Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Palace of David

Eilat Mazar excavated the palace of David. That’s what she claims, and it’s an amazing possibility to consider.

Mazar summarizes her excavations of the summit of the City of David in a chapter in the new Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018. I told you last week that if you wanted fewer questions and more answers, you would prefer Mazar’s excavation report to Reich and Shukron’s.

The chapter proceeds through the excavation chronologically beginning with the earliest periods. But the discoveries were very limited from all of the pre-Iron periods, and so I am going to skip right over them in this summary. The lack of early evidence in this area may indicate that this area was outside of Jerusalem until the time of David.

As with all of the articles in this book, we are treated to some great photos. This article also has three fantastic plans that help you see what Mazar is explaining. The main feature is the “Large Stone Structure.” This is what Mazar (and others) believes is the palace of David. Or more precisely, she considers it to be “a new significant addition to the already existing Canaanite-Jebusite Palace-Fortress or Mezudat Zion; an addition built by King David during his initial rule in Jerusalem.” So I interpret that to mean that this is David’s pre-Hiram residence. (In another study I’m working on, I reject the notion that David built a pre-Hiram residence, but that’s another discussion.)

Just how “large” is this “Large Stone Structure”? Unfortunately the excavation area was limited and the building extends beyond the edges in several directions. But the outer eastern wall is 20 feet wide, and a portion of it stands on a rock cliff that was chiseled to a height of 22-25 feet. Kathleen Kenyon discovered a royal (proto-Aeolic) capital just below this, but Mazar did not find any more in her area.

A quarried channel discovered behind the Stepped Stone Structure (which is the large foundation of the Large Stone Structure, readily visible in “Area G)” dates to the early Iron Age IIA (= time of David), and Mazar identifies this with the tsinnor mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:8, by which David’s men conquered the city.

Did I mention how much I like the color diagrams?

The finds of later periods were not quite so impressive, and it’s surely disappointing that none of the royal treasures escaped the greedy hands of the many plunderers of Jerusalem. But we can note a few discoveries in brief:

  • A wall possibly constructed ahead of Shishak’s invasion
  • A Hebrew seal impression with the name of Jehucal son of Shelemiah son of Shevi (cf. Jer 38:1)
  • The wall built by Nehemiah
  • A seal inscribed slmt that may have belonged to Shlomit the daughter of Zerubbabel (1 Chr 3:19).

Much of this material has appeared before in news reports and BAR articles, but this article provides a single summary that pulls it all together in a convenient fashion, with great illustrations.

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