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Royal Gateway to Ancient Jerusalem Uncovered, Eilat Mazar, BAR 15:03, May-Jun 1989.

Bible and Beyond

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Dedicated to the memory of Professor Yigal Shiloh. The love and devotion he brought to the discovery of ancient Jerusalem will continue to inspire us for many years to come.

For ten years—from 1968 to 1977—the area adjacent to the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was intensively excavated.1 Astounding discoveries were made, but hardly a trace of anything from the First Temple period was uncovered.

The excavators were doubly disappointed because this was ancient Jerusalem’s Ophel (OH-fell), the location of the royal quarter, an important administrative center in First Temple times. They could console themselves in the knowledge that if they were empty-handed—of First Temple finds—it wasn’t for lack of trying. The excavation was massive. Led by Hebrew University’s Benjamin Mazar (my grandfather), a team of experts, aided by hundreds of volunteers from Israel and abroad, labored indefatigably year-round, not just, as is customary, in the summer months.

Overall, the results were impressive. The team uncovered a huge area. Among the discoveries were Arab palaces from the Umayyad period (seventh to eighth centuries A.D.) and houses from the Byzantine period (fourth to seventh centuries A.D.). A vast complex from the Herodian period (first century B.C.) included the enormous walls of the Temple Mount—which were approached by a magnificent staircase—as well as an imposing array of paved streets, squares, shops and dozens of ritual baths. The excavators naturally hoped that as they dug deeper they would find remains from still earlier periods—royal buildings from First Temple days.

To appreciate the importance of this area in First Temple times, we must understand a bit of the geography of ancient Jerusalem.

The Jebusite city of Jerusalem that King David conquered stood on a small hill surrounded by deep valleys, just a short distance (some 760 feet) south of the area Professor Mazar was excavating. A perennial spring—the Gihon—gushed forth near the valley floor to the east of the city. In an act of political and military daring, the details of which are unclear (see 2 Samuel 5-6–9; 1 Chronicles 11-4–6), King David captured the city from the Jebusites and made it his capital. Thus Jerusalem became known as the City of David. Even today this area—where the Jebusite city was located and that King David conquered—is known as the City of David.

The hill on which the City of David lies, however, is not completely isolated- On the north, a narrow ridge called the Ophel gradually widens and connects the City of David with the Temple Mount. Topographically, the archaeological tell of ancient Jerusalem is composed of three elements- the hill of the City of David, the Ophel ridge and the Temple Mount. These three components are of primary importance in understanding the gradual development of the city.

We know the term Ophel from the Bible. It comes from the Hebrew root ‘PL (lp[), which means “to climb,” “to rise up” or “to swell.”b It was the exalted place to which one ascends. Quite naturally, the inner fortress, the royal throne and the administrative center were all built here.

Jerusalem was not the only city with an Ophel. Another recorded reference to an Ophel appears on the so-called Mesha Stele, or Moabite Stone. Found among the ruins of ancient Dibon, east of the Jordan River, it was originally a victory monument erected by Mesha, king of Moab in the mid-ninth century B.C. Among the construction projects of which Mesha boasts in the lengthy inscription on the stele is the building of a “wall of the Ophel” (lines 21–22) in Dibon, his capital.2

From the Bible, we also know of an Ophel in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the second half of the ninth century B.C. (see 2 Kings 5-24) The prophet Elisha, because of his distinguished stature, resided in this prestigious part of Samaria, apparently located between the palace fortress at the top of the tell and the “lower wall” that was apparently constructed around it.3
The first mention of the Ophel of Jerusalem in the Bible comes from the time of King Jotham of Judah. In the middle of the eighth century B.C., Jotham, we are told, “built extensively at the Ophel wall” (2 Chronicles 27-3). It seems that Jerusalem’s Ophel had already been in existence for quite some time.

