First Temple period wall found in Jerusalem – revisited

One of my blog readers, Arthur Chrysler, made the following comments on a previous post, which I would like to share with other blog readers:

The Large Tower, explored by Warren and one hundred years later by Dame Kenyon, is constructed of stones of the character identified as Phoenician at Samaria. The header-and-stretcher construction is also identified as Phoenician at Samaria. Kenyon stated, “The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is, on the field estimate of the pottery, eighth century B.C. OR EARLIER (Digging up Jerusalem p.115). She also states in the caption under pl. 38, “Wall in Site S II on eastern crest of eastern ridge, which can be STRATIGRAPHICALLY dated to 8th century B.C….”. This area of Jerusalem is not a Tel! You cannot stratigraphically date anything here. This unique topography, consisting of a steep slope with exposed bedrock demands unique methodology. Kenyon states that, “Close at hand, there was a wall of the time of Solomon, from which the builders of the eighth century B.C. derived their stones”. King Hezekiah had a unique style of construction as seen in the Broad Wall, the Outer Wall, and his section of wall cutting across the Jebusite angle above the Gihon Spring. None of these examples give a hint of header-and-stretcher characteristics. Why would Hezekiah go through the trouble of re-stacking Solomon’s massive stones to move the tower only a few meters? Kenyon used the dating method that she was familiar with but it led her to the wrong conclusion regarding the tower here. The tower is certainly Solomonic and the connected wall and the Golden Gate, all of which display Identical characteristics.

If it is true that nothing can be dated stratigraphically in this part of Jerusalem, how can you then insist on a Solomonic date for the wall in Kenyon’s site SII and Benjamin Mazar’s Field 23? Kathleen Kenyon excavated down to the bedrock in this area and indeed concluded that:

“Beneath … the Byzantine wall … is a wall which probably belonged to a projecting tower. The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is … eighth century B.C. or earlier.” “… these walls were constructed of re-used stones … with irregular projecting bosses having margins on one, two or three sides.”

If these stones are indeed in secondary use, which I am not convinced of, it is possible that these are rejects or surplus masonry from Hezekiah’s square Temple Mount construction.

If you would examine the elevation, section and Isometric drawing of the Ophel Wall on Warren’s Plans, Elevations, Sections, etc., (1884), Plate 40, then it is clear that this L-shaped wall is built against an earlier wall and one can still see today that two different First Temple period building phases are represented in this area. That is why Warren called this wall section the “Extra Tower” or “Corner Turret”, i.e. it is a tower that was later added to strengthen an earlier fortification or part of the city wall. If the L-shaped wall, as you insist, is Solomonic, does that make the wall against which it is built Canaanite? If there are two construction phases in a building, that is called stratigraphy, showing that one wall is earlier than another. This stratigraphy is not different from that on a tell. This picture shows that the stratigraphically four building constructions can be identified:

1. The Byzantine Tower
2. Excavating inside and below the Byz. tower, a Herodian mikveh was found that was built against the inside wall of the “Extra Tower” (not visible in the picture)
3. The 8th century L-shaped “Extra Tower”
4. The pre-8th century wall against which the “Extra Tower” was built, which may be Solomonic if that can be proved conclusively.

Kenyon dated this L-shaped corner construction to the eighth century B.C. or earlier, but that does not necessarily mean that it is Solomonic. You compared it with the Phoenician masonry in Samaria, but that dates to the 9th century and is not Solomonic. A similar style masonry has been found in the sanctuary walls in Tel Dan, which is also post-Solomonic. I had suggested that there is an historical link between the “Extra Tower” and the masonry near the Golden Gate, but neither of these two constructions can be Solomonic.

15 thoughts on “First Temple period wall found in Jerusalem – revisited”

  1. Thank you for your reply to my query. I now understand that even in Jerusalem a site can be dated by the use of stratigraphical evidence. Kenyon had good evidence but her interpretation of it is hard for me to understand. According to the Bible, there were two phases of construction by Phoenician masons in Jerusalem. The first phase was under the leadership of King David (II Samuel 5:11 and I Chronicles 14:1). The second phase was under the leadership of King Solomon (I Kings 5:17,18). When confronted with Phoenician masonry, in Jerusalem, it can be assigned to either Hiram’s masons under David or Hiram’s masons under Solomon. The tower and attached wall are constructed of typically Phoenician masonry. If the tower is original, and if it is of a later date than the wall, then it seems likley that the tower was constructed by Phoenician masons in phase II. The wall, being constructed earlier by Phoenician masons would have been constructed in phase I. It should be noted here that the four-chambered gate associated with this wall resembles the gates of Khirbet Qeiyafa which date to David’s time. David built an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (II Samuel 24:18) so we know that there was construction activity to the north of the City of David in David’s time. This was to be the future site of the house of the Lord and David prepared for its construction the rest of his life (I Chronicles 22:14). David did not build the temple but he may have constructed a wall up to the threshingfloor in preparation for the Temple.
    I didn’t mean to open a “can of worms” here, it just seemed to open itself! Thanks again for your help in the better understanding of this complicated area of Jerusalem.

