“Jerusalem 3D” Film Premiere in London

My wife Kathleen and I are excited to have been invited by Taran Davies to attend the Jerusalem 3D Premiere in the iMax cinema in London this Wednesday, the 15th of January, 2014. Taran Davies is co-producer with George Duffield and Daniel Ferguson is the director.

Josh Glancy wrote in today’s Sunday Times:

“The documentary follows a trio of teenage girls from the three faiths that have their home in Jerusalem: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Despite their different religions, they seem to experience the city in strangely similar ways. They live within minutes of each other, but their paths never cross.

Their stories are woven around an extraordinary portrayal of perhaps the world’s most religious and contested city at its most fervent. The 45-minute film has sold out at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution and has now been booked to play at cinemas and museums around the wold. It opens at London’s iMax cinema in Waterloo this week.”

“The crew weren’t allowed to put a camera on the Western Wall, but they persuaded the Israelis to let them erect a crane on the roof of a nearby police station that allowed them to capture the bobbing, shawl-covered masses below during Passover prayers.” Duffield added: “You had a camera the size of a small car directly over the middle of the Western Wall plaza. But we didn’t disturb anyone – they were so enraptured they didn’t look up.” Photo: George Duffield

In a previous post we mentioned that we have been involved with the making of three digital reconstructions, of Herod’s Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha. Although we have been in contact via email and other digital media, it will be interesting to meet some members of the team in person.

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New Discoveries on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

I was alerted by Zachi Dvira of  The Temple Mount Sifting Project to new excavation activities on the Temple Mount:

Recently, the ground level near the new generator room north of the raised platform was lowered by one foot. This work exposed an unknown course of stones from an earlier phase of this wall. This course could be dated to the Early Umayyad period or even the Herodian Period. L. Ritmeyer suggested that the foundation of this course was the original northern wall of the Temple Mount, and there is evidence for this thesis in various spots along this line.

Zachi sent me a photograph showing a line of large stones below the northern wall of the raised platform.

The newly discovered stones are below the platform wall at the back of the picture. New paving is being laid against it. Photo: Zachi Dvira

Needing more information, I asked a friend of Nathaniel, one of my sons, to send me additional photographs showing what is happening on the Temple Mount at present. The location in question is to the east of the eastern stairway that leads up to the raised platform from the north:

Looking northeast, the site in question is behind and below the wall where the arrow points

In the following picture, we see the area below the blue container that was lowered by about 1m. (3 feet):

The area in lower foreground has been lowered, exposing a line of ancient ashlars at the foot of the platform wall on the left.

The following photograph shows the single course of beautifully carved ashlars (large stones):

It is difficult to say when this monumental masonry was built, but it is located along the line of the northern wall of the raised platform, which we had previously (The Quest, pp. 165-186) identified as the northern boundary of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount. To the west of this same line is the northwest corner of the 500-cubit square Temple Mount of the First Temple period and we had suggested that this was built by King Hezekiah:

Northwest corner of square Temple Mount, looking southeast. Photo: Nathaniel Ritmeyer

To the east of the newly discovered masonry there are equally large stones to be seen at the northeast corner of the raised platform.

Northeast corner of raised platform showing large ashlars. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Putting these three points together, we see that all three masonry remains lie on the northern boundary of the ancient square Temple Mount:

Plan of the Herodian Temple Mount with indications of ancient masonry. © Leen Ritmeyer

The masonry at the northwest corner of the square Temple Mount is characterised by rough bosses, while the other two sections have smooth masonry. It is possible that these two sections were built at a later time, above earlier masonry.

Reviewing the discovery of this new wall, we can see that it lies on the northern boundary of the ancient Temple Mount. It is unlikely that this wall was built in the Umayyad period as no other masonry of this calibre can be seen anywhere in the outer walls of the raised platform. No major building projects were carried out on the Temple Mount in the Byzantine period. That leaves us with either the Roman (Aelia Capitolina) or the Herodian period. Although we cannot prove it, the latter would be an exciting possibility! In any case, the fact that monumental masonry is built on the northern boundary of the ancient Temple Mount appears to confirm the location of the square Temple Mount of the First Temple period.

All this goes to show that many more archaeological remains may still be hidden below the surface of the Temple platform and how much more we could learn if excavations were made possible! This would be extremely valuable, as only excavation would make it possible to identify the period of these wall remains.

