New archaeological discoveries in Hierapolis

As stated in a previous post, Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, has been excavating the cave of the Plutonium in Hierapolis. This year, he discovered two unique marble statues:

“The statues represent two mythological creatures,” D’Andria told Discovery News. “One depicts a snake, a clear symbol of the underworld, the other shows Kerberos, or Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of hell in the Greek mythology.”

Rolled onto itself, the snake looks threateningly toward anybody trying to approach it, while the 4-foot-tall Kerberos resembles the Kangal, the Anatolian shepherd dog. Photo credit: Franscesco D’Andria

According to this article in Discovery News, the excavations also revealed that the source of the thermal springs that produce the white travertine terraces, was located in this cave.

The site represented an important destination for pilgrims. People watched the sacred rites from steps above the cave opening, while priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

During the rites priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead. Credit: Franscesco D’Andria

According to another newspaper report, the tombs located in the extensive northern cemetery of Hierapolis are being restored. While removing the asphalt road that ran through the middle of the cemetery, an ancient road was discovered.

The Tomb of the Gladiator, which is located next to the road, has a decorated lintel over the entrance showing a pot of oil, a trident and a shield. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Denizli Mayor Abdülkadir Demir said they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pamukkale’s inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. He said Pamukkale was a very important tourism center for Turkey due to its travertine, ancient pool and thermal sources. He said, “When we look at figures in the beginning of November, we see the number of visitors is 100,000 more than last year. Interest is increasing every year.”

The northern necropolis of hierapolis is located on top of the city’s famous travertine cliffs. Here is a rich collection of ancient tombs, which immediately immerse the visitor in the city’s history. From the northern entrance, one walks over a mile long path that is lined with funerary monuments. This necropolis contains some 1000 tombs made of limestone in all shapes and sizes. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Hierapolis is mentioned in the New Testament. The believers in Hierapolis were very precious to the Apostle Paul (Col. 4:13). One wonders if any of those early Christian believers may have been buried here.

Restoration of the ‘crown’ of the Damascus Gate

The Damascus Gate is located in the centre of the northern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Kikar haShabbat News reports that the top of this gate has been restored as part of the Jerusalem City Wall Conservation Project.

The Damascus Gate. Photo: © Nathaniel Ritmeyer

The article puts special emphasis on the central decoration at the top of the gate, nicknamed ‘the crown’, that was destroyed in the Six Day War.

This detail shows the 'crown' before restoration.
The 'crown' after restoration. Photo: Kikar haShabbat

The Damascus Gate was built by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent  in 1538 AD  over the remains of a Roman gate. That gate was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a monumental entrance to the city of Jerusalem, which he had renamed Aelia Capitolina. This gate features on the Madaba Map, which shows an open square with a column inside the gate. In the Byzantine period, the gate was incorporated into the city wall.

Reconstruction drawing of the Roman gate. © Leen Ritmeyer

Jack Sasson reports the article in full:

After extensive conservation work on the largest and most impressive of Jerusalem’s gates, which took nearly a year to complete, visitors there can now enjoy the gate in all its splendor just as the public experienced it for hundreds of years, until  the ‘crown’ was damaged in the battles of 1967.
The conservation of the gate was carried out as part of the Jerusalem City Wall Conservation Project, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Prime Minister’s Office

For hundreds of years, when visitors arrived in Jerusalem and entered the city by way of Damascus Gate – the largest and most magnificent of Jerusalem’s gates – they glanced up and saw the large ‘crown’ that the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent built atop the gate in 1538 CE.

But in 1967 the gate sustained serious damage and the crown was destroyed during the fighting in the Six Day War. Now, the Jerusalem Development Authority, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and with funding provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, is concluding a comprehensive project of rehabilitating Damascus Gate, during which the gate was cleaned of the effects from the ravages of time and its ornamentation was restored, including the magnificent ‘crown’ at the top of the gate.

When workers of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority went about restoring the decorations on Damascus Gate they were aided by pictures of the gate that were taken at the beginning of the twentieth century when the British governed Jerusalem.  The pictures show the gate in all its glory, with the crown at the top of the center embrasure, and based on this the conservators proceeded with their work. As part of the engineering and stabilizing measures performed, the ‘crown’ was secured to the core of the wall by means of eleven anchors. At the same time the decoration’s four stones were
completely restored, and its ceiling was covered again with stone slabs as it was in the past, based on the historical photographs.

