Online Review: Book

Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961–1967. Vol. 5, Discoveries in Hellenistic to Ottoman Jerusalem: Centenary Volume. Kathleen M. Kenyon 1906–1978

By Kay Prag (Levant Suppl. 7). Pp. xviii + 518, figs. 253, pls. 32, tables 20, plans 22, map 1. Oxbow, Oxford 2008. $150. ISBN 978-1-84217-304-6 (cloth).


This is the fifth volume in the series of final reports presenting the results of the excavations directed by the late Kathleen M. Kenyon between 1967 and 1969 in Jerusalem. This volume was published by Kay Prag, a student of Kenyon's who participated in her excavations in Jerusalem; it discusses the finds from seven excavation areas in the southern part of ancient Jerusalem, dating mainly from the Roman to Ottoman periods. The first volume in the series (A.D. Tushingham [Toronto 1985]) presents finds from the Armenian Garden (area L), dating from the Late Iron Age II until the Ottoman period, as well as remains of the Third Wall (area T), situated north of the Old City. The following three volumes (H.J. Franken and M.L. Steiner, Iron Age Extramural Quarter on the South-East Hill. British Academy Monographs in Archaeology 2 [Toronto 1990]; M.L. Steiner, Settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Copenhagen International Series 9 [Toronto 1995]; I. Eshel and K. Prag, eds., Iron Age Cave Deposits on the South-East Hill and Isolated Burials and Cemeteries Elsewhere. British Academy Monographs in Archaeology 6 [Toronto 2001]) present finds from the Bronze and Iron Ages from the City of David (area A).

The following seven excavation areas that make up this report are spread over a wide area south of the southern wall of the Old City: area V in the City of David; areas B, D, and E at the eastern slope of Mount Zion; and areas G, J, S.I, and S.II–VI south of the Temple Mount. Since most are small in size and distant from one another, it is difficult to correlate between the areas.

In the introductory chapter, Prag presents the documentation methods, methodology, and terminology used in Kenyon's excavations. She also describes the obstacles she faced in bringing the finds to publication. Among these was the great amount of time that had passed since the actual excavations took place; the storage of finds in scattered places in the world, which in some cases led to their disappearance; and several cases of incomplete documentation. In light of these difficulties, the accomplishments of Prag and her colleagues in bringing to light such a thorough and impressive work should be all the more commended.

The following chapters (chs. 2–7) compose an architectural-stratigraphic description of each excavation area. The text is rich in detail and features dozens of high-quality plans, sections, photographs, and finds plates and ends in an in-depth discussion of the remains themselves. The architectural remains published here constitute mainly quarries, rock-cut cisterns, and wall, street, and fortification segments, of which the last is discussed further below.

Prag discusses two rock-cut cave complexes from area E; the facade of one is adorned with an engraved frame. During the Byzantine period, these complexes served as both storerooms and dwellings for a large residential quarter situated south of the Nea Church. On the basis of their facade style, Prag identifies the complexes as having been originally used as burial caves during the Iron Age II, thus reflecting activity on Jerusalem's Southwestern Hill before it was encompassed by a wall sometime in the late eighth century B.C.E. This is an important discovery that teaches that the scope of burial in Jerusalem during the Iron Age was larger than what had previously been believed and extended along the eastern slope of Mount Zion.

Prag notes the remains of a stone-paved Byzantine street exposed in area D, near the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, with an opening that led into an adjacent dwelling on the west. This street joins other Byzantine street segments discovered on Mount Zion and in the Tyropoeon Valley. Although Prag provides a survey of the early excavations carried out in the area, she fails to mention Diez's excavations from 1992 to 2000.

Discovered in area B, at the bottom of the slope of the southeastern hill of Mount Zion, is a segment of a massive wall (area B.V). Contrary to Kenyon, Prag identifies the wall with that erected in the days of Herod Agrippas I along the line of the so-called First Wall. She argues that the wall was renovated sometime in the Byzantine period and served as the southern city wall (Bliss and Dickie's "Upper Wall"). However, upon close study of figures 65 and 68–70, one may conclude that the wall reflects only one construction phase. It appears as though the lower part of the wall, built of small stones, makes up its wide foundation courses, whereas the remainder of the wall, built of stones with drafted margins and prominent bosses, should not necessarily be viewed as indicative of a second phase. Furthermore, although Prag writes that this area "was certainly abandoned for some centuries" (86) following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., she presents several pottery vessels that are typical of the second century C.E. (e.g., figs. 78.1, 78.20). I am not proposing to date the wall to this time (although such a dating should not be entirely dismissed out of hand) but to stress that the finds are not homogeneous, and thus question Prag's dating.