 

Posted in Excavations, Jerusalem, News, Temple Mount | 24 Comments

The Temple Mount in the Washington Post

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an article on the Temple Mount.

Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary. Jews and Christians call it the Temple Mount. Built atop Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, this 36-acre site is the place where seminal events in Islam, Judaism and Christianity are said to have taken place, and it has been a flash point of conflict for millenniums. Many aspects of its meaning and history are still disputed by religious and political leaders, scholars, and even archaeologists.

Several cycles of building and destruction have shaped what is on this hilltop today.

These cycles of the Development of the Temple Mount are shown in the five sketches below the main site drawing:

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Kh. el-Maqatir – ‘Joshua’s Ai’ Exhibition

The Associates for Biblical Research announced the opening of an exhibition called: “Khirbet el-Maqatir: The History of a Biblical Site” at the Dunham Bible Museum of Houston Baptist University, January 21st through December, 2014″

Khirbet el-Maqatir: History of a Biblical Site will be a year-long exhibit of 42 artifacts from excavations in Israel at Khirbet el-Maqatir, thought to be the site of ancient Ai from Joshua 7-8.  The Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria has approved the loan of these artifacts for exhibit at the Houston Baptist University’s Dunham Bible Museum from January 21-December 19, 2014.  In conjunction with the exhibit, a symposium will be held on February 8th, focusing on the role of archaeology in understanding ancient history and biblical studies as well, including critical reflection on the excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir and what light they shed on the ancient biblical world.

This is the program of the symposium:

9 am – Dr. Bryant Wood, “ Khirbet el-Maqatir: A Border Fortress in the Highlands of Canaan and a Proposed New Location for the Ai of Joshua 7-8”

10:15 – Dr. Eugene Merrill, “Ai and Old Testament Chronology: Who Cares?”

11:30-1:00 Lunch Break

1 pm - Dr. Scott Stripling, “Ritual Purity at Khirbet el-Maqatir’s First Century Village and the First Jewish Revolt Against Rome”

2:15 – Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, “Does the Byzantine Church at Maqatir reflect the sacred architecture of the Temple in Jerusalem?

3:30 – Closing panel discussion

This recently completed reconstruction drawing of the Byzantine Monastery at Kh. el-Maqatir will be part of the exhibition. Drawing: Leen Ritmeyer

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New archaeological discoveries in Hierapolis

As stated in a previous post, Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, has been excavating the cave of the Plutonium in Hierapolis. This year, he discovered two unique marble statues:

“The statues represent two mythological creatures,” D’Andria told Discovery News. “One depicts a snake, a clear symbol of the underworld, the other shows Kerberos, or Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of hell in the Greek mythology.”

Rolled onto itself, the snake looks threateningly toward anybody trying to approach it, while the 4-foot-tall Kerberos resembles the Kangal, the Anatolian shepherd dog. Photo credit: Franscesco D’Andria

According to this article in Discovery News, the excavations also revealed that the source of the thermal springs that produce the white travertine terraces, was located in this cave.

The site represented an important destination for pilgrims. People watched the sacred rites from steps above the cave opening, while priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

During the rites priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead. Credit: Franscesco D’Andria

According to another newspaper report, the tombs located in the extensive northern cemetery of Hierapolis are being restored. While removing the asphalt road that ran through the middle of the cemetery, an ancient road was discovered.

The Tomb of the Gladiator, which is located next to the road, has a decorated lintel over the entrance showing a pot of oil, a trident and a shield. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Denizli Mayor Abdülkadir Demir said they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pamukkale’s inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. He said Pamukkale was a very important tourism center for Turkey due to its travertine, ancient pool and thermal sources. He said, “When we look at figures in the beginning of November, we see the number of visitors is 100,000 more than last year. Interest is increasing every year.”

The northern necropolis of hierapolis is located on top of the city’s famous travertine cliffs. Here is a rich collection of ancient tombs, which immediately immerse the visitor in the city’s history. From the northern entrance, one walks over a mile long path that is lined with funerary monuments. This necropolis contains some 1000 tombs made of limestone in all shapes and sizes. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Hierapolis is mentioned in the New Testament. The believers in Hierapolis were very precious to the Apostle Paul (Col. 4:13). One wonders if any of those early Christian believers may have been buried here.