Although we have yet to confirm this archaeologically, we assume that King David himself took the first step in expanding the Jebusite town northward. Jebusite Jerusalem occupied a mere 35 dunams—about nine acres. Immediately after David conquered the city, he apparently dwelt inside the Jebusite stronghold known as the Fortress of Zion (Mesudat Siyyon; 2 Samuel 5-7). It is generally accepted that this was built at the top of Area G in Yigal Shiloh’s excavation of the City of David.4 The famous stepped-stone structure supported the Fortress of Zion, where David lived. Originally excavated by R. A. S. Macalister between 1923 and 1925, the stepped-stone structure was investigated again by Kathleen Kenyon between 1961 and 1967, and finally by Shiloh from 1978 to 1985.

Not long after David conquered the city, however, he built a new palace for himself with the help of his friend and ally, Hiram, king of Tyre. Hiram sent his Phoenician craftsmen to Jerusalem to build the new palace (2 Samuel 5-11; 1 Chronicles 14-1). This palace probably stood in the southern part of the Ophel, near the northern edge of the Jebusite city.

The area containing David’s new palace remained open and unfortified. When Solomon succeeded his father David, Solomon “closed the breach of the City of David” (1 Kings 11-27). The Hebrew word for “breach” can also be translated as “an extension.” Therefore, King Solomon enclosed this addition to the city with a wall that apparently connected to the earlier, City of David wall (1 Kings 3-1, 9-15).

Solomon also extended the city farther north, to the even higher area we now know as the Temple Mount. Here Solomon built his own royal palace and a magnificent temple as a dwelling place for the Israelite God Yahweh (1 Kings 6–7).

In this way Solomon gave Jerusalem its definitive shape, clearly dividing it into a lower city, populous and fortified, and a separate acropolis that included the royal complex consisting of the king’s palace and the Temple of the Lord.

The way the city developed particularly affected the northern part of the Ophel. David built his new palace on the southern part of the Ophel. Solomon built his new palace and the Lord’s Temple on the Temple Mount, effectively skipping over the northern part of the Ophel. The northern part of the Ophel remained undeveloped until a later time. As we shall see, that will explain why no remains that predated the ninth century B.C. were found in this area. (David began his reign about 1000 B.C.; Solomon reigned from about 960 to about 920 B.C.) In ten years of excavation in the northern part of the Ophel, only the scantiest First Temple remains were found, even dating after the ninth century B.C., when this area had been developed.c It eventually became clear that intensive quarrying and construction over a period of 1,500 years (since the Babylonian destruction of Solomon’s Temple) had left nothing from the First Temple period except a few trace walls and pockets of finds of little informative value. Approximately 350 years of First Temple period development and construction appeared to be lost to the archaeologists.

We could not help wondering- Had nothing at all remained of the palatial complex built south of the Temple? What about the “house of the daughter of Pharaoh” that Solomon built for his new wife, who “went up from the City of David to the palace which he had built for her” (1 Kings 9-24; 2 Chronicles 8-11)? What about the “house of the forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 10-21) in which the armory and treasury were kept? Had the entire royal quarter south of the Temple been utterly destroyed?

Then in May 1976, when Benjamin Mazar was beginning to give up all hope of finding any significant First Temple remains in this area, he came upon a portion of a public building on the far southeastern edge of the excavation. It was preserved to a considerable height and contained numerous charred vessels—burned in the horrible destruction that the Babylonians inflicted on Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Although Mazar could discern only part of the building’s plan, he learned a great deal about its nature and about the technique of its construction. Bedrock slopes down sharply to the southeast of this structure, called Building C (see plan). The original builders had solved this problem by leveling the area in order to provide a stable base for the building. The successful adaptation of the structure to the difficult topography reflects the technical talents of the builders. First, they laid a base of rough stones flush with each lower level of bedrock. Then they added foundations to insure uniform floor heights. The superstructure was set, according to the dictates of the topography, either on the stone base or on foundation walls or directly on bedrock. To the northwest, the bedrock was quarried out and adapted and integrated into the superstructure.

