Four excavations squares were opened along New Gate Street (Figs. 2–4) in areas partially damaged by modern infrastructure and construction. The three northern squares were adjacent to each other, and the fourth square was c. 5.2 m to the south; the latter square was partially excavated. Remains of walls from the Crusader period (Stratum 2) were unearthed, as well as a massive structure from the Mamluk period (Stratum 1). Most of the walls were preserved to a height of 1.5–3.5 m. In the southern part of the excavation concrete had been poured during infrastructure work and construction; in a few places ancient remains were found under the concrete. Pottery and glass artifacts from the Mamluk period were uncovered in the excavation (see appendix).
Stratum 2 – The Crusader Period
A wall segment (W128; exposed length 5 m, max. preserved height 3.44 m; Fig. 5) running in ran in a general east–west direction was uncovered in the center of the excavation; it continued eastward beyond the excavation area. The wall was built of large, carefully dressed ashlars, and a course of large, carelessly dressed stones served as its foundation. The northern face of the wall was well preserved to a height of seven courses; the three upper courses can be seen above the current street level, while the four lower courses are below it. The southern face of the wall was not found, and thus the wall’s width is unknown. Masons’ marks consisting of dense diagonal lines, typical of the Crusader period, could be seen on the stones. Part of the western end of the wall was discovered (length 1.25 m, preserved height 0.84 m); its southern face had been partially damaged by modern infrastructure work. Carved in the ashlars of the northwestern corner of the wall was a small engaged column (diam. 0.12 m; Fig. 6), also typical of the Crusader period.
South of W128 were remains of stone and mortar conglomerate (L135)—apparently belonging to a core of a wall, perhaps W128. In recent times, concrete was poured over these remains while laying sewage and electrical infrastructures. South of L135 were two large stones belonging to another wall (W138; length 1.8 m). The stones have coarsely dressed margins, which are also typical of the Crusader period. Modern-day concrete was found east of W138 (L124).
Stratum 1 – The Mamluk Period
Remains of a massive, two-story building with six rooms (1–6) and possibly another room were uncovered in the southern part of the excavation, an area damaged by modern construction and infrastructure. The rooms were arranged in a row, lying along a general north–south axis. The two walls from the earlier period were apparently incorporated into the walls of this building. Its walls were wide, and most of them were built of two rows of medium-sized, carelessly dressed stones, with a core of gray soil and medium and small fieldstones between them. The walls were coated with a thin layer of fine-grained white plaster (thickness 1.5 cm). The floors of the rooms were made of similar white plaster. It seems that all of the rooms were had vaulted ceilings. In most of the rooms, not all four of the walls survive. The structure was dated based on pottery sherds discovered under the floors of the rooms.
Room 1. This room (L112; Fig. 7) was partially exposed at the northern end of the excavation. Its remains comprised two walls, on the south (W120) and east (W125), which formed a corner; the northern and western walls of the room are apparently outside the boundaries of the excavation. An engaged column was found in this corner, but it was not completely excavated. The two walls were coated with the white plaster typical of the building.
Room 2. South of Room 1 was a large room (L111; length 3.2 m; Fig. 7), of which three walls—northern (W120), southern (W127) and eastern (W125)—were uncovered. The floor of the room consisted of a thick layer of white plaster (L111; thickness 7 cm; Fig. 8), resembling the plaster on the walls of the structure. Incorporated into the western face of W125, at about 0.75 m above the floor, was a built bench (length 4.25 m, width 0.85 m). Under the bench were four vaulted niches (width 0.4–0.6 m). The bench may have been used for sleeping, and the niches under it—for storage. If so, this structure may have been an inn. An engaged column was found in the southeastern corner of the room. A ship graffito was incised into the plaster on the southern face of W120 (Fig. 9; see below). Near the northeastern corner of the room (L121; 0.5 sq m), under the plaster floor, were sherds from the Mamluk period, including two jug fragments decorated with geometric patterns in red (see Fig. 11:6, 7), which were dated to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE.
Room 3. South of Room 2 was a small room (L115; length 1.7 m, estimated width c. 2.5 m); three of its walls—the northern (W127), southern (W132) and eastern (W125)—were uncovered. Only the western, inner face of the eastern wall (W125) was exposes, as most of the width of this wall exceeded the boundaries of the excavation. The wall delimiting the room on the west did not survive, but based on the heaps of collapsed stones, it may have been the continuation of W134, which bounded Rooms 4 and 5 on the west (see below). A doorway was set in the eastern wall the room, which apparently led to another room on the east. The vaulted ceiling of Room 3 collapsed. The excavation in this room did not reach the floor level.