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Reconstructing Jerusalem for Jerusalem the Movie

In a previous post, we mentioned the making of Jerusalem the Movie in iMax 3D. Every week there is an update from this beautiful movie on Facebook. This weeks update shows an atmospheric reconstruction of Jerusalem in the First Century:

Check out this computer-generated recreation of Jerusalem in the 1st century CE / AD, featuring the latest archaeological consensus on what the 2nd Temple might have looked like. See it on the giant screen for the first time in our film.

A computer generated reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

I have enjoyed these very varied and visual posts, but this one is special for me. In that previous post we wrote that we had been invited “ to contribute to this movie with reconstructions of Jerusalem in the Second Temple and Byzantine periods”. The generation of this digital picture of Jerusalem took many days of consultation, but the result is very gratifying.

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Jerome (Jerry) Murphy-O’Connor

This week the well-known Biblical scholar, Jerome (Jerry) Murphy-O’Connor, professor of the New Testament at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem passed away. He was especially interested in the life of the Apostle Paul.

Jerome Murphy O’Connor

He was one of those rare scholars who, while appreciating both the study of the NT text and that of archaeology, kept a balanced view of the value of each field. In a recent interview by Jill Duchess of Hamilton and published in the Catholic Herald, he said:

“The light shed by archaeology on the New Testament is indirect – and with varying degrees of clarity.”  “Generally, archaeology can do no more than fill in the backgrounds against which the drama of evangelisation was played out.”

However, his intimate acquaintance with the dizzying amount of archaeological discoveries made in recent years caused him to reflect:

“New Testament archaeology, he insisted, should not be written off. Far from it. It may not have substantiated any facts about Jesus himself, but it has illuminated the material culture of the first century in which Jesus and his disciples lived. The vast array of sites from which piles of potsherds, coins, walls, floors, and bones have been found have added a tangible reality to many aspects to day-to-day life in Palestine. Citing some of the geographical and cultural details which have been unearthed, Fr Jerry said: “We know, for instance, where Jesus was baptised, the sort of room in which he lived in Capernaum and the type of boat from which he preached. We can trace the paths he walked.”

“Details of the actual towns and locations mentioned in the gospels – Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Magdala, Jericho and Bethany – are now firmly established on maps.”

A reconstruction drawing of a typical house in Capernaum from the time of Christ.
The rooms of the house were located round a central courtyard, which had a water cistern. The main living quarters were upstairs, while other rooms were used for storage and work. In one corner, animals were kept overnight behind a fenestrated wall, a wall with windows, where fodder was placed.
Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, was the city where Jesus lived after he left Nazareth (Matthew 4.13; Mark 2.1; Luke 4.31; John 2.12). © Leen Ritmeyer

Although he was a Dominican priest, archaeology made him critical of some of the so-called “Holy Places”. For instance, he did not believe the 14 Stations of the Cross to be authentic. And despite the fact that he believed that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre preserved the correct traditional location of the tomb in which Jesus was buried, his description of a visit to the present-day church in his popular book The Holy Land, an Archaeological Guide from the Earliest Times to 1700,  Oxford University Press (Second Edition, 1986, p.43), contained the following memorable words:

“One expects the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation, but anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for numinous light, but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacaphony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants – Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians – watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights. The frailty of man is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human condition. The empty that come to be filled will leave desolate.”

During the reign of Constantine the Great, in the fourth century A.D., Jerusalem became an important Christian city. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site of the Temple of Aphrodite and the Basilica of Holy Zion at the south of the Western Hill. Two and a half centuries later, Justinian built the massive Nea Church and extended the Roman Cardo further south, while the Temple Mount was left in ruins. © Leen Ritmeyer

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, prepared for GLO digital Bible

Jerry often led tours for the expat community living in Jerusalem, one of which, Kathleen who shares Jerry’s citizenship, became my wife. We both knew him well. He asked me to make illustrations for The Times Atlas of the Bible (Harper in the USA), of which he was the NT editor. I visited him many times in his room in the serene École Biblique (where the basilica was sometimes referred to by English speaking wags who attended church service there, as “the Cold and Bleak”) while researching the Temple Mount. In the Preface of my book The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, I wrote:

“The valuable comments and suggestions by Jerome Murphy O’Connor, O.P., Professor of the New Testament at École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem, during the later stages of my research into the architectural development of the Temple Mount, were most helpful.”

In Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Jerusalem has lost a great scholar and passionate lover of the Holy City.

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The Story of the Ritmeyer Image Library

Having recently updated our Image Library with about 40 new illustrations, we have received enquiries as to how this online resource came into being. As its creation was a process that took many years, you may be interested to read its story. We were privileged to live in Israel for a long time, so most of the images come from the Land. However, in recent years, we have managed somewhat to break the exclusive hold that Israel has on us and branch out into the surrounding Bible Lands.

What is unique about these images is the fact that most of them are reconstruction drawings. Most picture libraries are just that – pictures of sites. But when you are faced with the challenge of giving a talk on a Bible subject, you don’t just want to show a picture of ruins. You want to give your listeners an insight into the past by building up the stones into a structure where you can imagine Biblical events taking place. The same goes for picture editors looking for illustrations to help readers visualise how sites looked in antiquity.

We may take the idea of reconstruction drawings for granted today, but going back to the heady days after the 6-Day War, when there was an explosion of archaeological excavations, particularly in Jerusalem, there were very few around. Many archaeologists adopted a cautious, purist approach and found it a bit “risky” to take decisions as to a building’s original appearance. My foray into making reconstruction drawings stemmed from the experience of giving tours on the Temple Mount dig, whilst working on the site as surveyor. I used to try explaining features like Robinson’s Arch, the arched staircase that led up to the Temple Mount from the Western Wall street in the time of Christ, with my hands and feet. From questions I got asked afterwards, I realised that not everybody had “got it”!

Robinson’s Arch is the southernmost entrance in the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The arch is named after its discoverer, Edward Robinson. The arch supported a monumental stairway that led up from the main street in the Tyropoeon Valley and entered the Royal Stoa through a gateway.

Thus, my first reconstruction drawing of Robinson’s Arch and a career as an archaeological architect was born. It was all based on study drawings of the known elements, comparative architecture and research into the historical sources. Seeing peoples faces change from incomprehension to clear understanding sold me on the vital need for such drawings. I was blessed that the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar, who directed the dig, agreed and could not have been more encouraging.

As there were few others at the time making reconstructions (now it is a recognised field), I was asked to visit many sites to help visualise the original structures. Talk about “going over the cities of Israel!” These digs ranged from Ai, Beersheba and Dan to Shechem, Shiloh and Timnath of the Philistines.

I learnt much from the older school of archaeologists, such as the afore-mentioned Professor Mazar, who kept a copy of the Taanach, or Hebrew Bible on his desk, consulting it daily and calling it “our history book!” And Mendel Nun, a resident of Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Sea of Galilee (who died recently at the age of 92) did so much research into methods of fishing on the lake in ancient times, that I was able to make a drawing of the harbour of Capernaum in the time of Christ.

The harbour of Capernaum at the time of Christ. Several of its piers can still be seen today when the water level is low.

However, it was Jerusalem that was always the centre of my endeavours and I was also involved in the other two major digs that took place in the city, namely the Jewish Quarter Excavations and the Excavations in the City of David. Included in the Image Library is a picture from the former dig, directed by Prof. Nachman Avigad, of a building originally identified as part of an Israelite tower. However, as the dig expanded, it became clear that it could not have been a tower as one side was missing! One day, after returning from working on the summer season at the site of Timnath of the Philistines, I realised, from my experience of digging a gate of this period in Timnath, that we were looking at a similar structure here in the Jewish Quarter. From its location in the upper city, it became clear that it should, in fact, be identified as the Middle Gate of Jeremiah 39.3. Arrowheads found close to the site revealed the destruction of the city in the time of Zedekiah. Our hands got black with soot – tragic evidence of the fall of Jerusalem.

The Middle Gate (Jeremiah 39.3) where the Babylonian princes came together to celebrate their conquest of Jerusalem.

We left Israel during the First Intifada, as heightened security made it virtually impossible to work on many of the sites I was involved in in the West Bank. Having moved to the UK to do my Masters in Conservation Studies at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies of the University of York (another walled city), one of the projects I was asked to do was to design models of the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple and Temple Mount for a Jewish philanthropist in Washington D.C. Photographs of these models, beautifully crafted by York Model Making, are included in the Image Library.

