Herod’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 3D

Jeremy Park of bible-scenes.com asked me a while ago if I could help him with his project of developing a 3D video of Herod’s Temple Mount. Last week he wrote the following:

“Shalom to you all. I am so excited to say that after almost two years working on this project it is finally finished; Herod’s Temple Mount. Journey back through time and see what Herod’s Crowning glory the Temple Mount could have looked like two thousand years ago. Places that we can see the remains of today, places like Robinsons Arch and Barclays Gate, Solomon’s Stables and the Western Wall, to name but a few.”

The compilation video can be seen here on YouTube.

“When I made each scene I tried to include people. There were two reasons for this, firstly they gave a sense of proportion and scale as sometimes it is only when you see a person in the shot that you realise just how big some of the structures really are. Secondly, I tried to create a story of each scene where something is happening or has happened. For example, the picture of the two weary travellers on the road in the Kidron valley are obviously talking about the politics of the day:

Here are some additional images:

View of the Temple Mount from the southeast

The Temple, seen from inside the Royal Stoa
The paving underneath the porticoes of the Court of the Women
The domes inside the Double Gate passageway
The altar was made of unhewn stones. According to Mishnah Middot 4:1, “The stones of the ramp and the stones of the Altar were alike taken from the Valley of Beth Kerem, where they were quarried from below virgin soil and brought from thence as whole stones upon which no tool of iron had been lifted up. For iron renders the stones invalid for the Altar even by a touch, and by blemish it renders them invalid in every respect.”

“As most of you are aware by now, I have followed Leen Ritmeyer’s model for this project and if anyone is interested in learning more about the Temple Mount, his book “The Quest” is a gold mine of information.”

“I was fortunate to discover the Ritmeyer Archaeological design Website where I was able to purchase comprehensive plans, elevations, images and information about all aspects of this incredible site that would have been the setting for many Gospel narratives. Without the Ritmeyer resource I don’t think I would have been able to have done justice to the historic and archaeological authenticity of the site.”

This shows how Jeremy used my plan of the Temple Mount to start his design

I am probably a little biased when I say that this is the best 3D rendition of the Temple Mount I have seen so far.

Do watch the video and let Jeremy Park know what you think. He would love to hear from you. His HD videos are free to watch and download, but only subscribers can download high-resolution 4K copies:

  • The High Definition (HD) videos on this site are free to download and are accessed from the HD download buttons that accompany each scene. 
  • 4K videos are available to all subscribers.
  • When anyone subscribes, an e-mail will be sent out with the necessary password enclosed.

Jeremy’s Bible Scenes is not a separate charity but a branch of his company Park 3D Ltd. Until Bible Scenes can provide him with a sufficient income to work full time on it he has, by neccessity, a day job. He would love to have your support!

 What comes next?

“Over the next few days I will be uploading each camera move that you see in this video in HD and 4K to the Bible Scenes Website. As subscribers you will have access to these videos 4 weeks before they are released to the general public (and of course access to them in 4K). I will let you know as soon as the website is updated with the new videos.
After this I will be concentrating on producing individual descriptive videos of most (if not all) of the elements that make up the Temple Mount. For example, there are 18 chambers that surround the Temple itself, all of which serve a different purpose and while I may not be including all of them, I think there is a wealth of information to share regarding them. Then there are the various entrances and gates, the Royal Stoa, the Antonia Fortress and all the other parts that make up this project, all have their own story. I am excited to start producing them and will let you know as soon as they are completed.”

Can’t wait to see all this!

Jerusalem model at Ben Gurion Airport

Alexander Schick, director of the Qumran and Bible Exhibition,  alerted me to the fact that a new model of  Jerusalem as it was about 2000 years ago has been placed inside the Arrival Hall at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international airport. It is a smaller wooden version of the well-known model of Jerusalem of the Second Temple period that used to be located at the Holyland Hotel, but has been moved a few years ago to the Israel Museum. It was designed in the 1960’s by the late Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah.

This new model appears to have been designed by the Israel Museum to attract people to go and visit this famous museum in Jerusalem. It is well worth a visit!

It is unfortunate, however, that most people are in such a hurry to get to their transportation that they can easily miss this new model.

The new model in the Arrival Hall of Ben Gurion Airport. Photo: Alexander Schick

Jerusalem viewed from the east. Photo: Alexander Schick

Jerusalem viewed from the south. Photo: Alexander Schick

The Temple Mount. Photo: Alexander Schick


Was the Pool near the Gihon Spring in the City of David fortified?

During a visit to the City of David last week, I noticed that the Pool next to the Gihon Spring is being opened up for viewing. Scaffolding has been put inside the pool, apparently in preparation for the casting of a permanent concrete ceiling. The rocky southern edge of the pool is clearly visible, but there no remains of any wall built on that side could be detected.