As was customary for public Israelite construction, the superstructure was built of rough stones, while the doorposts and corners were built of ashlars (rectangular worked stones) laid in “header-and-stretcher” fashion (alternately with long and short sides facing out;see photo).

Professor Mazar excavated two identical, nearly square rooms (8 feet by 9 feet) of Building C. The walls were preserved up to a height of nearly 11 feet in some places.

In the southern room, dozens of vessels were discovered, including over 40 storage jars, all of the same type. Five large bowls were ornamented in an intaglio rope pattern and incised. This was the first time that bowls of this kind had been found in Jerusalem. Other finds included a small pendant, 1.24 inches high with an image of Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of war; a duck-headed zoomorphic vessel; and a jar handle bearing a seal impression inscribed with the name of a woman- “[belonging] to Hannah daughter of Azariah (LHNH BT ‘ZRYH).” According to Professor Nahman Avigad of Hebrew University, who is a specialist in ancient Hebrew seals, this is the first time a woman’s seal impression appears on a jar, indicating the woman’s status in the royal administrative system.5

In the second room of Building C (to the west), which was partly destroyed by later construction, excavators found a “rosette” storage jar. This type of medium-size jar often carries a rosette impression and is characteristic of the end of the First Temple period (seventh–sixth centuries B.C.).
Northwest of this second room, Professor Mazar located part of an additional room. Upside-down on the burnt floor lay six large bowls, one inside the other. Apparently, these bowls fell from a wooden shelf that burned when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

The building’s public character, sophisticated construction technique and date (the period of the kings of Judah) led Professor Mazar tentatively to identify Building C as the “Beth Millod on the way down to Silla” (2 Kings 12-21), where Joash (836–799 B.C.), king of Judah, had been assassinated by a conspiracy of his courtiers.

Several years later, Professor Mazar asked me to prepare for publication the excavation materials from the Iron Age—the archaeological period that includes the time of the First Temple, that is, the time of Solomon’s Temple. I was delighted to accept this challenge. But I could turn to it only in 1985, after the final season of the City of David excavations, where I worked as an assistant to the late Professor Yigal Shiloh and supervised the excavation of the area known as E3. The delay, however, proved beneficial. The experience I acquired in four years at the City of David excavations served, albeit unwittingly, as excellent training for the work that awaited me at the Ophel.

As I studied the Iron Age material from the Ophel and from the building tentatively identified as the Beth Millo, I decided that additional field work was needed. Despite the prevailing view that nothing of the building remained to be excavated, it seemed to me that the area adjacent to the Beth Millo had been excavated only to the base of the early Roman level, and that it might still contain some important remains from the First Temple period. Later construction, primarily from the early Roman period (first century B.C. to first century A.D.), had indeed destroyed part of the Israelite ruins, but it had also incorporated and integrated the Israelite remains into the new construction, in effect insuring the preservation of the Israelite remains. The area was relatively narrow (only 30 feet across, between the modern road and the eastern Umayyad palace). Nevertheless, we could reasonably expect the earlier remains to be preserved to a considerable height because of the sharp downward slope of the bedrock. This indeed proved to be the case. Parts of First Temple walls in this area were preserved to a height of more than 16 feet.

As usual, raising money for a new excavation was the first problem. After ten years of excavation, people asked, what could possibly remain there?

Then, a stroke of luck clinched things in our favor. I had randomly chosen a site for a small test square (slightly over 6 feet on each side). After digging down only 1 foot, we came upon the side of a gigantic jar in the midst of a considerable quantity of carbonized earth. As we later learned, this was one of the 12 large pithoi (storage jars) that would be found in part of a building known as Building D. A slight difference in the choice of the test site might have led to disappointing results. The test unequivocally confirmed that our thinking was correct; there was more to be found!

Convinced of the validity of our idea, Professor Mazar supported us. Eventually we obtained funds from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Foundation. We obtained the approval of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to conduct the excavation under its auspices.6

One month of excavation, in March–April 1986, led to a complete change in our understanding of the area. To understand why, however, we must review the earlier excavations in this area—by the famous British engineer, Captain Charles Warren, on behalf of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund, in 1867; and by Dame Kathleen Kenyon on behalf of the British School of Archaeology, in 1967.