  2. It is generally understood that David only built in the City of David and that Solomon extended the city walls to encompass the newly built Temple. Archaeology has proved that Hezekiah was also a great builder in Jerusalem and to ignore him would be doing an injustice to this King.

  3. I believe that it is possible that David built north of the City of David. In light of recent finds at the Givati parking lot excavations, “…this phase was dated earlier than eighth century B.C., based on the abundance of ceramic finds”. II Samuel 5:9 says, “So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the City of David. And David BUILT ROUND ABOUT from Millo inward”. It also says in Chronicles 11:8, “And he built the city ROUNDABOUT: and Joab repaired the rest of the city”. King David reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years (a long time to sit inside a 10 acre site, behind a wall).
    I Have the greatest respect for King Hezekiah for he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. II Chronicles 32:5 says,”Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance”. The Biblical description of building up “all the wall that was broken” does not match the description of the wall and tower constructed on bedrock with typical Phoenician masonry. The mention of “another wall without” matches perfectly the description of the outer wall found recently, east of Hezekiah’s mid-slope wall. This outer wall is a perfect example of Hezekiah’s construction style and there is no hint of header-and-stretcher influence. I don’t mean to “keep beating a dead horse” but somehow I feel like we’re missing something here.

  4. I hope that my question doesn’t seem silly, but I’d like to confirm that the Sha’ar Harachamim (“Gate of Mercy”; known in Christian literature as the Golden Gate) is the same as the Shushan Gate that existed during the Second Temple period. Also – and perhaps more difficult to answer – was there an “East Gate” in the Temple Mount during the First Temple period; and are these three gates (the Golden Gate, Shushan Gate and East Gate) one and the same?

    I realize, of course, that the structure that presently comprises the Golden Gate is post-Temple Period (I believe that it’s Byzantine); my query simply pertains to the location of the three gates in question.

  5. Ryan,
    Inside the present Golden Gate, which dates from the Early Muslim period, are two giant monolithic gateposts that belonged to a gate in the Eastern Wall that was originally built by King Hezekiah. The gate was reused in the Second Temple period, referred to as the Shushan Gate and was still in use until the Roman destruction. For more details see my book The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, pp. 107-113.

  6. Leen,

    Thank you so much for your prompt and clear answer. That answers my question perfectly. I’m definitely going to purchase your book:

    One thing that confuses me a bit: I was under the impression that the East Gate (First Temple period) and Shushan Gate (Second Temple) had to be due east of the door leading into the Holy Temple. I was also under the impression that the Foundation Stone that presently resides inside the Dome of the Rock comprised the Temple’s Holy of Holies; and, therefore, one would expect the present-day Golden Gate to lie precisely due east of the Dome of the Rock. However, it does not: The Golden Gate is approximately east of the Dome but is also several hundred yards further north in the Temple Mount wall. How is this possible? Is one (or more) of my assumptions above incorrect?

    I hope my question makes sense…

  7. Thank you, Leen… I very much look forward to reading your next blog post!

    In the meantime, how can I get a copy of your book, “The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”? I found it on Amazon for $73.00, but hoping that you can offer me a more economical option… 🙂


  8. With shipping, looks like Amazon is bit less expensive… Out of all of the books that you’ve written, is this the one that you would recommend to someone who is interested in learning about the minute details of the Temple Mount?

  9. Do we have any idea why the eastern gate of the Temple Mount is placed where it is? Since this gate is actually a city gate and not just a Temple gate, we can assume it had to be placed in strategically advantageous place. But there does not seem to be any geological feature that makes its placement well north of the Temple itself advantageous.

    Another question is regarding the “bridge” used to direct the red heifer across to its slaughtering place (literally its “press”, presumable an olive press on that mountain like that preserved in the name “Gethsamane” or “gat shemen”). The language of the mishnah is that they “would make” a bridge for this purpose, suggesting that this was a temporary bridge made for this purpose and then removed. It is hard to image a temporary bridge (wood?) of such length and sturdiness. Yet there are no traces of a permanent bridge across the valley, which would have had to be a massive structure. Moreover, a bridge from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount would have eroded the city’s defense. Is there any archaeological evidence pointing either way?

  10. I do see that this gate is directly situated at the far north end of what you believe is Hezekiah’s Temple Mount.. Perhaps, then, the explanation is that this is the point of highest elevation on the then existing Temple Mount, which slopes downward as it descends to the south.

  11. D., you got it! There was no bridge. The Hebrew word in the Mishnah Parah mentions a ‘kevesh’, which is a ramp or causeway built over arches. I have explained all this in my book” The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”, Carta, Jerusalem 2006.

  12. Hi, Leen… Just a note to let you know that I purchased your book, “The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”, shortly after our exchange above. It’s extraordinary. Not only is this unquestionably the very best (and most thorough) book on the topic of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, it’s also just an excellent book in general. The many, many full-color photos and illustrations are greatly appreciated. Bravo on your work! This book will benefit many future generations.

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