“The Old City of Jerusalem is a focus of interest for people the world over and the number one tourist attraction in Israel”, says the Elʽad Kendel, director of the Old City Basin in the Jerusalem Development Authority, “the city walls and the gates are the first thing that everyone sees when they arrive at the Old City, and it is therefore important to us that tourists, both domestic and foreign, see the city in all its glory”.

According to Avi Mashiah, the project’s architect on behalf of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The work at Damascus Gate was particularly challenging since it is located at the entrance to a noisy and bustling marketplace. All of the work that was carried out there was done so in agreement with the local merchants. In order to avoid disturbing business in the marketplace, work was begun after the last stall closed at 10:00 PM, and continued until the early hours of the morning, prior to the start of the following business day.  Because of its beauty, Damascus Gate is also
the most documented of Jerusalem’s city gates and its historical
material and numerous photographs facilitated an accurate restoration of its appearance. Every single decoration, including all of its features, was studied and restored by us down to the smallest detail, in order to provide visitors to the gate as full and complete an experience as possible”.

Four years ago the Jerusalem Development Authority commenced work on the rehabilitation and conservation of the Old City walls in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is actually carrying out the work on the walls, and with funding provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. As part of the project, work was conducted along the entire length of the Old City walls and on the gates from the Dung Gate, clockwise in the direction of Zion Gate, Jaffa Gate, the New Gate and
Damascus Gate. Work on the wall is currently being done at the
northeastern corner of the Old City and is scheduled to be completed by year’s end.

The work on the wall included conservation, the removal of hazards and the rehabilitation of elements in the wall. In addition a laser scan was used for the purpose of precisely measuring the wall, particularly the gates, which were surveyed and studied at the level of individual stones. The Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Antiquities
Authority are pleased that visitors to the Damascus Gate can now enjoy the full splendor of the structure, and experience it exactly as the public has for 460 years, until the gate was damaged in 1967.

Mughrabi Gate bridge is back on the agenda

From the Jerusalem Post:

A plan for the renovation of the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount, received final approval from the Jerusalem Municipality last week, enabling construction to begin at any time.

Previous work on the bridge has sparked widespread rioting and violence in both east Jerusalem and the Arab world due to the sensitive location.

The wooden replacement bridge to the Mughrabi Gate and the excavations of the ramp. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

We reported on the problems of the construction of a new bridge here, here and here.

A section through the Mughrabi ramp, with the Western wall Plaza at left and the Temple Mount excavations at right. © Leen Ritmeyer

“This drawing is a section through the dirt ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate. The ramp is in the middle of the drawing. On the left is the Western Wall Plaza, reserved for Jewish worship. On the right of the section is the excavated area with, on the bottom, the Herodian street, with the stones which were thrown down by the Romans in 70 AD. Immediately above this level, remains of the Byzantine period were found, including a water channel cut into the Herodian stones for use in a bath house. Above this level, the remains of a large Ummayad palace was found, which used a similar water channel, cut higher in the Herodian stones of the Western Wall. No Crusader remains have so far been found in this area.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen now. Approval may have been granted, but the building of a new bridge may not be accepted by all:

“[Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel] Rabinovitch dismissed any suggestion of renewed tensions, even with the Arab world in a state of unrest.

“We don’t see any reason for conflict, because we’re talking about a bridge renovation,” Rabinovitch said on Monday.

“In Jerusalem, you never can tell,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran. “There are things we think will cause riots and don’t do anything, and there are things that we don’t understand why they suddenly riot.”

Tunnel-vision politics in Jerusalem

On my return from Jordan, I found that it was and still is widely reported that an underground tunnel has been opened in Jerusalem and, as expected, some outrageous Palestinian comments made about the supposed danger to the Temple Mount, such as these:

The tunnel leading from the City of David in Silwan to beneath the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and announced to media fanfare Sunday, is drawing fire from Palestinians who claim it will damage the Temple Mount.

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dimitri Diliani accused the Jerusalem municipality of Judaizing East Jerusalem and said the digging constituted a “direct danger to al-Aqsa.”

The tunnel in question was first discovered by Charles Warren in the 1870’s, recorded by subsequent excavators such as Bliss and Dickie, Johns and Kathleen Kenyon. A large section below Robinson’s Arch was cleared during Benjamin Mazar’s excavations in the 1970’s. Not only did Warren publish a plan of the tunnel, but in the 1970’s the Irish architect David Sheehan together with my late sister Martha made a detailed survey of the tunnel. The tunnel was constructed as a drain below the street that ran above it.

This plan is based on Warren’s drawing and is published in my book The Quest, p. 56:

Plan of the drain, shown in blue, at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount as discovered by Charles Warren. This plan makes it clear that the drain-tunnel skirts the Temple Mount and poses no danger to it.

