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Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets
The extensive area of the dig is located to the south and adjacent to the Ottoman wall that currently surrounds the Old City. Topographically, the site is located on the northwestern edge of the City of David extension, on the eastern slopes of the Tyropoeon Valley and on the southwestern slopes of the area separating the City of David extension from the Temple Mount, known as the “Ophel”. Due to its somewhat inferior topographical position in relation to the hills around it, the remains of the various settlements that were established in the location during the various periods have been significantly preserved. In the following passage we would like to present a preliminary publication of a number of different layers and periods represented in the location.
The Byzantine period: At the beginning of the Byzantine period, an impressive construction boom hit the northwestern end of the branch. This was seen in the construction of large buildings that extend over a large area and are part of a residential neighborhood built on the northeastern slopes of the Tyropoeon valley. The large amount of information accumulated during the excavations of the current area joins and complements similar evidence reported from the excavation areas that were opened adjacent to it to the south (Crowfoot and Fitzgerald 1929) and to the north (Canyon 1964; 1965; 1966; 1967) and together they make it possible to more precisely locate the City of David in the renewed urban structure of Jerusalem in the Byzantine period.
The earliest of the phases (fourth-fifth centuries CE) of the Byzantine period represented in this area includes an array of large buildings that excel in their impressive design and foundations. These wide foundations incorporate construction items belonging to ancient buildings that were located there, most of them items from the Second Temple period that were used as raw material available for the Byzantine builders. Among these, column bases, links and column trunks, railings and capitals are particularly worth mentioning, which are assumed to have been displaced, together with other building blocks, from the impressive buildings that stood there during the Second Temple period.
It seems that the beginning of the Byzantine period hit the City of David with a wave of settlement that is evident in intensive construction. The need for areas available for settlement made it necessary for the residents of Jerusalem during this period to prepare construction areas on the slopes of the branches as well – as indeed this was reflected in the construction on the eastern slopes of the Tyropoeon valley. The construction activity even increased and reached its peak in the second part of the Byzantine period (the beginning of the Umayyad period?) with the construction of the paved street along the Tyropoeon Valley.
The Roman period: Among the findings from the Roman period, we can mention many Roman roof tiles that were created in the workshop of the 10th ‘Fretensis’ Legion, which remained stationed in Jerusalem after the end of the rebellion. Two of the tiles carried the Legion’s imprint. One of them, which has been better preserved, shows the wild boar, one of the symbols of the Legion. Next to the symbol of the Legion, you can see round depressions that were sunk into the tile before it was fired – probably the impression of a Roman Caligae sandal.
Two interesting findings from this period were recently discovered. One is a gold earring and the other is a marble figurine.
The earring is made of a gold hoop, wrapped and studded with a large pearl in the center. Attached to the hoop are two identical gold pendants, each decorated with an emerald and a pearl. The emerald stone is housed in a kind of gold dome that connects it to the central ring with the help of a small ring, also made of gold. On the other side of the emerald stone, another pearl is tied, smaller than the one embedded in the upper hoop. The pearl is attached to the emerald stone with a gold connector that passes through a tiny hole drilled in it.
The data we have today about jewelry and jewelry making in the ancient world indicate that the earring was probably originally created during the Roman period (in the period between the first century BCE – beginning of the fourth century CE). Gold jewelry set with precious stones and pearls was used all over the Roman Empire, from the Roman provinces in the east to Britain.
The figurine (bust) is made of marble and shows a miniature portrait of a bearded man’s head. It presents an exceptional level of finish, with meticulous attention to detail. His short and curly beard – as well as the position of his head leaning slightly to the right side, testify to a clear Greek influence, which suggests that he should be dated to the days of Emperor Hadrian – or to a period not long after him (second-third centuries CE). This was one of the peak periods of the art of Roman sculpture. The yellowish shade of the marble suggests the eastern origin of the raw material from which the portrait was carved, most likely the Anatolia region, although this matter still needs to be examined.
The stylistic motifs expressed in the portrait, such as his short hairstyle, the accentuated lobes and curves of his ears – as well as his sunken eyes, suggest that the object in front of us most likely presents the portrait of an athlete, most likely a boxer. According to the researchers, the two tiny holes that were drilled in the back of his neck and contained remnants of metal inserted into them, indicate that this is a weight that was used in typical hanging scales from the Roman period. Bronze miniature portraits of athletes, philosophers, (not satirists!) – satyrs, etc. were among the most popular of the hanging weights in the areas that were under the control of the Roman Empire – from Pompeii to Sepphoris. As far as is known, to date no parallel to this portrait made of marble (or any other type of stone) has been found in excavations across the country, and it seems that this is a unique find. A few similar findings, although made of bronze casting, have been found at various sites in Israel, and in large numbers in various places throughout the Roman Empire, where they date, in the overwhelming majority, to the third century CE (the Roman period).