The wall above area B.V is a unique discovery that does not resemble the large wall segments exposed in the late 19th century by Bliss and Dickie and more recently by Zelinger. It seems that this segment is too fragmentary to be dated securely to either the Second Temple or the Byzantine period, and we also cannot determine with certainty whether it was in fact a fortification. Whatever the case may be, Prag's proposal nevertheless raises a number of interesting questions pertaining to the southern limits of Jerusalem during the said time periods.

Areas G and J contain the remains of a structure later excavated by B. Mazar, and which was dubbed by him the Umayyad Building II. Scholars indeed agree in dating the structure to the Umayyad period, though while Mazar believed the structure to have been abandoned following the earthquake of ca. 749 C.E., Prag concludes that it continued in use during the Abbasid period as well.

Prag devotes special attention to areas S.I and S.II–VI, where the Ottoman city wall was found to be partially superimposed on an earlier wall. Contrary to Kenyon, as well as to E. Mazar, who supported Kenyon's identification, Prag rejects the possibility that the earlier wall is either part of the wall of Aelia Capitolina or a segment of a wall of the Tenth Legion camp, and supports her stance with convincing arguments and evidence. Prag accepts B. Mazar's conclusion that the wall is in fact the eastern wall of the Umayyad Building II.

It is difficult to understand why, in her discussions of the ceramic finds, Prag chooses to cite parallels from Ain Zara on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea and overlooks those from Jerusalem itself. This is especially perplexing, since the past decade has seen the publication of numerous excavation reports from Jerusalem and its environs, presenting a wide array of pottery vessels from clear and securely dated stratigraphic contexts. These include Geva's final reports on the Jewish Quarter Excavations (Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem. Vol. 2 [Jerusalem 2003] 176–91; Vol. 3 [Jerusalem 2006] 94–143); Magness' pottery report on Binyane HaUma (Excavations on the Site of the Jerusalem Convention Center [Jerusalem 2005] 69–191); Bar-Nathan's pottery reports on Jericho and Masada (Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho [Jerusalem 2002]; Masada VII: The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–1965 [Jerusalem 2006]); and Magen's seminal study of the stone vessel industry in Jerusalem (The Stone Vessel Industry in the Second Temple Period [Jerusalem 2002]). Moreover, since all the above were published in English, it is therefore all the more puzzling why Prag did not make use of them in her own study. These reports come in addition to such significant Hebrew-language publications as the 28th volume of Eretz-Israel (J. Aviram et al., Eretz Israel: Archaeological, Historical, and Geographical Studies [Jerusalem 2007]), which is entirely devoted to the topic of ancient Jerusalem, as well as to the first and third volumes of The History of Jerusalem series (J. Prawer and H. Ben-Shammai, eds., The History of Jerusalem: The Early Muslim Period, 638–1099 [Jerusalem 1987]; Y. Tsafrir and S. Safrai, eds., The History of Jerusalem: The Roman and Byzantine Periods (70–638 CE) [Jerusalem 1999]), which discuss the time period between the destruction of the Second Temple and the Arab conquest (70–638 C.E.) and the Early Islamic period (638–1099 C.E.).

Chapters 8–14 were written by contributing authors on various finds uncovered in Kenyon's Jerusalem excavations: Roman and Late Roman pottery, Hellenistic seal impressions, coins, Late Ottoman pipes, Arabic inscriptions, seals, and mollusk shells. These chapters are each thorough and well-constructed reports that further enrich our knowledge of Kenyon's excavations.

In the final chapter (ch. 15), Prag discusses central issues pertaining to the architectural remains from the different excavation areas, as well as to the small finds and their significance toward understanding the topography of the southern part of ancient Jerusalem. The extensive discussions in this chapter give a sense of order to the abundance of data from the previous chapters.

Kay Prag deserves our thanks and congratulations for bringing such a monumental task to fruition. Because of her great efforts, the results of Kenyon's extensive works in Jerusalem will finally be available to a broader audience.

Oren Gutfeld
Institute of Archaeology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jerusalem 91905

Book Review of Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961–1967. Vol. 5, Discoveries in Hellenistic to Ottoman Jerusalem: Centenary Volume. Kathleen M. Kenyon 1906–1978, by Kay Prag

Reviewed by Oren Gutfeld

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 2 (April 2011)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1152.Gutfeld

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