Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: The Eastern Cardo

In the Old City of Jerusalem, opportunities are rare to excavate large areas. The best such opportunity followed the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967 when archaeologist Nahman Avigad opened areas that led to the discoveries of the Broad Wall, Israelite Tower, Nea Church, and the Byzantine Cardo. Most tourists to the Old City today see the remains of that Cardo, perhaps while grabbing a bite to eat or doing some shopping.

Jerusalem, as depicted on the Medeba Map (circa AD 580); the excavation area is marked with a black box

The Cardo is depicted on the Medeba Map, a Byzantine-era mosaic that once displayed all of the Holy Land, with Jerusalem at the center. The map shows two colonnaded north-south streets through Jerusalem. The western street is more prominent, and it connected the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with the northern gate (today the Damascus Gate) and the Nea Church.

Plans to construct a heritage center at the back side of the Western Wall prayer plaza provided Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn with the opportunity to see what lay beneath before the building went up. Their large-scale excavations from 2005 to 2010 revealed a Old Testament-era four room house (described here last week) and the Eastern Cardo. They uncovered a few other things as well, including a portion of the Low-Level Aqueduct, but these are the two main discoveries described in their report in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.

If you can picture the Western Cardo (aka “the Cardo”) in the Jewish Quarter, you can picture the Eastern Cardo. Both consist of a large paved street with sidewalks on either side and with porticoes probably on both sides as well. The street continued in use for nearly 2,000 years, so a lot of the superstructure was missing, including nearly all of the columns. The Eastern Cardo is slightly wider than the Western Cardo, which is not what you would expect from the Medeba Map. The excavators suggest that the Western Cardo was more prominent on the map because this street connected the churches that the pilgrims visited.

Eastern Cardo excavations, with paving stones visible

The Eastern Cardo ran from the present-day Damascus Gate south to the area of the present-day Dung Gate, but unlike the Western Cardo, it was constructed in its full length in the Roman period. The archaeologists know that because they found the latest material they found in sealed contexts beneath the paving stones is early 2nd century AD. But while most have expected that the street was built during the Aelia Capitolina renovation circa AD 130, the excavators think it predates that by a few years. It cannot date before Hadrian’s reign (117-138), because of a coin found beneath the pavement, but it may date to Hadrian’s earliest years. The street continued in use through the Byzantine period.

The conclusion of the article describes the history of the street over the following 1,500 years. The short version is this: as years went by, the street’s elevation increased (ultimately 13 feet higher in the 20th century) and its width decreased (down from 77 feet to 9 feet). Presumably at least a portion of this street will be displayed to visitors in the lowest level of the heritage center now under construction.

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Weekend Roundup

If you don’t pay attention, you would think they’re finding all kinds of first-century streets in Jerusalem. But it’s the same one, again and again. The story this week, based on a journal article in Tel Aviv, is that the Siloam Street/Stepped Street/Pilgrim’s Path was built by Pilate. The date is based on the most recent coin, from AD 30/31, found in the fill under the pavement. Leen Ritmeyer rejects the study, saying that the road was actually built by Herod Agrippa II. That last link has a nice map that shows the location of the Herodian/Pilatian/Agrippian Road.

A three-year salvage excavation near Beth Shemesh uncovered a Byzantine Church with an inscription mentioning a “glorious martyr.” The mosaics are quite well-preserved, and there is an intact underground burial chamber. Some of the artifacts are featured in a new exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Excavators have found a second monumental gate at Hacilar.

These reports from Beirut are from last year, but I did not see them then:

Rachel Bernstein provides an update on the Temple Mount Sifting Project since its recent reboot and relocation.

Israel Finkelstein responds to the “discovery that changes everything we know about biblical Israel.”

Artificial intelligence is better at deciphering damaged ancient Greek inscriptions than humans are.

The ArcGIS Blog interviews Tom Levy and one of his students about their use of GIS and 3D modeling in their work in the copper mines of Faynan.

Officials in Thessaloniki are arguing about what to do with a “priceless” 6th century AD Byzantine site found during work on a subway tunnel.

Spanish experts have replicated for Iraq two Assyrian lamassu statues previously destroyed by ISIS.

Dirk Obbink denies the charges against him of selling items owned by the Egyptian Exploration Society.

Two scholarships are available for students interested in participating in February’s excavation of Timna’s copper mines.

