In the centuries following the construction of the Second Temple in 516 BCE, Jerusalem remained a relatively small city. But after the Hasmoneans threw off their Greek rulers and reestablished an independent monarchy some 250 years later, their capital grew in size and importance—as is made evident by the discovery of an agricultural village in what is now an Arab neighborhood of the city. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
[A]rchaeologists discovered an impressive burial estate, an olive press, and many jar fragments, ritual baths, a water cistern, rock quarries, and a dovecote, all dating to circa 140-37 BCE. . . .
“Jerusalem under the Hasmoneans grew fivefold, from a relatively small area in the City of David with some 5,000 inhabitants to a population of 25-30,000 inhabitants,” writes [the Hebrew University historian Lee] Levine. Those inhabitants would have needed to be fed, and the recent excavation points to a large agricultural settlement that may have contributed food products to the nearby city. [In particular], the discovery of a luxurious, multi-generational burial chamber in the current excavation provides indications of a much larger settlement [than previously thought]. . . .
Among the more interesting architectural elements so far uncovered at the site is a large dovecote, where pigeons roosted. As was common for the Second Temple era, pigeons were bred as both a Temple offering and a food source: the bird and its eggs were eaten, while its excrement was used as fertilizer.