In 1867, Warren conducted a comprehensive topographic exploration of the Temple Mount and the Ophel. He dug shafts straight down to bedrock and then followed lines of ancient buried construction and fortification by digging underground tunnels. The area to which we returned in 1986 included one of the shafts that Warren dug.

Warren published the results of his research in 1884 in the Jerusalem volume of The Survey of Western Palestine (London, 1884). According to Warren’s report, in this area he found two immense, wonderfully preserved towers, built of ashlars and resting on bedrock (see plan and isometric). The towers belonged to a fortification system that Warren assigned to the First Temple period. The larger tower, about 75 feet long and 60 feet wide, was preserved to a height of more than 60 feet. The other tower, northeast of the first, stood about 25 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet high. The ashlars in the large tower measured 1 to 2 feet by 2 to 4 feet. In the other tower the ashlars are much larger—up to 3 by 4 feet.

When Kathleen Kenyon returned to the site in the 1960s, she opened an excavation square (SII) at the entrance to the shaft that Warren had dug 100 years earlier. Here Kenyon uncovered an additional segment of the smaller tower. The magnificent ashlar construction, the likes of which had never been found anywhere else in Jerusalem, or in Israel, reminded Kenyon of the beautiful ashlar masonry she herself had excavated a half-century earlier in Samaria in northern Israel. This Samaria masonry was dated to the ninth century B.C.

I recall the last visit Yigal Shiloh made to the site. We stood before the imposing wall, which we had exposed and cleaned anew, and spoke about this enigma. Shiloh was perhaps the world’s leading expert on Iron Age masonry; he had written his doctoral dissertation on the subject. He rejected Kenyon’s comparison with the construction in Samaria. Shiloh found it difficult to define or categorize this wall on the basis of parallels to known styles and periods. In his opinion, this wall was unique.

From the outset of our renewed excavation in the area, northwest of the wall of the small tower, a new royal building began to form before our eyes. Since only the bottom story, which served as a storage space, was preserved, it was impossible to know which royal building it was (see Building D on the plan).

Continued excavation added further details. The building had perished in an intense conflagration, signs of which were evident everywhere. The obvious perpetrators of this destruction were the Babylonians who overran Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The eastern corner of the building was preserved to a height of more than 17 feet. The external walls on the northeast and southeast varied from 6 to 8 feet thick.

Gradually, the internal plan of the building began to take shape. The eastern room (8 feet by 18 feet) was exposed in its entirety. In this room—and later in other parts of the building—we found two superimposed floors, one on top of the other. Seven large pithoi of a type not seen before in Jerusalem lay on the upper floor, arranged along the walls. The average height of the pithoi was over 3.5 feet and the diameter over 2.5 feet. These storage jars probably held oil or wine. On the shoulder of one of the bulky pithoi, a delicate palm tree pattern was incised. The significance of this incised pattern on a vessel in a royal storage room that was undoubtedly rather dark is something of a puzzle.

The pithoi were found in situ, but broken, below a large fall of stones. Between the stones were remains of carbonized wooden beams, some of which we identified as cedar of Lebanon. As we know from the Bible, cedars of Lebanon were widely used in public construction in Jerusalem from the time of King David.

The pithoi rested on a floor of beaten earth, below which lay an earthen fill of reddish color. This fill contained an abundance of pottery sherds, apparently from vessels that had been collected from other locations and mixed with the earthen fill to stabilize it. On the basis of these sherds, we can say that the upper floor was laid no earlier than the end of the eighth century B.C. King Manasseh probably laid this floor, as part of his construction work described in Chronicles-

“Afterward he built the outer wall of the City of David west of Gihon in the wadi on the way to the Fish Gate, and it encircled Ophel; he raised it very high” (2 Chronicles 33-14).

