Archeology in Jerusalem

Archeology in Jerusalem

Ophel Archeological Garden







  Capitals and broken pieces of columns
scattered like chessmen in a game that was interrupted in anger.

(Poems of Jerusalem by Yehuda Amichai)

Jerusalem, a city with a continuous recorded history of more than thirty centuries and historical significance for three of the world's major religions, has proved irresistible to archeologists. Since the middle of the 19th century, archeological digs have been undertaken in and around the Old City, ever increasing in scope and improving in scientific methods. Layer upon layer of past eras has been uncovered, bearing out history, and also revealing secrets hitherto unknown.

In recent years many sites have been restored and opened to the public. Among them:

The Ophel Archeological Garden below the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount, reveals 2,500 years of Jerusalem's history in 25 layers of ruins from the structures of successive rulers. The ancient staircase and the Hulda Gate, through which worshippers entered the Second Temple compound, and the remnants of a complex of royal palaces of the 7th century Muslim period are among the antiquities excavated.

The City of David Archeological Park spreads over a ridge to the southeast of the Old City. With the Gihon spring at its foot, it includes remains of Canaanite and Israelite citadels, a 52-foot (16 meter) high structure of the 10th century BCE, possibly built by King David, and Judean dwellings of the 8th and 7th centuries BCE.

The Citadel also known as the Tower of David, houses the Museum of the History of Jerusalem. Excavations have revealed a Hasmonean wall of the second century BCE, three towers built by King Herod and structures from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Mamluk and Turkish periods.

The "Burnt House", actually the basement workshop of a house destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, bears witness to the end of ancient Jewish Jerusalem.

The "Herodian Quarter" has revealed residences of the wealthy, including Temple priests of the Herodian period.

A Roman Gateway has been excavated beneath the Damascus Gate, itself built in the 16th century by the Ottomans. Apparently the main entrance to the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina, it consists of a gate towel, with three openings, leading to guard towers and a plaza within.

The Cardo, the Roman and Byzantine commercial thoroughfare been uncovered and restored, its vaulted recesses serving once more as shops.

The Nea Church, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, has been uncovered and restored. A monumental Greek inscription identifies the church.

A thumb-sized ivory pomegranate bearing, an ancient Hebrew inscription, is the only relic ever recovered from King Solomon's lost Temple treasures. The tiny pomegranate, thought to have topped a scepter carried by a Temple priest, bears the inscription "Belonging to the Temple of the Lord, holy to the priests." It dates from the mid-8th century BCE, the time of Solomon's Temple.

Many of the treasures found in these excavations and in numerous others in and around Jerusalem are housed in the Bronfman Biblical and Archeological Museum and in the Rockefeller Museum, both part of Jerusalem's Israel Museum. Among the finds were two tiny silver scrolls unearthed along with more than 1000 other artifacts, at an ancient burial site on a hill known as Ketef Hinnom, facing the Old City walls. Patiently unrolled, the scrolls revealed ancient Hebrew script, dating from the 7th century BCE, thus making it one of the oldest Hebrew Biblical texts ever found. The scrolls contain the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):

"The Lord bless and keep thee; The Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace."

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