Israeli history photo of the week: Old City caves

JPost special feature: A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

September 20, 2012 13:08
2 minute read.
Solomon's Quarry

Solomon's Quarry. (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)


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The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

Beneath the Old City of Jerusalem, not far from the Damascus Gate, is the entrance to an enormous cavern, one of the largest man-made caves in Israel.  The American Colony photographers visited the cavern 100 years ago.

From the cave's entrance to the end is 300 meters; its width is 100 meters, and its height in some parts is 15 meters tall.  The total size is estimated to be five acres. And the cavern, which was used to quarry limestone blocks, dates back 3,000 years.

According to legend, King Solomon may have taken blocks from the cave to build the First Temple (circa 950 BCE).  While archaeologists are sceptical, there is little doubt that King Herod (circa 50 BCE) quarried stone for building his massive expansion of the Second Temple, including what we call today the Western Wall. 

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