Remains from the First Temple period found near the Temple Mount

First of all, I would like to apologize for not having blogged for a while. The reason is that our family has moved from Australia back to the UK. Some people move house, but our lot seems to be moving continents, which is very time consuming.

A few days ago it was announced that remains from the First Temple period were found in a dig close to the Western Wall, see for example here. It is always exciting and encouraging to read about new archaeological finds, especially when they are so close to the Temple Mount. A very interesting seal was found as well, bearing the name of Netanyahu ben Yaush. There has been a plethora of finds made recently, which prove that Israel did exist as a nation in the Land and especially in Jerusalem, during the Biblical periods.

The reporting, however, was not quite accurate. In this place these finds were reported as “FIRST-EVER”, namely, that this was the first time ever that remains from the Iron Age finds have been found so close to the Temple Mount. That, of course, is not the case. The southern part of the Western Wall has actually been built on a cemetery from the First Temple period. Some of these tombs were cut through when the drain below the Herodian street was constructed, see:

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This drain was first discovered and recorded by Charles Warren in the 1860’s. In one particular place, just north of Robinson’s Arch, the foundations of the Western Wall were built inside a destroyed Iron Age tomb. One can’t get closer than that. Other Iron Age tombs were found in the Temple Mount excavations by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar at a distance of some 25 meters from the Western Wall. Similarly, the Southern Wall was built over First Temple remains, in one particular place over an Iron Age cistern just below the Triple Gate.

As I said before, it is very exciting to read about these finds, but one could wish that the reporters would do their homework a little better. A blooper like this headline should never have been published.

First Temple remains found on the Temple Mount

While digging a trench for electric cabling on the Temple Mount, see plan, a layer of apparently undisturbed material from the First Temple period was discovered. Fragments of bowl rims, bases and body sherds, the base of a juglet used for the ladling of oil, the handle of a small juglet and the rim of a storage jar, fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones, dating from the Iron Age II ( the eighth to the seventh centuries BC) were found. This was first reported by the Israel Antiquities Authority and later in several places, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces and other media.

This is exciting news, of course, as it indicates that the Temple Mount was occupied during the 8-6th century B.C. The place where it was found, near the south-east corner of the raised platform, is also highly significant. Archaeologists, such as Yuval Baruch, Sy Gittin and Ronnie Reich said that these finds may aid scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.

For the location of the find, see the blue dot on this plan:

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According to my analysis, this area was located inside the pre-Herodian square Temple Mount, see this plan:

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The square Temple Mount is in yellow. Orange indicates the Hasmonean extension and Herod’s addition is in green.

In 1992 I published an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, Locating the Original Temple Mount, showing the location and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the Iron Age II period. It is well-known that Herod the Great doubled the size of the then-existing Temple Mount. According to Mishnah Middot, that Temple Mount was a square of 500 cubits. In my book The Quest, pp. 189-194, I have written that there are many reasons to suggest that this square mount was first built by King Hezekiah. Stones of the outer walls of this square mount can be seen at the north-west corner of the raised platform (the Step) and in the eastern Temple Mount wall near the Golden Gate. These architectural remains, of course, delineate the square Temple Mount and the new finds are a good indicator of the possible date of the construction of the square Temple Mount by King Hezekiah.

Herodian drain found in Jerusalem

It has been reported in the media (see for example BBC news and the Jerusalem Post) that excavators Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukrun have excavated a large section of the drain that was located just below the Herodian street. This drain was constructed, so that the rain water that fell on the street and the liquid sewage of adjacent buildings could be disposed off. Here is a picture of the drain (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti):

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Parts of this drain have been investigated by Charles Warren (1867-1870) and other sections have been excavated by Bliss and Dickie (1894-1897), Johns (1934), Kathleen Kenyon (1961-1967) and Benjamin Mazar (1968-1978). The section found by Mazar below Robinson’s Arch was vaulted and believed to have been a relay of the original drain which had been cut by the south-west corner of Herod’s temple Mount, see this picture from The Quest, p.56:

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Warren also investigated a much earlier drain, lower down in the Tyropoeon Valley, so that we know of two different drainage systems. Together with the relay mentioned above, there are three different phases in this drainage system, which indicate three different building phases in the construction of the Temple Mount, see The Quest, pp. 233-235.

