Rebecca Welton, University of Exeter
Dig Mount Zion 2016
Due to the very generous support of the AIAS travel grant, I was able to return to the Mount Zion excavations in Jerusalem for the fourth season this summer, for which I am utterly grateful. The excavation site is just outside of the Old City near the Zion Gate and is a continuation of excavations that Magen Broshi commenced in the 1970s.
In previous seasons remains of a first-century domestic building containing a mikveh, three ovens, a cistern and a bathtub were found. In the deepest area, a large Byzantine period mosaic and partially constructed archway were found. Dr Rafi Lewis was the field director this season, to whom I am extremely grateful for his direction and support.
This year I was responsible for excavating some wide baulks left by Magen Broshi near the western edge of the site. The baulks were particularly interesting as stratigraphic layers were visible in the external sections which allowed for very careful excavation of each one. They contained particularly important information due to their proximity to a possible Crusader dry moat which we would like to date more accurately. My responsibilities were for a team of workers in this area as well as the recording of all locus descriptions, special finds and sifting operations. Some fills contained artefacts including coins, fragmented metal blades, a metal bell, a murex shell, a ring and a pearl. There were also layers of mosaic in this section-the southern was clearly disturbed but in the northern area remains of this mosaic were still intact. We also came upon the top of a partially collapsed terrace wall. These collapsed stones were excavated separately and a metal cosmetic spatula was found amongst them. The dating of these features and fills will become apparent after the analysis of collected pottery. I thoroughly enjoyed having the responsibility for this dig square and supporting a great group of participants.
I also assisted Kevin Caldwell, another area supervisor in the excavation of two other areas. One was a deep pit, also previously excavated by Magen Broshi, which had collected forty years of modern contamination and needed to be cleared before further excavation could be commenced. One further area in the south of the site appeared to be an Umayyad collapse featuring two columns. Next season we hope to uncover more of this collapse and reach the living surface, the results of which should give us a better idea of the lives of the Jerusalemite inhabitants in the Umayyad period. The grant from the AIAS also enabled me to stay for one week after digging finished in order to aid with the recording of the site, which entailed cleaning it up, removing shades, and then drawing sections and taking photographs.
I was also invited to give a lecture to the Graduate Seminar Series at the University of the Holy Land in affiliation with the Albright Institute of Archaeology. The series theme was ‘Daily Life in Ancient Times’. My lecture was entitled ‘Food and Alcohol Production and Consumption in Relation to Iron Age Israelite Religion.’ The comments and questions I received after this lecture were truly insightful and I am overjoyed that I was given this opportunity to discuss my research with such a great audience of fellow archaeologists and students. My thanks to Dr Shimon Gibson for making this possible.
I would also like to extend my sincerest thanks to Dr Nick Slope, who whilst a committee member of the AIAS was also an area supervisor on this excavation at Mount Zion and showed me the greatest amount of support and encouragement both on the dig and also for my future in this field. I am truly grateful to the AIAS for allowing me this opportunity to further my personal development in the skills and knowledge of archaeology which is something I know will continue in years to come.