Monday, February 22, 2010

Massive Wall in Jerusalem Dated to Solomon’s Time

Eilat Mazar announced today the discovery of a large stone wall that she attributes to King Solomon.  The article with the most detail is at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with a copy here).  Arutz-7 has a similar report, and others have brief summaries.  Trying to sort out all the pieces is a little difficult from these sources, but here’s a summary:

  • A well-built wall was uncovered that is 220 feet (70 m) long and 20 feet (6 m) high.  The width is not given.  The wall is located on the eastern side of the Ophel atop the western slope of the Kidron Valley (see photo below).  She dates it “with a great degree of assurance” to the 10th century BC on the basis of (1) comparison with walls and gates in other cities and (2) pottery.
  • A large four-chambered gatehouse was found, similar in style to those at Megiddo, Beersheba, and Ashdod.  This gatehouse is 20 feet (6 m) high.
  • A tower adjacent to the gate is buried underneath the road but is believed to be 75 by 60 feet (24 by 18 m) in size.

The report mentions some inscriptions, but it is not clear what was found in Mazar’s dig and what comes from the Temple Mount debris sifting operation.  These should not be reported in the same article, and I sense that some of these inscriptions have been announced previously. [See update below.]

In fact, I think that a good portion of these “discoveries” were made already in 1986-87.  Mazar excavated in the southern portion of her grandfather’s “southern Temple Mount excavations” and claimed that she found an Iron Age gate.  The article mentions in this connection large storage jars, and I am sure that these were published decades ago.  Thus, I surmise that the present excavation is an extension of the old one, but that they are reporting old and new together, without distinguishing between them.  It’s fine to report previous discoveries in order to give context, but that does not appear to be how the excavation results are being communicated to the journalists.

Mazar’s claim that the building she excavated in the 1980s was an Iron Age gate never met with widespread (or even non-widespread) agreement among archaeologists.  They felt that the evidence did not support the identification as a gate.  I’ll write more on this in a follow-up post.

Sources tell me that Mazar has found some very interesting material than has not yet been announced. 

Southern Temple Mount Excavations aerial from sw, tb010703227

Excavation area (circled) south of the Temple Mount

UPDATE: BibleX points to this Hebrew article which has better photos of the excavation and discoveries.

UPDATE #2: I’ve learned that the reason why the Temple Mount Sifting Project was mentioned is that Mazar contracted with them to wet-sift some of her material.  Also, there are some more photos from the excavation at the Hebrew U’s Facebook page.

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