Virtual Jerusalem

Two new apps have been developed to help visitors visualize ancient Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. The BYU has developed a free app, which can be downloaded here.

The Virtual New Testament app is one of the most accurate digital recreations of first-century Jerusalem. It’s purpose is to enhance scripture study by allowing you to experience the city, engage with the environment, and immerse yourself in the world of Jesus’ mortal ministry.

This app works for both Mac and Windows desktops and can be downloaded for mobile devices at the Apple App Store or at Google Play.

 

The Jewish News Online reported on another app that was developed by Lithodomos VR. This app only costs a couple of dollars and is worth getting if you have a Virtual Reality headset. An introduction can also be viewed on YouTube.

Young and old alike now have the chance to wander the streets of ancient Jerusalem, after archaeologists recreated the city at the time of King Herod in a virtual reality headset.

Half a million pounds of investor funding helped created the Android app, called Lithodomos VR, based on the archaeology of Temple Mount in 20BC, before it was destroyed some 90 years later.

The app (at £1.59 or S2.00) and headset let the user experience market streets, the Western Wall, the temple precinct, and the Jewish and Roman period districts, with buildings virtually reconstructed based on the latest archaeological evidence.

 

Twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple at Passover

On Sunday, the 10th of April, 2017, the Jewish people begin celebrating Pesach – Jewish Passover. That is one week earlier than Easter. However, in this blog post we would like to remember the time that Jesus as a twelve-year-old visited the Temple during Passover for the first time in his life.

Reconstruction drawing showing young Jesus (in blue) on the steps of the Temple Terrace (ḥel)  with the rabbis.

The Temple in the time of Christ was a magnificent building. From the Temple Court (azarah), 12 steps led up to the Porch that was as high as the Temple itself. In front of the entrance to the Sanctuary, a Golden Vine was attached to four columns.

According to Josephus, Herod’s Temple looked like a snow-clad mountain, for all that was not overlaid with gold was of the purest white and it lacked nothing that could astound either mind or eye. 
No wonder that some of Jesus’ disciples remarked “how the Temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God” (Matthew 24.1; Luke 21.5).

The central feature of this complex, the Holy of Holies, was located deep inside, at the west end of the Sanctuary. No one could enter this place of utmost sanctity but the High Priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. A veil separated the Holy of Holies from a place of lesser sanctity, the Holy Place.

The Temple Court lay in front of the Temple and it contained the Altar, the Laver and the Place of Slaughtering (or Shambles). This was the closest court to the Temple and out of bounds to anyone like Jesus who was not a priest.

This reconstruction drawing shows the Temple, viewed from the east. It was surrounded by a court, called the Temple Court or azarah in Hebrew. In front of the Temple stood the Altar, the Laver (Basin) and the pillars and tables that were used in the preparation of sacrifices. Several gates and other buildings stood to the north and south of the Temple.

This Temple Court was separated by the Nicanor Gate from the Court of Women, which lay to the east of the Temple. Buildings, called gates, surrounded this complex. In front of the gates was a terrace (ḥel – pronounced chel with the “ch” sounding guttural as in the Scottish “loch”) of 10 cubits wide, which was reached by a flight of steps of half a cubit high and deep. This terrace bounded the wall of the gate buildings on their southern, western and northern sides.

Reconstruction model of the Temple Mount, showing the southern terrace (ḥel) . The little blue figure at middle right represents young Jesus.

It is on this ḥel that we get our first glimpse of Jesus after the birth narratives in the Gospels. Scripture is silent about his youth although it is clear from the observations of nature and Biblical history later attributed to him by the Gospel writers that he absorbed every spiritual and historical lesson that was provided by his upbringing in the countryside around Nazareth.

Now he was twelve years of age and his first words are recorded for us (Luke 2. 41-52). Under the law, attendance at the feasts in Jerusalem was obligatory for boys from the age of thirteen, a birthday that was a milestone in the life of a Jewish boy, when they became a Son of the Commandment or Bar Mitzvah. In practice, this legal age was pushed forward by one or two years so that Jesus, after he had passed his twelfth year, came up to Jerusalem for the Passover with his family. Jesus’ first view of the Temple must have filled him with a great sense of the purpose he had been developing during the quiet years in Nazareth. Attendance at the Temple was obligatory only for the first two days of Passover, after which many of the pilgrims would have returned home again. It would appear that Joseph and Mary and their “company” did indeed start to return home and had travelled for a day. When they finally realized that Jesus was missing, it took them three days to find him and when they did, he was “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.” The ḥel is the only place in the Temple he could have been.

