The old excavation

In August and September of 2015 preliminary work started in the old excavations by Bliss/ Dickie and Pixner with the land-owners agreement and the IAA. Cleaning the area provided some special challenges. Because the relevant archaeological material had already been removed or otherwise relocated, artefacts have not been collected. The main task became the removal of spoil which had been used to fill the old excavations. These layers proved to be more extensive than had been expected. After four weeks, more than 120 tons of soil, sand, debris and trash had been removed.

After cleaning the ancient walls and gate, the stratigraphy became visible enough to provide a solid base for new interpretations. The cleaned remains have then been thoroughly documented.

Future research is based on exact measurements of all finds, located via the local grid, orthophotos, 3D Models and exact drawings derived from those. Based on this research, the structures of the Protestant Cemetery can now be connected to other excavations along the city wall in this area, especially the excavations of Yehiel Zelinger. Zelingers excavation is located to the south-east of the Protestant Cemetery, on the other side of Ma’ale HaShalom, the road running along the southern end of today’s historic old town. The recent excavation is located on the slope towards the Hinnom-Valley and, because of its steep exposition, the sole aim was the location course of the fortification in the south of the ancient city. Residential areas have not been examined here. Bliss and Dickie’s tunnel was also observed in this area, unlike in the Protestant cemetery, they did not tunnel towards the surface, leaving the archaeological remains in this area intact. Being located that close together suggests a cooperation of the GPIA and Yehiel Zelinger.

Interpretation of the Archaeology Found

The gate in the north-west of the excavation area features three thresholds. The oldest threshold was set between two obliquely trimmed blocks. They are the foundation of the archway that did span the entrance originally. The threshold itself features two circular depression – the pivot point for the hinges. Below the floor belonging to this gate, runs a well-built waste-water canal. The second threshold belongs to a phase of repair and raised the threshold’s heightfor35 cm. Circular indentations of the closing mechanism are also recognizable.The level of the third threshold marks the height of a new constructions phase. With its construction the level of the access to the city is raised for approximately 35 cm. It rests on a thick packing of mortar, which continuess in the fill of the ashlar wall.

In accordance with historical sources, it is very likely that the oldest threshold has been part of the Gate of Essenes described by Flavius Josephus, according to whom the gate was built in Hasmonean or Herodian times. While it is not possible to date the phase of repair, we can date the latest threshold. It belongs to an ashlar-wall built by empress Eudecia in the fifth century.

South of the gate, three separate walls can be distinguished. The oldest of these three walls is located to the west of the ashlar-wall built by empress Eucedia, and does not have any connection to the other walls. Built entirely of field-stones, it has been erected directly on the underlying bedrock and runs along the edge of Mt.Zion. Bargil Pixner dated this wall into the Iron Age, a dating that might be obvious from the sources found in the Old Testament. Yet, insufficient documentation of finds and the missing connection of finds and surrounding layers make it impossible to confirm Pixner’s assumption. In the 5th century AD, a large ashlar wall was built by empress Eucedia. Its remains found in the GPIA’s excavation are contemporary to the upper threshold of the gate found here. It’s course differs slightly in an angle that of the underlying, older wall. During the construction of the later wall, the underlying fieldstone wall was destroyed. The 5th century AD ashlar wall part of the last phase of an all-encompassing city wall encircling the Byzantine Jerusalem. The remains of a third wall uncovered in the Anglican-Prussian cemetery cannot be dated at this point. This wall is built of large, rectangular, hewn and mortared fieldstones. It is located between the tower and the ashlar wall and likely represents a phase of repair, closing a gap between the tower and the ashlar-wall mentioned earlier.

The tower in the south marks the spot where the wall, following the slope of Mount Zion, is changing its course towards the east. The 19th. Century cemetery wall has been cut through the tower destroying large parts of it, yet the remainders of the tower can still be seen on the on the outside of the cemetery wall, close to the street. The use of flat-bossed blocks suggests a construction in Hasmonean/ Herodian times or stones of this era have been reused. The foundation’s orientation differs some from that of the upper masonry, but until now it is unclear whether this goes back to an earlier construction or the change of angle became necessary to align the foundation to the slope. The same is true for the change in angle observed on the tower, between the upper ashlar-built section and the foundation. Three phases might be visible in the construction of the tower. The use of flat-bossed blocks was common in the Hasmonean/ Herodian era, but archaeological research cannot support this dating yet. It might be blocks of that era that have been reused during the 5th century AD. Hewn-off faces might be a hint for adjusting the reused blocks to the contemporary style.

Above facts leave us with two viable scenarios:

1: The tower has been built in Hasmonean/ Herodian times, probably succeeding and built on the remains of up to two earlier structures. Yet, research until today does not connect those to the city walls found in the Anglican-Prussian cemetery. This Hasmonean/ Herodian tower was then either integrated into the 5th-century wall, used as the foundation or remained unused.

2: The tower has been built during the 5th century AD reusing blocks from the Hasmonean/ Herodian era on the foundation of the structure of that era or even older successors.

The structures found in the Anglican-Prussian cemetery offer a deeper look into Jerusalem’s history highlighting the times when Mount Zion, has been part of the walled city during the Iron Age I period, the Hasmonean/ Herodian era and in Byzantine times.