The Temple Mount gates

Tonight, Friday the 1st of August, is also the beginning of the Hebrew month Ab. On the 9th of this month the Jews remember the destruction of the two temples that stood on Mount Moriah, but tonight, they march around the gates of the Temple Mount to express their desire is to build a new Temple.

The ceremony is called “Sivuv She’arim” – going round the gates – and this is the seventh year that they have marched round the gates of the Temple Mount. You can read the Jerusalem Post report here.

The founder of Sivuv She’arim, Rabbi Tzvi Rogin, used to visit our home, when we lived in Yorkshire, and we had many animated discussions about the Temple Mount. Our family once participated in this ceremony and it was an exhilarating experience.

For those of you who don’t know all the Temple Mount gates, here is a drawing showing their location:

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The original names of the gates of the Herodian Temple Mount walls are not known. They possibly never had names.

Today we refer to the gates in the Western Wall (from north to south) as Warren’s Gate, Wilson’s Arch (which was part of a bridge and led to a gate which was built into the western portico), Barclay’s Gate and Robinson’s Arch – which supported a stairway leading to a gate, which was also built into the western portico. Warren, Wilson, Barclay and Robinson were explorers, who worked in Jerusalem in the late 1800’s.

There are two Herodian gates in the Southern Wall, the Double Gate and the Triple Gate. These gates are sometimes erroneously called the Huldah Gates, for these were located on the Temple Mount and were not part of the Herodian retaining walls.

There were two gates in the Eastern Wall, a small gate near the south-east corner, which led into what is now called the Solomon’s Stables and the main eastern gate, which was located where the Golden Gate now stands. Inside this gate are two monolithic gate posts which belonged to the earlier Shushan Gate.

There may have been another Herodian gate in the northern wall, but no remains have been found and it is only once mentioned by Josephus.

The earlier square Temple Mount, which was originally constructed by King Hezekiah, had five gates and their names are known. In the west was the Coponius Gate, the two gates in the southern wall were called the Huldah Gates. We have already mentioned the Shushan Gate in the eastern wall and the gate in the northern wall was called the Tadi Gate. This gate may have been buried underground by the Herodian expansion to the north.

Golgotha and the Tomb of Christ

Over the last 9 months, I have been working as archaeological and architectural editor for the new ESV Study Bible, which will be available from 15 October 2008. Most of my contacts have been with Justin Taylor, who was the Project Director and Managing Editor. Recently, he interviewed me concerning two drawings, which I had been asked to prepare for the Study Bible.

The two-part interview concerning Calvary and the Tomb of Christ can be viewed on his blog here and here.

Israel in June

Before our visit recedes into memory, we must put down some of the impressions that readers have asked for. June was a good time to visit the Land from the point of view of not having to compete with other groups for space on site visits – on some sites such as Kursi and Gamla in the Galilee, we had the place totally to ourselves. And, our northern base of Ein Gev was pure rest and rejuvenation (when we returned from our days out!), as the place had not yet been transformed into a hive of family activity for the school holidays. However, the light is harsher for photography than earlier in the year and this is perhaps the downside to going in early summer, which is otherwise so good, being the prime time for digging and, of course, great for swimming in the Dead, the Med and the Red. We did get some great pics however. Here is our group at the Ophir Observation Point, high above the Sea of Galilee:

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Below is the Tel Gezer dig we visited and where we met up with archaeologist Daniel Warner (in green shirt) among others:

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Jerusalem was even more chaotic than we remembered, with honking, hooting and sirens 24/7. We were very thankful to have an oasis of calm in the midst of it with a jumbo-sized balcony offering panoramic, golden, views of Mount Zion and the Old City. On the left is the night view from our balcony and on the right the view from the arched entrance to our guesthouse:

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From the perspective of an archaeological architect, the thing that made the most impression on me was the much greater prevalence of reconstruction drawings on sites than in times past. Knowing how much these enhance any visit to an archaeological site, this was deeply satisfying.