The present excavators have not yet provided a map of the excavated drain, but only said that is was between the Temple Mount and the Siloam Pool. In the 1890’s, Bliss and Dickie discovered a large section of the Herodian street near and to the north of the Siloam Pool. This section alone shows that the main street, which, we believe began at the Damascus Gate and followed the Tyropoeon Valley and exited at the South Gate – see map below. On this map we have plotted the street section that was found by Bliss and Dickie in grey with the drain in red:

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As the excavators have been digging in the vicinity of the Siloam Pool, the newly found drain is likely to be located just north of the pool. This find received a lot of media coverage because of the remarks made by the excavators that this drain may have been used by people who tried to escape the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Understanding the destruction of the Temple Mount – cont.

The destruction goes on unabated.

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This picture shows the trench in front of the eastern stairway which leads up to the Muslim platform. According to my calculations, this stairway is built directly over the Herodian stairway which led up to the Nicanor Gate – see plan below:

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Soon the trench will cut through the Chamber of the House of Oil, where the olive oil used in the Temple services was stored. Hopefully somebody will stop this destruction or at least record and photograph the ancient remains.

Understanding the destruction of the Temple Mount

It has been reported that, during the present destruction on the Temple Mount, a 7 m. long wall has been found. There rightly was an outcry by archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike about these illegal diggings on the Temple Mount. Their protests, however, expressed the illegality of the excavations and their fear of the destruction of ancient remains, but they could not tell exactly what is being destroyed. It has been suggested that the wall may have been part of the wall that separated the Temple Court from the Court of the Women. According to my plan below, however, this is not possible, as that wall was located inside the eastern edge of the present-day Muslim platform. Only a full-scale excavation, of course, would make the identification of this wall possible.

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces kindly wrote on his blog that he is interested to know what I have to say about it. It may be of interest to others also.

In order to be able to interpret what has been dug up, one needs to understand where the Herodian Temple complex was located. Since 1973, I have worked on the problems of the Temple Mount, first as field-architect of the excavations led by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar, and later as an independent scholar. The result of my research has been published, sometimes together with my archaeologist wife Kathleen, in several places, but recently and more completely in my book The Quest. The most useful plan for understanding the Temple Mount (published on p. 355) is the one you see below:

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This plan shows the present configuration of the Temple Mount with the raised Muslim platform in grey. The Herodian Temple and its courts are printed in red, while the yellow area indicates the location of the 500-cubit square pre-Herodian Temple Mount, which dates back to the Iron Age. This is the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah, and it was most likely King Hezekiah who ordered its construction (see The Quest, pp. 189-193).

On an enlarged detail of this plan, I have drawn the location of the trench that is being dug at present in blue, see below:

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According to this position, it is clear to me that the long wall encountered is the eastern wall of the Chamber of the Lepers (see plan on p. 345 of The Quest) and perhaps also part of the northern gate of the Court of the Women. The latter chamber was one of the four courtyards that belonged to the Court of the Women, with the other three being the Chamber of the Woodshed, the Chamber of the Nazarites and the Chamber of the House of Oil. As this area has never been built over since the Roman destruction of 70 AD, the wall cannot belong to a post-Herodian construction. It is therefore very exciting that the first concrete evidence of the Herodian Temple complex may have been found and ironically by people who deny that there ever was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.

Digging the Temple Mount – how not to do it!

It was reported today that the Islamic Wakf is digging large trenches on the Temple Mount. This is, of course, a very sensitive area, as the bedrock or any remains of the Herodian pavement would be located about 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Zachi Zweig, a Jerusalem archaeologist, protested that the Israel Antiquities Authorities allowed this to go ahead without archaeological supervision, which indeed is outrageous. Zachi observed that “Grey earth was removed from the dig, which indicates that it is archaeologically significant. In addition, signs of ancient architecture was exposed beneath the current platform slabs. It should be mentioned that the bedrock level at this location is very close to the current platform.” For pictures of the ditch that was dug, see here.

What ancient architecture might have been exposed? Only using plans and sections can we know what to expect. On the plan below, we see that the ditch cut through the area of the Temple Court, the inner porticoes, the Rinsing Chamber and the Hel (Terrace).

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The section below shows similar information, but in particular how close the ditch is to any remains of the Herodian pavement that would be extant and those of the Rinsing Chamber.

