Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ancient Jerusalem Temple Road Excavated

A 1st century A.D. road for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem's Second Temple was discovered by archeologists in the 1830s, but after being uncovered, recovered, and fought over by Muslim, Israeli and Orthodox Christians, a long section of the road has been excavated...carefully.

From a story on, "Archaeologists Discover Ancient Pilgrim Road Through Jerusalem's Old City":

Israeli archaeologists discovered an ancient road used by pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem’s Old City 2,000 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a press release e-mailed today.

The road was found during excavations on a water channel from the Second Temple period, the statement said. The road went from the ancient City of David, today the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, into the Old City and passes by the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

Neither the road nor the channel pass underneath the Temple Mount, known to Palestinians as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, a compound that houses the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, the statement said. The area is also the site of the ancient Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans.

Archaeological digs in the area of Jerusalem’s Old City and Temple Mount have set off riots in the past. Palestinians seek the eastern sector as the capital of a state. Israel captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war in a move never recognized internationally.

From "Archeologists find main J'lem street from Second Temple period":

According to the dig director, Prof. Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, this was Jerusalem's main street, by which pilgrims ascended from the southern part of the ancient town, where the Pool of Siloam was located.

"There is practically no doubt that this was the focus of pilgrim traffic. We know this both from Jewish and Christian sources. The Pool of Siloam provided water for hundreds of people simultaneously and could be used for purification before ascending to the Temple Mount.

From the Pool of Siloam, the road continued for 600 meters to the Temple Mount. Although only two meters of the street's width have so far been excavated, it is believed to have stretched eight meters across.

The excavation is taking place in a limited area, because the land on one side belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, and on the other to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust. Neither of these bodies permits excavation on their property. Another excavation of the same road system was halted by order of the High Court of Justice in January 2008 following a petition by Palestinian residents of Silwan, who claimed the dig was undermining the foundations of their homes.

The road now uncovered opens a window onto the Second Temple period, one of the most opulent in the city's history. Jerusalem in those days, with a population of some 25,000, was considered a regional metropolis. Reich says that number doubled during the pilgrimage festivals.

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