New Discoveries on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

I was alerted by Zachi Dvira of  The Temple Mount Sifting Project to new excavation activities on the Temple Mount:

Recently, the ground level near the new generator room north of the raised platform was lowered by one foot. This work exposed an unknown course of stones from an earlier phase of this wall. This course could be dated to the Early Umayyad period or even the Herodian Period. L. Ritmeyer suggested that the foundation of this course was the original northern wall of the Temple Mount, and there is evidence for this thesis in various spots along this line.

Zachi sent me a photograph showing a line of large stones below the northern wall of the raised platform.

The newly discovered stones are below the platform wall at the back of the picture. New paving is being laid against it. Photo: Zachi Dvira

Needing more information, I asked a friend of Nathaniel, one of my sons, to send me additional photographs showing what is happening on the Temple Mount at present. The location in question is to the east of the eastern stairway that leads up to the raised platform from the north:

Looking northeast, the site in question is behind and below the wall where the arrow points

In the following picture, we see the area below the blue container that was lowered by about 1m. (3 feet):

The area in lower foreground has been lowered, exposing a line of ancient ashlars at the foot of the platform wall on the left.

The following photograph shows the single course of beautifully carved ashlars (large stones):

It is difficult to say when this monumental masonry was built, but it is located along the line of the northern wall of the raised platform, which we had previously (The Quest, pp. 165-186) identified as the northern boundary of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount. To the west of this same line is the northwest corner of the 500-cubit square Temple Mount of the First Temple period and we had suggested that this was built by King Hezekiah:

Northwest corner of square Temple Mount, looking southeast. Photo: Nathaniel Ritmeyer

To the east of the newly discovered masonry there are equally large stones to be seen at the northeast corner of the raised platform.

Northeast corner of raised platform showing large ashlars. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Putting these three points together, we see that all three masonry remains lie on the northern boundary of the ancient square Temple Mount:

Plan of the Herodian Temple Mount with indications of ancient masonry. © Leen Ritmeyer

The masonry at the northwest corner of the square Temple Mount is characterised by rough bosses, while the other two sections have smooth masonry. It is possible that these two sections were built at a later time, above earlier masonry.

Reviewing the discovery of this new wall, we can see that it lies on the northern boundary of the ancient Temple Mount. It is unlikely that this wall was built in the Umayyad period as no other masonry of this calibre can be seen anywhere in the outer walls of the raised platform. No major building projects were carried out on the Temple Mount in the Byzantine period. That leaves us with either the Roman (Aelia Capitolina) or the Herodian period. Although we cannot prove it, the latter would be an exciting possibility! In any case, the fact that monumental masonry is built on the northern boundary of the ancient Temple Mount appears to confirm the location of the square Temple Mount of the First Temple period.

All this goes to show that many more archaeological remains may still be hidden below the surface of the Temple platform and how much more we could learn if excavations were made possible! This would be extremely valuable, as only excavation would make it possible to identify the period of these wall remains.


30 thoughts on “New Discoveries on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”

  1. I hope to see the day when controlled excavations on the Temple Mount will be possible – and under way.

  2. amazing. keep us posted on developements. What is the ministries of antquities say about this?

  3. all the proof of our biblical and historical claims lie in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. For jews and scholars to have been prevented to uncover this inheritance after thousands of years by successive Israeli governments for fear of antagonizing arab sensibilities (oxy moron) and helping perpetuate the lie that we have no claim to Jerusalem, is our fault alone, no matter how much pressure might have been brought to bear on the Israeli government s what other group would prevent their heritage from being proven. It is a disgrace and should not continue. Are we or are we not a free people in our land or are we not? The Arabs would not allow this to happen to them, and neither should we. Is it treasonous to let this happen?

  4. Steve,
    I fully understand what you are saying, but I restrict myself to archaeological observations. I believe that all work done on the Temple Mount that involves digging should be done by competent archaeologists only.

  5. Eu tenho lido Isaías 19 e acho este cap. bíblico fascinante! eu creio na restauração da nação como povo de Deus conforme tá escrito na palavra!

  6. Leen this is great to see. I loved your lectures in Leeds and am thrilled to see the continuing lessons learned from the ground in Israel.

