Dating the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The announcement of the new theory on when the Western Wall was built (see here and here) was not as dramatic as expected. The discovery of coins, the latest of which were struck by the Roman procurator Valeruis Gratus in 17-18 AD, in a mikveh that went out of use when the Western Wall was built over it, suggests that the building of the Temple Mount walls took decades. This is the full report released by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A picture of the two coins that were found in the mikveh. The coins date from the time of the Roman procurator Valeruis Gratus (17-18 AD). Photo: Vladimir Neichin/IAA
This picture shows that the Western Wall was built over the remains of a mikveh. Photo by Vladimir Neichin/IAA
Photo of the excavation of the mikveh by Vladimir Neichin/IAA

This late date is not surprising, as at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, usually dated to 30 AD, it was said that this Temple complex had been in building already for 46 years (John 2.20).

At the northern end of the Western Wall is a piece of bedrock that wasn’t even removed before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

A huge block of bedrock that was never quarried is visible at the end of the Western Tunnel. The Western wall is visible on the right and on the left is the street that was paved around the protruding piece of rock. Photo: © Leen Ritmeyer

This doesn’t mean to say that the Western wall is not Herodian. The whole building concept was designed by Herod the Great and completed after his death.

8 thoughts on “Dating the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”

  1. Thank you for the announce about the symposium “Jesus and the Temple”. Sadly, living in Málaga (Spain), I couldn’t attend the lectures. Do you know if it is expected to gather the whole lectures in a book to be published in the future?. If it is possible I would like to buy it.
    Also, thank you for your comments to the new archaeological discover below the Western Temple Wall. Having studied it in the surface , modestly (I am not a scholar) I think that the scene of Jesus walking over the slabs of the Herodian paved street adjacent to the Temple Wall and buying something in the shops along this street still remains as a plausible possibility, Dind’t you?.

    The best things for the new year (for you and your really interesting blog).

  2. Juan,
    Yes, the proceedings of the symposium will be published in book form.
    Jesus and his disciples could have bought things in the shops along the Western Wall, but the street was paved a little later on.

  3. Well, the finding of the coins in the mikveh proves that the western extension of the temple mount had not even been STARTED in 17 AD! If this was part of the Herodian works, this had to be a rather early stage of the construction, and it really has to be asked what delayed the start on this side until at least 13 years after the king’s death (and possibly even later). The work had begun in 20 BCE, after all.

    As for the cornerstone, it has been found at the bottom of the southwest corner of the temple mount, but there’s no evidence it came down from directly above in 70 AD. Quite to the contrary, since the stone was dated to 4 BCE (as at least one internet source claims, with reference to the late Prof Mazar, who you knew very well), it can’t have been at the top of a wall that didn’t even exist at that time! Looks to me as if dating the temple mount walls and stones is a real mess, and that the evidence that the current platform is in its size and location is the same as in Herod’s plan is very inconclusive. Is there definite evidence that it were not actually the Romans who much later enhanced the platform for their own temple (and to obscure evidence of the second temple, which only inspired Jewish revolts)? I don’t know anywhere as much as you do about the topic, but , excuse me pls for my amateurish audacity, based upon what I’ve read about the temple mount and the ongoing controversy about it, I wouldn’t rule that out.

  4. Oh, sorry, I forgot one point: That “stone of the trumpeting pace” certainly seems to be part of the Herodian temple, but it may have been “recycled”, as fill material or otherwise, during later construction at the temple mount. We only have to look at the walls of the temple mount to see that stones from all periods have been frequently put to new use in later times.

  5. Actually the coins prove nothing at all, as the mikveh only project a few centimeters under the wall. The coins came probably from a later repair. The Trumpeting stone was found lying on the Herodian pavemant and is part of the destruction of the Temple Mount in 70 CE.

  6. Dr. Ritmeyer,
    I am doing a paper on the western wall tunnel and was hoping you might suggest an article with more information on the tunnel and what finds have been made there. Thank you for your time Scott. Student at Liberty University

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