Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Massive Canaanite Wall Found in City of David

The discovery of a massive fortified walkway leading to Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring has been announced by archaeologists Ronny Reich and Eli Shukrun. Excavations so far have uncovered a portion of a Middle Bronze wall that is 26 feet (8 m) high and 75 feet (24 m) long. The wall apparently protected a passageway that led from the fortified city of Jerusalem down the eastern slope of the City of David to the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley.

The discovery is reported in a press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority and a story in Arutz-7, soon to be followed by all the major news outlets. There are some parts of the story that don’t make sense or are inaccurate.

“This is the most massive wall ever discovered in the City of David,” Reich said. “It is tremendously large in terms of its dimensions, thickness, and size of the rocks used. It appears that they protect a walk-way used to walk down from some tower atop the hill towards the spring.”

That statement is fine, but then Reich is quoted as saying,

This is the first time we have found such massive building in Jerusalem from before the period of King Herod.

But he said the same thing years ago, for his excavations of the Pool and Spring Towers reveal monumental construction from the Middle Bronze Age. Perhaps he means that collectively all of his excavations in the past decade have found such construction “for the first time.”

The new double wall/passageway is apparently related to the Pool and Spring Towers which protected Jerusalem’s water supply at this same period. When discovered, there was a mystery as to whether these were free-standing towers outside of Jerusalem’s wall. My guess is that this new wall “connects the dots” and explains how Jerusalemites accessed these towers without exposing themselves to enemy attack.

Connecting discoveries to biblical figures increases interest, but few people would agree with the article’s assertion that this was the time period of Abraham. The wall dates to 1800-1700 BC, while the biblical chronology puts Abraham’s death closer to 2000 BC.

My favorite quote of the article is a statement I’ve often heard archaeologists make, but which rarely seems to make it into print.

The new discovery shows that the picture regarding Jerusalem’s eastern defenses and the ancient water system in the Middle Bronze Age 2 is still far from clear.

And then this:

Despite the fact that so many have excavated on this hill, there is a very good chance that extremely large and well-preserved architectural elements are still hidden in it and waiting to be uncovered.

The IAA release invites you to see the discoveries in person.

The fortification will be revealed to the public for the first time tomorrow (Thursday, September 3), within the framework of the 10th Annual Archaeological Conference on the discoveries in the City of David. Admission to the conference is free and the public is invited. Unique artifacts from all of the excavations at the site, such as the gold earring that was found in the excavation at the Givati Car Park, will be presented in the conference. In addition, before the conference, visitors can participate in any of 17 different tours that will be guided by scholars there.

Two high-resolution photographs of the wall are available here or here (direct link to zip file).

The official (and beautiful) website of the City of David is here.

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