse, possibly the Late Roman-period bathhouse uncovered to the north of the current excavation (Fig. 1: A-5725/A-5759; Sion and Rapuano 2015).
Byzantine period. During the Byzantine period, three walls (W11–W13; Fig. 6) built of dressed, ashlar-like stones were erected at the site, forming a single architectural unit. The size of the unit cannot be determined, since its southern and eastern walls are located outside the borders of the excavated area. At this stage, Installation 32 was filled up and covered with a stone pavement (L27; Fig. 6), of which most of the flagstones had since been robbed.
Early Islamic period. At a later stage, most probably during the Early Islamic period, a new wall (W22; Fig. 7) was erected over Pavement 27 and oriented slightly differently than the Byzantine-period walls. Wall 22 was carelessly built of large fieldstones. No new floor associated with this wall was discovered. It thus seems that the use of the earlier, Byzantine-period walls, continued during this stage.
Medieval period. During the Medieval period, a white plaster floor (L19; Figs. 8, 9) was laid, abutting the three Byzantine-period walls (W11–W13)—an indication that they continued to be in use during this period. As in the earlier phases of construction, the architectural unit to which this floor belonged was only partially exposed, and its full extent could not be determined. The fill (L20) under Floor 19 contained pottery and shards of glass vessels that date from the Crusader–Ayyubid and Mamluk periods (see Figs. 16:2–4, 7, 8; 17). It can thus be suggested, albeit with caution, to date this Medieval phase to the Crusader–Ayyubid periods.
Mamluk period. During the next phase of construction, dated to the Mamluk period, W11 and W13 continued to be in use, and two new walls were added (W15, W16; Fig. 10): W16 was built against W12, forming a corner with W15, which delimited the unit on the south. No floor was discovered in association with this phase of construction; however, a circular installation in the southern part of the area (L17; Fig. 11), built of large fieldstones, appears to have been in use during this phase and may indicate the level of the floor. The walls of the Tif’eret Yisra’el Synagogue (W1, W3, W4, L8) were built over these Mamluk-period remains (Fig. 12).
Although no architectural remains of the Early Roman period were reached, numerous finds of this period were found, including the fragments of chalk vessels and ossuaries (Fig. 13), most of them in secondary use in the later walls. The Byzantine pottery assemblage, contained mostly various types of bowls (Fig. 14:1–6) and basins (Fig. 14:7–9), as well as a lid (Fig. 14:10), storage jars (Fig. 14:11, 12), a miniature juglet (Fig. 14:13) and a roof tile (Fig. 14:14), all dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. A few marble fragments were also found, among them a reliquary lid (Fig. 15). The Medieval ceramic finds are represented mainly by Mamluk-period glazed pottery sherds. These include a chalice (Fig. 16:1), bowls of various types (Fig. 16:2–9) and a jug (Fig. 16:10).
Glass Finds
Yael Gorin-Rosen
The excavation yielded eight glass fragments, but only six of them could be identified and dated. The earliest fragments date from the Byzantine period: the rim and base of a wineglass (L32; not drawn). The rim is made of light bluish-green glass, decorated with blue threads protruding from the vessel’s wall; the base is a hollow ring base.
Four vessels were found in Fill L20, beneath Plaster Floor L19; they represent vessels from the Crusader–Ayyubid and Mamluk periods (Fig. 17).
Two rims ​ (Fig. 17:1, 2)—one everted and the other flaring—belong to beakers whose rims were rounded by fire. Rim No. 1 belongs to a conical beaker made of colorless glass containing large bubbles, and was found covered with black-golden weathering (removed); the beaker had a fairly thin wall. Beakers of this type have bases made in one of two methods: a hollow ring base, the center of which is pushed inward, or a base with a thread wrapped around the join between the wall and the bottom of the vessel, which is pushed in. Similar beakers were found in excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem: in the area of the Cardo, where they were dated to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries CE (Brosh 2012:411, 414, Pls. 15.1:G1; 15.2:G19), and in the Coptic chapel in the Holy Sepulcher, where they were found with a base typical of such beakers (Winter 2011:335, Fig. 3:3, 4). Rim No. 2 is made of colorless glass and was found covered with black-silvery weathering and iridescence; the wall is pitted. These beakers are very typical of the Crusader and Ayyubid periods, and they appear either unadorned or decorated with either a mold-blown twisted ribbed pattern or enamel and gold decorations. They were used for drinking or as lamps, suspended in metal chandeliers or as free-standing lamps.
The rim in Fig. 17:3 is made of colorless glass and was found covered with black and silvery weathering and iridescence. The wall is fairly thin, but the quality of the glass is poor, and the vessel was sloppily worked as evidenced by the edge of the rim which was broken due to careless cutting. The rim belongs to a type of sprinkler known as an Omom or a Kumkum: a vessel whose neck narrows toward a tiny opening, from which the liquid was sprinkled in drops. These vessels have a typical neck, which expands slightly before it converges to a constriction where it connects to the body. These sprinklers were widely distributed during the Mamluk period. They were manufactured in large quantities, either unadorned or with decorations of various techniques on the body. One such ornamented vessel found in the Old City of Jerusalem was dated to the sixteenth century CE (Brosh 2012:422, Pl. 15.5:G69a); another vessel was discovered in the Coptic chapel in the Holy Sepulcher (Winter 2011:335, Fig. 4:4).
The base in Fig. 17:4 belongs to a bowl-shaped oil lamp, which is pinched at the end of the stem, forming a bead-like shape. The vessel is made of dull greenish-blue glass and is covered with black-silvery weathering and iridescence. The quality of the glass is poor, and the vessel was sloppily worked, as evident by the crude pontil scar with traces of glass at the end of the stem. A very similar lamp found in Jerusalem was dated to the sixteenth century CE (Brosh 2012:422, Pl. 15.5:G73).
These vessels are similar to the vessels found in other assemblages from Jerusalem dating from the Crusader–Ayyubid and Mamluk periods, and most likely reflect local production in Jerusalem during these periods.
The current excavation at Tif’eret Yisra’el synagogue adds complementary archaeological data to the complex stratigraphic picture of the urban development in the central part of Jerusalem, especially during its less-studied periods, from the Late Roman to the Mamluk periods. A notable feature of this development is the long period of time during which the Byzantine-period walls continued to be in use—until the Mamluk period. This phenomenon was also observed in the previous excavation at the site (Gutfeld and Geva 2014:205).