The excavation encompassed thirteen areas (Fig. 2): seven along the Stepped Street (S1, S4, S6–S9, S12), three near the Siloam Pool (Siloam; S11, S14, S15), one in the northern part of the Ha-Yovel Compound (S10), and two to the north and west of the Giv‘ati Parking Lot (S2 and S5, respectively). Seven building strata were uncovered (I–VII), dating from the second century BCE until the eighth century CE (Table 1). The street, which dates from the Early Roman period, is located directly to the north of the Siloam Pool and c. 360 m south of the Temple Mount’s southwestern corner. Sections of the street were previously excavated at the foot of Robinson’s Arch (Reich and Billig 1999), near the Siloam Pool (Reich and Shukron 2006; 2007) and south of the Ha-Yovel Compound (Szanton and Uziel 2016; Szanton et al. 2016; Szanton et al. 2019). The Ha-Yovel Compound was also excavated in the past (Reich and Shukron 2008: Area K2). Former excavations in Area S2 uncovered the surface of a Byzantine street and an Early Islamic stone foundation (Hagbi and Uziel 2015a; Hagbi and Uziel 2015b; Hagbi and Uziel 2017).
Table 1. Excavation layers
Areas (S)
Second–first centuries BCE
5, 11
First century CE
1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15
70 CE–first half of second century CE
8, 12
Second–fourth centuries CE
4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12
Fourth–sixth centuries CE
1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14
Seventh–eighth centuries CE
2, 11
Eighth century CE
2, 6, 10, 11
Layer VII (second–first centuries BCE)
Two construction phases were identified. In the earlier phase, a rock-cut space was hewn in Area S5. It had a vaulted roof built of ashlars (Fig. 3) and was probably the basement of a building that was not preserved. The soil fill that covered the vault yielded pottery from the first or second centuries CE that probably derived from late destruction. In the later phase, the Tyropoeon Valley’s main drainage channel (width c. 0.6 m, height c. 1.5 m) cut this space. It was covered with capstones along its entire length. This channel was constructed before the Temple Mount’s expansion, which entailed building a vaulted diversion channel around the Temple Mount’s southwestern corner (Shukron and Reich 2011; Hagbi and Uziel 2016; Szanton et al. 2019). Later, in the first century CE, the two channels were adapted to the new street paved over them (Szanton et al. 2020).
Layer VI (first century CE)
Most of the remains in this layer belong to the Stepped Street that ascends from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount and the buildings to its east. Approximately 130 m of the street’s paving were exposed in the areas south of the Ha-Yovel Compound (S1, S7–S9 and S12), while another section of the street was uncovered to its north (S4, S6; length c. 85 m; Szanton et al. 2020).
Area S1 (Figs. 4, 5). This area spans the section of the street between Podium 1001 and the Ha-Yovel Compound; it was excavated in the past when buildings and installations to the east were also uncovered (Szanton and Uziel 2015; Szanton and Uziel 2016). The current excavation completed the previous ones and found an inspection opening leading to the main drainage channel and three low steps built across the entire street width. To the east of the street, beneath a layer of collapsed stones, the northwestern corner of a room or basement was uncovered. Its walls were built of ashlars, preserved four courses high, and extended southward and eastward beyond the limits of the excavation. The deposits inside a plastered installation (L1002; Fig. 6) were cleared all the way down. Two steps were built in its eastern wall: one spanning the installation’s full width and the other roughly half. A patch of dark brown calcareous plaster seems to have cut off a feeder pipe from the north. The installation may have been a miqveh.
Area S7 (see Fig. 4) stretches south of Podium 1001 and includes six low steps (excavated width 3.5 m, excavated length 30 m, average tread length 5 m; Fig. 7). As the street’s western curb was not uncovered, its full width is indeterminate. However, according to other sections, it probably averaged c. 7.5 m. The excavation also uncovered collapsed ashlars and architectural items that sealed the destruction layer of 70 CE.
Bliss and Dickie’s (1898:147–148) excavation trench is visible in the area: It runs south along the street’s eastern curbstones, turns west at its southern end, and crosses the street, removing the paving stones below the southernmost step; one of these stone was discovered upside down, to the south of its original location. The boundaries of Kenyon’s excavation in the area (Kenyon 1974: Site N) were also observed; it cut into Bliss and Dickie’s trench and produced several modern finds from its backfill. In this excavation, Kenyon uncovered the street’s eastern curbstones, a threshold and jambs made of finely dressed stones.