The lower of the two superimposed floors was very different. It was made of crushed chalk, below which lay a light brown earthen fill containing very few pottery sherds. Oddly enough, about half of these sherds dated to the Middle Bronze Age (the first half of the second millennium B.C.). More significant for dating purposes was an intact black juglet characteristic of the tenth and ninth centuries B.C. This juglet was found hidden between the stones of one of the foundation walls of the room, as if it had been placed there intentionally by one of the builders as a sort of private foundation deposit. On the basis of the pottery, including this juglet, we have concluded that the lower floor was laid, and hence the entire building was constructed, sometime in the ninth or early eighth century B.C.

The lower floor showed no signs of fire or destruction of any kind. We can therefore conclude that the upper floor was laid as part of a renovation program of the original structure. We found the same two floors on top of one another in an adjacent room to the southwest, in other parts of the building, and in corridors.

The room to the southwest revealed similar finds—gigantic pithoi arranged along the walls like soldiers, but crushed, burnt and broken beyond repair, as a result of the intense heat of the fire that destroyed the room. Nevertheless, in the course of our efforts at restoration, we found an incised inscription on the shoulder of a pithos, with Hebrew lettering characteristic of the seventh century B.C. In unmistakably clear letters it reads “[belonging] to the minister of the O … (L’S�RH’W[ … ])”—and then it is broken off. The rest is missing.

The reference to a S�R, or official minister, is beyond doubt. Among the royal officials mentioned in the Bible are a number with this title.

But what was he a minister of? All we know is that it began with the Hebrew letters aleph vov (wa), here used as a sign for the vowel O. From the Joseph stories, we know of a minister of the bakery (S�R H’WPYM). Perhaps these gigantic pithoi contained products intended for the royal bakery. Another possibility is that our minister was the minister of the treasury (S�R H’WS|�R), although no such title appears in this form in the Bible. Other possibilities, although less likely in my opinion, are S�R H’WRWWT (minister of the stables) and S�R H’WRGYM (minister of the weavers). Whatever the reference, however, this inscription provides additional evidence as to the royal character of the building. In the years to come, we intend to expose more of this important building, and we hope to establish its plan more completely.

Of course, from the outset of our exposure of this building, we were interested in what, if any, relation it had to the First Temple period building (Building C) that Benjamin Mazar had partly excavated in the same area. Then on April 17, 1986, early in the morning, we drew a new sketch of the entire complex—of Warren’s towers (A and B on the plan), of Benjamin Mazar’s building (C on the plan) and of the adjacent building I had excavated (D on the plan).

With this new sketch, Building C emerged before our eyes as a gatehouse similar to the well-known Solomonic gates at Megiddo, Gezer, Hazor and Lachish. I remember being silent for a long time, and then mumbling over and over again, “I don’t believe it”—a Biblical gate in Jerusalem, here on the Ophel, at the Temple Mount! There is no describing the enormous excitement that swept over us once we realized what we had uncovered.

Professor Mazar was due to arrive any moment. When he came, I said to him, “Granddad, today is one we won’t forget. If you are willing to give up your Beth Millo [he had tentatively identified Building C as the Beth Millo], maybe I can offer you something even more interesting.” I spread out the plan before him. Silence. He looked at me and said, “You don’t mean that. … ”

“Yes,” I replied, “I do. We have found a gatehouse of First Temple Jerusalem.”

At first, we thought it was probably a six-chambered gate with three chambers on each side. Later, we decided it was a four-chambered gate, with two chambers on each side. But the last word still remains to be said on this question.

It is possible that the wall of the gatehouse (Building C) continues to the northwest and encloses a third chamber, larger than the other two chambers. On the other hand, it is also possible that instead of another chamber, there is only an extension on one side and an open court on the other, forming something of a square leading into the city, similar to the plan of the gate in Beer-Sheba’s stratum II.7

Soon, word of our startling find spread through the city, and numerous distinguished visitors, including Mayor Teddy Kollek, flocked to our excavation. One happy result was that the Jerusalem Foundation quickly raised additional funds so that we could continue our field work, if only for a short time.