Rooms 4 and 5. South of Room 3 were two rooms, identical in size, which were built in two stories (L103, L116; 1.0 × 5.0 m). Room 4 (L116) was on the lower story, and Room 5 (L103) was built directly above it, on the upper story. All four walls of these rooms were uncovered (W128, W132, W134, W136). Wall 128 is the ashlar wall from Stratum 2, the use of which continued in Stratum 1; it was coated with white plaster, like the Stratum 1 rooms. Only the inner faces of W134 and W136 were uncovered; they abutted W128 from the north. Room 4, on the lower story, had a floor of stone slabs; the floor abutted the northern, eastern and southern walls of the room. Walls 134 and 136 carried the vaulted ceiling of the ground floor, which was built of a conglomerate of medium-sized stones, fieldstones and gray mortar containing chunks of coal. Above the vault was part of the white plaster floor of the upper story (Room 5); it abutted W128 and was cut in the west by modern infrastructure pipes.
Room 6. Part of a room (L108) was discovered near Rooms 4 and 5; it was partially excavated. Another room seems to have been built below it (L123; partially excavated), and like Rooms 4 and 5, here too there were two stories. From Room 108, the southern (W128), eastern (W134) and western (W126) walls were preserved; the northern wall did not survive. Only the upper courses of W26 was excavated. The room revealed remains of a plaster floor that abutted W126 on the east.
Remains in the southern part of the excavation (Fig. 10). A niche (L133; 0.9 × 0.9 m; height 1.78 m; Fig. 10) was installed in the core of the southern part of W128, near the excavations’ eastern balk. The ceiling of the niche was convex, and its floor was made of white plaster. The walls of the niche were coated with white plaster, typical of the walls in Stratum 1, with incised diagonal lines in a herringbone design, apparently to provide good adhesion for another, more delicate, layer of plaster that did not survive. West of the niche were two medium-size stones that may have belonged to the southern face of W128. Another wall (W129) built of medium-size stones abutted these stones. This area was damaged by modern infrastructure and the laying of pipes. Another room belonging to the Stratum 1 building may have extended south of the niche, into which W138 (Stratum 2) may have been incorporated. In the southernmost square of the excavation debesh of medium-sized stones was discovered (L104) under the modern poured concrete; this debesh apparently belonged to a core of a wall that did not survive.
The Ship Graffito
A ship graffito (Fig. 9) was incised on the white plaster that covered the southern face of W120 in Room 2. The length of the ship from stem to stern was 31 cm, and its full height, to the top of the mast, was 36 cm. Two diagonal lines emerging from the top of the mast apparently represent beams or ropes (riggings) that secured the mast. The incised lines of the mast and the riggings are deeper and clearer than those of the rest of the ship. Between the riggings and the mast run several parallel lines, apparently representing a sail of a type that was sewn from rectangular pieces of cloth that allowed it to billow optimally with wind at sea. It may be presumed that the artist depicted a ship sailing with a headwind, with a square sail billowing in the wind. Long diagonal lines cross the ship, most probably represent the rudder oars or anchoring ropes. The graffito apparently depicts a single-mast ship sailing upwind (into a headwind) which caused the sail to billow and change its shape.
A similar depiction in perspective of a ship with a triangular sail heading upwind and the rigging billowing in the wind, appears in a detail of the mosaic floor of the Byzantine Church of St. Stephan at Umm er-Rasas (Talgam 2014:388, Fig. 471, bottom center). In terms of style and typology, despite the chronological gap, the ship graffito from the current excavation resembles a graffito found in the Bet She‘arim synagogue, dating from the Roman period (Ben-Eli 1969–1971:89, Graffito Pl. XVII:2). It seems that the two graffiti resemble each other mainly in method and material. The Bet She‘arim grafitto depicts the rudder oars and the sail, apparently the unfurled jib sail that was attached to the prow. It too has deeper and wider incisions for depicting the mast and the riggings, thus making the outline of these details more pronounced.
