Archaeology confirms historical writings

Archaeology confirms historical writings, Israel Hayom, Nadav Shragai, October 17, 2017

Over the past 50 years, Israel has had to avoid archaeological excavations at the heart of the Temple Mount because of pressure from Muslims and due to various political and religious constraints. As a result, archaeologists have had to shift their interest to adjacent areas.

The gamut of discoveries unearthed through their efforts – mainly near the western and southern walls – is impressive. These discoveries provide evidence of the Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and its surroundings – despite the incessant efforts by Muslims to negate those ties – as well as evidence from other periods, including when it was under Muslim rule.

On Sunday, eight stone courses of the Western Wall that had been buried under an 8-meter (26-foot) layer of earth were revealed by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the area just north of the Western Wall Plaza. A few years ago, at the southern end of the wall, excavators found what are believed to be the wall’s foundations. Thanks to the latest discovery, we now have an amazing compilation of evidence about the structure.

The discoveries announced on Sunday, especially the small theater-like structure from the Roman period, are unique. But most importantly, they provide archaeological evidence for historical documents that describe such structures at this very place.

This is not the first time archaeologists have been able to confirm descriptions provided by historical documents of the area. In fact, many findings on the site have done so. This was the case when archaeologists found what is known as the Trumpeting Place inscription near the southern end of the wall. The inscription confirmed what Jewish sages had written about the way the priests announced the onset of Shabbat during the Second Temple period, through a series of trumpet blows.

Findings along the path of the ancient drainage tunnel from the Siloam Pool to the Western Wall confirmed what the Roman historian Josephus Flavius wrote about how the Romans gouged holes in the tunnel with their spears. Even the cooking utensils used by the last Judean fighters who hid from the Romans in the city were found in the tunnel.

The theater-like structure announced on Sunday fooled some experts at first. They had initially speculated that it was the chamber where the religious assembly known as the Sanhedrin convened, and historical documents suggest that the body did, in fact, meet in the area. Finding the Sanhedrin chamber would be a great contribution to the effort to give archaeological backing to the historical timeline of Jerusalem.

Despite the appropriate excitement from Sunday’s discovery, we must remember that everything found near the Western Wall – whether ritual baths, coins, or clay fragments – attests above all to the centrality of the Temple Mount in Jewish history.

We must never forget this. The Western Wall became a replacement for the Temple and came to be seen as holy through rabbinical teachings, halachic rulings and the collective Jewish psyche. It is a symbol of the yearning for what once stood atop the holy basin.

We must avoid belittling the holiness of the wall, as some – who seek to bolster the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount – do occasionally. We must also keep in mind that the most important archaeological evidence is beyond the wall, where the Temple once existed.

Explore posts in the same categories: Archaeological discoveries, Temple Mount, Western Wall

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