We learn this from a tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b, which tells us:

It has been taught; R. Jose said; Originally there were not many disputes in Israel, but one Beth din of seventy-one members sat in the Hall of Hewn Stones, and two courts of twenty-three sat, one at the entrance of the Temple Mount and one at the door of the [Temple] Court, and other courts of twenty-three sat in all Jewish cities.”  “The Great Sanhedrin] sat from the morning tamid (daily sacrifice) until the evening tamid [in the Hall of Hewn Stones]; on Sabbaths and festivals they sat within the ḥel.

So, Passover would have been one such festival when members of the Temple Sanhedrin would come out to teach in this area. Ordinary people, who normally had no access to the classrooms where young priests were taught, could come and question them. Jesus must have eagerly made use of this opportunity and never would they have had such a sharp student as him. During this visit to the Temple, he would have seen the preparations for sacrificing the Passover lambs and realized, perhaps for the first time in his young life, that the entire ritual pointed forward to his own sacrifice. He would have been so absorbed by all these experiences that he would not have wanted to leave. He forgot about his natural family, for here he was at home – in his Father’s house.

A Capital from Solomon’s Porch on the Temple Mount

The Israel Hayom newspaper reported yesterday that a capital of the 2nd Temple era has been found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP).

Photo credit: Vladimir Naychin

The capital of a carefully-adorned column that stood on the Temple Mount in the time of the Second Temple has been discovered through the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

The capital, whose size indicates that the column had a circumference of 75 centimeters (30 inches) at its top, is a section of one column that formed part of the double colonnade that surrounded the Temple Mount plaza.

Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, said that “this is a capital in the Doric style, one of the characteristics of the art in the time of the Hasmonean dynasty. This appears to be the capital of a column formed part of the eastern colonnade of the Temple Mount, which Josephus and even the New Testament called ‘Solomon’s Porch.’ A column like this is impressive testimony of the immensity of the structures on the Temple Mount in the Second Temple era, and fits in well with Josephus’ narrative, which describes what he saw with his own eyes.”

Barkay explained that a 25-cubit column would have stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) high.

It is of course wonderful news that a capital of a column that most likely stood on the Temple Mount was found. I would agree with Barkay that the capital could have belonged to one of the columns that formed the eastern Hasmonean (pre-Herodian) colonnade. This colonnade was indeed known as Solomon’s Porch, where Jesus walked during Hanukkah (John 10.23). It was also the place where Peter and John  healed the blind man (Acts 3.11) and where the apostles did many signs (Acts 5.12).

One must, however, be careful with dimensions. In the article it says that the circumference of the Doric column that supported the capital was 75 cm. That is probably a mistake. According to simple mathematics, a column with a circumference of 75 cm (30 inches) has a diameter of less than 24cm (9 inches). In ancient architecture, Doric columns had a 1:8 ratio between diameter and height. According to that rule, this column could not have been higher than 2m (6 feet, 6 inches), which would not have been exactly monumental. Barkay therefore probably meant that the column had a diameter of 75cm. In that case, the column would have been about 6m (20 feet, 11.4 cubits) high. Barkay estimated that a 25-cubit column would have stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) high, but this one would have much smaller, about half the size.

An additional problem is the use of units of measurement by Josephus. In War, he uses cubits and in Antiquities (Roman) feet. As a rule, his measurements in feet are more accurate than those in cubits, which are often exaggerated.

Josephus writes in War 5.190-192, that the columns of the Herodian porticoes were 25 cubits, which according to the Royal Cubit of 52.5 cm (20.67 inches), would be 13.12m, (43 feet) high, but in Ant. 15.413 he says that the columns of the porticoes were 27 feet high (8.23m, 15.67 cubits). Let us first look at the 25 cubits high columns and then at those of 27 feet high.