An international conference entitled “Philistines! Rehabilitating a Biblical Foe” will be held on Nov 17 at Yeshiva University Museum. Registration is required.

‘Atiqot 96 (2019) is now online, with reports on excavations at Rosh Pinna, Mazor, and el-Qubeibe.

Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours has released the 16th video in their series, “It Happened Here.” This one features life lessons from Beth Shean.

Jim Hastings shows how he built a model of a gate of Ezekiel’s temple.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos from his 1970 tour of Iraq.

Aron Tal reflects on the remarkable return of the ibex. There was a day, apparently, when there were no ibex to be found at En Gedi.

HT: Gordon Franz, Mark Hoffman, Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, A.D. Riddle, Steven Anderson

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Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Four-Room House near the Western Wall

For many years there was a big pit at the back of the Western Wall prayer plaza. If you climbed up the hill, you could see over the barrier walls and watch the hole get deeper. But it was difficult to know what they were finding. One natural guess, given the position of the pit, was that they would find the eastern branch of the Cardo. And they did. They continued digging and discovered a house from the Old Testament period. Their findings are given in a chapter of Ancient Jerusalem Revealed entitled “A First Temple Period Building and the Roman Eastern Cardo in the Western Wall Plaza.” The authors are the archaeologists Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn.

Western Wall plaza excavations, 2008

Below all of the human remains, the archaeologists found bedrock that had been quarried in the 7th century BC. On top of that, they found a portion of a “four-room house,” also dating to the 7th century. In the Bible, the two most significant kings ruling over Jerusalem in the 7th century were Manasseh and Josiah. So this house was likely built during the reign of one of them.

They uncovered a portion of the house that measures 27 x 27 feet (8.5 x 8.5m). The walls were preserved to a height of—get this—16 feet (5 m)! That is very unusual for something this old, with all of the later bulldozers to come through (I’m thinking here of Nebuchadnezzar, the Romans, the Persians, even Herod). The structure was well-built, with “uniform, homogeneous courses of slightly trimmed stones.” The layout of the house had three parallel rooms, characteristic of the “four-room house.” The fourth room, running along the back, was beyond the area of the excavation.

The destruction of the building is interesting. The archaeologists determined that the building was destroyed quickly, either by an earthquake or more likely by the Babylonians. Yet the building lacked complete vessels, indicating that the house was abandoned before the destruction. One theory the excavators suggest is that the inhabitants may have been deported to Babylon in the days of King Jehoiachin (2 Kgs 24:12-16).

Western Wall excavations, 2006

What do you think they found in the house? If you’re an archaeology fan, you might just pause here and think about what you would expect to find in a 7th-century house in Jerusalem. You should get some of your guesses right, because the findings are not surprising.

1) Pottery characteristic of the 7th and early 6th centuries.

2) Lots of figurines. About 450 fragments of females, male riders, and animals. This almost sounds like a toy store. A particularly interesting one is of a lion with a small animal in its mouth. This may be a lion having lunch or a lioness carrying its cub.

3) Personal seals with Hebrew names. One of these seals has a cool depiction of an archer. (I’d like a seal like that, please.) Inscribed names include: Hagav, Netanyahu, Yadayahu, and Nawa or Nera.
The archaeologists consider the seals of most value in determining who lived in this house. They believe that these seals “suggest that its inhabitants belonged to the upper class and perhaps served as part of the administrative apparatus in Jerusalem.”

I suppose that we can imagine that the people who lived here were well-connected in Jerusalem, and it’s quite reasonable to think that they may well have been acquainted with Jerusalem inhabitants we know from the Bible, such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and Josiah.

The article continues with what they found from later periods—primarily the Eastern Cardo. I hope to to read and summarize that here next week.

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Wayne Stiles just walked the last five miles of the Appian Way into Rome, and he shares his experiences along with a video. Only one section was a hair-raising experience!

A preliminary report from the Swedish excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus is now online.

Israeli security inspectors discovered 69 coins from the time of Alexander the Great being smuggled from Gaza into Israel. But one expert suggests the coins are fake.

The Summer Session program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens is now accepting applications. Scholarships are available.

Why do newspapers write dishonest headlines like this? “A Chance Discovery Changes Everything We Know About Biblical Israel.” Shame on Haaretz.

The lectures are in Hebrew, but you may find the topic list to be of interest for this year’s “New Discoveries and Insights” conference at Tel Aviv University.

