- Ancient site holy to both Jews AND Muslims
- Coins stamped with successor to Pontius Pilate
- Construction 'had not even begun' by Herod's death
|Two ancient bronze coins, which |
according to Israel Antiquities Authority
archaeologists were struck by the Roman
procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, in
the year 17/18 CE - raising questions over
the history of Jerusalem
Newly found coins underneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall could change the accepted belief about the construction of one of the world’s most sacred sites two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.
The man usually credited with building the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary is Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4 B.C.
Herod’s monumental compound replaced and expanded a much older Jewish temple complex on the same site.
But archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority now say diggers have found coins underneath the massive foundation stones of the compound’s Western Wall that were stamped by a Roman proconsul 20 years after Herod’s death.
That indicates that Herod did not build the wall - part of which is venerated as Judaism’s holiest prayer site - and that construction was not close to being complete when he died.
'The find changes the way we see the construction, and shows it lasted for longer than we originally thought,' said the dig’s co-director, Eli Shukron.
He preceded Pontius Pilate of the New Testament story as Rome’s representative in Jerusalem, according to Ronny Reich of Haifa University, one of the two archaeologists in charge of the dig.
They show that construction of the Western Wall had not even begun at the time of Herod’s death. Instead, it was likely completed only generations later by one of his descendants.
Writing after a Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of the Temple by legionnaires in 70 A.D., he recounted that work on the Temple Mount had been completed only by King Agrippa II, Herod’s great-grandson, two decades before the entire compound was destroyed.
THE WESTERN WALL: A HISTORY
It is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself.
According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BC and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BC.
It is believed that more than half the current wall, including a large below current street level, was constructed around 19 BC by Herod the Great as he launched a massive expansion of the temple.
The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards.
It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries, the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
The compound, controlled since 1967 by Israel, now houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden-capped Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock
The fact that the compound is holy both to Jews and Muslims makes it one of the world’s most sensitive religious sites.
The dig in which the coins were discovered cleared a Roman-era drainage tunnel that begins at the biblical Pool of Siloam, one of the city’s original water sources, and terminates with a climb up a ladder out onto a 2,000-year-old street inside Jerusalem’s Old City.
The tunnel runs by the foundation stones of the compound’s western wall, where the coins were found.
'The excavation of the tunnel also yielded a Roman sword that scholars believe are likely debris from a Jewish rebellion'
The dig is being carried out inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, and is funded by a group associated with the Israeli settlement movement that opposes any division of the city as part of a future peace deal.
The excavation of the tunnel has also yielded a Roman sword, oil lamps, pots and coins that scholars believe are likely debris from an attempt by Jewish rebels to hide in the underground passage as they fled from the Roman soldiers.
Source: Coins found under Jerusalem's Western Wall hints that sacred site is even older than Herod | Mail Online