The Antiquities Authority has uncovered some 60 meters of Western Wall foundations, leading to an exciting discovery: One unique smooth stone, unlike any other in the wall • The stone may be left over from the construction of the Second Temple.More on the question of the dating of the Temple Mount wall is here (which I had forgotten about) and more on that and that recently discovered chisel (mentioned later in the article) is here.
Now begins the fourth chapter, a new era. Very quietly, archaeologists have been expanding their excavations to expose the Western Wall's foundations. At first, the excavations involved only a few meters. Now, Israel Hayom reports for the first time that roughly 60 meters of the Western Wall's foundations at the southern end, beneath the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (near the Davidson Center), have been exposed.
The most important finding that has been revealed so far has to do with the revised dating of the Western Wall's construction. Shukron and his colleague, Professor Ronny Reich (his partner in the City of David excavations), went against prevailing opinion when they determined that the Western Wall had not been built by Herod, but rather by Agrippa I and Agrippa II, Herod's grandson and great-grandson. What led them to this conclusion, which goes against all convention, was the discovery of 17 ancient coins that were minted during the time of Valerius Gratus, who served as procurator of Judea during the years 17 and 18 C.E.
The coins were discovered in soil that the Western Wall's builders had used to fill in a mikveh, cisterns and cellars over which the Western Wall was built. When this soil was sifted, the coins from Valerius Gratus' time were discovered -- which meant that the mikveh had been demolished and the first layer of the stones of the Western Wall built on top of it in the year 17 at the earliest, and perhaps even later.
Since Herod had begun building the Temple in 22 B.C.E. and died in 4 B.C.E., his heirs, not he, were the ones who began constructing the lower foundations of the Western Wall about 20 years after his death. They, or their descendants, built the upper foundations, including the stairs at Robinson's Arch that led to the Temple Mount from the west, later still.
The coins that led the archaeologists to their revolutionary conclusion were found roughly two and a half years ago. Since then, one surprise has followed another and finding has followed finding. The recent discovery is fascinating at the very least: a single stone that is different in appearance from the others and raises quite a few questions. It is completely smooth, lacking the cut margins at the edges that we know well from the other stones of the Western Wall.
Eli Shukron explains it with an interesting theory. "This stone came from the Temple Mount, from the surplus stones that were used in the construction of the Temple itself. Those stones were high-quality, chiseled and smooth, like this unusual one, which was discovered among the Western Wall's foundations. This stone was intended for the Second Temple, and stones like it were used to build the Temple -- but it was left unused. The builders of the Western Wall brought it down here because it was no longer needed up above -- and this is how the other stones of the Temple looked," he says, adding, "Anyone who passes a hand gently over this stone feels a slightly wavy texture, just like the Talmud describes."
Monday, May 05, 2014
Has a stone left over from construction of the Second Temple been found?
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: A heart of stone (Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom).