The Roman Period (second–fourth centuries CE)
Remains of a large building were discovered in the northwestern part of the excavation (c. 20 sq m; Figs. 2, 3). It consisted of two arch-covered units and another arch projecting to the south that would indicate the existence of third unit, perpendicular to the first two. These remains may belong to a peristyle type building, characterized by a central courtyard surrounded by rooms.
Only the upper part of the building was exposed. It was filled with the collapse of building stones and arches that was covered by an accumulation of reddish brown soil. The floor of the building is probably located at a depth of several meters below this fill. The northern wall (W122; length 7.5 m, height 2.7 m) was built of roughly hewn fieldstones and three arches built of soft limestone ashlars (width c. 0.6 m; Fig. 4) were intergrated into it. A perpendicular wall (W128; length 3.5 m, width 0.7 m) that partitioned the area into two units was bonded to the center of W122. A wall (W129; length 2 m) in the eastern unit (I) was aligned parallel to W122. It was sealed beneath the foundation of a Mamluk vault and only the top of its southern face was exposed. Unit I was blocked to the east by a wall built of small fieldstones (W125), located along the border of the excavation. An additional wall (W123; length 3 m, height 1.6 m) in the western unit (II) ran parallel to W122 and between the two, in the section along the western border of the excavation, was an arch intergrated on either side into the walls. The center of the arch was partly collapsed (Fig. 5). An additional arch stem out of W123, preserved three courses high and intergrated into the southern face; it was cut by a later building. This woukd suggest the presence of another unit (III), oriented north–south, which was perpendicular to the first two units (I, II). The entrance to the two long units was from the south, on either sides of the partitioning W128. It is possible that a passage between the two units is set in W128, but only the top of the wall has been exposed so far. The soil fill between the walls contained potsherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods and sealed collapse consisting of building stones and ashlars that were originally part of the walls and arches. A small portion of the collapse was excavated and the pottery fragments recovered from it date only to the Roman period, not extending beyond the fourth century CE. A large amount of roof tiles was found together with the pottery, among them a tile bearing a stamped impression of the Tenth Legion and a fragment of an imperial discus lamp. This layer was severed from the south by a complex of vaulted buildings from the Mamluk period. A probe was excavated in the southeastern corner of a vaulted Mamluk building (L105) down to bedrock level. The rock was hewn as two steps that bore quarrying marks and negatives of detached stones. The bottom bedrock step was bounded on the west by a thick white plaster floor (L149; thickness 2.0–2.5 cm) that was not dismantled due to the small area of the sounding. The top of the upper bedrock step was leveled with a mixture of small fieldstones and gray mortar. A later wall (W118) built onto it served as the lower part of the vaulted structure’s eastern side. The rock-cutting, the white plaster floor adjoining it, the aforementioned mixed layer at the top of the upper step, and W118 should be ascribed to a phase that predated the construction of the vaulted building; these might belong to the Roman Period, although it is not possible to date them at this stage.
The Mamluk Period (thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE)
A large complex was constructed in the thirteenth century CE. It consisted of an alley (width 2 m) flanked by a series of vaulted buildings on either side. The alley began at the Via Dolorosa and terminated at a dwad end. East of the alley were three barrel-vaulted buildings, of which only the northern vault (L105) was entirely excavated. This vault was built against the eastern fence (W117, W118), which separates the Hospice compound from the Greek Orthodox Convent to its east. The white plaster floor of vault 105 was exposed in two soundings, in the entrance to the building and in its southeastern corner. Directly south of vault 105 was another vaulted structure (L152). Only its entrance corridor, covered with a vault (length 1.6 m, width 1.4 m) was excavated; it led from the alley east toward the interior of the building that was not excavated and is filled with dark brown soil. A third vault located between vault 152 and the Via Dolorosa to the south was documented in 1942 by SAS Husseini, the inspector of the Old City under the auspices of the British Mandat Department of Antiquities. At the time, a trench was dug along the eastern side of the vault to reinforce and support the south western corner of the Greek Orthodox Convent. Husseini's detailed documentation notes an entrance equipped with a relieving arch that leads from the street in the east. Today, the top of the relieving arch is c. 0.2 m higher than the level of the Via Dolorosa and is integrated in the wall that delimits the northern side of the street. Presumably, another entrance, from the alley leading north, was set in the western side of the vault. To the west of the alley, was a large double vault with a pilaster in its center (W115). Its northern part (L138) was built on the remains from the Roman period; Wall 124 was built above the earlier wall 129, while wall 121 was built into earlier fill, and adjoined the Roman wall 123. Its southern part (L144) served as an industrial area that included plastered channels and vats incorporated into the plaster floor of the building. Presumably, one or two other vaults might be reconstructed in the area between vault 144 and the Via Dolorosa.