Area S9 (see Fig. 4) includes two steps built across the entire street width (width 6.5 m, section length c. 10 m). In this section, the western curbstones were uncovered, and, unlike most others, they are narrow and have marginal dressing. Perhaps, these curbstones are modified paving stones.
Area S8 (Fig. 8) consists of a plaza (the Lower Plaza; Fig. 9) to the south of Area S9, where the street’s pavement extends westward, and no more steps are found. Bliss and Dickie’s excavation uncovered here an intersection (Fig. 10) with another street (the Northern Street) from the northwest. This street was traced over a distance of c. 10 m, was c. 3.5 m wide and lined with curbstones on both sides (Bliss and Dickie 1898:143). Bliss and Dickie uncovered the plaza’s eastern edge, whose paving slabs were robbed; the current excavation uncovered its western edge. Together, they allow an estimation of the plaza’s measurements: width c. 15 m, length 30.7 m, and c. 465 sq m area. Beneath the intersection, a secondary channel branched off the main drainage channel and continued northwestward under the Northern Street; it was traced over c. 24 m before reaching a blockage (Bliss and Dickie 1898:143). The street and the channel may have led to the Upper City (Szanton, Lieberman and Hagbi 2018).
The abovementioned western edge of the plaza was marked by a curbstone and two flights of steps built 5 m apart: one (L80078; 1.0 × 1.5 m) comprising three steps of soft limestone and another (L80090; 0.5 × 1.3 m) that had at least three steps (height of each step 0.3 m). The steps descended from the curbstone westward to a basement beneath the plaza level. South of the steps, the plaza seems to widen westward. Unlike the street sections to the north, no collapsed rubble was found on the plaza. Instead, low field-like walls were observed. Perhaps they are related to the clearing of collapsed stones toward the construction of a later structure to the south (below, Layer V, L80110). The abovementioned stone robbery on the plaza’s east side also removed the deposits above. Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether the eastern part of the plaza remained covered with collapsed rubble or whether similar stone walls were also built there.
According to Bliss and Dickie (1898:87–91), the southern exit from the plaza to the street featured a slight veer east toward the city gate in the First Wall. The street’s pavement here was built on a bedrock terrace on the slopes of Mount Zion and west of the Siloam Pool (the Upper Street; Bliss and Dickie 1898:146–147, Sections X–Y). Its western rim comprises a straight line but no curbstones. The current excavation uncovered a 12.5 m-wide step at this location, to the south of which, in Bliss and Dickie’s excavation trench, were a building (below, Layer V) and a steep, narrow staircase (Fig. 11) leading to the Upper Street.
Area S12 (see Fig. 8). This section includes a southeast-bound bifurcation of the street, comprising a steep staircase (the Large Staircase; Fig. 12) that leads down to the Siloam Pool. These steps cross the route of the main drainage channel that continues south along the Upper Street as far as the city gate. The paving stones at the top of the staircase were partially preserved but were missing further down; beneath them was a stepped substructure made of undressed paving stones. Similar substructures were uncovered in the Jewish Quarter and below Robinson’s Arch (Reich and Shukron 2012; Hagbi and Uziel 2016; Szanton et al. 2019). A robber’s trench was traced across the entire length of the excavation area, suggesting that the missing paving stones were looted. It is probably related to a local contractor’s stone looting activities reported by the military governor of Jerusalem shortly before the establishment of the British Mandate. A copy of Bliss and Dickie’s map of excavations was used to place the robbery on the Stepped Street's western side (Reich 2020). The current excavation suggests that the robbery may have also extended further east than the location indicated in the letter.
Areas S4 and S6 (Fig. 13). The street’s pavement north of the Ha-Yovel Compound is missing. Layers of tamped soil were found, in some places, sealed by stone rubble containing potsherds of the early first century CE until 70 CE. Perhaps, the pavement was removed to serve as capstones for a later drainage channel (below). Alternatively, paving may have halted before reaching this part of the street, possibly due to the destruction evident in the collapsed stones. Beneath the tamped soil layers, the street’s drainage channel capstones (L996; Fig. 14) were uncovered. In Area S6, side channels draining from the east and the west were also discovered.