According to the Doric ratio of diameter and height, the diameter of a 25 cubit high Doric column must have been 1.64m (5 feet, 5 inches). Archaeological remains of parts of such thick columns have been found in secondary use in the Temple Mount excavations in front of a gate of an Umayyad palace. A complete column with a diameter of 1.46m (4 feet, 9 inches) has been preserved in the Double Gate underground passageway. Josephus mentions in Ant. 15.415 that the height of the Corinthian columns (which have a ratio of 1:10) of the Royal Stoa were 50 feet (15.24m or 29 cubits) high, probably including the capitals. This measurement is somewhat similar to the 25 cubits high columns of War 5.190-192 and must therefore relate to the columns of the Royal Stoa and not to those of the porticoes. Columns of that height could only have belonged to the Royal Stoa.

A north-south section through the Royal Stoa that stood at the southern end of Herod’s Temple Mount. The Royal Stoa was the largest structure on the Temple Mount and was built in the style of a basilica. It had a central nave and two side aisles with four rows of 40 columns. Josephus calls this stoa more deserving of mention than any structure under the sun.

Going back to Ant. 15.413, where Josephus writes that the columns of the porticoes were 27 feet (8.23m) high, we found that this measurement is indeed correct for the Herodian porticoes. The preserved sockets of the northern portico can still be seen in the south wall of the Antonia Fortress (see drawing). They are located 8.84m (29 feet) above ground level. As the beams that were laid on top of the capitals were fixed in these sockets, Josephus’ measurement of 27 feet appears to be accurate.

The Antonia Fortress that stood at the northwest corner of the Herodian Temple Mopunt had four towers, three of which were 50 cubits (86 ft./26.25 m) high and the fourth, the southeast tower, 70 cubits (120 ft./36.75 m) high. The view from this highest tower, that, according to Josephus “commanded a view of the whole area of the Temple” (War 5.242), must have been spectacular. The location of the sockets for the northern portico are indicated in the drawing.

The reconstructed height of the newly found Hasmonean column of 6m (20 feet) is a little lower than those of the Herodian columns. The older Hasmonean portico, also known as “Solomon’s Porch”, was apparently not as high as the Herodian colonnades, as indicated in this reconstruction model.

An overall view of a model of the Temple Mount looking from the northwest. In the foreground is the Antonia Fortress, while the Temple with its surrounding buildings stood close to the centre of the Temple Mount. The lower portico above the Eastern Wall (upper centre) was known as Solomon’s Porch.

 

 

Jerusalem Biblical Archaeology Map by Carta

There was much excitement in our house last week when the Biblical Archaeology Jerusalem Map by Carta (see previous post) arrived.

Spreading the chart out on the table, we were able to retrace many of the trips and explorations we made when living in Jerusalem. At the time, some of these had required poring over Ordnance Survey maps and reading archaeological reports before we could identify the sites involved. Now, with the acquisition of this map, we can easily find the location of these sites, as well as, and most importantly, the latest sites to have been discovered.

Twenty-three years ago, the publication of the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, a a joint venture by the Israel Exploration Society, Carta, and Simon and Schuster’s Academic Reference Division, was a landmark in the quest to provide a comprehensive work that would summarize the results of archaeological work in the Land of Israel for the English reader. It had a 102-page long section on Jerusalem. Ephraim Stern wrote in the Editor’s Foreword to the Supplementary Volume, published in 2008:

“Since the publication in 1993 of the four volumes of the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEH) archaeological excavations have continued at a staggering pace. Many of the entries of those four volumes quickly became outdated and the need arose for this volume, which updates the NEAEH to the year 2005. It is a joint venture of the Israel Exploration Society and the Biblical Archaeology Society.”

So, while we await the next update, a mammoth undertaking, this handily portable map will play a vital role in guiding the visitor around the archaeological sites of Jerusalem,

The front part of this large map (63×94 cm, or 25×37 inches) shows the Old City and its surroundings, while the reverse side is dedicated to the Old City in much greater detail. The map was made in collaboration with the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority, or Reshut Atiqot in Hebrew), with the text and scientific advice provided by Dr. Yuval Baruch. The archaeological sites are described in small text boxes with an arrow pointing to the exact location of each.

