Not as you thought: The most significant archaeological work is in the lab and not at the dig...

Many people ask us, what kind of processing do we do on our material before publishing - and why does it take so long? For a quick answer, take a look at the photo below - it tells us a little about the donkeywork behind the processing of artifacts.…

Portfolio Items


Crusader - Ayyubid Period (1099 -1250 CE)

Most of the pottery dated to the Crusader Period (12 century CE) belongs to types prevalent in other regions of the country as well as the Lebanese coast, all within the realm of the first Crusader Kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem. The assemblage is dominated by bowls and comprised for the most part of locally produced vessels. These are made of reddish-brown clay covered with a light-colored slip upon which a yellow or green glaze was applied. Some bowls are decorated with Sgraffito characterized by reddish-brown carvings incised into the background glaze. Slip Panted Bowls are also common in the assemblage. These consist of bowls with designs (usually a star shape) painted on white slip and then covered with transparent yellow or green glaze that reveals the panted design on the dark background of the unslipped clay. In addition to the locally produced reddish-brown wares common in the assemblage, some imported types are also attested. These originated in the Byzantine/ Aegean world and are identifiable by their light-colored clay; although they, too, are slipped and glazed with a yellowish or transparent finish.

Early Islamic Period (638-1099 CE)

Roughly 21% of the pottery dates to the Early Islamic Period (ca. 638-1099 CE). Bowls, jugs, oil lamps and cooking vessels dominate the assemblage, while other forms comprise a minor fraction of it. Although during the early stages of the period certain vessel types continue the traditions of the previous period, many new forms appear as well, and potters introduce new manufacturing methods as well as clay fabrics. One such example, the well-known “buff ware” vessels initially appear during the early Abbasid Period (second half of the 8th century CE). These vessels are composed of light-colored clay and are often adorned with incised and impressed decorations. An additional innovation introduced during the period is the use of glazing techniques. Indeed, several different glazing methods and styles appearing primarily on open vessels are an integral part of this assemblage. Some types characteristic of the end phases of the previous Byzantine Period continue to appear during this time as well. Most notable among these are bowls belonging to the ‘’Fine Byzantine Ware’’ group. Some of these bowls are adorned with a new style of decoration in which various painted designs were applied to a white background. During this time, as previously stated, certain new types which continue in development from types belonging to the previous Period make their first appearance. These vessels, known as ‘’Fine Burnished Ware’’ are characterized by somewhat different forms and fabrics than their predecessors. They are composed of a clay of inferior sorting quality; their lower extremities are often coated with a white colored wash and the circular burnishing is typically applied to the lower section of the vessel. While initially the ‘’Candle Stick’’ oil lamp, common in the previous Byzantine assemblages continues to appear during the early phases of the Early Islamic Period, a new lamp known as the ‘’Channel-Nozzle Oil Lamp’’ makes its debut during the Umayyad Period (7th - early 8th centuries CE). Glazed vessels, likewise, make their first appearance during the Umayyad Period and become widespread during the subsequent Abbasid Period. During the 9th-10th centuries, the technique of ‘’splashed and mottled’’ glaze was introduced in addition to Sgraffito, a decorative method of applying two layers of contrasting slip or glaze and then finely scraping in order to expose parts of the underlying layer. During the Abbasid Period (8th-11th centuries CE), a tin glaze was often applied, creating a white porcelain-like surface. Lustrous metallic-like glazes occasionally appeared as well. While most of the vessels during this period were locally produced; some of the more elaborate glazed wares such as the tin glazed lustrous wares were clearly imported.

Byzantine Period (324-638 CE)

About 19% of the pottery dates to the Byzantine Period (ca. 324-638 CE). The dominant forms in the assemblage include bowls, storage jars and jugs, as well as oil lamps and cooking vessels. Other forms account for only a small percentage of the assemblage. One group of vessels common to the period is known as ‘’Fine Byzantine Ware’’. It is characterized by thin, well-levigated and well-fired vessels which are often burnished and adorned with incised wavy lines. These vessels which continue to appear during the Early Islamic Period, are dated from the mid-6th through early 8th centuries CE. The so called ‘’Candle Stick’’ oil lamps are likewise abundant in the assemblage. The assemblage is also rich in imported bowls, mainly belonging to African Red Slip and Late Roman C wares.

