Ophel excavations not yet open for visitors

In a previous post we reported on the inauguration of a complex dating from the First and Second Temple periods on the Ophel.

Jerusalem in the time of Solomon. © Leen Ritmeyer

Barnea Levi Selavah, co-director of the Foundation Stone organisation, reports that the site is not yet open to visitors. He also purchased a book called “Discovering the Solomonic Wall in Jerusalem” by Eilat Mazar. Here are some of his thoughts:

I attended the opening, and purchased the book “Discovering the Solomonic Wall in Jerusalem” by Eilat Mazar.

I am 3/4 of the way through.

It is a fast read, just understanding locations of walls and consequences is a bit of a challenge.

At several points she suggests insights to understandings of verses which have not made it into the news (besides Solomon-Kings and Nehemiah Water Gate).

The book unfolds the stages of discovery, and conclusions. Only this will empower you to discuss it intelligently.

You may want to add reading the reports from the 1986 excavations and related books, and Warren’s sketches and writings.

Do not rely on the news reports or press releases by themselves.

I submit it is must reading. Full of pictures.

Now –

1. The 3500 year old writing- not 3000 as reported in some media- is now in display in the Davidson Center.

It is the room to the right of the bathrooms which has other majestic finds and a second theater.

It has a slide show with enlarged pictures of the piece, an explanatory sign, and the piece itself.

Al Jazeera filmed Curator?IAA archivist Chana Katz as did others, there should be stuff on the web.

2. The area excavated has a wonderful system of stairways and explanatory signs installed.

3. In the park the access requires walking through the area where they are refurbishing the buildings and the ritual baths.

This is not yet finished.

According to the EJDC rep with whom I spoke last week, they hope to finish it by the end of August, no guarantees.

So there is no access now.

Once there is access, this area is done and ready.

4. For the event a gate was opened in a fence from the street; it is not opened now.

5. From the street you can see a lot, and they made a huge wall poster in color easily visible from the street.

6. Continue around the corner leading to the eastern wall, and you are looking at some of the most important walls.

7. If you read the book which is laden with pictures you will be able to give a highly effective tour of the area.

8. See Warren’s sketches from 1867-1870.

9. The question was raised that only one side at a certain point looks like a gate. Eilat deals with this on p. 85-89 or so in her book.

Her grandfather and Leen Ritmeyer came to that conclusion in their 1986 dig. Nachman Avigad disagreed. She raises the different points.

10. Another issue is dating the pottery which was found under the street, thereby dating the structures. She quotes Ami Mazar as reading the pottery to be 10th century; in her talks she allows for those who say it may be 9th.

On our LandMinds program last year Israel Finkelstein said they were 8th century. While since then he has offered revisions of his dating in general based on Megiddo, and other studies (ASOR 2010 and at Ami Mazar’ s retirement conference) I do not know about here.

See the discussion in the book about the black juglet and other pottery.

At any rate, there is no question it is First Temple period construction.

11. Note also the important point that the petrography shows the 3500 year old piece was manufactured locally, which shows some kind of educated society was functioning here at that time. The suggestions of who wrote and what it is saying is under discussion. Remember, this was found in the fill, and does not date the building. It wa only found thanks to wet sifting.

12. I was struck by the extent to which later periods used these structures to support their own.

13. I am wondering perhaps that is the case on Shonei Halachot Street, which is at least 700-900 years old based on some buildings, being built on First Temple period walls between the Israelite Tower and the Temple Mount.

This would be similar to Shekh Rechani Street being built on the water system running from Damascus Gate area to the Temple Mount, which Conrad Schick mapped in 1871, and that Gabai Barkai says is First Temple period; a te’alah, maybe the one mentioned twice in Tanach from the upper pools (1 of 4 current opinions), but not Hasmonean.

Maybe, maybe the buildings Shlomi Wexler Bdolach excavated under the steps down at the Kotel is in this line.

That’s me thinking out loud.

Eilat Mazar hopes more funds will be raised so she can connect this area with areas under and past the road, including under the UNRWA building, which Charles Warren identified, and other structures which she surmises must still be there, since structures were found on either side, and by matching this building to other layouts.

If you know someone who would undertake that, be in touch with her, or with me!



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