Despite over 100 years of exhaustive excavations throughout Jerusalem’s City of
David, archeologists have been unable to find a single significant structure
from the Hasmonean period, until now.
On Tuesday, following months of
delicate probing and analysis, the Antiquities Authority announced an
unprecedented finding – a 4- meter-high building from the second century BCE,
covering some 64 square meters, with dozens of ancient coins still lying on its
The structure, enclosed by walls made of roughly hewn limestone
blocks more than a meter thick, was found earlier this year in the Givati
parking lot, located by the walls surrounding the City of David National
“More than 100 years of archeological excavation has failed to find
the buildings of the Hasmonean period,” Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, one of the
excavation’s directors, said on Tuesday. “We have not had good evidence of
Hasmonean buildings, until now.”
The Hasmonean dynasty, descendants of
the Maccabee family, ruled Judea and surrounding areas from 141-37 BCE, during
In 37 BCE the Hasmoneans fell to Herod the Great, of
Edomite descent, and the Herodian dynasty began.
pottery vessels were discovered inside the building, Ben-Ami said it was the
discovery of more than 40 silver and bronze coins found on the floor that
surprised him most.
“These indicated the structure was erected in the
early 2nd century BCE and continued into the Hasmonean period, during which time
significant changes were made inside it,” he said.
Ben-Ami said the coins
are presently in the Antiquities Authority laboratory, where they continue to be
cleaned, and will not be displayed for another year.
“The silver coins
are easier to clean than the bronze ones, which take a tremendous amount of time
to uncover the small details,” he said.
While descriptions of the
Hasmonean city were vividly articulated in the works of Flavius Josephus, Ben-
Ami said that apart from remains of the city’s fortifications discovered in
different parts of Jerusalem, none of the Hasmonean city’s buildings had been
Calling the finding unprecedented, the archeologist said the
structure bridges the gap in Jerusalem’s settlement sequence by adding “tangible
“We are filling a gap in the sequence of periods in
Jerusalem’s history,” he said. “We know it is welldocumented in different texts
that it flourished in the 2nd century BCE, but there has been almost nothing
found there until now.”
Noting that the building’s structure precluded it
from being residential, Ben-Ami said although only a small portion has been
excavated, it was likely a public space.
“The way it was built was not
suitable for living, so our guess is that it was an administrative building,” he
said. “As we uncover more we hope to learn more about the nature of the
Asked if he expects to make other significant findings in the
area, Ben-Ami said he was sanguine.
“Absolutely, once you find one
[building], I guess there are many more to be found,” he said.
excavation is sponsored by the Ir David Foundation.