This complex continued to exist throughout the Mamluk period, but several structural repairs were made to it in the fourteenth century CE. These changes included canceling the industrial installations and raising the floor levels, as well as incorporating an installation built of stone slabs in the northeastern corner of the alley, on top of which a large grinding stone was laid on its side (Fig. 6). An entrance corridor to another vault (L156) was exposed at the western end of the complex (vault 138). Vault 156 was sealed beneath the floor and in line with W120, which represents the western border of the complex. The vault was located west of the excavation area, directly below the modern parking lot. South of it, on the western boundary of the excavation, was another vault (L155), the top of which collapsed during the excavation. These two structures were not excavated but should be dated between the Roman Period (which they cut) and the Mamluk Period which seals them).
The vaulted complex was destroyed in a violent event in the mid-fifteenth century CE. The collapse from the double vault in the west, and the façade of the northern vault in the east was piled to a height of 1 m above the floors of the complex.
The Early Ottoman Period
The region was partially rebuilt in the fifteenth century CE; a new structure was built on the ruins of the double Mamluk vault in the west and the alley was paved with two layers of plaster above the collapse of the Mamluk destruction (Fig. 7). The opening to vault 105 in the northeast was intentionally blocked and the vault was used as a refuse site. During the sixteenth century CE, the Ottoman building was destroyed and the region was completely abandoned and covered with a thick layer of soil and debris.
The Ottoman Period (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries CE)
The documentation of the Hospice’s construction shows that two families resided in makeshift buildings in the excavation area. The meager remains pertaining to this period, include two terrace walls and a built shaft whose bottom part was exposed in the entrance to vault 152 (L161). Additional terrace walls and the upper part of the shaft were documented in photographs and than leveled in preparation for the current excavation.
Part of a monumental building from the Roman period that included a row of rooms covered with ashlar-built arches was exposed in the excavation. The pottery assemblage found in its collapse does not postdate the fourth century CE. This structurewas probably a peristyle building constructed north of the northern decamanus dating from the time of Aelia Capitolina.
A large complex occupied the area during the Mamluk period. The complex was built in two phases and consisted of an alley that originated in the Via Dolorosa and allowed access to large vaulted buildings, east and west of the alley. Mamluk building complexes of similar scale often facilitate madrasas and khans. The vaulted complex excavated at the Austrian Hospice is not documented in the literature and is not known from the historical research. It was destroyed in the fifteenth century CE, in a violent event that demolished the western vault almost in its entirety, and caused the partial collapse of the eastern vault’s façade. This destruction may be the result of one of the earthquakes that struck the region during this period. The area was partially rebuilt in the early fifteenth century CE. The alley was repaved (at a height of 1.2 m above the Mamluk level) and new buildings were constructed on the ruins of the Mamluk ones. During the sixteenth century CE, the Ottoman building was destroyed and the area was completely abandoned and covered with a thick layer of soil fill (in excess of 3 m high). This complex reveals that as early as the beginning of the Mamluk period, the northern boundary of the Via Dolorosa was identical to that of today.