Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction

A couple of weeks ago, one of our RAD clients asked me “what would you find, if you could excavate the Temple Mount?” I have been often asked this question and usually answered jokingly “World War Three”.

Although this question is of course hypothetical, it is an interesting exercise to imagine what would have been left of the Herodian and earlier constructions after the Roman destruction in 70 AD. By studying the preserved height of the outer walls of the Temple Mount and the state of preservation of the underground structures, it is possible to make an educated guess as to what might be found if ever the possibility of excavating the Temple Mount would present itself.

A valuable source of information is the record of Charles Warren, who in the 1860’s investigated all the cisterns on the Temple Mount and took accurate readings of the top of the bedrock. This enabled him to create a topographical map of the rock contours. Here is his plan:


After studying this plan, I made a schematic drawing showing the outer walls of the three stages of the Temple Mount and also the layout of the rocky mountain, Mount Moriah, on which the Temple Mount was built, including the position of the water cisterns. Here is the drawing:


The earliest square Temple Mount was created, as explained in my book The Quest, in the days of King Hezekiah. I have been able to identify part of the western wall of this square, which is visible today as the lowest ‘step’ at the northwest corner of the raised platform, see these two photos:

step1.jpg step2.jpg

The second phase was the Hasmonean extension, of which a part of the eastern wall can still be seen near the southeast corner of the Temple Mount:


The third phase is the Herodian extension, the walls of which can be seen all around the Temple Mount. In future posts I hope to show in much greater detail what might be found if the Temple Mount could be excavated. Keep checking this blog!

10 thoughts on “Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction”

  1. >I have been able to identify part of the western wall of this square, which is visible today as the lowest ’step’ at the northwest corner of the raised platform.

    Hasn’t this step now been paved over, or am I thinking of another spot?

  2. No, the top of the step has not been paved over. Only the side of the step has been obscured by new pavement.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the new drawing of the temple mount. A novice like me can really benefit from this sort of graphic.
    I would be interested if the newly discovered palace of King David could be drawn in an expanded version of this contours drawing?
    Thank you,
    Bruce Harpel

  4. Am having trouble relating narratives about the gates of the Second Temple and the gates in the Herodian retaining wall to the photos. Can you send a link to a diagram specifying the names/locations of each gate in the retaining wall as well as the various gates of the Second Temple? That would be a big help!

  5. Dear Dr Ritmeyer.
    I was wondering wether or not you have published or posted any further commentary to EL Martins rebuttal of your original arguments on his site,


    I know about you since I first read the article BARr about the rock outcropping and the site of the Arks station in the triangle and have read other of your writings as regards Jerusalem in Nehemias time and the Wanderings of the Ark.

    Your architectural knowledge and learning have made for some very interesting reading. But I must say that I feel that you did kind of dismiss the idea offhand because of its radicalness and I do feel that Dr Martin addressed your points succintly in his rebuttal.

    I do hope you might follow up that rebuttal with more input. I do understand that Dr Martin has since passed on, but since you have made such a long and tireless effort to account for the Temple Mounts dimensions that you might be inclined some day to post a follow up.

    I sincerely thank you for your time and reading my post to you.

    Be Well


  6. Dear Gentlemen:

    I suggest to read in this Research of the Temples mount: ” Le Temple de Jerusalem ”, written by the French Archaeologist André Parrot ( 1901 – 1980 ); in English ” The Temple of Jerusalem ”. This is one of the most serious study on the Two Temples I have ever read. You will find a depiction of the Second Temple in the Coin that Simon Ben Kokeba ( 132 AC ) made in the rebelion against the Romans. Very truly yours, Orlando.

  7. Parrot’s book was first published in French in 1954 and then in English in 1957. It is a good introduction to the story of the Temples of Jerusalem. The results of the Temple Mount Excavations, directed by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar from 1968-78, however, have added much to our knowledge of the temple Mount. My own subsequent research on the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount was published in 2006: The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, see:

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