  7. As an Israeli, Im afraid that anbody who thinks that the Goverment will ever intervene in the wholesale ruin of the Temple Mount is living in a dream world. They are too cowardly to impose Israels sovereignty over the Mount, allowing the Muslims to rend and tear as they please. The will talk about talking about it but be sure they are all yellow spined bureacrats under the skin. All the hard work of Honorable Scholars such as Prof Leen Ritmeyer, will have to be recorded as fast as they are uncovered by bulldozers and then recovered with modern materials.

    To illustrate, at last years High Holy Days, a person blowing the traditional Rams horn was arrested because it was too noisy for the Muslim on the top. The Temple Mount is a lost cause sadly. Save the hard work that Leen Ritmeyer and peers have recorded its seems that that Temple Mount will forever be just another symbol of Muslim Hegemony on that site.

    The Orthodox Rabbis are complicit in this in the extreme telling Jews they should not go up to the mount in the current state of ritual impurity. So 90 percent of the Jews do not go up, the other 10 percent go up and are forbidden to pray. And the 5 percent that do utter prayers courageously are arrested. There is a phrase in the Talmud that basically says, “It is time to work for God, for they have made void your Torah”

    Just as Elijah was permitted against the law to build an Altar on Mount Carmel in order to save the people from Baal worship, so the Rabbis too should be urging Jews to flock by the Thousands as much as possible, ritual purity laws be damned and let them either arrest them all or close down the Mount altogether which would be an excellent solution.

    The Israeli Antiquities Dept are complicit in this and should be brought to justice for allowing these bulldozers committing something akin to the grave robbing of the Valley of the Kings.

    Sorry to sound so negative but its been going on ever since that one eyed putz Moshe Dayan not only stopped the Muslims from leaving, as they were intelligent enough to know that Israel was master of the land now, but gave them back the keys and forbade Jews to go up there. He tore down the Israeli flag and and the small prayer tabernacle the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren had set up there.

    Say goodbye to what you see. And join me in weeping. I can only visit Dr Ritmeyers pages and hope to see word of a miracle in this offense to archaeological history and science posted here one day.

    Have a good year one and all.

  8. Dear Avi, I am not a Jew. I am a Christian… But please hear me saying this without any arrogance or pretence to know “how it feels”. I visited Jerusalem 3 times… IT’S SOO BEAUTIFUL…. I Also had the privilege to go up to the Temple. I prayed there, and ofcourse this did not go down Well with the authorities, but I did not care. I believe That the Islamic forces on the Holy Temple Mount are keeping it hostage and it is my duty to put my foot on it and declare in agreement with God His reign. May I suggest That God has not given this Holy site to any human? That He has kept the whole city and specially the Holy Temple Mount for Himself where His presence will be manifest once again to every human eye, like when it all started, …an a earthly home for Himself? And That ultimatelly Every nation will be bless through this?… Abraham aknowledged as God’s Holy Hill, King David bought it to make this official, King Solomon made this possible, even the gentiles Romans rebuilt it …. I may Have no right to say this, but I am going to say it any way… It has been nearly 6000 years of history and 4000 years of Jewish history… And no Jew ever doubted That this Holy site isn’t God’s own personal absolute choice to manifest His presence, because He simply likes to. So who are we to doubt? Plenty of people over the millennia Have defended this simple truth, and plenty more will come. God Has promised to come back to live there. Till then I (we) fight to keep this reality alive…. How? By going there, God said to Joshua: where ever you put your foot on, I will consider it yours. God’s promised then and He is not a lier That should not keep That promise today. So my prayer is this: That every Jew will go up the Holy Mount and simply claim That patch of land back for God. Silence for God speak louder than any violent act of people. Just putting a foot on the mount is enough to See the miracle happen, according to what God promised Joshua. I do weep but may my motive be different? Imagine if you had a child…. And after Having been raped you find the way to excuse the rapist? I don’t think any parent would do That! And neither would God do That to His children. He will come to the rescue and He will judge His children enemies. I weep because some of His children have stopped hoping That this will happen, even in their life time… May the light of

  9. Is there any example of raised bosses in masonry that is unambiguously dated to the First Temple period? The Broad Wall doesn’t show this, nor does the Israelite tower. I believe the Middle Gate shows this but the part with bosses is dated to the Hasmonean period. Doesn’t it seem more likely that the square Temple Mount indicated by the ashlars with raised bosses at the NW corner of the Muslim platform is Hasmonean?

    I’m also wondering if there is any example of the technique of using retaining walls and fill that can unambiguously be dated to the First Temple period. This, too, seems to be a later technique and more likely Hasmonean than earlier.

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