In June–July 2019, a trial excavation was conducted beside Churchill Street on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem (Permit No. A-8536; map ref. 222773–834/633834–74), along the planned route of the light rail Green Line. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was conducted by Y. Billig, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), N. Sanduka (antiquities inspection), Z. ‘Adawi (supervision and preliminary inspections), S. Halevi (field photography, drone photography and photogrammetry), A. Rose and I. Litvak (plans), V. Nosikovsky and I. Reznitsky (metallurgical laboratories), D.T. Ariel (numismatics), C. Amit and D. Gazit (studio photography) and A. Peretz (military history).
The excavation area extends from the entrance to Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in the south to the entrance to the British Military Cemetery (the Jerusalem War Cemetery) established in World War I (Fig. 1). The excavation uncovered quarries, a field wall, a rock-hewn installation and a burial cave that probably dates from the Roman or Byzantine period. Rock-hewn and built remains as well as modern ammunition and a bayonet were discovered near the wall of the British cemetery. The excavation area had been damaged prior to the excavation by infrastructure development work.
Some 300 m east of the current excavation (today inside the hospital grounds), two Second Temple-period burial caves were found in the past (Kloner 2001:113, Sites 281, 283; for other excavations in the area, see Mizrahi 2020).
Quarries. Several building-stone quarries were found clustered in the Mount Scopus Formation chalk rock (L4–L6, L8, L13–L17; Figs. 2–4). The quarries contained 1–4 quarrying steps and evidence of the extraction of building stones (dimensions 0.3–0.4 × 0.7–0.8 m). Also identified were rectangular basins (0.45–0.55 × 0.77–0.90 m, depth 0.14–0.17 m) with concave bases, whose purpose is unclear. Most of the quarries were not excavated to their full depth due to an accumulation of hard, thick calcareous sediment composed of a mixture of soil and crushed stone that covered their floor. The quarries yielded no diagnostic finds, but potsherds, glass fragments and two coins were found in a thick soil layer that covered them. Most of the potsherds (not drawn) date from the Byzantine period, and some date from the Second Temple period and the Early Islamic, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Fragments of Mamluk glazed bowls decorated with sgraffito were identified. The glass fragments date mainly from the Byzantine period. One of the coins is an Umayyad fals (anonymous, post-reform; IAA 165699) with a hole drilled through the center, suggesting that it was converted into a bead or some other ornament. The other coin is unidentifiable, but judging by its small size it may date from the second half of the fifth–first half of the sixth centuries CE.
Field Wall. A wall (W3) built of fieldstone, probably a boundary wall, was discovered in the southwest of the area.
Rock-Hewn Installation. A hewn pit (L9; Fig. 5) was found beneath the foundations of the British cemetery gardener’s house. The pit—blocked with a fill of flint stones—was not fully excavated, and therefore its plan and function remain unclear.
Burial Cave. A rock-cut burial cave (L7; Fig. 6) containing a rectangular shaft (0.8 × 1.9 m; Figs. 7, 8) that led to two arcosolia (Fig. 9) was uncovered between Quarries 6 and 8. The upper part of the shaft was blocked with medium-sized fieldstones and ashlars. Beneath the shaft, c. 1 m below surface level, lay a row of four slanting stones—probably the capping stones of a burial trough. Another row of stones, probably the capping stones of another burial trough, was found inside the southern arcosolium. At the request of the Atra Kadisha organization, the excavation was halted at a depth of 1.2 m before encountering bones and without establishing the full plan of the cave; the cave was than blocked with concrete.
The soil fill in the cave yielded potsherds dating from the Late Roman–Byzantine periods, as well as a few tesserae. Although several arcosolia of this type discovered in Jerusalem are dated to the Second Temple period (Reich 1993:107–108; Storchan 2016), most of the hundreds of tombs of this type date from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, as do the tombs in the burial ground on Sallah ed-Din Street (Avni and ‘Adawi 2001). Based on the cave’s plan and its finds, it should probably be dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Rock-Cutting and Wall. A wall (W12; Figs. 10, 11) built c. 1 m southwest of the British cemetery wall and parallel to it was uncovered in the southeastern part of the excavation area. Wall 12 ran adjacent to a vertical wall hewn in the bedrock. The cemetery wall is sloping outwards at the bottom, while wall 12 is sloping towards the cemetery wall; a kind of small moat (L11) was formed in the area between the two walls. Building stones and querying debris, as well as small-arms ammunition, bayonet and unidentified metal items were found in L11.
Small-Arms Ammunition (see appendix). The excavation recovered four cartridge cases (Fig. 12:1–3); a cartridge (Fig. 12:4) and a bullet (Fig. 12:5), both belonging to British .303-inch caliber rifles; two trouser buttons from a British uniform (Fig. 12:6); and a World War I German bayonet (Figs. 12:7; 13).
Cartridge case 1, manufactured during World War I (1915), was found with its rim detached after firing; it is not clear weather this damage was caused when the case was ejected from the firing chamber, possibly due to a manufacturing defect, or during combat. This and the three other cartridge cases were manufactured in the 1940s, two in Canada and two in Australia. Case 3 was found without its primer; it is unclear if the primer was removed after the battle or if the damage was caused on the battlefield. Cartridge 4 is damaged, and Bullet 5 probably comes from it.
The two buttons are made of brass; the name of the Birmingham manufacturer—Kenworthys & Ashton B[’ham]—is preserved on one of them (Fig. 6:12b). The bayonet (Figs. 12:7; 13; total length 0.49 m, total width 0.358 m) is an S05/98, one of the commonest types used by the German army during World War I (Williamson 2003:220). Some of the wood of the sheath’s handle was preserved on the bayonet, but no identifying marks were evident.
Historical evidence shows that the location of the finds—beside the outer wall of the British cemetery, near the entrance gate to Hadassah Hospital—housed an Haganah outpost manned by the Guard Corps during the War of Independence. There are records of the Guard Corps defending this position from an offensive by the Arab Legion forces on 22 May 1948, during which Private Dov Levi was killed (Levi 1986:253; Ehrenvald 2010:281–282; memorial page of Private Dov Levi). Two of the cartridge cases, the cartridge and the bullet manufactured in the 1940s probably come from this battle. The 1915 cartridge case may have been washed in from one of the graves in the nearby cemetery, or it may have been taken from one of the World War I battlefields and used 31 years later in the fighting that took place at the site, as in the case of the ammunition found in the ruins of the village of Qalunya (Peretz 2019:124–129). The bayonet may have been used by one of the soldiers manning the position, either mounted on a Gewehr 98 rifle from World War I, or as a cold weapon in close combat. The buttons are from British uniform trousers (Bodsworth 2010:63–64), but it is difficult to determine whether the uniforms were used by the soldiers manning the position, or whether the buttons were washed there from one of the British graves.
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