The excavation was conducted inside a building belonging to the Ethiopian Patriarchate, which was formerly used as the Kurd family bakery.
An excavation conducted in a building across the street, on the western side of Ethiopian Monastery Street, unearthed the remains of a building dating from the first century CE (Kagan 2014; Fig. 1: A-6775). Excavations in two stores in Suq Khan el-Zayt Street, to the east of the current excavation, uncovered soap-production installations and a market from the Mamluk period (Da‘adli 2011 [Fig. 1: A-4017]; Permit No. A-7511).
Two half-squares were opened, one in the east wing of the building and one in its west wing (Figs. 2–5). The east wing was built during the Crusader period and exhibited two additional building phases, dated to the late Mamluk–early Ottoman and the late Ottoman periods. The west wing was built at the end of the Ottoman period; following its construction, the two wings were joined together by an opening in the wall between them. The two half squares yielded rich finds, mostly from the late Ottoman period.
The East Wing
The east wing includes one elongated north–south hall with a large cistern (L139) in its north part. Two construction phases are evident, from the Crusader and the Mamluk–Ottoman periods.
The hall has a cross-vaulted ceiling supported by piers (W124, W127, W128, W132, W134; Fig. 6) built of ashlars of various sizes, some bearing diagonal chisel marks. Cross vaults and diagonally dressed ashlars are typical of the Crusader period. The walls running between the piers (W123, W129–W131, W133) were built of large and medium-sized roughly dressed stones; the construction of the walls differs from that of the piers, suggesting that they were built after the original construction phase. The hall’s entrance is in its southwest corner, in the wall (W117) that separates the east wing and the west wing’s south hall. The opening cuts through the corner pier, which supports a cross vault. This is an indication that it is a later addition, and that the east hall was not originally part of the building but rather added on at some stage. At the south end of the hall, between Piers 124 and 127, stand two more recent, concrete walls (W125, W126) that enclose the hall on the south.
The hall’s modern floor was dismantled prior to the excavation, but the fill beneath it was excavated under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Under the floor in the south part of the hall ran the top of a wall (W135), which was built between Piers 124 and 127 and was probably the hall’s southern wall during the earliest construction phase.
The trial half-square was dug in the hall’s southeast corner, right beside Pier 127 and Walls 131 and 135. Two additional small probes (L100, L102) were dug along the hall’s west side. A paving of flat stone slabs (L149; thickness c. 0.15 m), which was reached at a depth of c. 1.5 m beside Pier 127, abutted W131, Pier 127 and the north face of W135 (Fig. 7). A thin layer of white plaster on the north face of Pier 127 covered the lower courses of the west face of W131. A probe beneath 149 uncovered a soil fill (L150) and ascertained that W131 and W135 continue below the floor level. Unlike the two walls, Pier 127 was built on a large ashlar foundation overlain by small fieldstones. Soil Fill 150 yielded a few potsherds, one dated to the late Mamluk or early Ottoman period (see Appendix: Fig. 1). Probe 102 revealed a wall (W123) between Piers 124 and 127 with a narrow, arched opening that served as the entrance to the hall of the earliest construction phase during the Crusader period (Fig. 8). A mason’s mark resembling an inverted P (Fig. 9) was found on one of the ashlars of Pier 127. Such mason’s marks are typical of the Crusader period.
Hewn on the northwest side of Pier 127 is a roughly hewn chamfer (shath; Fig. 10), a typical architectural feature of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods in Jerusalem (Luz 2014:57–58, Fig. 2.9). The chamfer is not part of the original architecture, but rather a later addition. It begins beneath the level of Floor 149 and was probably installed at the same time as the floor. Layers of soil fill (L142/L147, L148) that covered Floor 149 yielded numerous fragments of dshame-type clay pipes—used in the nineteenth century to build parapets on the roofs of houses (Fig. 11)—as well as similarly dated pottery (see Appendix) and glass (Ouahnouna, below). Above these fill layers was a tamped-earth floor (L141; Fig. 12), which abuts Partition Wall 131; the floor was destroyed beside Pier 127 along Partition Wall 135. The north face of W135 and the west face of Pier 127 are coated with a layer of gray plaster that ends at the level of the floor. Fragments of modern pottery were found above Floor 141 and beneath the hall’s modern plaster floor. The floor’s plaster layer contained a lice comb made of bone (Fig. 13). Floor 141 lies at the same level as the top of Cistern 139 (below).