The schedule is now online for next week’s Annual Conference, “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region.”

The final list of speakers and their topics for the 22nd Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest is now posted.

Yahoo Groups is shutting down. This will affect lists such as Explorator and ANE-2.

The En-Gedi Resource Center website has a new home, with new organization and a “Hebraic Studies” search bar to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Carl Rasmussen shares a number of photos of Göbekli Tepe.

John DeLancey is blogging each day on his tour of Greece, Rome, and Pompeii, now wrapping it up on Day 13.

Ferrell Jenkins explains why a photo he took of the cedars of Lebanon in 2002 is one of his favorites.

Bryan Windle has put together another great archaeological biography, this one on King Nebuchadnezzar.

HT: Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Agade

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Amanda Borschel-Dan of The Times of Israel provides a valuable summary of the Siloam Street/Stepped Street/Pilgrim’s Path that has been in the news for the last decade or so. One particular point of interest: the street will not be fully opened to the public for a few more years, because it is still being excavated 7am to 10pm every day.

“Archaeologists have uncovered a well-preserved fresco of two fighting gladiators in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.” Very nice.

“Scientists report that they may have found the earliest written record of a solar storm in ancient Assyrian tablets.”

Egypt announced the discovery of 20 well-preserved wooden coffins in Luxor.

“Archeologists working in Luxor’s “Valley of the Monkeys” have discovered an “ancient ‘industrial area’ once used to produce decorative items, furniture and pottery for royal tombs.”

The Egyptian Exploration Society has formally accused Oxford professor Dirk Obbink of stealing and selling papyri fragments from the Oxyrhynchus collection.

With Saudi Arabia opening up for tourism, tour agencies are quick to create tours to scam evangelicals.

The Arab World Institute in Paris is presenting an exhibition highlighting the pre-Islamic history of the Al ‘Ula region in Northwest Saudi Arabia.

Tim Frank’s “Visualizing Food Storage in Ancient Houses” article includes a number of video visualizations from sites like Izbet Sartah, Tel Batash, and Beersheba. These could be quite useful.

A new record has been set in the “world’s oldest marathon,” a race from Aphek to Shiloh.

Wildlife inspectors spotted ten bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Israel and have posted footage.

Only 30-40 acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and rangers recently discovered a fawn had been born.

“Cruise passengers held their breath as a 22.5 meter wide cruise liner became the largest boat to pass through Greece’s narrow Corinth Canal.” There are some nice pictures.

HT: Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Agade, David Padfield

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Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Mamilla Pool and Aqueduct

Excavations by David Amit in the area where the Museum of Tolerance is being built in West Jerusalem have revealed that the Mamilla Pool dates to the time of King Herod. While there are a number of pools in the Jerusalem area that date to the time of Herod, no one has ever been sure about the large one that’s rather tucked away down the street from the King David Hotel. Amit reports the results of his excavation in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.

Amit comes to this conclusion from his excavations of an area slightly uphill from the pool where he uncovered a portion of the Upper Aqueduct system from the Second Temple period. By determining that that the pool is part of this aqueduct system, it is clear that the Mamilla Pool dates to the Second Temple period.

In addition, the excavations revealed an earlier water system from approximately the time of Hezekiah. A massive dam was constructed to divert run-off into Jerusalem, possibly into the Mishneh Quarter. This forerunner to the Upper Aqueduct system may have been constructed to provide water to the new inhabitants on Jerusalem’s Western Hill. Next to the dam, a contemporary Iron Age building may have served as an administrative building, possibly for supervising and maintaining the system. Amit notes the large number of royal seal impressions found in the area may support this theory.

It does seem that wherever one digs in Jerusalem, or in its vicinity, one finds something of interest. This rather modest dig adds significant contributions to our understanding of the water systems of Jerusalem in both the Old and New Testament eras.

Mamilla Pool, circa 1860. You don’t realize how close it is to the Old City until you move the buildings out of the way.

Mamilla Pool, circa 1910, with some buildings in the way.

Mamilla Pool, filled with water, early 1900s.

Mamilla Pool, in more recent days.
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Amazon MatchBook Ending

Amazon is shutting down its Kindle MatchBook program at the end of the month. MatchBook is a little-known arrangement whereby purchase of the print book gives you the right to purchase the Kindle version at a great discount (usually not more than $2.99). If you have ever bought a print book from Amazon and you might have interest for a Kindle version, you can click here to find out what books qualify and their prices. I have about 100 books available in my list, and I plan to purchase a few before I’m no longer able to.

