September 26, 2007
Archeologists find ancient quarry used to rebuild Temple Mount
Israeli archeologists have discovered a quarry that provided King Herod with the stones he used to renovate the biblical Second Temple compound, offering rare insight into construction of the holiest site in Judaism.
The source of the huge stones used 2,000 years ago to reconstruct the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City was discovered on the site of a proposed school in a Jerusalem suburb.
Today, the compound includes renovated houses and is the most explosive religious site in the Holy Land, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.
“This is the first time stones which were used to build the Temple Mount walls were found,” said Yuval Baruch, an archeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority involved in the dig. Quarries mined for the massive stones, each weighing more than 20 tonnes, eluded researchers until now, he said.
Baruch said coins and pottery found in the quarry confirm the stone was used during the period of Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount in 19 BC.
But researchers said the strongest piece of evidence was found wedged into one of the massive cuts in the white limestone — an iron stake used to split the stone. The tool was apparently improperly used, accidentally lodged in the stone and forgotten.
“It stayed here for 2,000 years for us to find because a worker didn’t know what to do with it,” said archeologist Ehud Nesher, also of the Antiquities Authority.
Nesher said the large outlines of the stone cuts indicated the site was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves. “Nothing private could have done this,” Nesher said.
“This is Herod’s, this is a sign of him.’’
Herod was the Jewish proxy ruler of the Holy Land under imperial Roman occupation from 37 BC. Herod’s most famous construction project was the renovation of the Second Temple, replacing a smaller structure that itself replaced the First Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
In addition to the quarry site, archeologists recently discovered a road a short distance from the quarry that was possibly used to transport the stones, Baruch said. How the enormous stones were moved to the construction site remains a mystery, he added.
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