Understanding the destruction of the Temple Mount

It has been reported that, during the present destruction on the Temple Mount, a 7 m. long wall has been found. There rightly was an outcry by archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike about these illegal diggings on the Temple Mount. Their protests, however, expressed the illegality of the excavations and their fear of the destruction of ancient remains, but they could not tell exactly what is being destroyed. It has been suggested that the wall may have been part of the wall that separated the Temple Court from the Court of the Women. According to my plan below, however, this is not possible, as that wall was located inside the eastern edge of the present-day Muslim platform. Only a full-scale excavation, of course, would make the identification of this wall possible.

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces kindly wrote on his blog that he is interested to know what I have to say about it. It may be of interest to others also.

In order to be able to interpret what has been dug up, one needs to understand where the Herodian Temple complex was located. Since 1973, I have worked on the problems of the Temple Mount, first as field-architect of the excavations led by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar, and later as an independent scholar. The result of my research has been published, sometimes together with my archaeologist wife Kathleen, in several places, but recently and more completely in my book The Quest. The most useful plan for understanding the Temple Mount (published on p. 355) is the one you see below:


This plan shows the present configuration of the Temple Mount with the raised Muslim platform in grey. The Herodian Temple and its courts are printed in red, while the yellow area indicates the location of the 500-cubit square pre-Herodian Temple Mount, which dates back to the Iron Age. This is the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah, and it was most likely King Hezekiah who ordered its construction (see The Quest, pp. 189-193).

On an enlarged detail of this plan, I have drawn the location of the trench that is being dug at present in blue, see below:


According to this position, it is clear to me that the long wall encountered is the eastern wall of the Chamber of the Lepers (see plan on p. 345 of The Quest) and perhaps also part of the northern gate of the Court of the Women. The latter chamber was one of the four courtyards that belonged to the Court of the Women, with the other three being the Chamber of the Woodshed, the Chamber of the Nazarites and the Chamber of the House of Oil. As this area has never been built over since the Roman destruction of 70 AD, the wall cannot belong to a post-Herodian construction. It is therefore very exciting that the first concrete evidence of the Herodian Temple complex may have been found and ironically by people who deny that there ever was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.

18 thoughts on “Understanding the destruction of the Temple Mount”

  1. What do you know of the location of this wall described by Hershal Shanks? Where did it exist?

    As early as 1970, the Waqf excavated a pit without supervision that exposed a 16-foot-long, six-foot-thick wall that scholars believe may well be the eastern wall of the Herodian Temple complex. An inspector from the antiquities department saw it and composed a handwritten report (still unpublished) before the wall was dismantled, destroyed and covered up.


  3. It is unfortunate that the current administration in Israel is no more interested in preserving the Biblical era History of Jerusalem than are the muslims. Why they would not seize every opportunity to bolster their claim on the entire area is beyond me.

  4. It really is amazing, the fact that there may indeed be further physical on-site proof uncovered at last regarding the actual history of the temple mount.

    I don’t know if you recall, but I’ve been to two of the symposiums you taught in Woodland Ca. It has been a while since I’d heard you speak, but finding this link today, your name seemed very familiar.

  5. Hebrew University professor Joseph Patrich, using 1866 maps by Sir Charles Wilson, believes the Temple was sitting more diagonally on the modern Temple Mount further eastward, oriented in a southeasterly direction leaving the rock in the dome of the rock outside the confines of the Temple itself.

    What are you thought on this?

  6. The actions of Olmert and his cronies are not surprising at all. This government is willing to sacrifice Jewish lives to further their political careers by releasing terrorists and giving terrorists guns which they know will be used to murder Jews. That they should agree to the destruction of the Holy Temple in order to find favour with those who hate Israel is quite consistant with their immoral policies.

  7. on comment number 8, Ignatius should check back to Feb entries concerning this.

  8. In comment #7, Daniel writes: “I say, “Let them dig!” The deeper they go, the more truth they will uncover.”

    Let WHO dig? The same people who are trying to destroy evidence of the truth that you wish to see uncovered!? Sheesh.

  9. To #13 Phil. Let the Waqf dig, that’s who. They can’t hide everything they find. Just look at what we know about what they are doing with this latest trench. And, by the way, this is the first glimpse we have had in our lifetimes of anything under the pavement stones on the Mount. Sure, the rubble isn’t being catalogued, and I know that upsets the archaeologists, but that’s a small price to pay to have some excavations going on anywhere on the Mount. Letting the Waqf dig is the only way we are going to see what lies beneath the pavement stones. We all know the remains of the Temples are under there somewhere. Let the Waqf uncover the evidence for the world to see, and it will!

  10. How did the infamous rock get there in the first place? Was it already in the temple? Thanks for a reply

  11. The Rock didn’t ‘get there’, as the Rock was there first. The Rock is actually the top of Mount Moriah, not just a separate piece of rock. The building of the Dome of the Rock was constructed in such as way as to leave the top of the mountain exposed inside the building.

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