This has extra relevance for readers here because Psalm 23: A Photo Commentary, written by Steven Anderson and me, is in the MatchBook program, and the cost is free. That means that when you purchase the print book, you get the Kindle edition at no charge. The Kindle version looks beautiful on a tablet or computer (but not so much on a black-and-white Kindle since the book is filled with color photos).

The short point here is that if you want the free Kindle book ($9.99 separately), you lose that option in a couple of weeks.

One trick, if you’re a Kindle user, is to buy the print book to give as a gift and keep the Kindle version for yourself.

Screenshot from the Kindle book
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Weekend Roundup

“The rare ancient tomb of a wealthy Minoan woman has been discovered at a monumental archaeological complex on the Greek island of Crete.”

“Archaeologists have revealed the face of an Egyptian princess who lived almost 4,000 years ago by painstakingly piecing together the wooden shards of her sarcophagus.”

A study of legal texts from Susa reveals how elderly parents ensured that their children took care of them.

“A replica Phoenician vessel made in Syria is sailing the Atlantic to prove the ancient civilisation did it 2,000 years before Columbus.”

The Biblical Archaeology Society has announced their 2019 Publication Awards Winners.

A review of a new work from Oxford: Peter Mitchell, The Donkey in Human History: An Archaeological Perspective.

“Persepolis, Then & Now” is the title of a conference at NYU on November 21.

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes articles on the Assyrian relief at Sela, the search for portraits of Herod, and hiking in Paul’s footsteps.

Bible Land Passages has just released a new video, “Go Now to Shiloh.” Here’s what you’ll see:

This full-length documentary complete with on-site interviews, a behind the scenes look at the process of archaeology, analysis of the newest and most exciting discoveries to date, reenactments, computer generated graphics and illustrations, and numerous biblical connections and faith building lessons.

Appian Media has launched its ‘inRoads’ podcast, and they have made it available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, as well as video versions on Facebook and YouTube. If you sign up to be a supporter this month, you get a beautiful free coffee mug.

The Biblical Archaeology Society is having an inventory clearance sale on Carta and IES books, with the best prices on some items I’ve seen. Some examples, all of which I recommend:

  • Leen Ritmeyer, The Quest ($30)
  • Carta’s Illustrated Josephus ($30)
  • The Carta Bible Atlas ($25)
  • Jerusalem: Biblical Archaeology Map ($9)
  • New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 4 vols. ($100)

There’s still time to catch the second of the two-day Oriental Institute Indiana Jones Film Festival.

Carl Rasmussen has begun a series on hippodromes/circuses, with part 1 and part 2 of what happened there, featuring some beautiful photos of a splendid ancient mosaic in France.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto this week is of the Siq and Treasury at Petra.

What do we know about Pontius Pilate from archaeology? Bryan Windle pulls it all together in the latest entry in his Archaeological Biography series.

HT: Agade, Keith Keyser

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Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Hezekiah’s Wall and Herod’s Palace

There is an Israeli police station today just inside Jaffa Gate to the right. The Israelis took it over from the Jordanians who used it for the same purpose. The Jordanians inherited it from the British Mandate authorities. One of the buildings of this complex is known as the Kishle. The Kishle served as the prison during British Mandate times. Before the British, the building served the Ottoman police force. And before them, this was the location of the Roman legion charged with keeping the peace in the centuries following the Jewish Revolt. And below that archaeologists have discovered foundations of King Herod’s palace.

There’s clearly a pattern here, and it’s likely related to the geography. This area is the high ground on the Western Hill, and it provides a commanding position of the surrounding area. Unfortunately all of this construction has made uncovering earlier remains difficult. In fact, in the conclusion of the article being summarized here, the archaeologist soberly notes that all that left of Herod’s great palace are scattered remnants of its podium.

Kishle building from the north

Amit Re’em excavated the Kishle in 2000 and 2001, and his report in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed provides a summary of his discoveries. The article is succinct and well-illustrated, moving from the earlier periods to the later ones. My focus here will be the same as that named in the title of the article, “First and Second Temple Period Fortifications and Herod’s Palace in the Jerusalem Compound.”