Some people could not understand how a gatehouse could simply pop up one day. Others, especially Professor Nahman Avigad, expressed criticism that deserved careful consideration. Avigad pointed out to us that our gatehouse structure bore a resemblance to the so-called ostraca building in Samaria (see plan)—and thus may not be a gatehouse at all. The numerous jars found in what we identified as the southern chamber of the gatehouse do suggest that the structure had a storage function.

But this raises another possibility. It seems that gatehouse structures in the First Temple period also served a storage function, and this fact is sometimes ignored. We know that in addition to its military and defense functions, a city’s gate complex also served as a civic and municipal center, and as a place of assembly. In Jeremiah 39-3, for example, we read that after Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, breached the walls of Jerusalem, “all the ministers of the king of Babylon entered, and congregated in the middle gate.” The gate complex was also the locus of legal proceedings. In Amos 5-15 we are told to “hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” Religious rituals were also conducted in proximity to the city gateway, as reflected in 2 Kings 23-8- “[Josiah] demolished the shrines [bamot] of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua, the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand as he entered the city gate.”

Gates were also a center of commercial activity and the site of municipal markets. Thus, we read in 2 Kings 7-1- “Tomorrow, in the gate of Samaria, a measure of fine flour will sell for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel.” The storage jars Professor Mazar found in the southern chamber of Building C do not necessarily contradict the identity of the structure as a gate complex. These storage jars could well have been stored in it.

At present, the findings are necessarily incomplete.8 The northeastern portion of the structure was to a large extent destroyed by later construction, and nothing remains of the superstructure of the building. On the other hand, the foundation walls have been preserved to such an extent that we can extrapolate a symmetrical plan along both sides of a central axis.

Since nothing remains of the doorposts of the gate, it is difficult to appreciate from the plan that there was an entrance at all. In this regard, however, a short season in September 1987 provided a most significant clarification. When we removed several later rooms that had been built within the passageway of the gate, we discovered a beautiful lime floor more than 3 feet above bedrock. On this floor we found a complete lamp typical of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. and large sherds from two ornamented bowls. These bowls were the same type that Benjamin Mazar had found in the southern chamber and can also be dated to the seventh to sixth centuries B.C. The floor was preserved over most of the length of the passageway. As it approached the location of the entrance, it continued beyond the threshold! If the structure was indeed a building instead of a gatehouse, the floor would not extend beyond its walls. This floor proved that the structure was connected to the large tower to the southeast, discovered by Warren, and actually opened onto it.

This large tower served as an approach tower to the gate. As in gates in a number of other Biblical cities, a person approaching the city would first pass through an outer gate, then make a 90-degree turn to enter the city’s inner gatehouse. Here, too, there must have been an outer gate; this would clearly fit with Warren’s plan. There must have been an entrance, as yet undiscovered, through the southwest side of Warren’s larger tower, which formed the outer gatehouse and which led into a plaza in front of the inner gatehouse. One would turn left to enter the inner gatehouse (C on the plan).

Naturally, gate complexes to ancient cities vary in detail. These differences sometimes seem to outweigh the similarities. Each gateway must be adapted to local needs and topographic conditions. Nevertheless, we were understandably thrilled when our surveyor, a young archaeology student named David Milson, discovered that the four chambers of our gate had dimensions virtually identical to those of the palace gate (No. 1567) in stratum V A–IV B at Megiddo, dating to the tenth century B.C.!9 Is this simply a coincidence? More probably, the two gates were built according to the same blueprint. Is it possible that these two gates in Jerusalem and Megiddo were intentionally built according to an identical plan?

