The impressive remains of a Jewish village from the Hasmonean period, some 2,000 years ago, have been discovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem’s Sharafat district.
The excavation, funded by the development corporation Moriah Jerusalem, on behalf of the municipality of Jerusalem, found the remains of a large wine press containing many fragments of storage jars, a large burial cave ), an olive press, a large ritual bath (mikveh), , a water cistern, and rock quarries.
The most significant feature of the excavation is an impressive burial site that included a corridor leading to a large courtyardl. The cave included several chambers, each with oblong burial niches chiseled into the walls. In order to respect the buried deceased and in accordance with orthodox restrictions not to disturb the burials, the cave was sealed.
Yaakov Billig, director of excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated: “It seems that this cemetery served a wealthy or prominent family during the Hasmonean period. The property was in use for a few generations, as was common in that era.
In the courtyard of the cemetery there were large architectural stones, some of which were made common architectural elements during the Second Temple period. Most interesting is a Doric capital shaped pillar which are very rare. Some prominent cemeteries in the Jerusalem area, such as the cemetery of the priestly family of Benei Hazir in the Kidron valley and in several tombs in the Sanhedriah district have them.
The current excavation has only uncovered a small part of a larger village that existed to the south. However, despite the small exhibition, the findings seem to indicate that the village was agricultural in nature and, among other things, produced wine and olive oil, as well as breeding pigeons.
Pigeons were an important resource during the time of the Second Temple and during other periods as well, as people ate their meat and eggs, ere also used as fertilizer for agriculture and were also used as sacrificial offerings in the temple.