Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Byzantine Quarry with Large Columns Discovered in Jerusalem

This quarry with a particularly hard type of limestone was discovered in a neighborhood about a mile west of the Old City of Jerusalem. The destination of the large columns may have been the Nea Church, an enormous basilica located on the southern end of today’s Jewish Quarter. From Haaretz:

Recent construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood Rehavia, may have revealed the site of this miraculous quarry. Under the foundations of an old building demolished to make room for new construction a large stone chiseled in the shape of a column.

Upon discovery of the column, the Israel Antiquities Authority halted the construction project and began studying the find, which is 20 ft (6 m) tall and 30 in (80 cm) wide. These proportions correspond to building practices of the period.

The site had no other finds that could be used to time the column but Evgeny Kagan of the Antiquities Authority, believes that it is from the Byzantine period based of the stone type and the methods used by the stonemasons. The stone bares the Arabic name "Mizi Achmar," meaning red stone, which could correspond to the "flames of fire" described by Procopius.

This kind of stone is considered very difficult to work with. According to Prof. Yoram Zafrir it was hardly used until the introduction of explosives in the 19th Century, except during the Byzantine era. The builders of the Jerusalem Temple for example used a softer stone.

The full story gives a Byzantine account of the provision of giant red stones. A high-resolution image is viewable here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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