The Jerusalem and Megiddo Gates

Ophel Gate, Jerusalem (feet) Gate 1567, Megiddo VA–IV B (feet)

Overall Length 34 33.5

Overall Width 48.5 48

With of Passageway 13 14

Width of each Chamber 9 9

Length of each Chamber 8 7

Width of Superstructure Walls 5 5

In some respects our Ophel gate is unique. In the First Temple period, Jerusalem grew to some 620 dunams (about 154 acres) covering a number of hills. Numerous gates leading to various quarters of Jerusalem had to be built into the city walls. The Ophel gate was one of these. It was a city gate in every respect; it was part of a complex containing an approach tower and an outer gate, and it was integrated with a line of fortification. At the same time, it was a palace gate, leading to the royal quarter of the city, the acropolis of Jerusalem.

It is reasonable to assume that the palace complex on the Ophel was built in the ninth century B.C. This conclusion is based on the historical sources and on the date indicated by the pottery from the fill of the lower floors of the gate we excavated and in the adjacent public building.

Taking the matter a step further, a Phoenician architectural office might well have offered its good services at both Jerusalem and Megiddo. After all, Phoenicia had close cultural relations with both cities. It may not be so surprising that the two gates closely resemble each other.

This gate complex in Jerusalem consisted of the great tower (B), an additional tower (A), which served as a corner turret at a most important strategic point overlooking the Kidron Valley, an inner gatehouse (C), with the public building (D) and the ruins of an additional building to the southeast (G). Together this forms a fortification line composed of discrete units, each standing as a fortification in its own right, but joining together to form a continuous fortification line climbing gradually with the topographic line toward the north.

In the middle of the fifth century B.C., Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from exile with the objective of renovating the city destroyed by the Babylonians. He counted ten gates, in order of their location along the city wall. Warren identified the large tower he discovered as the tower mentioned in Nehemiah 3-25- “Palal son of Uzai repaired over against the turning, and the tower that stands out from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. … ” We believe that Warren was right and that the tower he discovered (B) is actually the “tower that stands out from the upper house of the king.”

In the following verse in Nehemiah, we are told that “the Nethinim dwelled in Ophel, unto the place over against the Water Gate [Building C] toward the east, and the tower that stands out [Tower B]” (Nehemiah 3-26). And in the next verse- “After him the Tekoites repaired another portion, over against the great tower that stands out [Tower B], and unto the wall of Ophel” (Nehemiah 3-27). Accordingly, we believe that the gate we discovered may be identified with the “Water Gate” referred to in Nehemiah 3-26.

We believe that the entire complex discovered by more than a century of archaeological exploration is described in these verses from Nehemiah. Moreover, the entire complex was part of the “upper house of the king,” referred to in Nehemiah 3-25.

In the second half of the eighth century B.C., the prophet Micah foretells that “the first government [in the end of the days] (B’H HMMSðLH HR’SðNH) is going to be at the “Ophel the daughter of Zion (‘PL BT SYWN)” (Micah 4-8). The prophet obviously meant to refer to the royal quarter, where the royal buildings were located before the Babylonian destruction. In our excavations we uncovered some of these buildings, which composed an essential part of the royal quarter of the First Temple Jerusalem.

a. Translated by Steven Schwarzman.

b. In various translations, “Ophel” is translated in different ways—“citadel,” “tower” or “excrescence” (Jerusalem Bible, 2 Kings 5-24)—or left untranslated, because no one knows its exact meaning. The root “Ophel” (‘PL) should be understood simply as the upper city—the part of a city that is higher than the rest and is enclosed with a wall. The different translations often approach this meaning, but they lack an understanding of the reality behind the word.

c. See Benjamin Mazar, “Excavations Near Temple Mount Reveal Splendors of Herodian Jerusalem,” BAR 06-04; and Hershel Shanks, “Excavating in the Shadow of the Temple Mount,” BAR 12-06.

d. The “millo” (MIL-loh; related to the Hebrew word for “earthen fill”) was a terraced supporting construction in Jerusalem (and probably elsewhere), which continually needed repair and strengthening. The word is used six times in the Bible. “Beth (BAYT) Millo” was the “House of Millo,” a building associated with the millo, apparently the king’s palace at the “Lower House of the King,” in the City of David.

1. The excavations were conducted on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of Hebrew University of Jerusalem in association with the Israel Exploration Society.