In Probe 100, beside Pier 128 and north of the entrance to the wing (Fig. 14), there was no evidence of the continuation of Floors 141 and 149, probably due to an extensive disturbance caused by the installation of a modern water reservoir (L136). The stones in the south corner of Pier 128 were damaged and moved, and the pier was repaired with large stones (W101) that were inserted at the same level as Floor 149. Traces of thin white plaster found on the pier are identical to the plaster on Pier 127 of the earlier phase.
The Cistern. Cistern 139 is lined with stones and coated with hydraulic plaster. A channel led from the west wing (below) to the cistern through a breach in W129. The cistern’s ceiling had collapsed in the past; the roof debris and soil fills were cleared out of the cistern to a depth of 4 m. This revealed the remains of an ancient barrel vault coated with dark gray plaster. This plaster differs from that coating the upper part of the cistern, indicating that it had two construction phases. The cistern probably served the building in its earliest phase, and in its later phase the cistern’s roof was raised accordingly.
The West Wing
The west wing of the building consists of two halls, arranged in a north–south alignment, along Ethiopian Monastery Street. The building’s west facade is adjacent to that of the building to its north (Fig. 15), which is right beside the Ethiopian monastery, which was built in the mid-nineteenth century CE. The two halls of the west wing, which belong to the same construction phase, were evidently built in the late nineteenth–early twentieth century CE.
Ethiopian Monastery Street climbs steeply to the north, so that the floor level in the south hall is c. 1 m lower than the level of Ethiopian Monastery Street, whereas the floor in the north hall is on the same level as the street. During the work preceding the excavation, the floor level in the north hall was lowered to the same level as that of the south hall’s floor. Inside a layer of soil fill beneath the floor of the hall was a water conduit crossed the hall from west to east and channeled rainwater from Ethiopian Monastery Street to Cistern 139 in the east wing. The conduit was documented and dismantled before the excavation and is not marked on the excavation plan. The two halls in the west wing have cross-vaulted ceilings supported by piers set in the corners of the halls. The walls are built of medium-sized ashlars (c. 0.4 × 0.4 × 0.5 m).
The excavated area lies beside the north wall (W116) of the north hall. This wall also serves as a southern enclosing wall for the neighboring building, as indicated by a blocked window on its east side (Fig. 16). The northern half of the excavation contained the foundations of W116, built of large stones (L145; Fig. 17) and wider than the wall itself. To the south of this foundation was the northern edge of a large refuse pit (L144) filled with stones of various sizes, including ashlars. A soil fill beneath Pit 144 and Foundation 145 contained Ottoman pottery.
About thirty glass fragments were found during the excavation. Almost all date from the twentieth century CE, but a few finds are earlier in date (Fig. 18:1–5).
Fragment No. 1 is a base made of dark blue glass and decorated with a white applied trail; this type was common during the Mamluk period, and numerous examples have been found in excavations at Jerusalem (Brosh 2005). Fragment No. 2 belongs to a small blue Hebron glass bottle. Hebron is commonly understood to have enjoyed a monopoly in glass manufacture for the southern Ottoman Empire up to the nineteenth century CE (Karmon 1975:78).
The twentieth century items comprise mainly fragments of bottles, made of green, brown or light blue glass, as well as a few dishes and some fragments of colorless window pans. Items Nos. 3 and 4 are almost complete small bottles made colorless glass, and neither bears an inscription. Both belong to the large group of medicinal bottles, probably the largest and most diverse group of bottles produced from the nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries CE. The two fragments in No. 5 belong to a richly decorated dish; the glass is thick with a mold-pressed pattern of ribs and small lozenges.
As all five items exhibited here come from the fills covering Stone Floor 149, it can be concluded that the fills are somewhat mixed.
The earliest construction phase comprised a broad hall (the east wing), which contained piers and cross-vaults built of diagonally dressed stones typical of the Crusader period. This hall apparently extended farther east, and possibly also to the west. Cistern 139 was installed in the north of the hall during either the Crusader or the Mamluk period. In the late Mamluk or the early Ottoman period, the gaps between the piers were blocked, forming the existing hall. The hall’s original floor was probably completely removed and replaced with Floor 149. Toward the end of the Ottoman period, the building’s west wing was built. Following its construction, the east wing was apparently discovered, and an opening was cut through W117 allowing the renewed use of the ancient hall. In preparation for its reuse, the east wing was filled with soil and refuse up to the level of the floor in the west wing’s south hall. At the same time, the roof of the cistern was raised to enable it to collect water from the conduit installed in the west wing.