Prior to any construction, laying of infrastructure or development in an area designated as an antiquities site, the developer must underwrite a “salvage excavation”. The purpose of such an excavation is to reveal archaeological remains and document them before they are destroyed or covered by modern construction. By contrast, research excavations are undertaken in order to address specific research issues at sites that may not be in danger of destruction. A dig undertaken for tourism development is termed salvage work, because although some of the remains are preserved and accessible, the motive for excavation and the methods used are often not oriented toward research.
An archaeological site is composed of superimposed deposits or layers. Layers containing remains of material culture such as pottery or stone vessels, especially when they can be related to structures, are identified as occupation layers, i.e. strata that represent daily human activities. The term distinguishes it from layers of earth that piled up over this layer after it was abandoned.
A floor that abuts a wall and does not cover it or is not cut by it may reasonably be assumed to date to the same period as the wall. Finds on this floor would therefore serve to date the walls that it abuts. Finds made on, in or beneath floors are archaeologists’ main dating tools.
In situ finds
A find discovered in its original location. Often, archaeological artifact are displaced by human activity or natural processes. In order to associate an artifact with the place in which it was found, it is necessary to confirm that it is “in situ” (in its place). If it is not in its original place due to past events such as erosion, theft or an unsupervised excavation – the significance of the find is compromised.
H. Geva ed. Ancient Jerusalem Revealed. Jerusalem 2000
E. Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 5, Jerusalem, 2008
A.G. Vaughn and A.E. Killebrew eds. Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period. Atlanta: SBL, 2003
A Palestinian village near the Old City of Jerusalem, southeast of the Temple Mount/Haram el Sharif. The village, which has grown into a large residential quarter, was annexed by Israel in 1967, and its Palestinian inhabitants are considered residents, but not citizens, of Israel. About forty thousand Palestinians and four hundred Jewish settlers live in the village.
A large open lot at the northern edge of the Wadi Hilweh/City of David ridge. Salvage excavations began here in 2003 under the auspices of Elad and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
At the site, which includes a section of the ridge and the eastern slope of the Tyropoeon Valley, remains of a Qaraite or Jewish residential quarter from the Abbasid period (8th-9th centuries CE) were discovered for the first time in Jerusalem as well as massive foundations of Byzantine or Late Roman structures, a large residential structure from the late Roman period (2nd-3rd centuries CE), a two-storey structure from the first century CE showing signs of destruction (perhaps from the year 70 AD), and limited earlier remains, including a Hellenistic terrace, a structure from the 8th century BCE and 9th century BCE deposits.
In parts of the area, Abbasid and Byzantine structures were dismantled in order to reveal remains from the early Roman (“Second Temple”) period. Elsewhere only structures post-dating the Byzantine period were dismantled. The excavation borders previous excavations – by Crowfoot to the south and Macalister to the east. The Givati excavations are considered salvage work, ahead of development and construction of a new visitors’ center for the City of David national park.
A publicly accessible area monitored by security guards. Village residents rarely pass through this fenced-in space because it has become the hub of the national park. The area also contains several buildings still inhabited by Palestinian families.
Excavations in the visitors’ center led by Eilat Mazar between 2005-2009 on behalf of the Hebrew University, the Shalem Center and the Elad Foundation incorporated areas previously excavated by Macalister and others.
To the east lies a natural rock scarp that was buttressed with a stone revetment in antiquity in order to allow construction on the ridge. Opinions vary on the date of this support structure, ranging from the 13th to the 10th century BCE (a 12th-11th century date has recently gained wide acceptance). Above the foundation, fragmentary remains of large structures that abut the stepped stone buttress were found (the damage is due to the massive construction from the Roman and Byzantine periods). These remains extend beyond the excavation point northward, to an area excavated in the past by Kenyon. Associated with this layer are floors from the Iron Age I (12th - 11th centuries BCE) and a later fill containing 10th century BCE pottery that has been used to link the structure to King David. Still standing in the center of this area is the so-called House of Eusebius (Byzantine) excavated by Macalister. To the west , the artificially leveled bedrock may belong to construction that predates the Iron Age.