There are two distinct phases to be discerned in the tunnel. The older sections to the north and to the south on the plan are roofed with flat slabs, while the central section has a vaulted roof. The flat roofed sections used to belong to one and the same Pre-Herodian, possibly Hasmonean period, while the vaulted section is Herodian.

This picture shows the vaulted Herodian section of the drain below Robinson's Arch. Photo: Tomer Appelbaum

It is clear from the above plan that the construction of the Herodian southwest corner of the Temple Mount cut the earlier drain and a detour was constructed going round this corner, using short sections of vaulting, to reconnect the drain again. This Herodian section also cut through some First Temple period tombs:

A First Temple period tomb, cut through by the Herodian drain. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem

Even Israeli commentators don’t get the purpose of this tunnel right. According to this report:

Visitors are now able to walk from the center of Silwan to the Western Wall plaza within several minutes, via a shaft that researchers believe was used for drawing water from the tunnel. The shaft is in the area of the Davidson Archaeological Park and Center, between the southern wall of the Temple Mount and the Dung Gate, and when the work is completed it will serve as the entrance to the tunnel.

The purpose of this tunnel was not to supply water, but to drain away rainwater that fell on the street and to drain off the sewage of adjacent buildings into the drain:

Manhole with five slots in the Herodian street, leading rain water into the drain below. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

During the Mazar excavations, this tunnel was visited many times by staff and volunteers alike. It is great to hear that the full length of this drain has been opened all the way down to the Siloam Pool. It will be exciting to walk again through this tunnel, but while doing so, one should also remember that in 70 AD many Jerusalemites tried to escape through this same tunnel, but were cruelly killed by the Romans when they were discovered.

Oleg Grabar

Yesterday, 8 January, 2011, Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at Princeton University, passed away.

Oleg Grabar’s research has had a profound and far-reaching influence on the study of Islamic art and architecture. His extensive archaeological expeditions and research trips cover the vast expanse of the Islamic world in Africa, the Middle East, and Muslim Asia.

Interior view of the Dome of the Rock - photo © Saïd Nuseibeh, The Shape of the Holy, p. 75.

His book, The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (1996), details the role of Islam in defining the “look” of Jerusalem that remained largely intact until the twentieth century. A great part of the book is taken up with a description of the beautiful mosaics of the Dome of the Rock, complemented by a set of splendid photographs.

A brief overview of his career can be viewed here.

Source: Jack Sasson

New Studies on Jerusalem

The 16th Annual Conference of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies on “NEW STUDIES ON JERUSALEM” will be held on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 in the Mintz Auditorium (Building 404), Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan. Here is the program:

8:20 Gathering

8:45 Opening remarks:

Prof. Joshua. Schwartz, Director of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

Prof. Avraham Faust & Dr. Eyal Baruch, conference organizers

Session 1 – 9:00- 10:50 Chair: Aren Maeir

09:00 Gabriel Barkay – Kathleen Kenyon in Jerusalem – The Excavations which Terminated a Brilliant Career

09:20 Tsvika Tsuk – The Water Sources of the First Temple at Jerusalem

09:40 Gershon Galil – King David’s First Decade as King of Jerusalem and his Relations with the Philistines in Light of the Qeiyafa Excavation and Inscription

10:00 Moshe Garsiel – The Latent Literary Encounter between Samuel, the Prophet from Shiloh and Ramah, and Nathan, the Prophet of the Jerusalemite Court

10:20 Hillel Geva – The Development of Northern Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period: the Archaeological Evidence and its Significance

10:40 Discussion

10:50 Break

Session 2 – 11:20- 13:10 Chair: Joshua Schwartz

11:20 Ram Bouchnick, Guy Bar-Oz & Ronny Reich – On the Importance of Poultry in the Animal Economy of Judea in the Late Second Temple Period

11:40 Joseph Patrich – The Building Project of Simeon the Just on the Temple Mount: the literary sources, suggested remains and a graphical representation

12:00 Ofer Sion – The Upper Aqueduct of Jerusalem in the area of Jaffa Gate

12:20 Emmanuel Friedheim – Was There a Meeting between Jewish Monotheism and Polytheism in the Second Temple?

