A Journalist (find her) looks at excavations with new finds from 10th century B.C.

The caption for this AP photo reads: “A journalist looks over newly excavated fortifications outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem, Monday, Feb. 22 2010. An Israeli archaeologist says the ancient fortifications date back 3,000 years to the time of the Bible’s King Solomon and offer evidence for the accuracy of the biblical narrative”.

A Journalist looks at newly-announced excavation - AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill

Standing outside the Old City walls, below the esplanade where Al-Aqsa Mosque stands, near the Dome of the Rock, is an “archeological park” where Hebrew University today announced that, according to a press release issued later, “A section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem from the tenth century B.C.E. – possibly built by King Solomon — has been revealed in archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Eilat Mazar and conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The section of the city wall revealed, 70 meters long and six meters high, is located in the area known as the Ophel, between the City of David and the southern wall of the Temple Mount … The excavations in the Ophel area were carried out over a three-month period with funding provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, a New York couple interested in Biblical Archeology.  The funding supports both completion of the archaeological excavations and processing and analysis of the finds as well as conservation work and preparation of the site for viewing by the public … The excavations were carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem”.

Photo of Dr. Eilat Mazar taken from the street side by Sasson Tiram of Hebrew University

Dr. Eilat Mazar points from the street to her findings - Photo by Sasson Tiram of Hebrew University.

The AP’s Matti Friedman reported that “An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.  If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C. … Speaking to reporters at the site Monday, [Eilat] Mazar, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called her find ‘the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel.  It means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction’ … Based on what she believes to be the age of the fortifications and their location, she suggested it was built by Solomon, David’s son, and mentioned in the Book of Kings.  The fortifications, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, next to the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the Old Testament, it was Solomon who built the first Jewish Temple on the site.  That temple was destroyed by Babylonians, rebuilt, renovated by King Herod 2,000 years ago and then destroyed again by Roman legions in 70 A.D. The compound now houses two important Islamic buildings, the golden-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque … Mazar claimed her dig was the first complete excavation and the first to turn up strong evidence for the wall’s age: a large number of pottery shards, which archaeologists often use to figure out the age of findings”.    The AP report, which is published here, also quotes an archaeology professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv who seemed to question some of the claims.

So far, despite all efforts — which are increasing in recent days, with a sudden surge in funding — nothing, no remains or artifacts, have been found from the First Jewish Temple, though there is evidence of the Second Jewish Temple.

Archeologist Eilat Mazar - AP Photo by Tara Todras-Whitehill

From this journalist’s notes (see the hand writing on a notebook to the left of the archeologist in the photo above): Mazar said that this area “is the very, very core of ancient Jerusalem .. When King David captured it, it was already a very, very important area … Stones have their words — see how skillfully this is constructed”. She stated tht the 10th century dating of the pottery shards found in this excavation — which went all the way down to bedrock — “is indisputable”. The only dispute, she said, is whether her find dates from the very early days of the 9th century or the last days of the 10th century before the common era (B.C.)

The pottery was dated by typology — and what she found was very different from 8th and 9th century B.C pottery — there is “no red slip”, and “no Canaanite or Jebusite influence”.

She said that from the Biblical account, “we know that King Solomon built the (First Jewish) Temple in 7 years, then he built his own palace in 13 years, then the last thing he did was to build the walls or fortifications … Maybe one day it will be possible here to excavate King Solomon’s Palace”.

“These are very solid, very impressive remains of the First Temple period”, Mazar said to a group of journalists. “We have shown that Jerusalem can reveal very easily remains from the 10th century, from the First Temple period, very near the surface”.

In three months, Mazar’s excavations was able to reveal “the whole height of the (fortification’s) structure six meters down to bedrock”.

This, she said, made her absolutely sure that “no construction whatsoever had ever been erected before the 10th century” in this area (near the Old City of East Jerusalem), though people had been living all around, and the remains of their pottery were found all around the site.

“Archeologically speaking, now we have the fortification line dated”, Mazar said, “This goes quite well with the Biblical description”.  She said that the City of David fortification line already existed — and followed very nicely the bedrock.  Perhaps, she posited, it will one day be found that the two fortification lines join up. “There is still lots to be revealed in the future”.

At another point, she said that though there were other walls (the “broad” wall, and the “external” wall,  “there is only one wall around Jerusalem that the Bible speaks of, and that is Soloman’s, which circled the Temple Mount ad very probably connected to the City of David”.

Because a new “wet-sifting” technique had been used, Mazar said, it was possible to get “60 to 70 percent more finds — fishbones, lots of beads, lots of seal impressions (bulla) which [as we know have previously] contained Hebrew names and decorations and symbols”.  However, in response to a question about whether or not she had actually found Hebrew names on the newly-unearthed bulla, she replied in the negative: “I didn’t have the time to sit and study all these bulla yet — there are dozens of them”.

Asked by a reporter/cameraman for INN (Israeli News Network) what her discovery proves about the Jewish peoples’ presence in Jerusalem, Mazar took a breath and replied “it shows that in the 10th century there was a very strong regime here”.

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