The Pool from which water was drawn from inside the City of David. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

In the initial reports it was claimed that a tower surrounded this pool. A reconstruction drawing on the site shows the Pool Tower to the left of the Spring Tower, a defensive tower built over the Gihon Spring. Both towers were accessed via a fortified passageway:

Reconstruction drawing of the Pool Tower as shown in the City of David excavations. Photo: Nathaniel Ritmeyer

Although we have to wait for an official report, it appears that the pool was open on all sides, apart from the protective passage giving access to the waters of the pool at its northwest corner. The unprotected pool therefore must have been located inside the city walls. A larger area than was thought previously must have been added to the east of the original city.

Temple facade shown on Bar-Kokhba coins

A large cache of rare coins has been found by archaeologists in the Judean Hills. “Leaders of the Jewish resistance imprinted and dated coins for each year of the rebellion with, for example, images of the exterior of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and poetry for reclaiming Jerusalem as a means for spreading the rebellion via currency.”

Of special interest is the coin shown in the Jerusalem Post report, which dates from the third year of the Maccabean revolt. The Temple coins show a facade with four columns, a foundation course, a central entrance and a wavey line on top, perhaps representing the entablature. It was clearly an indication that the Jewish rebels against the Roman domination wanted to rebuild the Temple, once their freedom was regained. I once used a similar coin to reconstruct the facade of the Temple for an Israeli scholar and later used the information to design a reconstruction model of the Temple.


A Bar-Kokhba coin of year 3 showing the facade of the Temple


The reconstruction drawing of the Temple facade is based on the coin’s image


A reconstruction model showing the facade of Herod’s Temple

New Model of the Second Temple in Jerusalem

A model of the Second Temple has been placed on the roof top of the Aish haTorah Yeshiva building overlooking the Temple Mount. It appears to have been modeled on the Holyland model of the Second Temple, built in the 1960’s. This latter model was built at a scale of 1:50, so the new model with its scale of 1:60 is slightly larger. This report includes a video showing how the 1.2 tonne model was lifted into its place.

The most dramatic aspect of the model is its location, just 300 yards from where the original Temple stood. Paradoxically, this has turned out to be a drawback, as, in order to allow ease of access, the model Temple faces west instead of east. Although this is hugely disorienting, the model with its hydraulic system, which allows the interior of the Holy of Holies to be seen, provides another rich experience for lovers of Jerusalem.
Source: Joe Lauer

Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple Mount

This is a post I am thrilled to be able to write! Followers of this blog will know that over the years, we produced educational slide sets that lecturers and teachers used to give presentations or to enhance their own presentations. We updated two of these to CD format and many of you wrote to say how helpful you found these. In fact, we received many communications begging us to transform the remaining slide sets into CDs. Pressure of other projects delayed this until recently, when further CDs were requested for a lecture tour.

We are pleased therefore to inform you that two more of these are ready, in time for the beginning of the academic year: Volume 4: The Archaeology of Herod’s Temple Mount and Volume 6: In Search of Herod’s Temple Mount. Do click on CDs under Product Categories to have a look.

Vol 4 web

Vol6 web

If you follow Temple Mount matters, you will know that this coming Thursday, July 30th, is Tisha be’Av, (the ninth day of the Jewish month Av), which commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples on this same date (the First by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the Second by the Romans in 70 A.D.). With the help of these presentations, you can, wherever you are, “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following” (Psalm 48:12,13).

Hopefully, we will soon post news of the remaining two CDs.

The Antonia, Herod’s Temple Mount Fortress

In the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, an article was published by Ehud Netzer, called “A New Reconstruction of Paul’s Prison”. Netzer is a respected and successful architect/archaeologist and well-known for his excavations of Herodium and Hasmonean and Herodian Jericho and other Herodian sites. Recently he amazingly found the long-lost tomb of Herod the Great.

In the last few years he also tried, less successfully in my opinion, to reconstruct Herod’s Temple Mount. His reconstruction proposal for the Antonia Fortress is a clear example of ignoring important historical sources and archaeological evidence. Here is his reconstruction:

As far as historical sources are concerned, Josephus (War 5.238-246) wrote that “The tower of Antonia lay at an angle where two porticoes, the western and the northern, of the first court of the Temple met; it was built on a rock fifty cubits high and on all sides precipitous.”

The reconstruction of Netzer does not meet these two historical requirements. The northern and western porticoes don’t meet and no rockscarp is to be seen in Netzer’s drawing on the south and west sides. Indeed, there never were precipitous rockscarps in the area occupied by the southern and south-eastern part of his reconstruction.

There is archaeological evidence that the two porticoes did in fact meet. Sockets for the roof beams of the northern portico can still be seen today in the northwest corner of the Temple Mount, see Ritmeyer, The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, p. 130), see:

These sockets were placed in exterior Herodian masonry, which is visible high above the still-existing rockscarp. This masonry consists of ashlars with the typical Herodian margins, which were used for exterior masonry only. This proves that this rockscarp with its Herodian masonry was an external wall, namely the southern wall of the Antonia Fortress and not an interior wall. This also shows that the northern portico of the Herodian Temple Mount ran in front of the southern facade of the fortress, enabling it to “meet” with the western portico, as described by Josephus.