12:40 Michael Ben Ari – The Battle of Jerusalem: Destructive Divisiveness or Strategic Coordination, A New Reading of the Writings of Josephus Flavius

13:00 Discussion

13:10 Lunch Break

Session 3 – 14:20-16:40 Chair: Moshe Fischer

14:20 Yehoshua Peleg – The Passover Sacrifice in the Herodian Temple

14:30 Naomi Sidi, Eli Shukron & Ronny Reich – Late Second Temple Period Pottery from the Stepped Street in the Tyropoenon Valley and from the Drain Under It: A ComparativeStudy

14:50 Boaz Zissu & Amos Kloner – Horvat Midras (Kh. Durusiya) – A Reassessment of an Archaeological Site from the Second Temple Period and the Bar-Kokhba Revolt

15:10 Ze’ev Safrai – The Memory of the Temple

15:30 Amos Kloner & Boaz Zissu – A Street Pavement Along Lions Gate Street and its Dating to the First Century CE

15:50 Eitan Klein – The Origins of the Rural Settlers in the Judean Mountains and Foothills during the Late Roman period

16:10 Bat-Sheva Garsiel – The Status of Jerusalem in the Period of the Umayyad and the Abbasid Dynasties (From the mid seventh to the ninth Century CE)

16:30 Discussion

16:40 Break

Session 4 – 17:00- 18:40 Chair: Adrian Boas

17:00 Michael Ehrlich – The Ovens of the Holy Sepulcher during the Crusader Period

17:20 Shlomo Lotan – Exploring and Recovering the Concealed Part of the German Crusaders Church of Saint Mary in the Center of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem

17:40 Perez Reuven – A Manuscript Fragment in Arabic Written in Hebrew Letters from the Mamluk Period Found at the Al-Aqsa Mosque

18:00 Gérald Finkielsztejn – The Convent Outside the New Gate that Saved West Jerusalem (1894-1948)

18:20 Oded Shay – “Jerusalem is the Washington of Israel”: The journey to Jerusalem of the Zionist Functionary Dr. Otto Abeles, 1925

18:40 Discussion

The Conference is dedicated to the Memory of Israel Shalem z”l, a Fellow of the Rennert Center. The meeting is open to all (free of charge)

The conference proceedings (approximately 300 pp., including 17articles in Hebrew, with English abstracts) will be on sale during the conference

For additional information, please contact the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies:

<> or Avi Faust <>.

HT: Jack Sasson

Rachel’s Tomb, The Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Mugrabi Gate

The politicians are at it again. UNESCO has declared The Tomb of Rachel to be a mosque. Israel’s Prime Minister has slammed the report.

The claim is, of course, ludricous. This photograph, taken in 1890-1900, already describes the building as The Tomb of Rachel:

The Tomb of Rachel - photograph taken in 1890-1900

Joe Lauer reminded us of what Abba Eban once said about the United Nations General Assembly, “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” 

When guiding round the Temple Mount excavations, we always pointed out that the headquarters of the United Nations are rightfully situated on the Mount of Evil Counsel.

In another report, the US demands from Israel to remove the Tomb of the Patriarchs from Israel’s list of national heritage sites. The very architecture of the Tomb of the Patriarchs of proves that it was built by Herod the Great.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs. The wall has been partly cut away to indicate the location of the double cave where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives were buried.- © Leen Ritmeyer

The Mugrabi Gate is also in the news, as it has been reported that falling stones from the ramp could endanger the women who pray below:

UNESCO appeared to support the PA demand for the Temple Mount as well, asking that Muslim officials be allowed to examine the Mughrabi Gate near the Western Wall (Kotel). Muslim leaders have accused Israel of attempting to damage the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount under the guise of repairs to the Mugrabi Gate. Israeli officials have warned that if the gate is not repaired, it could collapse, putting worshipers at the Western Wall at risk.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, Rabbi of the Western Wall, termed the decision “outrageous.” “They have never said in the past that this was a Muslim holy site. The [UN] organization responsible for heritage has turned heritage into politics.” Israel should think carefully about whether or not to cooperate with UNESCO in the future, he said.

In an earlier post, The UNESCO leopard has not changed its spots, we discussed the problems of the ramp. It is clear that nothing has changed in the attitude of UNESCO. See also Todd Bolen’s post: Falling Stones Endanger Women at Western Wall.

HT: Joe Lauer

Report on the Destruction of the Temple Mount

Government ‘tried to bury’ report on Temple Mount excavations

This funny pun introduces an article about the suppression by the Government of Israel of a report on the illegal Temple Mount excavations.

We had earlier reported here, here, here, here, here and here on these illegal excavations and registered our protest.

The newspaper article goes on to say:

The report has not yet been published but Knesset sources who have seen it say it contents are so sensitive that they could spark riots once revealed.

It doesn’t take much to spark a riot in Jerusalem, but we are interested to hear more about this report than seeing people injured.