2. See Siegfried H. Horn, “Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces,” BAR 12-03. In this article, Horn understands the word “Qorchah” in the stone’s text to refer to the name of a place—that is, a city. This is a hypothesis without foundation. There is no city that we know of by this name. It is generally accepted that Qorchah should be understood as part of Dibon, the capital of Moab, mainly because the whole paragraph concerns Mesha’s activity in Dibon. According to Benjamin Mazar (in Encyclopedia Biblica [Jerusalem- Tomus Quartus, 1962], p. 923, in Hebrew), the word “Qorchah” means the fortified palace of the king, based on ancient Mesopotamian records. On the basis of our discoveries in Jerusalem, it seems that the term “Ophel” refers to the fortified upper section of a capital city; in the Ophel can be found royal buildings and prestigious dwellings. The Qorchah was situated inside the Ophel. Thus, the prophet Elisha did not actually live in the area of the inner fortress of Samaria, but in the larger area of the Ophel, which was apparently on the lower terrace, inside what the excavators called the “lower wall.”

3. See Benjamin Mazar, in Encyclopedia Biblica, p. 923.

4. See Hershel Shanks, “The City of David After Five Years of Digging,” BAR 11-06; Yigal Shiloh, “Jerusalem’s Water Supply During Siege—The Rediscovery of Warren’s Shaft,” BAR 07-04; Mendel Kaplan and Yigal Shiloh, “Digging in the City of David,” BAR 05-04; see also Yigal Shiloh, “The Material Culture of Judah and Jerusalem in Iron Age II- Origins and Influences,” in The Land of Israel- Cross-Roads of Civilizations, Proceedings of the Conference Held in Brussels, December 3–5, 1984, ed. E. Lipinski (Lueven- Uitgevvrij Peeters, 1985), pp. 113–146, esp. pp. 115–117.

5. Nahman Avigad, “A Note on an Impression from a Woman’s Seal,” Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1987), pp. 18–19.

6. The Ophel excavations were conducted under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with the assistance of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Department of Antiquities of the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture, the East Jerusalem Development Company and Dr. Reuben Hecht.

Seven weeks of excavation were conducted in March, April and September 1986. Four additional weeks were conducted in September 1987. Professor Benjamin Mazar and Eilat Mazar headed the expedition. Members of the team included- Yonatan Nadelman, principal assistant and area supervisor; Paul Davies, assistant supervisor; Aharon Meir, Tamar Shabi, Yigal Yisrael, Shoshi Yisraeli, Stephen Wimmer and Zvika Shamir, area supervisors; and Margalit Hayush, registrar. Thanks also to Ditza Shmuel, for registration and drawing; to surveyors Leen Ritmeyer, Wolf Schleicher; to architects Doron Chen, David Milson and Gary Lipton—who also prepared the final plans; and to photographers Ilan Sztulman and Gabi Laron. Yaacov Kalman and Manoach Zahavi were in charge of field administration; Ruti Rivak, restoration; MaryLou Goetz, laboratory; and Shifra Eisenstein, drawing.

Special thanks are due to my colleague Egon Lass, for his assistance in the project’s initial stage.

I am also most grateful to Professor Amihai Mazar and to David Tarler, supervisor of Area G at the City of David Excavations, for their important and enlightening comments.

Also taking part were workers and volunteers who assisted greatly in various ways.

7. Yohanan Aharoni, ed., Beer-Sheba I- Excavations at Tel Beer-Sheba, 1969–1971 Seasons (Tel Aviv- Tel Aviv Univ. Institute of Archaeology, 1973), pl. 84.

8. Eilat Mazar and Benjamin Mazar, Excavations in the South of the Temple Mount- The Ophel of Biblical Jerusalem, forthcoming in Qedem 29, published by Hebrew University.

9. Robert S. Lamon, Geoffrey M. Shipton, Megiddo I, Seasons of 1925–1934. Strata I–V (Chicago- Univ. of Chicago, 1939), figs. 12, 29.

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