The Walls that Nehemiah Built: The Town of Jerusalem in the Persian PeriodFor more on the question of Nehemiah's wall, see the links collected here.
The biblical books Nehemiah 2 and 3 relay the story of Nehemiah’s trip around the destroyed town of Jerusalem and of the rebuilding of its fortifications. Despite the detailed description of walls and gates, scholars debate the actual size of the settlement in Persian times and even question whether the walls were really reconstructed. This paper investigates the facts `on the ground’. Was any town wall of the Persian period ever excavated? How large was Nehemiah’s Jerusalem and how did it function within the Persian empire? Was it a walled town with a central temple, the seat of the governor, a centre of administration, religion and economy? Or was it a small undefended settlement in which only the local temple had any significance? Spoiler alert: there are as many opinions as there are scholars, and the archaeological evidence is meagre.
By Margreet L. Steiner
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