2,000-year old chisel found near the Temple Mount

In today’s Ha’aretz newspaper, Nir Hasson reports on the finding of a chisel that dates back to the building of Herod’s Temple Mount. It was found at the base of the Western Wall, some 6 meters below the Herodian street. It certainly looks like a chisel that masons used to carve stones with. The flattened head was caused, not from “being repeatedly banged on rock”, but by the hammer that was used by the masons.

Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Shukron who excavates the Herodian drain beneath Robinson’s Arch, said:

It is true that the rocks comprising the Western Wall had been transported there from far away. But the final work on the giant stones, and the job of fitting them with incredible precision, were done on site.

One wouldn’t use chisels, however, to fit the stones together. That was done by cranes and levers. The stones of the Temple Mount walls were completely finished in the quarry and then transported to the building site.

After quarrying, the rough stone blocks were dressed on site, taking care to leave small projections of two sides of the stone. Using a crane, ropes were looped around the projections and the stone lifted up on one side. Wooden rollers were placed below the stone, so that it could be transported. Teams of oxen were used to pull the stones. © Leen Ritmeyer

To lift the stones, the masons left small projections on the side of the stones, and those were cut off once the stones were in place. The short chisel that was found, would have been eminently suitable for that job.

A projection, used to lift the stones. They were chiselled off once the stone was in place. This knob on one of the stones of the Eastern Wall, however, survived. Perhaps it was forgotten or the scaffolding had been prematurely taken down.

Although coins from the beginning of the first century were found, that does not necessarily indicate that the Western Wall was finished after Herod’s death. If that would have been the case, then the Royal Stoa must have been built later too. None of Herod’s sons would have had the means or the vision to complete the building of the southern part of the Temple Mount. These coins were probably dropped  later by workmen doing maintenance or repair works to the Herodian drain.

HT: Joe Lauer

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