A rare tabletop used for measuring liquids is among the finds uncovered by archaeologists at a site they believe may have been the location of a major town square en route to the Second Temple 2,000 years ago.Excavations in the City of David National Park by the Israel Antiquities Authority have brought to light dozens of stone measurement weights of various sizes, in addition to the tabletop, indicating that the site was once a bustling marketplace in what was known as Jerusalem’s lower city.
The agora (market) appears to have served as a focal point of trade and commerce along the Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem, as well as housing the offices of the “Agoranomos,” the official in charge of regulating weights and measurements in the city.The key find is a section of a “standard volume” table featuring two deep cavities, each with a drain hole at the bottom. The hole could easily be plugged, the cavity filled to the brim giving a standard volume, and the plug then removed to allow the liquid to drain into a container, said Prof. Ronny Reich, who is researching the find.“This is a rare find,” he said. “Other stone artifacts were very popular in Jerusalem during the Second Temple [era]. However, so far, excavations in Jerusalem have only uncovered two similar tables that were used for measuring volume – one during the 1970s in the Jewish Quarter excavations, and another in the Shuafat excavations in northern Jerusalem.”The stone weights found in the vicinity are also notable, given that they are specific to the Second Temple era, lending further weight to the theory that the site was a marketplace.“The weights found are of the type that was typically used in Jerusalem,” said archaeologist Ari Levy, one of the directors of the site. “The fact that there were city-specific weights at the site indicates the unique features of the economy and trade in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, possibly due to the influence of the Temple itself.”According to Reich, more than 90% of stone weights of this type date back to the Second Temple period, making them a unique Jerusalem phenomenon. Meanwhile, Nahshon Szanton, Moran Hagbi and Meidad Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who directed the excavations along the Pilgrimage Road, have uncovered a large open paved area on the street that led up to the Second Temple. The area appears to have served as the main square of the lower city, which would likely have attracted tradespeople and customers alike.“The volume standard table we’ve found, as well as the stone weights discovered nearby, support the theory that this was the site of vast trade activity, and perhaps this may indicate the existence of a market,” Levy said.
Second Temple era marketplace uncovered in Jerusalem (Credit: Israel Antiquity Authority)