Excavated by Macalister (in the 1920s), Kenyon (The 1960s) and Shiloh (1978-1985), this area was designated by the British as an open antiquities site. In the center of the site are the remains of support walls and fills, topped by a stepped stone mantle that covers a large section of the excavated slope. The date of the structure is debated, but the current tendency is to date it to the 12th century BCE and link it to the Jebusite citadel.
Additional structures, dating to the Iron Age II, were inserted into the stepped stone structure (one complete structure -- the House of Ahiel —and parts of two others are visible). They were part of a steeply terraced domestic quarter, evidently inhabited by affluent families, that was destroyed in the catastrophe of 586 BCE. There is disagreement as to when the structures were built; some would date the original floors in the structures to the 10th century BCE, whereas Shiloh dated them to the 9th-8th centuries BCE. To the west, the stepped structure is capped by a later fortification, probably from the Hellenistic period (the date is uncertain because the layers abutting the fortification have been removed). Shiloh exposed the remains of a Hellenistic glacis which seems to abut the base of the fortification and its two towers (the northern tower was recently dismantled).
Notable finds include the hand of a cast bronze statue in the late Canaanite style; carbonized remains of decorated wooden furniture found in the 586 BCE destruction layer; and over fifty clay bullae, many of them inscribed with names of high officials, some of whom can be related to court officials mentioned in the Bible.
The excavations took place at several locations on the southeast ridge, most of which have been back-filled. Kenyon’s final season was in 1967, as she did not wish to continue excavating under Israeli occupation.
Kathleen Kenyon’s main excavation trench extended down-slope from the eastern end of Shiloh’s Area G, and continued down to the Middle Bronze and Iron Age fortifications (18th-17th and 8th centuries BCE), about a third of the way up the slope (these are still visible along the stairs leading down towards the spring).
Ongoing IAA salvage and development work, begun in 1995. recently culminated in the excavation of gallery linking the spring to Kenyon’s trench.
Charles Warren discovered the tunnels and shafts at the head of the underground water system in 1867, Vincent and Parker studied the water systems in 1911, the Shiloh expedition cleaned the systems anew and Reich and Shukron (since 1995) significantly expanded the excavation area under existing houses (including under the “Abassi” House). There is currently no access to the spring from the historic, medieval period entrance at the bottom of the slope.
The recent excavations at the source of the spring and the head of the water system. show that the spring waters were first brought under control during the Middle Bronze Age (around 1700 BCE), when massive fortifications were built, a diversion pool was hewn into the rock and the horizontal section of the Warren shaft system was carved out which enabled the town dwellers to approach the spring and pool. At this time, a rock-cut channel (Channel II) diverted the spring waters southward along the valley, perhaps toward an undiscovered reservoir. Dating the system to the Middle Bronze Age testifies to the impressive hydrological and engineering knowledge of the Canaanites. In the 8th century BCE, when Hezekiah’s tunnel was carved through the bedrock, the vertical section of Warren’s shaft was “discovered” and linked up to the earlier system.
The Shiloah Channel (Channel II), partly a roofed channel and partly a rock-cut tunnel, carried water from the spring to the bottom of the Kidron valley. This channel is linked to other Canaanite remains which were discovered in the area surrounding the spring (from the 17-18th century BCE).
The Shiloah Tunnel was carved during a later period (probably the 8th century BCE) and it is thought to have carried the spring water to a reservoir at the southern edge of the city, where it was possible to collect the water and use any excess to irrigate gardens. This tunnel is also known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel, based on biblical references to a pool and channel built by this king. , An ancient Hebrew inscription carved in the wall of the tunnel commemorates the technical achievement, but does not mention the name of the king.
The main area excavated by Y. Shiloh in 1978-85, on land originally purchased by Baron Edmond de Rothschild at the beginning of the twentieth century for the purpose of excavation. The central feature of this area is the north-south fortification line established in the Middle Bronze Age (18th-17th century BCE) and repaired in the 8th century BCE. At this time, the city expanded eastward beyond the wall and additional retaining walls were built to allow this extramural settlement.