Most of the sites on the front part are familiar to us, but by no means all of them are. It is good to see the site of Lifta on the northwest of the city included. This has been identified as the site of the Waters of Nephtoah of Joshua 15.9 and 18.15, defining here the border between Benjamin and Judah. We remember exploring the village and its spring in the 1970’s, but then it seemed very much off the beaten track, being hidden away on two steep slopes in the last valley of the ascent into Jerusalem.

There are other sites we are not so familiar with such as Khirbet Adaseh North and Khirbet Adaseh, 2 miles to the southeast. Adasa, was, of course, the place where the Maccabees were victorious in their battle against the Seleucid general Nicanor, who lost his life there.

The Old City map is also informative with sections dedicated to the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys, Mount Zion, the City of David and the Aqueducts of Jerusalem. We are pleased that the Tomb of Annas the High Priest, a site we were able to identify in the early 1990’s, is included among the sites in the Hinnom Valley.

This drawing shows the Tomb of Annas as reconstructed according to the archaeological remains. The reconstruction drawing shows the triple-gated entrance to the tomb’s anteroom. This is based on the remains of the partly preserved semi-hemispherical conch above the central doorway and those of four pilasters, the outer ones showing an additional rounded moulding which was part of a frame. There are indications that the tomb once carried a superstructure and so could be identified as a monument.

A glaring omission on this side of the map is any detail on the vast platform of the Temple Mount. However, giving the impression that the site is a terra incognita is part of the political reality in this area. Only some of the gates are mentioned, with the Double and Triple Gates unfortunately still called the Huldah Gates. The original Huldah Gates were in fact located in the southern wall of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount some 72 m (240 ft) north of the present Southern Wall.

No reference is made to the Step, which is the remains of the Western Wall of King Hezekiah’s Square Temple Mount or of The Rock, identified by many as the site of the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple. The many well-heads visible on the platform indicate the location of the many underground cisterns, of which two, Cisterns 6 and 36, may have been mikva’ot. These would also have added interest to this part of the map.

Information on the Temple Mount platform is, however, available in our guide book Jerusalem, the Temple Mount in which we have produced a map showing 19 points of archaeological and historical interest:

Despite these shortcomings, however, we foresee copies of this map being given as presents for those who love exploring the Old City of Jerusalem and its environs. And if you have friends visiting who have been to Jerusalem, framed reproductions are bound to stimulate some lively conversation.

Special Offer from Carta

Carta Jerusalem offers the new Jerusalem – Biblical Archaeology map for free with the purchase of one of three books mentioned below, including The Quest. In addition, each of the three titles can be purchased for 20% off the list price, i.e. $48.00 instead of $60.00. This excellent offer, which saves you almost $27.00 is valid until the 31st of January, 2017. When ordering, all you need to do is click on the Voucher code: 20-OFF, and the map will be added for free.

The three titles are:

Flooring from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The discovery of colored floor tiles found in the Temple Mount Sifting Project, that apparently came from the Herodian Temple Mount was announced during the 17th Annual Archaeological Conference in the City of David National Park held on the 8th of September 2016. This new find received plenty of media coverage, see for example this Jerusalem Post report. As usual the reporting took the form of copying and pasting the original report.

First of all, kudos to Frankie Snyder for having patiently fitted these many pieces together into meaningful designs. The stones have different geometrical shapes, were finely cut and polished and fitted tightly together to create beautiful designs. Such floor designs are called opus sectile, which is Latin for “cut stone”.

Frankie Snyder holds restored marble floor tiles based on fragments found in fill from the Temple Mount. Archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say that these come from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

I wanted to be sure, however, that what was presented could indeed have belonged to floors or pavements on the Temple Mount. When I first saw the pictures of Frankie’s floor designs, they reminded me of the beautifully designed tiled floors of the late nineteenth century house in Ethiopia Street in Jerusalem where we used to live. These floor designs have been used for a very long time. For example, many pieces of Crusader and earlier stone floor designs were found during the sifting, see here.

Looking at the photographs presented by the TMSP, however, I wondered why some tiles looked like marble:

A reconstructed tile from the Second Temple. (photo credit: Zachi Dvira/Temple Mount Sifting Project)
© Zachi Dvira/Temple Mount Sifting Project

Hardly any marble was imported into Israel until the time of Hadrian. In 135 AD, he established a Roman colony called Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed in 70 AD. Evidence of the use of marble has been found from this period. For example, in the Temple Mount Excavations a Roman bath house with a marble-lined pool was uncovered, together with a marble statue.

