In excavations being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Beit Ha-Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, an archaeological site that was hitherto unknown is currently being uncovered. The site is situated in the heart of the built-up neighborhood and the remains there indicate that throughout a number of periods in antiquity the place was considered a desirable location to live in. In the excavations remains were exposed that date to the First Temple, Second Temple, Byzantine and Mamluk periods.
The Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out a salvage excavation following the discovery of archaeological remains in a lot slated for construction on Ha-Satat Street in the Beit Ha-Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem. So far remains from four periods were discovered: the end of the First Temple period (8th -7th centuries BCE), end of the Second Temple period (1st century BCE-1st century CE), Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries CE) and Mamluk period (14th-15th centuries CE).
In one of the excavation areas a cave was revealed that housed an olive oil extraction plant comprised of two phases. The first phase of the installation dates to the Byzantine period. The remains from this period include an especially large stone that was used as a press-bed for a screw-operated olive press from which the oil flowed into an adjacent collecting vat. In the second phase, in the Mamluk period, the floor of the cave was paved with flagstones that also covered the Byzantine press-bed and the collecting vat. Another press installation that was probably operated with weights was made in place of them. The press-bed and collecting vat of this later installation were preserved. A large stone memmel, used for crushing the olives prior to pressing them, was found in the cave.
In the second area a trial excavation was conducted in order to ascertain what antiquities exist there. Another large cave was discovered by chance in which there was a large concentration of masonry stones and numerous fragments of pottery vessels, glass vessels and tesserae from the Byzantine period.
In the excavations that were carried out along the edge of the lot numerous pottery sherds from the end of the First Temple period were discovered on the bedrock surface thus attesting to the presence of a settlement there or in the surrounding area during this period. Two hewn shafts were also exposed from which fragments of pottery vessels were recovered that date to the time of the Hasmonean dynasty (1st century BCE).
Ya’akov Billig, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said, “If in the future additional excavations are conducted in the open areas that remain nearby we may learn more about the nature of the settlement that was here during the different periods”.
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