First Temple period wall found in Jerusalem – revisited

One of my blog readers, Arthur Chrysler, made the following comments on a previous post, which I would like to share with other blog readers:

The Large Tower, explored by Warren and one hundred years later by Dame Kenyon, is constructed of stones of the character identified as Phoenician at Samaria. The header-and-stretcher construction is also identified as Phoenician at Samaria. Kenyon stated, “The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is, on the field estimate of the pottery, eighth century B.C. OR EARLIER (Digging up Jerusalem p.115). She also states in the caption under pl. 38, “Wall in Site S II on eastern crest of eastern ridge, which can be STRATIGRAPHICALLY dated to 8th century B.C….”. This area of Jerusalem is not a Tel! You cannot stratigraphically date anything here. This unique topography, consisting of a steep slope with exposed bedrock demands unique methodology. Kenyon states that, “Close at hand, there was a wall of the time of Solomon, from which the builders of the eighth century B.C. derived their stones”. King Hezekiah had a unique style of construction as seen in the Broad Wall, the Outer Wall, and his section of wall cutting across the Jebusite angle above the Gihon Spring. None of these examples give a hint of header-and-stretcher characteristics. Why would Hezekiah go through the trouble of re-stacking Solomon’s massive stones to move the tower only a few meters? Kenyon used the dating method that she was familiar with but it led her to the wrong conclusion regarding the tower here. The tower is certainly Solomonic and the connected wall and the Golden Gate, all of which display Identical characteristics.

If it is true that nothing can be dated stratigraphically in this part of Jerusalem, how can you then insist on a Solomonic date for the wall in Kenyon’s site SII and Benjamin Mazar’s Field 23? Kathleen Kenyon excavated down to the bedrock in this area and indeed concluded that:

“Beneath … the Byzantine wall … is a wall which probably belonged to a projecting tower. The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is … eighth century B.C. or earlier.” “… these walls were constructed of re-used stones … with irregular projecting bosses having margins on one, two or three sides.”

If these stones are indeed in secondary use, which I am not convinced of, it is possible that these are rejects or surplus masonry from Hezekiah’s square Temple Mount construction.

If you would examine the elevation, section and Isometric drawing of the Ophel Wall on Warren’s Plans, Elevations, Sections, etc., (1884), Plate 40, then it is clear that this L-shaped wall is built against an earlier wall and one can still see today that two different First Temple period building phases are represented in this area. That is why Warren called this wall section the “Extra Tower” or “Corner Turret”, i.e. it is a tower that was later added to strengthen an earlier fortification or part of the city wall. If the L-shaped wall, as you insist, is Solomonic, does that make the wall against which it is built Canaanite? If there are two construction phases in a building, that is called stratigraphy, showing that one wall is earlier than another. This stratigraphy is not different from that on a tell. This picture shows that the stratigraphically four building constructions can be identified:

1. The Byzantine Tower
2. Excavating inside and below the Byz. tower, a Herodian mikveh was found that was built against the inside wall of the “Extra Tower” (not visible in the picture)
3. The 8th century L-shaped “Extra Tower”
4. The pre-8th century wall against which the “Extra Tower” was built, which may be Solomonic if that can be proved conclusively.

Kenyon dated this L-shaped corner construction to the eighth century B.C. or earlier, but that does not necessarily mean that it is Solomonic. You compared it with the Phoenician masonry in Samaria, but that dates to the 9th century and is not Solomonic. A similar style masonry has been found in the sanctuary walls in Tel Dan, which is also post-Solomonic. I had suggested that there is an historical link between the “Extra Tower” and the masonry near the Golden Gate, but neither of these two constructions can be Solomonic.

The Destruction of the Temple Mount continues

It is feared that the destruction of the Temple Mount by Muslims continues. It has been observed that work is taking place to the east of the Dome of the Rock, where the Court of the Priests and the Altar were located. According to this report:

“The Waqf works are constant, we see tractors going to and fro carrying earth. The work is taking place near the Dome of the Rock, exactly in the place between where our Holy Temple’s courtyard and the Altar used to stand. The Waqf claims they are doing pavement work there, or so they advertise in the news sites, but in practice they surrounded themselves in white burlap and we see there is scaffolding. I suppose that for paving works there should be no need for scaffolding.”

The bedrock is only a few feet below the pavement and the layers between it and the pavement could easily be destroyed. On a visit to the Temple Mount last year, we observed repairs to pavement north of the Dome of the Rock and it was clear that no digging with tractors was involved:

Hopefully some more information will become available soon.