So, I asked Frankie what materials these reconstructed tiles were made of, she replied that, apart from locally sourced stone, different types of imported marble were also used, such as giallo antico from Tunisia,  breccia corallina from Turkey, breccia di Settebasi from Greece and also alabaster from Egypt.

It was interesting to find out that the opus sectile pavement found in Herod’s Third Palace in Jericho also had pieces of marble worked into its design. Herod was a great lover of Roman art and architecture and apparently imported these tiles from around the Mediterranean.

Imprints of the opus sectile floor in Herod’s Palace at Jericho. Photo: Zev Radovan

Gabriel Barkay, one of the directors and co-founders of TMSP is sure of the Herodian date of the tiles they found:

“The materials of which they are made, colorful marble-like stones which originate from different locations and places around the basin of the Mediterranean. They were neither imported before the time of Herod the Great nor later, so we are sure of the date … Opus Sectile flooring is consistent with the style of flooring found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodium, and Jericho, among others, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy during the time of Herod. The tile segments, mostly imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia and Egypt, were created from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes.”

Indeed, an opus sectile floor was found in the Peristyle Building in the Jewish Quarter Excavations. This was made of black bitumen and cream and red colored limestone.

Reconstruction of opus sectile floor found in the Jewish Quarter Excavations. Design: L. Ritmeyer

The question that remains unanswered is, where on the Temple Mount were such floors laid? The description of Josephus in War 5.193 was quoted: “The open court was from end to end variegated with paving of all manner of stones.” Does this refer to these opus sectile floors?

Herodian paving on the Temple Mount has been identified by us and reported on previously. These in situ remains show that the open courts of the Herodian Temple Mount were paved with very large and thick paving slabs made of local limestone, very similar to those laid in the streets that surround the Temple Mount.

All the known opus sectile floors were laid indoors and not outdoors. These delicately constructed floors would not have survived long outside in the sometimes harsh Mediterranean climate. We suggest therefore that they came from the interior of some of the many buildings that surrounded the Temple and/or from under the colonnades around the smaller courts.

The Temple, viewed from the east in this image, was surrounded by the Temple Court. Several gates and other buildings stood to the north and south of the Temple. On the east (centre front), was the large Court of the Women, also known in the Gospels as the Treasury, which had four smaller courts at its corners.

 

 

 

Two First Temple period seals found in Jerusalem

It has been reported that two seals have been found in the Givati Parking Lot excavations, bearing the names of a man and a woman, respectively “Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu” and “Elihana bat Gael”. Their names are not mentioned in the Bible.

Seal of Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu
Seal of Elihana bat Gael

Seals with names of women are pretty rare, so she must have been an influential person.  The excavators date the finds to about 2,600 years ago, but, we would agree with Todd Bolen, who suspects that the date is closer to 700-600 BC, i.e. the end of the First Temple period.

According to archaeologists, Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explain, “Personal seals, such as those of Elihana and Sa‘aryahu, were used for signing documents, and were frequently inlaid as part of a ring that was worn by the owner. In antiquity they designated the identity, genealogy and status of the owner of the seal”.

On the rare woman’s seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, appears the mirror-writing of “to Elihana bat Gael”, inscribed in ancient Hebrew letters. The female owner of the ring is mentioned here together with the name of her father.

According to Dr. Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date. This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances such as this. Indeed, the name Elihana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status”. Dr. Misgav adds, “Most of the women’s seal that are known to us bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband.

These excavations claimed earlier to have found the remains of the Akra Fortress, which, however, may have belonged to the city’s fortification walls and not to the Fortress by the same name.

HT: Joe Lauer

The Mountain of the Lord

Joel Kramer of Sourceflix has posted a 6-minute long video called “The Mountain of the Lord” which has spectacular aerial footage.

Mount Moriah — the Mountain of the LORD. More than 4,000 years of recorded history have been played out on that particular spot, a location specifically chosen by God to accomplish His sovereign purposes. I have often tried to contemplate all that has happened there. The works of God are so overwhelmingly incomprehensible!

