New Archaeological Excavations on Mount Zion
(Summer 2014 Season)
Conducted on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
With the help of our generous donors (see http://digmountzion.uncc.edu)
By Shimon Gibson
Research Professor, Dept. of Religious Studies UNC Charlotte
Professor and Department Head of Archaeology
University of Holy Land Studies, Jerusalem
By James D.Tabor
Professor, Dept. of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte
One of the most exciting aspects of our Mt Zion excavation in Jerusalem, just outside and east of Zion Gate, which we have conducted since 2007, is that we are slowly, even ploddingly, moving along in a fully academic way exposing all levels of habitation with great care and accuracy. As it turns out this strategic location, in the very heart of ancient Herodian Jerusalem, though just outside the Ottoman Wall, contains well preserved remains of every period—it is quite literally a “journey back in time,” and we are preserving and recording every detail! Here are our recent results, significantly revised with new findings from previous years.
Recent excavations on Mount Zion in Jerusalem have produced additional important results relating to the archaeological history of the city, ranging from the Early Roman period (first century CE) to the Ottoman period. The area of the dig is situated close to the summit of traditional Mount Zion, about 100 meters to the east of Zion Gate and next to the foot of the present Ottoman Old City wall, and it is a continuation of archaeological work made at the site by Israelis in the 1970s. UNCC has been digging at the site for a number of years. The recent season of digging was undertaken at the site between 15 June and 10 July 2013.
The following is a summary of the finds from this season of the dig set forth chronologically:
Iron Age II (8th-6th centuries CE):
During the course of the Iron Age II, probably during the time of King Hezekiah, settlement expanded from the City of David to the Western Hill and to the traditional Mount Zion. Pottery artifacts have been found in this area before, but this season we found a beautiful stamped handle with a double-winged scarab representation, inscribed perfectly in biblical Hebrew: “le-Melek…” (To the King…). We hope to have more artifacts and perhaps even structures from this period in future seasons.
Early Roman (late 1st century BCE – 70 CE):
Remains of houses were uncovered this season – many walls from these structures were re-used or dismantled during later periods. In one area, a well –preserved Jewish plastered ritual bath was uncovered. It was full of smashed pottery vessels dating from the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus in 70 CE. Quite a lot of coins were found, including a number of Revolt coins.
Byzantine (5th-6th centuries CE):
The large arched building found in the previous seasons on the east side of the area has been further excavated revealing a mosaic floor and a doorway leading into an additional room to the east. Many artifacts were uncovered, including coins. This structure may very well be the building depicted on the south side of the Cardo Maximus in the Madaba map of Jerusalem dating from the time of Justinian.
Early Islamic (7th-11th centuries CE):
More building remains were uncovered in the area on the east, with floors and a threshold. These remains belong to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, with some Fatimid remains as well.
Crusader (12th-13th centuries CE):
A substantial cut feature/ditch was seen running parallel to the Ayyubid tower on the north side of the area. We believe this is a dry-moat which existed in front of the city fortifications during the Crusader and Ayyubid periods. The Ayyubid gate-tower was destroyed in 1219, and its fallen blocks were found at different levels inside the fills of the moat. In one area a large burnt layer was unearthed with substantial carbonized remains, coins and an arrow-head, perhaps the remains of a battle in the 12th century CE?
Late Ottoman (19th-20th centuries CE):
This season we investigated the remains of a boundary wall which was built on the north side of the property of St Peter in Gallicantu. A lot of artifacts were found, among them porcelain from China and distant lands.