Judging by the houses and their contents, this was a modest neighborhood. Mwas any houses were abandoned at the beginning of the 7th century BCE, and only a few structures were occupied at the time of the 586 BCE destruction. This evidence of the gradual decline of the city during the 7th century BCE casts an interesting light on the events of the early 6th century BCE.
Following the destruction there was only sporadic presence on the slope – terraces, graves and a columbarium built in the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE. At present, the excavation area is largely neglected; however, the terrace at the foot of the fortifications has been landscaped and serves the Elad foundation for large open-air events. Access to the site is possible only from the Warren’s Shaft visitors area; a one-way exit leads to the recently built parking lots to the north of the Al Bustan neighborhood.
A parcel of land bought by Rothschild at the start of the 20th century; Weill conducted excavations in the area from 1913-1914.
Today the area is fenced in and access to it is only through a gate with a buzzer that is controlled by the security guard at the Meyuchas House (a house inhabited by the settlers). during the excavations very few findings were found in situ due to an expansive Roman or Byzantine quarry across the area.
Today what remains visible are primarily two large carved out chambers described in the literature as the “tombs of the Kings of the House of David” (because it is said that the Kings of Judea were buried in the City of David). However, there do not appear to be tombs here, only large storage rooms carved in the rock. A well-known finding from these excavations is the Theodotus inscription originally from a synagogue, probably from the Roman period, but its original location remains unknown.
R. Reich. The City of David : Revisiting Early Excavations / English Translations of Reports by: Raymond Weill and L.-H. Vincent (notes and comments by Ronny Reich ; edited by Hershel Shanks). Washington: Biblical Archaeology Society 2004
Until 2004, the area known today as the Shiloah pool was a public space which was used by the residents of the el Bustan neighborhood as a safe path from their homes to the mosque and the kindergarten on the other side of the pool. In 2004 following a fault in the sewage pipes, the northern section of a stone paved stepped pool was revealed and identified as the Shiloah pool from the Second Temple period. The Israel Antiquities Authority funded by the Elad foundation has been conducting an archaeological dig at the site for several years. The area has been fenced in and nowadays entry is permitted only for a fee. The residents can no longer cross it on their way to the kindergarten or the mosque in the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood.
An excavation in the middle of the slope. The digging of a tunnel and cleaning of an ancient draining channel is underway heading in the direction of the Shiloah pool with the intention of linking up to the ancient Roman street. At the meeting point of the channel with the street it was discovered that the channel was on a higher level than the street and therefore possibly dates to a later period. The excavations of the north-south tunnel runs under the village and the homes of its residents. Much of the information regarding the dig is not available to the public or the residents.
An excavation in the middle of the slope. The digging of a tunnel and cleaning of an ancient draining channel is underway heading in the direction of the Shiloah pool with the intention of linking up to the ancient Roman street. At the meeting point of the channel with the street it was discovered that the channel was on a higher level than the street and therefore possibly dates to a later period. The excavations of the north-south tunnel run under the village and the homes of its residents. Much of the information regarding the dig is not available to the public or the residents.
The Bustan neighborhood (Bustan=garden in Arabic) is located outside the “City of David” archaeological site. There are scholars that identify the site with the garden of the King mentioned in the Book of Kings. In the last few years, the Jerusalem municipality has issued demolition orders for many of the neighborhood houses claiming that they were built illegally and that the place is of “historical importance”. The implication is the destruction of the homes of approximately 1000 residents. The municipality is advancing a plan to turn the place into a public space that “recreates” the King’s gardens from the times of David and Solomon. We believe that archaeology must benefit local residents not threaten them. Moreover it is impossible to recreate the landscape as it was 2000 or 3000 years ago.
In the crowded El Bustan neighborhood, the Jerusalem municipality and the East Jerusalem Development Company have approved roads and parking lots to be used by all the people in the area but primarily by the visitors. The parking lots were built in public spaces in the middle of a crowded neighborhood which is in desperate need of public buildings such as a school, kindergartens, nurseries, public parks etc. Parking lots are also planned for the slope heading up to the Old City (Wadi Hilweh neighborhood).