Jerusalem’s Garbage

How garbage disposes of the idea that the Temple once stood over the Gihon Spring.

Landfill in the City of David

No, Jerusalem is not garbage, but the ancient 2000-year old garbage dump discovered in 2013-2014 on the eastern slope of the City of David refutes recent suggestions about a different location of the Temple in Jerusalem.

I am often asked what I think about the idea that the Temple stood in the City of David and not on the Temple Mount. This was first suggested by Ernest Martin and then followed by Bob Cornuke, Marilyn Sams and others, and this idea has found credence in some circles, mainly in the United States.

The idea that the Temple didn’t stand on the Temple Mount, but in the city of David, is based on the misreading of two Bible passages. The first is that Jesus said that not one stone shall be left upon another (Matt. 24:2; Luke 21:6) and the other comes from Ps. 87:7 that says, “all my springs are in you”.

I have refuted this here, here and here, but some still believe it.

What is the importance of this garbage dump then? Ariel David wrote in an article for Haaretz that:

Israeli archaeologists have stumbled upon the mother of all garbage dumps: a massive landfill from early Roman times that may have been the result of the most sophisticated trash collection system in antiquity.

Layer upon layer of waste that was efficiently collected, piled up and buried some 2,000 years ago has been dug up on the slopes of the Kidron valley, just outside the Roman-era walls of Jerusalem.

The landfill, which was excavated in 2013-2014 in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, rose to a towering 70 meters in height, from the bottom of the valley to the walls of the city. It was quite unusual in its size says, Yuval Gadot a Tel Aviv University archaeologist who led the dig.

Yigal Shiloh also encountered this fill that covered area G and went all the way down to the Kedron Valley bed, although he thought that is was a defensive rampart originating in the Hellenistic period.

The tilted, packed layers of the Stratum 7 glacis that covered area G. Yigal Shiloh, the City of David, Qedem 19, Plate 36:2.
The tilted, packed layers of the Stratum 7 glacis that covered area G. Yigal Shiloh, the City of David, Qedem 19, Plate 36:2.

This landfill has been found along the western slope of the Kedron Valley and can still be seen today.

This schematic map shows in dark brown the areas where the garbage has been excavated and the light brown color where the garbage landfill can still be seen today. Plan © Leen Ritmeyer
This schematic map shows in dark brown the areas where the garbage has been excavated and the light brown color where the garbage landfill can still be seen today. Plan © Leen Ritmeyer

The interesting conclusion one can draw from this garbage is that if the Temple indeed stood on the western slope of the Kedron Valley above the Gihon Spring, then either it must have been built on this unstable landfill, which is unlikely, or, as all large Jerusalem buildings are founded on the rock, especially such a large complex as the Temple Mount and its buildings, there shouldn’t be any landfill there. If the Temple indeed stood above the spring there should be a large hole in this landfill, but there isn’t.

It is interesting to read historical sources including the Bible, but if the interpretation of the text conflicts with archaeological evidence, positive or negative, the theory itself becomes garbage.

Featured image

Archaeologists standing in the dig of Jerusalem’s Roman era landfill. Credit: Assaf Peretz / Israel Antiquity Authority

15 thoughts on “Jerusalem’s Garbage”

  1. Why bother of such theories? In fact a theory must bring the evidence needed for one to take it serious.

  2. Michael, I am not bothered, but many other people are. I just wanted to clarify things a little and encourage so-called researchers to bring actual archaeological evidence to prove their theory, as you said.

  3. Dr. Ritmeyer,
    I think you gave great evidence of the Temple standing on the Temple Mount and where the Dome of the Rock rest now. This evidence is given in your fantastic book; “The Quest.”
    That evidence along with the garbage dump in the Kidron, is very impressive. I have used your research from The Quest multiple times to state the obvious, the Temple stood on the great platform where the Dome of the Rock is today. Thank you for giving so many years to study and examine these facts. Your work will stand out as paramount to future generations.

