9500-year-old figurine 370.
(photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority/Yael Yolovitch)
The historical richness waiting just a few centimeters below the surface of the
Jerusalem area is nothing new. Nevertheless, the annual review of the Israel
Antiquities Authority’s new archeological discoveries in the Jerusalem region
was breathtaking in its scope on Thursday, during the sixth annual Innovations
in Archeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area
Co-sponsoring the conference were the National Parks
Authority, the Jerusalem Development Authority and Hebrew University’s Institute
One of the central dilemmas of archeologists and the IAA
is striking the right balance between preserving history and allowing new
development for a growing population.
Many times, however, new
development is the reason for archeological discoveries, a phenomenon that
repeated itself often during the past year.
In order to secure the
necessary construction permits from the Interior Ministry, public works projects
need approval from the IAA. Preconstruction surveys during preparation for the
expansion of Highway 1 around the Motza Interchange have yielded a plethora of
new discoveries, including Iron Age buildings at Tel Motza, explained Dr. Doron
Ben Ami, a chief researcher at the HU archeology institute. At the Motza Stream,
archeologists discovered ruins dating back to the Neolithic period and an
enormous underground water reservoir from the Crusaders.
surveys of the Ramot highway have yielded discoveries of Roman terraces. And
when baseball fans in Ramat Beit Shemesh decided to build a baseball field, they
discovered a new field of dreams: Just a few centimeters below the surface,
there were hundreds of clay pots and figurines.
discovered an enormous burial ground from the Bronze Age.
Even in the
posh Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, construction of fancy new apartments can
sometimes lead to the most startling archeological discoveries. A 6-meter-high
column was unearthed during construction of a new apartment building on the
leafy neighborhood’s Abarbanel Street, leading scholars to believe it could have
been a Byzantineera quarry. The column was mostly likely destined for one the
magnificent cathedrals of the era before it cracked and became dangerous to
At the start of the conference, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
addressed the challenges and importance of the capital’s archeological
“A picture is worth 1,000 words,” he told the packed room of
“If we want to prove our right to be here and our
history here, there is no better way than to market our
Barkat noted that Jerusalem, especially the Old City and the
archeological and political hot spots surrounding the Temple Mount, needed
“extra consideration and carefulness” during digs and research. The First and
Second Temple-period drainage tunnels that stretch beneath the Western Wall
Plaza toward the City of David are a perfect example of how an amazing discovery
needs to be presented to the public with care so as not to be spun into a
The tunnels will only gradually be opened to the
“[The tunnels] show us that we need to market such a dramatic
discovery gently and correctly so that it won’t in the end cause, heaven forbid,
riots around the world,” he said.