Concerning Mazar’s “discoveries” announced earlier today, I think that some readers would be interested in the report given in the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (1993).  A section on the Ophel was written by Hillel Geva and I quote it at length because (1) it reveals what was discovered in the previous excavation that appears to be re-reported as new today and (2) it indicates that the identification of the building as a gate was the excavator’s identification. 

I have marked some statements in bold for emphasis.

In 1986 to 1987, B. Mazar and E. Mazar continued to excavate the complex of Iron Age II public buildings in the southeastern part of the Ophel.  The buildings were partially unearthed in B. Mazar’s 1970 excavations; he identified them as remains of the biblical “house of Millo.”  The renewed excavations revealed many additional remains that add up to a complex of several interconnected, but well-defined building units.  The quality of the construction is impressive, featuring thick walls founded on bedrock, sometimes preserved to a height of some 4 m.  The first stages of these buildings date to the ninth century BCE, at the earliest; they were destroyed, together with the rest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, as the visible signs of destruction and conflagration indicate.
The remains of building C consisted of the walls of two rooms, the foundations of the walls of other rooms, and sections of floors.  They have been identified as belonging to a four-chamber gatehouse of the type characteristic of the Iron Age II.  The earlier excavations had exposed dozens of vessels, including many storage jars, in the gate’s southwestern chamber.  Building D, which adjoins building C on the east, consisted of several rooms, in which pithoi [large storage jars] were found, suggesting that the building was a storehouse.
The various building units combined to form a dense complex whose outer walls created a continuous line of fortifications along the eastern side of the Ophel, overlooking the Kidron Valley.  The gate may be associated with the large tower (building B) to the south, discovered by Warren in the Ophel wall between 1867 and 1870, and with another, smaller tower (building A) whose eastern side Kenyon exposed in 1967 in her site SII.
The gate has been identified with the biblical “Water Gate” (Neh. 3:26) that was part of the complex known as the “upper house of the king.”  The excavators believe that it was a gate in the western section of the Jerusalem city wall, providing access to a separate royal quarter, which stood on the Ophel until the end of the First Temple period (Vol. 2, p. 715).

Given this report, I cannot determine what, if anything, has been discovered recently.  The only thing that appears to have changed is the date (back now to the time of Solomon).


Eilat Mazar announced today the discovery of a large stone wall that she attributes to King Solomon. 

The article with the most detail is at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with a copy here).  Arutz-7 has a similar report, and others have brief summaries.  Trying to sort out all the pieces is a little difficult from these sources, but here’s a summary:

  • A well-built wall was uncovered that is 220 feet (70 m) long and 20 feet (6 m) high.  The width is not given.  The wall is located on the eastern side of the Ophel atop the western slope of the Kidron Valley (see photo below).  She dates it “with a great degree of assurance” to the 10th century BC on the basis of (1) comparison with walls and gates in other cities and (2) pottery.
  • A large four-chambered gatehouse was found, similar in style to those at Megiddo, Beersheba, and Ashdod.  This gatehouse is 20 feet (6 m) high.
  • A tower adjacent to the gate is buried underneath the road but is believed to be 75 by 60 feet (24 by 18 m) in size.

The report mentions some inscriptions, but it is not clear what was found in Mazar’s dig and what comes from the Temple Mount debris sifting operation.  These should not be reported in the same article, and I sense that some of these inscriptions have been announced previously. [See update below.]

In fact, I think that a good portion of these “discoveries” were made already in 1986-87.  Mazar excavated in the southern portion of her grandfather’s “southern Temple Mount excavations” and claimed that she found an Iron Age gate.  The article mentions in this connection large storage jars, and I am sure that these were published decades ago.  Thus, I surmise that the present excavation is an extension of the old one, but that they are reporting old and new together, without distinguishing between them.  It’s fine to report previous discoveries in order to give context, but that does not appear to be how the excavation results are being communicated to the journalists.
Mazar’s claim that the building she excavated in the 1980s was an Iron Age gate never met with widespread (or even non-widespread) agreement among archaeologists.  They felt that the evidence did not support the identification as a gate.  I’ll write more on this in a follow-up post.

Sources tell me that Mazar has found some very interesting material than has not yet been announced. 

Southern Temple Mount Excavations aerial from sw, tb010703227

Excavation area (circled) south of the Temple Mount

UPDATE: BibleX points to this Hebrew article which has better photos of the excavation and discoveries.

UPDATE #2: I’ve learned that the reason why the Temple Mount Sifting Project was mentioned is that Mazar contracted with them to wet-sift some of her material.  Also, there are some more photos from the excavation at the Hebrew U’s Facebook page.