Findings of archaeological excavations, released by The Antiquities
Authority Wednesday, challenge the conventional historical concept
that Herod alone was responsible for the building of the Western Wall.
In excavating the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem, archaeologists
found an ancient mikve
This dramatic finding confirms Jewish historian Joseph ben Matityahu's theories positing that the work was only completed during the days of King Agrippa
II (Herod's grandson), and its completion left 8,000 to 10,000
Archaeological data illustrates that the building of the walls of the
Temple Mount and Robinson's Arch was an immense project that lasted
decades and was not completed during Herod's reign.
The road which served as Jerusalem's main
thoroughfare 2,000 years ago - which pilgrims then
used to reach the Temple - recently underwent maintenance work. This is
part of a
project to re-discover the drainage channel that ran beneath the
street, from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David to the
archaeological park at the Western Wall.
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In sifting the dirt from the mikve, three clay lamps were found of the type
prevalent in the 1st Century AD. In addition, excavators found 17
identifiable bronze coins. Dr. Donald Ariel of Antique Authority coins
treasury, stated that the most recent coins were stamped by the Roman
governor Valerius Gratus in 17/18 AD. This means that Robinson's Arch,
and perhaps a longer part of the Western Wall, were built after this
year - at least 20 years after Herod's death.
The Antiquities Authority, the
East Jerusalem Development Company and the Israel Nature and Parks
Authority are working in cooperation to run the project, which is funded
Ir David Foundation. Archaeologist Eli Shukron is directing the project
on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, assisted by Professor Ronny
Reich of Haifa University.
Excavators digging beneath the paved
road near Robinson's Arch exposed sections of the Western Wall founded
on the rock; this is also the Western foundation of Robinson's Arch- a
huge arch bearing a staircase that led from the main street of Jerusalem
to the temple entrance.
According to Professor Reich, "During
the excavation work it emerged that carved in the natural rock are the
remains of various facilities including water cisterns, mikvaot and
basements. They belonged to residential neighborhoods that existed there
prior to King Herod's decision to expand the Temple Mount. Jewish
historian of the period Joseph ben Matityahu tells that Herod began to
expand the site during the 18th year of his reign, and defines it as
"the largest complex that man has ever heard of."
The land was
expropriated and the walls of the houses were removed down to the rock.
The rock-cut installations were filled with dirt and stones, in order to
build on them. What was previously thought to be one of the corners of
the Temple Mount from the first stage of construction, now turns out to
be one of the mikvaot located directly along the Western Wall.
builders filled the mikve with dirt, upon which they placed three large
flat stones, and built the first pillar of the Western Wall on top of