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These drawings demonstrate how important it is to have archaeological supervision wherever one digs, and to know the layout of the Herodian Temple Mount, as how otherwise can what is found be identified?

Temple Awareness

This report from Arutz Sheva News is about an exciting 4-day marathon seminar, focussing on the Temple Mount. If I was in Jerusalem I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!

Temple Awareness: A Summer of Seminars and Tours
by Hillel Fendel

The Holy Temple is “in” with tours, hikes and seminars in and around Jerusalem in the coming days and weeks.

As Jews around the world commemorate the Three Weeks of Mourning for the Holy Temples beginning last Tuesday and ending on Tisha B’Av (July 24), Jews in Israel embark on a marathon of Temple-related studies and activities. A partial list:

Monday, July 16 – Sessions at the Kohen-Levi Conference at HaKotel Hall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. 11 AM – 7 PM, payment of 50 shekels at the door.

Tuesday, July 17 – “A Day of the Temple” Seminar with The Temple Institute: Southern Wall excavations, Davidson Center presentation, Temple stairway and gates, special effects and period actors, Temple vessels exhibition, in-depth lecture, presentation, and special events, 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM, 100 shekels. via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

Wednesday, July 18 – “In the Footsteps of the Kohanim and Leviyim” – in and around Old Jerusalem, Herodian Quarter, 2nd Temple priestly mansions, The Menorah, Cardo, Jewish Quarter, Closest gates of the Temple Mount, Kotel HaKatan (Small Wall), Bus to Mt. of Olives, spectacular Temple Mount view, Shimon HaTzaddik tomb, and View of Nov, the city of Kohanim. 10 AM – 4 PM, 60 shekels via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

Thursday, July 19 – “In the Footsteps of the Kohanim and Leviyim”, bus tour to Shilo, site of the Tabernacle, Eli HaKohen, and Shmuel HaNavi. Then to Modiin area, Beit Choron, where the Maccabees defeated the Greeks. Vista from Baal Chatzor, Rosh Chodesh torches, protected bus. 10 AM – 5 PM, 150 shekels. via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

July 9-12 – Temple Institute in Jerusalem – four days of tours and lectures. Topics include: The commandment to build the Holy Temple today (Rabbi Yisrael Ariel); Daily Sacrifice, Temple Vessels and Priestly Garments; Renewal of Temple Service Today; Tour in the Davidson Center at the Southern Wall; the Red Heifer (Rabbi Chaim Richman); Festivals in the Temple; Pilgrims in Jerusalem; and more. tel: 02-6264545, 200 shekels each day, 700 shekels for entire program.

July 16-23 – “Between Destruction and Construction” Tours in and around Jerusalem, sponsored by the Jewish Community of the City of David – 45 shekels each, seven tours for the price of six:

Tour 1 – From the Assyrian Siege to the Babylonian Destruction: City of David, Chizikiyahu’s Tunnel, and other eastern Jerusalem sites
Tour 2 – Jerusalem During the Second Temple Period: Nechemiah’s Wall, the graves of the Dynasty of David, the Shiloach Pool, and new discoveries
Tour 3 – Following the Pilgrims of the Middle Ages – The gravesites of Huldah, Avshalom, Zechariah, and Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura, and the Rehavam Observation Point
Tour 4 – Famous figures buried on the Mt. of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount
Tour 5 – Sifting through Temple Mount remains with an archaeologist
Tour 6 – The Jewish Quarter in 1948 – The Zion Gate, Street of the Jews, the Hurva Synagogue, Batei Machseh, and more
Tour 7 – The Battles to Liberate Jerusalem in 1967 – Lions Gate, the Western Wall, the Kidron Bridge, and more

Herod’s Grave

I am so pleased for Ehud Netzer, the excavator of Herodium, who has been looking for Herod’s grave all his life and finally found it! You can see some pictures of Prof. Ehud Netzer and the site at http://www.usahm.de/Herodes/page_01.htm. The pictures belong to Ulrich Sahm and they can only be used with his permission.
The interesting decoration, in the shape of a rosette, which Ehud has in his hands was part of the 2.5 m. long sarcophagus (stone coffin) of King Herod the Great. A few other sarcophagi decorated with rosettes have been found in Jerusalem. The sarcophagus of Herod the Great was badly damaged, but this partially preserved rosette is virtually identical to decorations that were found in the Temple Mount excavations. Rosettes like these were used in the entablature of the Temple itself, as can be seen in the Temple illustrations in The Quest, pp.377 and 399. It is obvious that Herod wanted to be remembered as the Temple builder.