This video short will help you to ponder how the God of the Bible, through an amazing chain of historical events, transformed a lowly hill into what is today one of the most revered places on earth!

Another video explains the Topography of Jerusalem in a simple but effective way:

As a visual aid, we’ve developed a simple 3D model to help you picture the ridges, valleys and hills which have changed very little over several thousand years and which are the landscapes for the stories of Abraham and Isaac, King David and Christ.

Enjoy watching these videos which you can also download for a few dollars.

HT: Facebook page of Associates for Biblical Research.

3D model of Solomon’s Temple

Daniel Smith creates religious themed videos with the purpose of helping people better understand the history and culture of the Bible. You can see several of his videos on his website called Messages of Christ.

He contacted me saying that he read  of Solomon’s Temple in my book The Quest. He has now completed a 3D reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple in which he used my design of the interior walls.

Portions of 1 Kings 6 and 7 are read as you look around the video. Although I don’t agree with some of the details, the video is well worth watching.

Seal Impression of King Hezekiah found in Jerusalem

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced today that in 2009, a bulla (clay impression of a seal) was found in the Ophel excavations bearing the name of King Hezekiah. The seal impression was found during the wet-sifting of earth layers from the Ophel excavation at the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

A seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. (Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)

 

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, have unearthed an impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727–698 BCE).
Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla (piece of inscribed clay) measuring 13 X 12 mm. Around the impression is the depression left by the frame of the ring in which the seal was set.
The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script:
“לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה”
“Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah”
and a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.
Eilat Mazar eplains the significance of this find in this video. Seal impressions of this famous king who is described in the Bible as “”there was none like him among all the kings of Judah” (2 Kings 18:5)”, have been found earlier, but not in the context of a scientifically run excavation.

The seal was found in debris outside the eastern part of the so-called Royal Structure and was discarded probably through one of the windows of the building. This area is familiar to me as I was initially put in charge of its excavation by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar and excavated remains of an Herodian building. The Iron Age remains were found below this level.

Prof. Benjamin Mazar (centre with red hat) and myself (left) discussing the excavations in the Opel area. Remains of the Herodian buildings can be seen on the left.

The place where the seal was found is close to a large tower that was apparently added to the existing fortifications by King Hezekiah. Warren dubbed this tower the Extra Tower.

Warrren’s drawing of the Extra Tower. The seal was found  to the right of the image.

Kathleen Kenyon also excavated here in the 1960’s and uncovered the remains of this structure in her Area SII.  This fortification of Jerusalem was part of Hezekiah’s expansion of the city.

Many other building works of Hezekiah have been uncovered in the Jerusalem excavations, such as the Broad Wall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This wall is referred to in Isa. 22.10 and was part of the new city walls that Hezekiah built around the previously unprotected Western Hill.

During the reign of King Hezekiah, many refugees from the Assyrian invasion of the northern tribes came to Jerusalem for protection. As the city on the Eastern Hill was too small to accommodate the new comers, they settled on the Western Hill. Eventually, King Hezekiah built a new city wall around this hill to protect it from invasion. 

The article of the Hebrew University gives a fascinating insight into the significance of the change in King Hezekiah’s personal symbols:

The symbols on the seal impression from the Ophel suggest that they were made late in his life, when both the Royal administrative authority and the King’s personal symbols changed from the winged scarab (dung beetle)—the symbol of power and rule that had been familiar throughout the Ancient Near East, to that of the winged sun—a motif that proclaimed God’s protection, which gave the regime its legitimacy and power, also widespread throughout the Ancient Near East and used by the Assyrian Kings.
This change most likely reflected both the Assyrian influence and Hezekiah’s desire to emphasize his political sovereignty, and Hezekiah’s own profound awareness of the powerful patronage given his reign by the God of Israel. While the changed Royal administrative symbol imprinted on the King’s jars used the motif of a sun with wings extended to the sides, Hezekiah’s personal changed symbol had a sun with sheltering wings turned down and a life-symbol at the end of each wing. This special addition of the symbol of life may support the assumption that the change on the King’s personal seal was made after Hezekiah had recovered from the life-threatening illness of shehin (II Kings 20:1-8), when the life-symbol became especially significant for him (ca. 704 BCE).