For the last four months, the Israel Antiquities Authority has been excavating on the east side of the City of David, and today as the traditional anniversary of the temple’s destruction approaches they announced the discovery of evidence of the city’s fall in 586 BC.
The press release includes a 2-minute video of Joe Uzziel explaining what they found and questions that have been raised.
In the excavations – concentrated on the eastern slope of the City of David, dwelling places 2,500 years old, once covered by a rockslide, have been revealed. Nestled within the rockslide many findings have surfaced: charred wood, grape seeds, pottery, fish scales and bones, and unique, rare artifacts. These findings depict the affluence and character of Jerusalem, capital of the Judean Kingdom, and are mesmerizing proof of the city’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians.
Among the excavation’s salient findings were dozens of jugs which served to store both grain and liquids, a stamp seal appearing on some of them. Furthermore, one of the seals discovered was that of a rosette, a six-petal rose. According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority excavation directors: “These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. Classifying objects facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields. The rosette, in essence, replaced the ‘For the King’ seal used by the previous administrative system.”
The wealth of the Judean kingdom’s capital is also manifest in the ornamental artifacts surfacing in situ. One distinct and rare finding is a small ivory statue of a woman. The figure is naked, and her haircut or wig is Egyptian in style. The quality of its carving is high, and it attests to the high caliber of the artifacts’ artistic level and the skill par excellence of the artists during this era.
According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority excavation managers, “The excavation’s findings unequivocally show that Jerusalem had spread outside of the city walls before its destruction. A row of structures currently under excavation appears beyond the city wall that constituted the eastern border of the city during this period. Throughout the Iron Age, Jerusalem underwent constant growth, expressed both in the construction of the city wall and the fact that the city later spread beyond it. Excavations carried out in the past in the area of the Jewish Quarter have shown how the growth of the community at the end of the 8th Century BCE caused the annexation of the western area of Jerusalem. In the current excavation, we may suggest that following the westward expansion of the city, structures were built outside of the wall’s border on the east as well.”
Photo courtesy of Eliyahu Yanai, City of David Archive