My Ph.D thesis entitled: “The Architectural Development of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem” (University of Manchester) necessitated the creation of many drawings to illustrate different aspects of this subject. And subsequently, during the years we lived in Australia, whilst teaching Hebrew and History at Heritage College Adelaide, I made models of Jerusalem in the different periods with some of my students. The process developed the students’ understanding of the city’s history immeasurably and resulted in models, some of which were unique in the history of model making, especially of the periods of Melchizedek and Nehemiah.

Jerusalem in the time of Melchizedek was located on the lower spur of the Eastern Hill of Jerusalem in the area later known as the City of David.

Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah was located on the eastern Hill, to the west of the Kedron Valley.

One aspect of our recent work with the ESV Study Bible required me to think about what the tomb of Jesus would have looked like, which brought about this brand new drawing.

The newly-hewn tomb where Jesus was buried belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It had a rolling stone, confirming that he was a rich man.

And part of the project I did for the GLO Immersion Digital Bible involved making maps of all of Christ’s journeys. I have included in the Image Library this map of his last journey in Jerusalem. The traditional Via Dolorosa or Path of Sorrows was fixed by monks in Western Europe in the eighteenth century and a devotional procession along this route is still led by Franciscans every Friday. In fact, the streets upon which Jesus walked lie about 10 feet below the level of these thoroughfares. By contrast, this drawing called “The Way to Golgotha” is firmly based on Scriptural and archaeological evidence. This drawing is also available as a Bible Chart, which is one of our Photographic Posters that are individually designed and printed on A3 (297 × 420mm or 11.7 x 15.5 inch) size, high-quality, thick photo paper (paper weight 100 lb. or 270 g/m2).

Five stages in Christ’s last journey are shown on a reconstruction drawing of Jerusalem in 30 A.D.

A project that has added new drawings to the collection was the commissioning of artwork for Tyndale House Publishers Chronological Life Application Study Bible. These included reconstruction drawings of Jerusalem in the periods of David, Solomon, Hezekiah and the first century. See this recent post.

The Image Library also includes many photographs from a recent study tour of the Seven Churches of Revelation located in modern-day Turkey. Who knows, these may some day also be turned into reconstruction drawings! Tips for using the Image Library will hopefully be the subject of a future blog.

 

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Herod’s Tomb at Herodium

Haaretz newspaper carried an article today by Nir Hasson, reporting on the seventh annual conference, “Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area”.

During that conference, two archaeologists, Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas challenged Ehud Netzer’s identification of Herod’s Tomb that was found at Herodium near Bethlehem.

Herod’s tomb  was discovered by Ehud Netzer in 2007, next to a large stairway that gave access to the Upper Palace.
 On the other side, the remains of a theater was found.

They argued that the tomb was too small for the larger than life personality of Herod the Great and that the monument was not in keeping with the size of other Herodian constructions. They also found the sarcophagus, which was made of beautiful red limestone, to be of inferior quality for the king and had expected either a marble or golden one. They also said that the plaza near the tomb was too small to accommodate the many people that accompanied the sarcophagus of Herod the Great.

Patrich emphasizes that he was a student of Ehud Netzer, but that he couldn’t agree with him on the identification of the tomb.

The rebuttal delivered by Roi Porat, who succeeded Netzer as the head of the Herodium excavations, was more positive and convincing. Porat pointed out that there was a very large plaza at the foot of the artificial man-made hill that could easily accommodate the funeral procession. He also noted that the tomb stood on natural ground:

“This whole big mass has one place that was not covered in earth, and that is the site of the tomb,” Porat says. He claims that Herod conceived of the entire tel as an enormous and unique burial mound, symbolizing the idea that life at its top would go on even after the king was buried.”

Porat doesn’t rule out the possibility of finding other tombs, but this one appears from an architectural perspective more than qualify to be the tomb in which Herod the Great was buried.

Porat rightly observed:

“We believe we have a decent picture of what is going on there and it is convincing. We have sufficient data. He [Patrich] deals with what is not, and we with what is”.