Layer V (70 CE–mid-second century CE)
In Area S8, on the western side of the Stepped Street and c. 2.5 m south of the Lower Plaza, a building (L80110; c. 3 × 26 m, preserved height c. 3 m; Figs. 8, 15) was partially excavated, most of which remained in the western balk. The building dates from the time between 70 CE and the establishment of Aelia Capitolina and has two construction phases (Szanton, Lieberman and Hagbi 2018). In the early phase (Va), a building was built of dry-laid fieldstones, roughly dressed stones and reused architectural items. The building included two lateral walls dividing it into three rooms. The current excavation fully exposed the northernmost room, which contained a soil fill and abundant pottery and numismatic finds. The other two rooms were excavated by Bliss and Dickie, albeit not documented by them. The building’s entrance, located in its eastern wall, c. 7.5 m from its northeastern corner, was furnished with a lintel made of an elongated paving stone probably deriving from the Large Staircase descending to the Siloam Pool. From its northeastern corner to its entrance, the building was built directly on the step to the south of the lower plaza. From the entrance southward, the building was founded on the staircase leading to the Upper Street; the building’s foundation trench was dug into the collapsed stone rubble that covered the steps. An occupational layer (thickness 0.2 m) abutted the structure’s wall from the east.
In the later phase (Vb), the building’s entrance was sealed, and its wall was thickened inwardly with fieldstones and architectural elements. Two drainage channels were built at the base of the blocked entrance, coming from the west and draining into an inspection opening in the first-century CE street. In turn, this inspection shaft led to a side channel connected to the main channel, which was evidently still in use.
The building’s walls, foundation trench and occupational layer yielded pottery dating from the second half of the first century CE and the first half of the second century CE and coins dating from no later than the fourth year of the Great Revolt (69 CE). The remains of the building were sealed with a soil fill and an agricultural terrace wall (Layer IV); the soil fill contained pottery and coins dating from the third–fourth centuries CE. Its function is unclear, but it was probably a public building or a fortified structure designed to oversee the Siloam Pool. The building indicates that this part of the city was active between its devastation in 70 CE and the founding of Aelia Capitolina (129/130 CE), joining the evidence of rubble clearance from the plaza and the Northern Street in the same period (Bliss and Dickie 1898:143–144). Thus, even after the city’s destruction, a route between the north of the city and the Siloam Pool was maintained (Szanton, Lieberman and Hagbi 2018).
Layer IV (second–fourth centuries CE)
The excavation uncovered a drainage channel (L4119; length c. 70.0 m, width c. 0.5 m, depth c. 0.7 m; see Fig. 13). Some parts of this channel were uncovered by previous excavations (Reich and Shukron 2008:138–140), whereas the current excavation traced it from Area S7 in the south to Area S6 in the north. It was built on top of the rubble layer from the city’s destruction in 70 CE, coated with gray plaster mixed with charcoal, and roofed with large stone slabs, some of them paving stones taken from the earlier Stepped Street. In Area S10, a circular plastered installation was built directly above the drainage channel’s stone slabs (L90022; Fig. 16), and coins and ceramics of the second–third centuries CE were found sealed beneath it. Agricultural terrace walls to the channel’s west probably accommodated the City of David’s western slope for cultivation (Levy 2019).
In Area S9, a stone-lined shaft (L90010; outer dimensions 2 × 2 m, inner dimensions 0.8 × 0.8 m; Fig. 17) linked up with the main first-century CE drainage channel. It cut through the 70 CE destruction layer, the street’s pavement, and the soil layers above the drainage channel; finally, the channel’s capstone was removed. The shaft’s outer wall was lined with fieldstones probably originating from the rubble layer, while its inner face was finished with well-dressed ashlars. It was blocked with soil that contained an anatomically articulated skeleton of a female donkey, a cow’s skull, and chicken bones. The donkey was deposited inside the shaft immediately after death and was not simply dumped in it, showing that it was deliberately buried, possibly as part of a ritual act.
Layer III (fourth–sixth centuries CE)
Areas S1 and S10 contained small drainage ditches (width 0.1 m, depth 0.1 m), perhaps for irrigation purposes. They were oriented north–south, lined with small fieldstones, plastered with light pink plaster mixed with potsherds, and covered with small stone slabs. Three agricultural terraces were uncovered in Area S10 (W50007, W50021, W50027; see Figs. 13, 16). Similar channels and walls were also uncovered in the Giv‘ati Parking Lot excavation to the north (Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets 2013).