Digging the Temple Mount – Inside the Dome of the Rock

Launching this series of postings on what you would find if you could excavate the Temple Mount, we begin by imagining what we would see if the Dome of the Rock were suddenly to disappear.

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The dome of the Rock

If you examine the drawing in my recent post “Digging the Temple Mount –An Introduction”, you see that the uppermost contours of Mount Moriah would become visible. Not only would the Rock or Sakhra (which the Moslems call the Sacred Rock on which, according to them, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac) stand out as the peak of this mountain of destiny, but the surrounding rock levels, now covered over by the floor of the seventh century mosque and its dome-bearing pillars would be exposed.
Digging is, of course, out of the question, but in the past certain circumstances have provided a revealing glimpse into what lies beneath the now sumptuously carpeted floor. One such circumstance was in 1873 when repair work took place (observed by the French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau), which showed that the bedrock was located about 1 m. (3 feet 3 inches) below the present floor-level. This would mean that the rock would stand to a height of 2.75 m. (9 feet) above the surrounding bedrock (“bedrock” is an archaeological term for the rocky mountain itself).
Another opportunity arose in 1959, when Bellarmino Bagatti, an Italian Franciscan scholar, made observations during the extensive repair work that was carried out inside the Dome of the Rock. At that time, the areas near the dome-bearing pillars and other places were excavated down to bedrock. This was done so that concrete could be poured around the pillars to strengthen them.

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The bedrock is visible at the bottom of this picture

Bagatti took some illegal photographs which provide valuable evidence and wrote up his findings in a booklet called Recherches sur le site du Temple de Jerusalem (Research on the site of the Temple of Jerusalem). He observed that the bedrock adjacent the Rock inside the Dome of the Rock was rather flat and only started to dip near the outer walls.

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The Rock (Sakhra) stood high above its surroundings

 

When Herod the Great built the new Temple, he first took away the old Temple and cleared the area down to the rock. He then built a podium 6 cubits (3.15 m, 10 feet) high around the Rock, so that only the bare top projected 3 fingers high above the pavement of the Temple. This podium was lined with massive foundation stones, while the inside was filled with large stones.

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Laying the foundation for Herod’s Temple

These massive stones would have been placed on level bedrock and this flat bedrock would have been ideal for this construction. Outside these walls, the bedrock would have sloped down and that is exactly what Bagatti observed.

Further and extensive details on how Herod’s Temple and its predecessor, Solomon’s Temple, were built around the Sacred Rock may be found in my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple in Jerusalem.”

Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction

A couple of weeks ago, one of our RAD clients asked me “what would you find, if you could excavate the Temple Mount?” I have been often asked this question and usually answered jokingly “World War Three”.

Although this question is of course hypothetical, it is an interesting exercise to imagine what would have been left of the Herodian and earlier constructions after the Roman destruction in 70 AD. By studying the preserved height of the outer walls of the Temple Mount and the state of preservation of the underground structures, it is possible to make an educated guess as to what might be found if ever the possibility of excavating the Temple Mount would present itself.

A valuable source of information is the record of Charles Warren, who in the 1860’s investigated all the cisterns on the Temple Mount and took accurate readings of the top of the bedrock. This enabled him to create a topographical map of the rock contours. Here is his plan:

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After studying this plan, I made a schematic drawing showing the outer walls of the three stages of the Temple Mount and also the layout of the rocky mountain, Mount Moriah, on which the Temple Mount was built, including the position of the water cisterns. Here is the drawing:

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The earliest square Temple Mount was created, as explained in my book The Quest, in the days of King Hezekiah. I have been able to identify part of the western wall of this square, which is visible today as the lowest ‘step’ at the northwest corner of the raised platform, see these two photos:

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The second phase was the Hasmonean extension, of which a part of the eastern wall can still be seen near the southeast corner of the Temple Mount:

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The third phase is the Herodian extension, the walls of which can be seen all around the Temple Mount. In future posts I hope to show in much greater detail what might be found if the Temple Mount could be excavated. Keep checking this blog!