As the controversy swirls around the construction of the new bridge leading to the Temple Mount at the Mughrabi Gate, archeologists have already uncovered finds from the medieval period and early Islamic era that shed new light on Jerusalem's history. "We have dug three meters down and discovered massive walls which we believe are from the early Islamic Umayyad period," Jerusalem's chief archeologist Yuval Baruch said. "Because of its proximity to the Wohl Archeological Park, I personally hope to find the rest of the Umayyad palaces."
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The archeological park currently has the only uncovered ruins of the Umayyad palaces which were destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake. They were built in the eighth century as the seat for the Caliphate when visiting Jerusalem. The uncovered complex includes a harem for the caliph's wives, bathhouses, a kitchen, a dining area, and quarters for the caliph's family and servants. The palace also featured a bridge that allowed the caliphs direct access to the Aksa Mosque
Among the findings at the site currently being excavated for the rebuilding of the bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, the archeologists have found pipes belonging to a medieval water system, but for Baruch, "the most interesting find is that we have found the evidence which suggests that right under the Umayyad ruins are Byzantine ruins [135-638], and under these, we believe there are Herodian roads and other ruins from the Second Temple period."
"The main excavations of the Umayyad and Byzantine ruins at the Mugrabi area will begin in a couple of days, and if we are patient enough, in five or six months time we could find Second Temple period ruins" to add to what has already been discoved in the adjacent archelogical park, Baruch added.
The excavations in the archeological garden are taking place in three separate sites. There are two on the western side of the park and one site atop the bathhouses and ritual baths situated directly across Robinson's Arch, the bridge that connected the Temple complex to the markets. 4nd earth that line the steps descending down into the park from the road leading to the Dung Gate, but have already found pieces of pottery and other artifacts which have not been dated as of yet.
"We have uncovered pieces of Jerusalem's history," Baruch said, "but we are unsatisfied with the amount of archeological results in Jerusalem. We need to continue with our work so we can find out more of the history of these buildings which gives us more information."
Baruch also expressed concern that if the excavations stopped, the new ruins would be damaged if they are not immediately and properly salvaged.
The findings at the excavation site could pose a problem for the initial project to reinforce the Mugrabi bridge. The original plan would have seen pillars placed under the bridge for support.
Now, due to the findings, Baruch acknowledged that some re\planning might be necessary. "Before we know what exactly is in the area, no matter what we find and no matter which historical period it comes from, we will need to find a new spot for the pillars of the bridge," Baruch said.
According to city hall officials, the Jerusalem Municipality will submit new plans for the Mughrabi Gate bridge leading to the Temple Mount, but work is scheduled to continue at the site.