(photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities A)
A quarry from the late Second Temple Period that produced stone to build the Temple Mount's supporting walls has been uncovered in central Jerusalem, the Antiquities Authority said Monday.
The latest discovery brought to three the number of quarries found in the city over the past two years which archeologists believe were used in the construction of the Temple walls.
The 2,030-year-old quarry, which spans more than one dunam (0.1 hectare), was discovered during a salvage excavation on the city's Rehov Shmuel Hanevi ahead of planned construction of residential buildings at the site, the Authority said.
The immense size of the stones found at the site, reaching a height of 2 meters, indicate that they were used in the construction of King Herod's magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount walls, said Dr. Ofer Sion, the director of the dig at the site.
"We know from historical sources that in order to build the Temple and other projects which Herod constructed, such as his palace, hundreds of thousands of various size stones were required - most of them weighing between two and five tons each," he said. "The dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry that was revealed are suitable for the Temple walls."
Sion added that the quarry that was exposed was actually a small part of a large series of quarries that was spread across the entire slope, from Musrara to the Sanhedria neighborhood.
He said the recent exposure of the quarries in Sanhedria and in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, farther north, indicate that Herod began quarrying closest to the Temple Mount, and then worked away from it.
"In those days the world of hi-tech focused on quarrying, removing and transporting stones," Sion said.
Historical sources record that Herod trained more than 10,000 people to be involved in this work: They prepared transportation routes and then moved the huge stones in a variety of ways - on rolling wooden fixtures that were drawn by camels, in pieces on carriages, etc.
Among the artifacts discovered in the excavation were metal plates that were used to severe the stones from the bedrock, as well as coins and pottery shards that date to the end of the Second Temple period.
Dozens of quarries have been found in Jerusalem, but these are the first three that archeologists think were used in the construction of the Temple Mount.
A few dozens quarries were likely used in the building of the Temple Mount, said Prof. Amos Kloner, a former Jerusalem district archaeologist at the Antiquities Authority.