Monday, August 14, 2017

Earthquake at Zion!

The Crack IMG_2803.jpg
The original cement crack - looking north

In 2009 when Benjamin Netanyahu was coming to power in Israel, excavation on the high ridge west of the Gihon Spring revealed a most important artifact.

The Crack 2013-07-24 12.34.28.jpg
After the first few months digging
Permission to excavate began with a crack that threatened a potential landslide. This prompted a rapid approval, so the excavation at Beit Shalem above and west of the high ridge of the Gihon Spring began. Within a few months, the team had made great progress removing rubble below the original crack line.

A 30X8m super-tension retaining wall was built to hold the significant section of Mount Moriah’s eastern slope (below, temple mount seen north). Four years to plan and construct, the wall had to be anchored in bedrock at several points and at each level. Casing each anchor was slow going to avoid penetrating and damaging buried artifacts. Approximately 500 cubic meters of rubble and dirt were ultimately removed for archaeological sifting.

Looking north - Temple Mount seen top left
As the retaining wall descended to 3 meters above the bedrock archaeologists began to discover late iron-age Roman era walls and several pottery artefacts.

Roman era jars and oil lamps found in the top frame of walls that were once rooms - looking west

A collapsed section was well preserved in a narrow passage that had been blocked at its east exit by a ~50cm(w) late iron age (North-South) wall section. At 2m above the bedrock, pottery and other artifacts were found in blackened layer dated to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Below the blackened destruction (seen in the image left) layers may yet reveal artifacts that inform about the periods prior.

The video below was made by the Antiquities Authority to describe some of the latest findings.

The excavation discussed above, is behind (west) of the western wall of the high ridge, top of image below. Of particular interest on the high ridge is the impressive ‘tziun’, ‘matzevah’, monument or covenant, now protected by the steel cabinet. Archaeologists confirm it was once protected by soft earth contained between the west and a dismantled east wall. Earliest indicators perhaps as far back as 4500 years are hewn directly into the bedrock including cave dwelling, altar, oil and flour presses and facilities for animal slaughter. Sunlight now reaches the bedrock, the first time in ~3000 years.

The matzevah, monument looking west (Separation Wall - see next image)

The bedrock at the western excavation (behind the wall in the image above) descends eastward toward the matzevah dropping by about 1.5m to the bedrock on the high ridge complex (seen below). The complex was hewn using basic rock implements. The volume of this ~4x8x2(h) meter complex is significant. All walls of the rooms were retained from the bedrock.

According to Biblical dating matzevot were last used at the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here placement on the hewn bedrock floor provides some important dating targets to around ~2000 BCE, pre-dating King David by 1000 years.

Immediately east of the high ridge as it descends toward the valley is the rock cut pool leading from the Gihon Spring. Large volumes of fish-bones, bones of kosher animals and pictographic bullae were discovered in its lowest levels.

Upper Gihon Pool.jpg
Rock cut pool - looking north

Pictographic seals discovered in the sediment of the rock cut pool equate in vloume to all the other non-pictographic seals discovered elsewhere in the City of David. Perhaps indicating something akin to important people throwing pennies in a pond or leaving notes in a wall. This raises questions about the dating of seals (bullae) that were contained to the pool compared to those of the period of kings.

The Matzevah in context of the City of David on Mount Moriah is a significant archaeological event. If academic analysis supports that hewn bedrock coincides with biblical Shem then the Matzevah is likely to converge with dating for the story of Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22). This would further validate the high ridge to Isaac and Abraham, when it became known as “the Place” (Ha Makom). As such it will have significant implications for theological and religious interpretation of events relative to first temple construction and third temple location.

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