In Area S11 near the Siloam Pool, additional parts of the previously excavated Siloam Church (Levy et al. 2021) were uncovered. These components include the western wall of the narthex (according to Bliss and Dickie’s reconstruction) and the northern part of the wide staircase descending from the narthex to the prayer hall (Fig. 18). The finds confirmed Bliss and Dickie’s hypothesis that the staircase consisted of 16 steps (Bliss and Dickie 1898:183–185). The excavation also uncovered two pillars at the foot of the staircase, parts of the mosaic pavement in the church’s main hall, a column found in situ, and a wall that continued southward to the nave’s west.
Layer II (seventh–eighth centuries CE)
In Area S2, the current excavation uncovered the northern continuation of a previously excavated solid foundation wall (Hagbi and Uziel 2017). The wall was north–south oriented and stepped; it was built of large boulders bonded with light gray mortar mixed with charcoal fragments. Following the wall’s dismantling, the southern face of another substantial wall built of large ashlars was exposed: the southern wall of Building III in the Archeological Garden – Davidson Center archaeological garden. The pottery from the dismantled stone foundation is dated to the eighth century CE.
Layer I (eighth century CE)
Areas S4 and S6 featured refuse pits dug into a soil fill. The pits yielded pottery, metal artifacts, eggshells, fish scales, animal bones, and an abundance of plant seeds. The waste disposal methods used in Jerusalem at the time involved adding lime for sanitation purposes. Consequently, the disposed of organic matter acquired calcareous properties, contributing to its excellent preservation. The finds from the refuse pits, therefore, permit a reliable reconstruction of nutrition (through botanical research of morphology and pollen) and sanitation (through bacterial research) in Jerusalem in the eighth century CE. Additionally, ongoing archaeobotanical research attests to the city’s economy and nutrition and its trade with markets elsewhere in the country and throughout the Near East.
The current excavations uncovered extensive sections of the Stepped Street, whose construction was attributed to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (first century CE) based on coins discovered beneath the street’s surface (Szanton et al. 2016; Szanton et al. 2019). Its construction was a huge enterprise and a milestone in Jerusalem’s urban development, beginning at the end of the first century BCE and culminating in the first century CE. The route of the excavated street provides important insights into urban planning in the southern part of the City of David hill. The street descended from the Temple Mount in the north to the Lower City. Near the Siloam Pool, one crosses an intersection with another street coming from the northwest, probably originating in the Mount Zion and the Western Hill, and continues to the plaza (the Lower Plaza) that was probably used for gatherings and commercial activity (Szanton, Shor and Hagbi 2017; Levy 2020). In the southern part of the plaza, two staircases branched off, one leading south to the Upper Street and the city gate, and the other leading to the Siloam Pool in the center of the Tyropoeon Valley. The stones paving the second staircase were robbed.
Although the main section of the Stepped Street fell into neglect after the destruction of 70 CE, it seems that activity in the Lower Plaza and the intersection to its north continued in subsequent decades and until the establishment of Aelia Capitolina, possibly forming the nucleus of the ancient settlement from which the colony developed. This is indicated by the clearance of destruction rubble from the plaza and the Northern Street and the construction of Building 80110, which provided the city’s northern parts access to the water source.
The excavations also show that the main drainage channel was known and continued to function long after the city’s destruction in 70 CE and at least until the fourth century CE. This is demonstrated by the drainage channels running through Building 80110 and the shaft of the second–fourth century CE that was attached to the main drainage channel.
During the fourth–sixth centuries CE, a large drainage channel and agricultural terraces were built (Area S10) together with a farm-terrace wall that rendered Building 80110 obsolete, indicating that the land was used for cultivation (Levy 2019).
Apart from the re-excavation of the Siloam Church, no significant remains from the Byzantine period were uncovered. However, such remains were reported in the past from the City of David hill (Crowfoot and FitzGerald 1929; Ben-Ami, Tchekhanovets and Bijovsky 2010; Hagbi and Uziel 2015a) and near Area S1.
Finds from the eighth-century CE refuse pits unearthed in S4 and S6 provide valuable data on the citizens’ nutrition, economy, and trade relations. The excellent preservation of the organic finds from the pits permits detailed examination of parasites, which provides a glimpse into sanitary and nutritional conditions in the city.