  4. please some more comparison pictures of the garbage and its surrounding, past and present, links to printed articles on the garbage what it contains, it sounds inteseting.

    and the site got a nice updated feel and look, thanks!

  5. Great article Dr Ritmeyer. Martin/Cornuke/Sams carelessly neglect to mention that their City of David temple theory contradicts the Bible! which states that the Ark was brought OUT of the city of David at the time Solomon’s temple was finished and states that Solomon built the temple on Mount Moriah NOT the city of David/Zion.

  6. There had never been a space wide enough for any temple at the top of the City of David ! There are enough evidence to prove the Temple was on the Temple mount. Your work should be better known.
    Jacquy Mengal

  7. Actually the Temple area which stood just below the current day Temple Mount was turned into a garbage dump. The current day Temple Mount was the Roman Fortress . Where do you think 7,000 Romans lived? They didn’t live among the Jews. In 70 ad when it was destroyed, Jerusalem as they knew it was unrecognizable. This was stated by first century historians and the Talmud. The Romans then turned it into their dump, final insult to the Jews. The Bible specifically says Solomon was baptized at Gihon spring and it was at Gihon the temple stood. The Bible says along the Kidron Valley as well. The Romans destroyed the temple and threw their garbage over the walls, exactly where it was found

  8. I was a little taken aback by your article and lack of historicity. The history of Emperor Julian’s attempt at building the third temple in 363 AD, means that the Roman/Christian garbage dump is exactly where Herod’s temple was. When the Emperor Julian the Apostate announced the reprieve of jewish banishment from Jerusalem, and his patronage for the building of the Temple, jewish builders flocked from all over the Empire. Jewish women worldwide broke their gold and silver jewelry and sent them to adorn the temple. The workmen scraped off the collapsed remains of the temple and started to dig. They dug foundations pits like they had done for the Colosseum. Unfortunately, the Great Galilean earthquake caused surrounding building to collapse in and kill some of the workman. Then the Emperor died in the Persian Campaign a month later. Emperor Jovian re-banished all Jews and the Romans/Christians used the foundation pits as a garbage dump.
    so congratulations the Temple has been found.

  9. Actually, Yuval Gadot says in this article that the garbage was Roman.

    Also, the Romans destroyed this part of the city and scavenged it for stones for Aelia Capitolina, which is why Temple stones ended up all over town.
    Most importantly, because the Julian workman cleared the Temple site to start their construction, and that both the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa which were built on previous Byzantine/Roman structures that predated the Emperor Julian, means that neither were Temple sites.

    Speaking of garbage, when Herod encased the peak (Rock) with that huge wall and filled in the inside to level it off to make the Temple Mount, he used fill containing all sorts of archaeological goodies. The sifting project has found lots of great stuff.

  10. Interesting Theories, there is just one thing i would like to add that the Temple Mount is being trodden down by the Gentiles and that was only allowed in the outer court of the Original Temple, maybe we are looking for an area that hasn’t been built upon, the dump site maybe that site and would need to be cleared and cleansed with the Sacrificial killing of the Red Heifer for the Rebuilding of the Third Temple? GOD BLESS X
    Revelation 11:2
    1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there. 2But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Do not measure it, because it has been given over to the nations,

  11. Mr. Ritmeyer,
    Your wealth of knowledge has brought the 1st century Jerusalem alive for many. Thanks for your defense of historical and archeological data supporting the Temple site. Please give me your thoughts on what I see in the Bible below.
    Blessings,
    David Keeney

    In the Bible, 1 Kings 3:1 and 1 Kings 9:15 tell us that Solomon built a wall around Jerusalem. The City of David already had a wall (the Jebusites). The wall Solomon built has been excavated (Ophel) and may have been connected to the older Jebusite wall of the City of David, but the clearer sense is that Solomon enclosed the newest part of the city, including the Temple he built.

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