We saw good reconstructions at the City of David, the Temple Mount Excavations, Masada, Tel Gezer, Bethsaida, etc, but the sparkler in the crown was definitely the new Time Trek at the Caesarea Harbor Experience, which so enthralled the young folk in our party. You have to pay extra on top of the normal site fees in order to visit this, but the NIS17 is definitely worth it. Here, with funds from a trust set up by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the early twentieth century, a new, whiz-bang, multi-media experience, takes you through episodes of the city’s dramatic history.

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Reconstructions showing things like a horse race in Herod’s hippodrome and ships entering his magnificent harbour create an unforgettable evocation of another time. (The site’s website seems to only work in Hebrew <www.caesarea.org.il>). Hopefully, other sites in the country will benefit from such an injection of funds and vision.

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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.

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.

Plan of the Temple Mount destruction

The Biblical Archaeology Society has just published a report on the Temple Mount destruction by Zachi Zweig. On a plan which I had made several years ago, the route of the trench has been plotted and areas where important finds were made are noted in color. Transferring this information unto my latest plan of the Temple Mount, which has the Herodian Temple complex superimposed, one can see where these finds are located.

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Bedrock has been observed inside and to the north of the northern gate of the Court of the Women and also south of the southern Soreg. The Soreg is a division wall, inside of which no gentiles were allowed.

A section of pavement, probably belonging to Herod’s extension of the Temple Mount to the south, has been found to the east of the El Aqsa mosque.

The most important remains, however, are the remains of the foundation of a wall. Several photographs of this foundation wall can be seen in this report. As I noted in my previous blog post, if the trench continued south of the eastern stairway leading to the Muslim platform, it would cut through the Chamber of the House of Oil, and that is exactly what has happened. The Chamber of the House of Oil is the south-western one of the four courts which were built at the four corners of the Court of Women. Here we see then the remains of the Court of the Women, a place from which most of the Temple visitors would have been able to watch the rituals of the Temple.

This destruction shows how close the bedrock is below the surface and therefore any archaeological remains can easily be damaged. How much more information could have been gleaned if this trench had been excavated by archaeologists!

Continued destruction on the Temple Mount

In a previous post we commented on the destruction on the Temple Mount and posted a reconstruction drawing of the Herodian Temple Mount to show where, in relation to the Temple complex, the channel was excavated. The government of Israel and the Israel Antiquities Authorities are doing nothing to stop this destruction. Therefore the Muslims are digging deeper into the mount. The excavated channel is 1 meter (just over 3 feet) deep and that is about the depth of the bedrock in places. There is no doubt that they must be touching the remains of the Azarah (Temple Court) and the Temple itself. This is a unique opportunity to record any remains that may have survived the Roman destruction. Instead, the Arabs are allowed to get away with it. According to this report, one policeman who tried to stop the excavations was assaulted. Instead of being praised for his stand, the Israeli chief officer of the Temple Mount police, actually told him off! Another deep channel is dug to the north and east of the platform, for pictures and filmclip, see here. One wonders how long this situation will be allowed to continue.

Announcing our new website – www.ritmeyer.com

We have developed our new website ritmeyer.com and, although still in its developing stages, it is now fully functional. If you log on to templemountonline.com, which used to be the name of our website, for example by clicking on Temple Mount Online or the Jerusalem Capital in the blue field to the left, you will be redirected to our new site.
The reason for this is that we wanted to separate information from the items we sell. With this blog, which we started about half a year ago, we feel that more relevant and up-to-date information could be commented on and shared with you.
The website ritmeyer.com serves now only as a “virtual shop”, where our books, posters, CD-ROM’s and Temple Mount Model can be purchased. These educational materials have proved useful to many people over the past 20 years or so and continue to be in demand. I am still teaching full-time until the end of this year, but after that I hope, with the help of Kathleen my wife, to develop many more materials of interest to professors, teachers, Sunday School teachers and the many individuals who are interested in the archaeology of the Holy Land, especially of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, as that is our field of expertise.
So, please visit our new store and order the materials that you are interested in. You can also pay online to make things easy. Happy browsing.