Kishle interior

What gets me most excited about this excavation is not the foundations of Herod’s palace but a large section of wall constructed by Hezekiah. If you have studied Jerusalem’s history, you know of the “Broad Wall,” a 25-foot-wide fortification located today in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. What Re’em revealed is more of this same wall, but on the western side of the Western Hill. This is valuable because this is now only the second portion of this wall discovered to date. (This point is a useful illustration of how relatively little is either preserved or accessible in Jerusalem today.)

A length of about 50 feet was exposed, preserved to a height of 8 to 9 feet. That’s not as big as the “Broad Wall” portion, but it’s quite substantial. The construction was also impressive, as the wall was made of “large, well-trimmed stones (90×35 cm.) laid in header/stretcher fashion in the best tradition of First Temple period fortification construction.”

City wall from time of King Hezekiah

But then Re’em goes a step further, claiming that the common view that Jerusalem’s Western Hill was quickly populated with exiles from Samaria is wrong. I think it’s best to hear his claim in his own words:

The new finds from the Kishle contradict [previous] researchers’ conclusion that Jerusalem, limited to the area [of] the City of David and the Temple Mount, rapidly developed to occupy the Western Hill as a result of a mass influx of refugees to Judah and Jerusalem following the Assyrian destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel at the end of the 8th century BCE. The settlement process on the Western Hill appears to have been gradual, beginning during the first half of the 8th century BCE.

Unfortunately he moves straight on to the next subject without giving a scrap of evidence for his conclusion. I would say that there is evidence in the Bible, usually ignored, that indicates that Jerusalem’s Western Hill was not only settled earlier in the 8th century, but it was also fortified! I think I’ll follow Re’em’s example by throwing that out there and then just moving on.

The Kishle excavations also revealed some of the “First Wall,” built by the Hasmoneans in the 2nd century. Re’em uncovered remains of this wall that were 16 feet wide and exposed for a length of 75 feet. It may be noted that all of these excavations are constrained by the walls of the elongated structure of the Kishle.

From Herod’s palace we have some walls, and the article gives the dimensions, the most interesting of which is one that was preserved to a height of 22 feet. The discussion here is not much more than a page long, and the bottom line is that when you combine results from this dig with others in the area, it is clear that Herod’s palace was massive in size, covering the area of the Citadel, the Kishle, the Armenian Garden, and most of today’s Armenian Quarter.

Foundation wall of Herod’s palace

The final section of this article surveys discoveries from later periods, including a Late Roman channel, medieval dyeing vats, a wall that is probably Ayyubid, and graffiti inscribed by prisoners held by the British Mandate authorities.

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Weekend Roundup, Part 3

Archaeologists have uncovered the largest Early Bronze city in Israel. The site of En Esur is 160 acres in size and is located 7 miles (11 km) east of Caesarea.

A lengthy inscription discovered at Pompeii in 2017 has been translated. It describes a “massive coming-of-age party for a wealthy young man.”

In the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital, there is a large, beautiful green rock that is a mystery to archaeologists and visitors.

Christopher Rollston is using multispectral imagery to study ostraca discovered at Macherus in 1968.

“The British Library, the largest national library in the world by number of items cataloged, has for the first time ever put some of its rarest and most ancient religious texts online for the general public to be able to access them from around the world.”

In a 2015 article for a special edition of the BBC History Magazine now published online, Aren Maeir identifies 10 key discoveries from the Holy Land. (It seems to me to be cheating for one of those to be “the discoveries of Jerusalem.”)

A portion of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums has reopened after years of renovations.

250,000 objects from the Louvre will be moved over the next four years to a non-public storage facility in northern France.

A student volunteer describes her experiences at Hazor in the last three years.

Wayne Stiles recently led a tour to Rome, and he shares some of his observations and reflections here.

JJ Routley argues that there is such a thing as Christian archaeology.

Bryan Windle has begun a new series of archaeological biographies, and the first subject is King Hezekiah.

The Getty Trust is devoting $100 million over the next 10 years to protect endangered historical sites around the world through dialogue and conservation.

If you would like to volunteer for a winter excavation in Israel, registration is now open for the February season at Timna.

A new survey is aiming to shed light on the Nabateans who lived in what is now Saudi Arabia.

The Wadi Shuʿaib Archaeological Survey Project (WSAS) is a new project in the area northwest of Amman, Jordan.

Bryan Windle has posted a resource review of the Photo Companion to the Gospels, with a focus on how he has used the Luke volume in his preaching.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Explorator

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