Late Roman Period (70-324 CE)

Approximately 4% of the pottery dates to the Late Roman Period (ca. 70-324 CE). These are predominantly bowls and jugs, as well as a large percentage of oil lamps; other forms account for only a small fraction of the assemblage. The Late Roman and Byzantine Period ceramic traditions reflect regional variations since simple vessels were produced from local clays and distributed nearby. Only sought-after vessels of luxury were brought from a distance. The simple vessels shown here are therefore typical of the Jerusalem region and were produced in the area. The locally produced vessels are characterized by red, orange or light-brown fabric which is usually well levigated and fired to a metallic ring.

Before the Iron Age II (4500 - 1000 BCE)

Only a small percentage of pottery (about 0.5%) predating the Iron Age, the First Temple Period was identified. Most of this pottery dates to the Middle Bronze Period (ca. 1950-1550 BCE). An imported piece of Mycenaean pottery, which came by way of the Aegean Sea in the 14th century BCE (on the left). A Late Bronze pot shard with painted decoration.

First Temple Period (Iron Age; 10th Cent. BCE - 586 BCE)

About 5% of the entire ceramic sample obtained by the project dates to the First Temple Period (ca. 950-586 BCE). This assemblage is comprised of locally produced vessels made of Terea rossa clay common in Jerusalem and its vicinity and is dominated by wheel-burnished tableware characteristic of the period. As with other Judahite assemblages of the period, the Temple Mount assemblage is restricted to relatively few types, reflecting a standardization of forms suitable for mass production. When compared to other First Temple Period assemblages from Jerusalem, the Temple Mount assemblage is characterized by relatively large numbers of storage jars, jugs, juglets, chalices and stands and comparatively few bowls and oil lamps. Other than common vessels for daily use found in abundance, vessels such as pilgrim flasks, rattles and cultic objects, including chalices, cultic stands, incense burners and other unique vessels were found as well.

Iron Age IIA (10th Cent. BCE - 9 Cent. BCE)

One of the primary features of the First Temple Period pottery is lustrous burnishing lines adorning the surface of most tableware vessels. This practice first began in the early part of the period known as the Iron IIA (10th -9th centuries BCE), when the burnishing was applied by hand, either in horizontal lines or in a more haphazard crisscross-like pattern known as “irregular” or “wild” burnishing. Gradually, as time progressed, the burnishing was typically achieved by placing the vessel on a fast wheel thus creating the symmetrical burnishing line that characterize the Iron IIB-C Periods (8th -early 6th centuries BCE). About 5%-10% of the Iron Age II pottery dates to the first phase of this period, the Iron Age IIA (10th Cent. BCE - 9 Cent. BCE). The historical credibility of the Biblical text regarding Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE has been hotly debated by archaeologists since the 1990’s. Minimalists theories, based on the absence of significant finds from Jerusalem dating to this period, claimed that the expansion of the city towards the Temple Mount and the construction of the Temple occurred only centuries later. Yet recent finds from other excavations, including the Ophel (south of the Temple Mount,) the City of David, as well as those from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, weaken the minimalists theories and indicate that the descriptions found within the Biblical text relating to expansion of Jerusalem may, in fact, be authentic.

Second Temple Period (Persian, Hellenistic and Early Roman periods; 538 BCE - 70 CE)

Around 30% of the pottery dates to the Second Temple Period (ca. 516 BCE- 70 CE), of which two thirds belong to the later phases of the period (40 BCE- 70 CE). The ceramic finds can be broadly divided into two distinct groups: the first and earlier group dates to the late Hellenistic Period to the mid-first century BCE, and the second and later group belongs to the Early Roman Period – The mid-first century BCE to early first century CE. As with our First Temple Period assemblage, the pottery from the Second Temple Period includes a relatively large number of storage jars and jugs (though not juglets), as compared to contemporary assemblages from other sites in Jerusalem. Similarly, bowls and oil lamps are relatively infrequent. The Hellenistic Period pottery is largely comprised of locally produced vessels. These typically include storage jars and several different bowl and cooking pot forms. Other vessels include Judean wheel-made folded oil lamps and unguentaria (narrow elongated vessels used for storing valuable liquids). Locally produced vessels also dominate the Early Roman assemblage. These include a great number of open vessels exhibiting painted decorations. The bowls are well-fired, thin-walled and shallow. Cooking vessels are made of dark reddish-brown ware and include mostly cooking pots, casseroles and cooking jugs. The storage jars of the period changed from the thick-rimmed jars characteristic of the previous Hellenistic Period to collared-rims jars in which the collar moved lower down the neck as the time progressed, eventually to become a ridge at the base of the neck (see photograph). A small number of imported vessels were discovered as well. These include mostly bowl fragments of eastern Terra Sigillata ware.