Greetings from the Hasmoneans from a neighborhood of Jerusalem

Greetings from the Hasmoneans from a neighborhood of Jerusalem

Remains of an archeological site dating from the Hasmonean era were exposed in a Jerusalem suburb – underneath Hantke Street in the neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel.

According to the administrator of the excavation, “Very little is known about the history and material culture of the residents of the rural hinterland of Jerusalem during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, even before the Hasmonean Revolt. This recently discovered site will promote our understanding of the nature of the settlement in this area.”

At the site remains were found of agricultural buildings and installations which appear to be part of the northern section of an ancient farm. The dig revealed two major settlement periods: the first is estimated to have been between the 4th and the 2nd centuries BCE, and the second to have been during the first half of the 1st century BCE. This latter period is the one which relates to Hasmonean rule.

According to Daniel Ein Mor, director of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, “So far, only very few sites of the agricultural periphery of Jerusalem from the Early Hellenistic period have been discovered. During the years between the occupation of the land by Alexander the Great (332 BCE) and the conquest of Judea by the Roman commander Pompey (63 BCE), the area came increasingly under the influence of Hellenistic culture. Very little is known of the material culture and history of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and its rural periphery during the 4th to the 3rd century BCE (during the Seleucid reign from 167 BCE, and before the Hasmoneans.). This discovery will help us construct a model of the type of settlement in this area.”

From the early level of settlement, the excavation revealed carefully dug foundations which were hewn in the rock with great care, as well as a large press for producing wine. As Mor says “It is reasonable to assume that the residents of the site took advantage of the proximity of the banks of the Ein Kerem stream to grow their vines. The large number of fragments of storage vessels indicate that the local farmers apparently stored their produce. As was the case in later periods, the area seemed to be part of the agricultural hinterland of the city of Jerusalem.

The later level of settlement at the site is attributed to the rule of the Hasmoneans. In 164 BCE Judas Maccabeus conquered Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple. After the rise of the Hasmoneans to power and their rule was firmly established, the city began to expand: buildings, fortifications and a water supply were added. It was from this time that remains of a courtyard with a furnace oven for baking bread was uncovered. The courtyard was built over the press of the earlier period. For this purpose the inhabitants had to fill in the area of the press with earth so that they could lay a floor for the courtyard. In the earth fill from the press area many earthenware fragments were found among which is a bottle that apparently held perfume.

Another interesting find is a well-crafted lead weight, with a letter engraved on it. The weight has not yet been cleaned in the Antiquities Authority’s laboratory, but it appears that the engraved letter is the Hebrew letter Yod.

The scope and the nature of the site uncovered has not yet been clearly established, but with the continuation of the work, and further sections uncovered, archaeologists will be able to determine whether this was an agricultural farm or remains of a larger settlement which was located here.

(Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

Comments are closed.