Anna de Vincenz
The excavation of the structure yielded bowls, jugs, a flask and a lamp, all dated to the Mamluk period, as well as a small fragment—a shank end—of a tobacco pipe, which is dated to the Ottoman period. The bowls include a bowl decorated on the interior with light green glaze and incised lines (sgraffito; Fig. 11:1), dating from the thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:16, Fig. 6:1–4, Pl. V:1–3); a bowl decorated with green glaze and an Arabic inscription in relief (Fig. 11:2); a fragment with geometric pattern (Fig. 11:3) belonging to Jerusalem-type bowls that are dated to the end of the fourteenth century CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:22–23, Pl. VIII:1, 2); two fragments of soft-paste bowls painted black and blue under colorless transparent glaze (Fig. 11:4), which are dated to the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:26, Pl. X); and a bowl (Fig. 11:5), which is handmade and features burnishing on the interior. Among the jug fragments were two decorated fragments: a neck of a jug made of light yellow clay and decorated with wide red bands and a delicate red pattern (Fig. 11:6); and one made of yellowish clay and decorated with a red geometric pattern (Fig. 11:7). Both jugs belong to the group of Handmade Geometric Painted Wares that are dated to the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:113–114, Fig. 47:4–7, Type II.4.4). The flask fragment is decorated with small flowers in relief (Fig. 11:8) and resembles flasks from Hama dated to the twelfth–fourteenth centuries CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:117–118, Fig. 49:4, Pl. XXXII:1, 3, Type II.4.5.2). The shank end (Fig. 11:9) belongs to a tobacco pipe characteristic of the early Ottoman period (Vincenz 2011: Fig. 1:1). The lamp fragment is a handle of a ‘slipper’ type lamp with a high-tongue handle (Fig. 11:10), typical of the thirteenth century CE (Avissar and Stern 2005:126–128, Fig. 53:1).
In the excavation under New Gate Street in the Old City of Jerusalem remains were found of two walls from the Crusader period and of a large, massive, two-story building from the Mamluk period. The dating of the walls to the Crusader period was based on construction methods and the dressing of the stones. One of the Crusader-period walls (W128) was carefully built of large ashlars, and an engaged column was carved in its northwestern corner. The high-quality construction and delicate stonework are typical of the Crusader period. The upper part of the column was not preserved, but a comparison to similar columns reveals that above it was a capital and an abacus or impost, which carried arches. Similar findings are known from Crusader-built doors, windows, pilasters and corners of buildings, for example, the portal of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the vaults of the Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion. As only a limited portion of W128 was uncovered, the precise architectural role of the column is difficult to determine.
The walls from the Crusader period were incorporated into the Mamluk-period structure. One wall of the later structure a long bench was found, below which were niches; the bench may have been used as a sleeping area, and the niches below it for storage. These finds suggest that the building served as an inn. A graffito of a ship was found on the plaster coating the wall of the northern wall of this room. It is known that during the Mamluk period, pilgrimage to Jerusalem persisted and even increased in times when political ties permitted this (Schein 1992), and thus it seems that a demand for pilgrims’ accommodations persisted. Venetian and Genoese ship captains were known to have stayed at the Franciscan brothers’ monastery during the fifteenth century CE, and the economic burden on the monastery led to a regulation prohibiting ships’ captains from staying there (Schein 1992:passim, esp. 154–155, n. 50). The ship graffito may have been incised by a pilgrim or even a ship captain who stayed at the inn. The building may also have served as the hospital of the nearby St. Lazarus Monastery, which continued to be used as pilgrims’ accommodations during the Mamluk period.
It is tempting to identify the uncovered segment of W128 as the Postern of St. Lazarus mentioned in contemporaneous sources (Prawer 1991:27, Map 2; Boas 2001:28–29, 58). The main difficulty with this identification is that W128 is located c. 35 m southeast of the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE fortifications, which ran along the same course as Suleiman’s wall in this part of the city. Additionally, the remains of the Postern of St. Lazarus are commonly believed to be those of a doorway whose construction is typically Crusader, which was discovered in the nineteenth century CE under the Ottoman tower west of the New Gate, 144 m northwest of the excavation area (now the northwestern corner of the Monastery of St. Salvador). Another postern from the Middle Ages was found 57 m southwest of the excavation, now under the Ottoman corner of the wall and abutting the College de Freres (Bahat 1991:74, n. 74, 75). It seems unlikely that there was another opening in the city wall so close to these two doorways. However, the proximity of W128 to Tancred’s Tower from the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE, where two main construction phases were identified, suggests that the wall was part of an inner structure in the complex of fortifications at the northwestern corner of the city, which included a tower, a moat, an outer wall and an inner one. In my opinion, the high-quality construction of W128, which is less typical of military architecture, together with the distance of the wall from the fortifications of the twelfth–thirteenth centuries CE, indicates that it was not part of the city’s fortifications at that time. It is possible, however, that W128 was part of a public building, perhaps the Church of St. Abraham or the Haritun Monastery, which according to the twelfth-century CE Cambrai Map of Jerusalem were located in this area (Levi 1991:425–429). Future excavations at the site may be able to resolve this question.
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Schein S. 1992. Latin Nursing Institutions in Jerusalem. In Y. Drori ed. Palestine in the Mamluk Period. Jerusalem. Pp. 142–156 (Hebrew).
Talgam R. 2014. Mosaics of Faith: Floors of Pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land. Jerusalem–University Park, Pa.
Vincenz A. de. 2011. Ottoman Clay Tobacco Pipes from Ramla. ‘Atiqot 67:44*–53*.