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Jerusalem City Wall Discovered

The remains of a Jerusalem city wall dating back to the Second Temple period, 2nd century BCE-70 CE, built by the Hasmonean dynasty and destroyed during the Great Revolt, along with the remains of a city wall dating back to the Byzantine period, 324-640 CE, built atop of the earlier wall were discovered during a large excavation being undertaken on Mount Zion. These fortified walls delineate Jerusalem's southernmost boundary at a time when the city was at its largest.

Tourist Site

The excavation is under the direction of archaeologist Yehiel Zelinger of the Israel Antiquities Authority and has been in progress for about two years. The IAA is working in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and the project is supported by the Ir David Foundation. The aim of the project is to preserve the area surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem as an open tourist site, to be part of the Jerusalem City Wall National Park. City wall remains will be incorporated into a promenade that will circle the southern edge of Mount Zion, continuing on toward the northern bank of the Gai Ben Hinnom Valley, and end in the City of David.

Earlier Excavation

The western and southern walls of Mount Zion were first found and excavated between 1894-1897 by the Palestine Exploration Fund, under archaeologist Frederick Jones Bliss and his assistant Archibald Dickie. The two worked by means of excavating shafts linked by underground tunnels which ran along the external face of the city wall. Over time, the tunnels and shafts filled up with soil. Two years ago, archaeologists tried to find these excavations from a century ago but were unsuccessful.

Zelinger cross-referenced the plans of the old excavation with more current area maps, and was able to pinpoint the site of the British dig. As if to prove the point, the archaeologist's team found a shoe left by one of the earlier excavators, the top of a gas lantern used to provide light within the tunnels, and shards of 120 year old beer and wine bottles.

City Expansion

Zelinger explains that the remains of the two city walls prove the theory regarding the expansion of the city of Jerusalem in a southern direction at the time Jerusalem was thought to have reached its largest size. During the Second Temple period, the city was a focal point for Jewish pilgrims from all over the world, and during the Byzantine period, by Christian pilgrims, as well. The two walls, dated 400 years apart, and placed one above the other, show that this was the most advantageous site for defending the city. Artifacts found during the dig suggest that the Byzantine period builders weren't aware of the presence of the earlier, Second Temple wall. Even so, they built their wall in this exact location.

Zelinger comments, "The fact that after 2,100 years the remains of the first city wall were preserved to a height of three meters is amazing. This is one of the most beautiful and complete sections of construction in the Hasmonean building style to be found in Jerusalem."

 


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