That would fit in with my personal experience. Patrich may be proud to have been one of Netzer’s students, but having worked with him on several projects in the past, I must say that I am not too impressed with Patrich’s knowledge of ancient architecture.

Patrich may have expected Herod’s tomb to have been a much larger and more impressive monument, but this exquisitively designed tomb was built for Herod himself and a few close family members only. Patrich and Arubas must have forgotten that a very large funerary monument for Herod’s wider family had already been identified by Ehud Netzer north of Jerusalem:

To the north of the Old City of Jerusalem, the remains of a circular building have been discovered and identified with the Monument of King Herod the Great, which served as his family tomb.
Herod was buried in his private tomb in Herodium, both other members of his family were probably buried in this structure. This mausoleum is mentioned twice by Josephus, in War 5.108 and 5.507.

Haaretz may have called the observations of Patrich and Arubas an “archaeological stunner”, but I am not convinced by them. See also Todd Bolen’s blog.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Posted in Excavations, News | 2 Comments

Underground Battle for the Temple Mount

In today’s Makor Rishon (Hebrew) newspaper, Arnon Segal published an article, called Otiot porchot be-avir (letters blossom in the air). Based on the diary of the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz, he retells the story of the underground excavations and the struggle that took place inside Warren’s Gate in 1981. Warren’s Gate is the northern-most of the four original Herodian gateways that gave access to the Temple Mount through the Western Wall.

This well-known reconstruction drawing of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period is based on historical information and the results of the Temple Mount excavations, which were led by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar from 1968-’78.
Herod the Great enlarged the existing Temple Mount to double its size and built a new Temple. In the Western Wall (left) there were four gates. Warren’s Gate is the northern-most gate in the Western Wall (on the left). The Southern Wall (right) had two gates. Above this wall stood the Royal Stoa. The Antonia Fortress at the northwest corner (far left) guarded the Temple Mount from the north.

In April 1866, Captain Charles Wilson inspected this underground passageway which for several centuries had been used as a water reservoir. Three years later, Charles Warren examined the cistern (Cistern 30, see below) and noted that its western end pierced the Western Wall. It measures 25.6×5.50m and its floor is 10.50m below the level of the Temple Mount. This cistern was originally a Herodian underground passage, leading up from Warren’s Gate to the Temple Mount, possibly having an internal L-shaped stairway like at Barclay’s Gate. A relatively modern stairway descends from the west into the cistern. Wilson later named this gate after Warren.

This plan shows the cisterns (blue) and underground passageways (grey) of the Temple Mount. The numbering system was developed by Charles Warren, who, in the 1860’s, explored many of these underground structures. Some of these underground passageways were part of Herodian gates that gave access to the Temple Mount, i.e. Cistern 30 is the underground passageway of Warren’s Gate (see arrow), Cisterns 19 and 20 are part of the underground passageway of Barclay’s Gate, Cistern 1 is the underground passageway of the ancient Tadi Gate.
Some of the water cisterns, such as Cisterns 7 and 8 were enormous underground water reservoirs, capable of holding some 2 million gallons of water. Most of these cisterns were initially underground quarries from which building stones for the buildings of the Temple Mount were taken. After the quarrying activities were stopped, these caverns were plastered and became water reservoirs.

This underground tunnel was accidentally rediscovered in 1981 during excavations that took place along the Western Wall north of Wilson’s Arch. During the construction of an underground synagogue, workers broke through the wall that had blocked up the gate opening.

Workers of the Ministry of Religion emptying the underground tunnel.
Photograph: Makor Rishon

Rabbi Getz believed that this gate was used in the past by priests going up to the Temple. He also believed that this passage led to the lost Temple treasures and to the Ark of the Covenant. After working in secret for about a month, Arabs found out from a media report that the Israelis were excavating below the Temple Mount. They descended into the cistern through two manholes from above and closed off the gate with a very thick concrete wall.

The dream of Getz to reach the Temple Treasures, especially the Ark of the Covenant, was dashed. According to his diary, he sat down with ashes on his forehead, praying:    ”O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy Temple.” (Psa. 79:1).

Despite the fact that this excavation was illegal, it nevertheless would have been exciting to find out more about how exactly this underground passage originally worked.

HT: Yisrael Medad

Posted in Ark of the Covenant, Excavations, Jerusalem, Temple Mount | 19 Comments