Jerusalem : a Hasmonean period site discovered in archaeological excavations in Sharafat

Jerusalem : a Hasmonean period site discovered in archaeological excavations in Sharafat


Hasmonean period site

Impressive remains of a Jewish village from the Hasmonean period, approximately 2000 years ago, are currently being uncovered in a salvage excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Sharafat neighborhood of Jerusalem, where an elementary school will be built. The excavation, funded by the Moriah Jerusalem development corporation, on behalf of the Jerusalem municipality, has yielded remains of a large wine press containing fragments of many storage jars, a large columbarium cave (rock-cut dovecote), an olive press, a large ritual bath (mikveh, in addition to another mikveh previously discovered at this site), a water cistern, rock quarries and installations.

The most significant feature of the excavation is an extravagant burial estate, which included a corridor leading to a large courtyard chiseled into the bedrock. The courtyard had an encompassing bench, with the entrance to the burial cave from its façade. The cave included several chambers, each with oblong burial niches (Kochim) chiseled into the walls. In order to respect the buried parties, and in accordance with the orthodox restrictions of disturbing the burials, the cave was sealed.

Ya’akov Billig, Director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated: “It seems that this burial estate served a wealthy or prominent family during the Hasmonean period. The estate was in use for a few generations as was common in that era“.

The earth which covered the courtyard of the burial estate contained some large building stones, some of which are elaborate architectural elements common during the 2nd temple period. Most interesting is a Doric capital of a heart-shaped pillar. A few cornice fragments were also found. Such quality craftsmanship of architectural elements is very rare, found mostly in monumental buildings or burial estates in the Jerusalem area, such as the burial estate of the priestly family of Benei Hazir in the Kidron valley and several tombs in the Sanhedriah neighborhood.

The current excavation has only exposed just a small part of a larger village that existed to its south. However, despite the small exposure, the finds seem to indicate that the village was of agricultural nature, and among other things produced wine and olive oil, as well as breeding doves. Doves were an important commodity during the time of the Second Temple and in other periods as well, as meat and eggs were consumed by the people and also used for sacrificial offerings at the temple. The doves’ droppings were used as fertilizer for agriculture. Columbarium caves, designated installations used for breeding the doves, are a known feature in the Jerusalem area.

  1. An aerial Movie Clip showing the site of the archaeological excavation in Sharafat. Photography: Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority
    2.-3. Aerial photographs of the site of the archaeological excavation in Sharafat. Photography: Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority
    4.-6. The extravagant burial estate from the Second Temple Period. Photography: Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority
  2. Some uniquely carved architectural elements found in the excavation. Photography: Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority
  3. An ancient olive press for the production of olive oil. Photography: Ya’akov Billig, Israel Antiquities Authority
    9.-10. The rock-cut dove cote discovered at the site. Photography: Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority


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Mi chiamo Fabrizio Tenerelli, sono un foto-giornalista iscritto all’Albo Professionisti della Liguria. Sono redattore del Settimanale La Riviera e del relativo quotidiano online; sono anche corrispondente dell’Agenzia Ansa dalla provincia di Imperia e corrispondente de Il Giornale (di Milano). Ho diretto per sette anni un quotidiano online locale. Durante la mia ultraventennale esperienza in campo giornalistico ho avuto modo di collaborare per quotidiani nazionali, tra cui: Il Giornale di Milano, Repubblica, Il Giorno, il Messaggero, Il Mattino e via dicendo. Ho anche collaborato, a livello fotografico, con diverse testate nazionali, tra cui: Corriere della Sera, settimanale “Oggi” e via dicendo e per televisioni, tra cui Rai e Mediaset. Ho anche collaborato con radio del panorama locale (Radio 103, per la quale ho svolto per anni i notiziario, curando la redazione) e nazionale, tra cui Radio24, per la quale ho svolto alcuni collegamenti per fatti di cronaca. Nel 2014, inoltre, sono stato in Israele, come free lance in territorio di guerra, durante l’operazione “Tzuk Eitan”. Negli ultimi tempi, mi interesso anche di web marketing, web design e sviluppo di siti in Wordpress, Seo e Sem.