Netzer places the south-western corner of the fortress at small projection in the Western Wall. This projection exists, possibly because of the lay of the bedrock, but it is too insignificant a projection for the south-west tower of the Antonia. There is a much larger projection to the north, which is completely ignored by Netzer. It can be seen in the western side of the north-west corner of the Temple Mount and at the end of the Western Wall Tunnel. This projection has been mapped by Gregory Wightman (Temple Fortresses in Jerusalem, BAIAS, Vol. 10, pp. 7-35) in this diagram:

It shows that the south-west tower projected much more from the Western Wall than shown in Netzer’s reconstruction. All of these historical and archaeological data, ignored by Netzer, have been incorporated into my own reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress as shown in this model:

Original Herodian paving stones were, until recently, visible in the north-west corner of the Temple Mount. Netzer’s reconstruction does not relate to this pavement. Netzer’s Antonia plan is square, although the north-west corner of the Temple Mount is in fact not a right angle, but an acute angle of approximately 86 degrees.

In 1975, P. Benoit (The Archaeological Reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress, Jerusalem Revealed, 1976) has brilliantly shown that the Antonia was located exclusively on the rockscarp at the north-west corner of the Temple Mount. Prior to this time, several scholars, such as De Vogüé and Vincent, had promoted a larger Antonia which projected inside the Temple Mount. It is a pity to see that Netzer has regressed to that earlier and by now obsolete reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress.

The Messiah in the Temple

The Messiah in the Temple is an exciting project with the aim of developing a 3-D visual media of the Temple of Jerusalem. This project was conceived by the project manager Martin Severin. After reading Roger Liebi’s book of that name and my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”, he decided with the help of Christof Frank of digi mice GmbH to make a digital version of the reconstructed Herodian Temple Mount.

Click here to view video

You can read more about the project on the The Messiah in the Temple website, where you can also download a larger video file.
Thanks to Justin Taylor, you can watch the video on YouTube:

The Temple Mount and the National Geographic

In May this year, I was asked to join the National Geographic team on a poster supplement for the December Issue of the magazine. The subject of the poster was the history and architecture of the Temple Mount. I had the opportunity to meet with Fernando Baptista and Patricia Healy (NGS Senior Graphics Editor and Art Researcher respectively) in New York during a conference on “The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to Messiah”. See my earlier post.

They wanted my help with the creation of a NG poster on the Temple Mount and also came to see the models I had designed and which were then on show in the Yeshiva University. This interesting poster is now available in the December issue. The poster is called “Jerusalem’s Holy Ground” and shows, from top to bottom, the Binding of Isaac, The Rock, Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple Mount and the Temple Mount during the Early Muslim period. It also shows cut-away drawings of Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple and the Dome of the Rock and has a timeline on the side. The other side of the poster shows a magnificent map of the Eastern Mediterranean region, named “The Crucible of History”. The poster is beautifully produced and it is worthwhile getting the National Geographic December issue if you don’t have a subscription. The magazine has for its main theme, The Real King Herod, architect of the Holy Land.

Here is a view of the poster, reproduced with permission of the National Geographic Society:

Temple Mount Mikveh

Zachi Zweig, an archaeologist who is involved with the Temple Mount Sifting project, kindly send me the paper [in Hebrew], which he gave at the recent conference on the Temple Mount at the Bar-Ilan University. I commented on this find in an earlier post. Here is an abstract:

“Hamilton describes the discovery of a plastered cistern that was excavated below the easternmost door of the present El Aksa mosque, north of Cistern 9 [according to Warren’s numeration – see map]. The descent to [the cistern] was from west to east by means of a flight of steps, with the bottom step some 3 m. [10 feet] below the present floor of the mosque. The remains of some five steps were discerned, which were built against a plastered wall, which was about 90 cm wide [3 feet].

Unfortunately, Hamilton did not publish additional details – not one picture or plan. However, in the Mandatory Archives there was a photograph of the five steps, which descend to the opening of the cistern. The top of the steps is located some 1.50 – 2 m. [6-7.5 feet] below the present surface and to the south of it and adjacent to it, although at a little distance, there is a thick wall. This is most likely the same cistern. The steps appear to have been cut out of the rock and this points to the fact that the level of the top of the rock in this location is at about 1.50 m. [6 feet] below the level of the present pavement.”

The exit of the cistern is located deep below the level of the floor of the mosque. Hamilton dated it to the late Roman period. However, as the remains of a dividing wall can be discerned, Zachi concluded that it could have been a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), see picture below:

It is located a little to the east of the underground passage which leads up from the Double Gate to the Temple Mount. Ronnie Reich has identified Cistern 6 and 36 as mikva’ot, but these are located in the original Square Temple Mount. These could have been added in the Second Temple period, as they are located close to the surface and no First Temple period mikva’ot are known.

This latest one, however, is located much lower down and in the Hasmonean extension of the Temple Mount and may therefore have been one of the earliest mikva’ot in Jerusalem:
Worshipers in the Hasmonean period, who had not purified themselves before going to the Temple Mount, perhaps had the opportunity to do so in this mikveh, if it was a mikveh indeed.