Mysterious carvings found in City of David excavations

In today’s Haaretz it is reported that mysterious 2,800 year old V-shaped carvings were found in the City of David.

Mysterious stone carvings made thousands of years ago and recently uncovered in an excavation underneath Jerusalem have archaeologists stumped.

Israeli diggers who uncovered a complex of rooms carved into the bedrock in the oldest section of the city recently found the markings: Three "V'' shapes cut next to each other into the limestone floor of one of the rooms, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep and 50 centimeters long. Photo: AP

The archaeologists in charge of the dig know so little that they have been unable even to posit a theory about their nature, said Eli Shukron, one of the two directors of the dig.

“The markings are very strange, and very intriguing. I’ve never seen anything like them,” Shukron said.

It is possible, the dig’s archaeologists say, that when the markings were made at least 2,800 years ago the shapes might have accommodated some kind of wooden structure that stood inside them, or they might have served some other purpose on their own. They might have had a ritual function or one that was entirely mundane. Archaeologists faced by a curious artifact can usually at least venture a guess about its nature, but in this case no one, including outside experts consulted by Shukron and the dig’s co-director, archaeologists with decades of experience between them, has any idea.

11 thoughts on “Mysterious carvings found in City of David excavations”

  1. Obviously, it was the area of the temple where marriages were performed. You can see where the people stood and where certain furniture was placed for the ritual. I would check to see how much room there was for an audience behind where the couple would stand. I don’t think those symbols were letters, they were just a ceremonial place to stand.

  2. This area has long been associated with the fullers and yet, untill now, no archaeological evidence has been found to confirm that they existed. II Kings 18:17 informs us that the king of Assyria sent representatives to Hezekiah, “… And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field.” This places the fullers in the vicinity where the mysterious carvings were found. Isaiah 7:3 and 36:2 also place the fullers there. Parker found the first “V” on the bedrock floor and wondered at its purpose. It is possible that the fullers somehow incorporated the grooves in their whitening process. The grooves could have helped them control the soap as they washed the clothes on the limestone floor. The edges of the carvings are worn smooth and would not harm the garments. The archaeologists place the time of the carvings, relative to pottery found in the fill there, to the 8th century BCE or earlier. The time fits, the place fits, the carvings were functional, not artistic. What we have here is another beautiful example of the truthfulness of God’s word. “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap”.

  3. An interesting suggestion, however, it can’t work. Fullers usually practised their work outside the city walls (because of the smell). The Assyrian generals came from the north to the expanded city of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah. They stood north of the Temple Mount, far from the City of David where the V-shaped marks were found. See my comments in The Quest, p. 41 (box).

  4. Leen,

    I am suggesting a possible ritualistic and/or celestial observatory purpose preceding the building of Jebus [long before 8th century BCE]. Clearly the mountain spring [Gihon] was a daily destination from extreme antiquity, since it was the principal water source for travelers along the high ridges of this north/south mountain range … for both animals and people … long BEFORE the first building of any kind was erected by Canaanites at Jebus. All the ideas and photos are interesting, but I am requesting more precise information … and some context … such as:

    [1] What is the mark’s orientation relative to the cardinal directions?
    [2] What is their orientation relative to the solstices and equinoxes?
    [3] How accessible is the eastern and western horizons from this site in antiquity, before walls might have been constructed?
    [4] Does the Mount of Olives southern ridge completely obscure the eastern horizon?
    [5] Is this site DOWN so low that celestial/solar observation would be impossible?
    [6] Exactly how far away were/is the spring’s opening or nearest pools [in antiquity]?
    [7] What specific direction is accessible water from the marks themselves?
    [8] Shards and walls can be dated, but, could the marks pre-date the walls presumably erected circa 8th century BCE?
    [9] Assuming the “V”s existence before any buildings were erected at Jebus, is it not possible they were originally cut for use out in the open air?

    Surely the marks in the bedrock could be older than the dated 8th century BCE shards and walls surrounding them. The “Vs” original purpose could easily pre-date the earliest buildings of Canaanite Jebus. If they had an early pagan ritual purpose, perhaps they fell into disuse by the 8th century BCE and the building they were discovered in may simply have been erected around them for unrelated purposes … then, later filled in with debris for assembling defense walls above … and because the old marks are carved deep in the bedrock, they were simply ignored and included. If however their purpose was ongoing, then perhaps they were intentionally protected within this building. Surrounding them with walls and presumably a roof would [of course] rule out any practical use as a celestial observatory. If they were part of a ‘water’ related ritual site, then a protected building is not a problem. I simply need to know more! Can someone supply this data?

  5. Daniel,
    Wouldn’t we all like to have more information. I can tell you that the Mount of Offence and the Mount of Olives totally obscure the eastern horizon. I am not sure if the marks have a ritualistic nature. To me they look more like moulds for pouring in liquid or solid matter, or for placing objects in. We may never find out the true nature of these mysterious carvings.

  6. Priestley Blessing: they do look like some of the cantillation marks. Using the cipher as a possible key:

    If the image is rotated as below, it looks something like the priestly blessing shown above with the cantillation symbols.
    As the article says, it looks like some of the square holes may have held something, like possibly a post. That may also include the | . If that was the case, the arrangement below, may fit the blessing.

    v v

    For images to this message, please email me.
    Patty Tyler

  7. Possibly symbolic of the sacred feminine. Asherah was worshiped in Israel for many years along with Yahwey.

  8. who could ever know? My first thought was that they were for casting metal. If that’s the correct expression.

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