First Temple-Period Site Outside Old City Opened

Nicole Jansezian

First Temple-Period Site Outside Old City Opened

A new archaeological site revealing remnants of a city dating back to the time of King Solomon right outside the walls of the Old City has officially opened to the public.

Portions of this site could have been mentioned in Scripture, dating back to the first temple period, according to archaeologists. The site includes an exhibit in the Archaeological Garden of the Davidson Center of the oldest known written document from Jerusalem found at the site.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Mayor Nir Barkat opened the Ophel City Walls Site to the public, revealing a complex of buildings dating back to between the 10th and sixth centuries B.C., including what is believed to have been a gate house, a royal edifice, a section of a tower and the city wall itself. Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar suggested that the buildings could have been part of the fortifications that King Solomon built in Jerusalem.

“Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem.” (1 Kings 3:1)

Visitors will be able to touch the stones and walls at the site. Signs elaborate on the history and significance of the finds.

Sections of a Byzantine city wall and two of its towers were found, along with two rooms from the second temple period.

The oldest known written document from Jerusalem is a two-centimeter fragment discovered in the area by archaeologists. It dates from the late Bronze Age, is written in Akkadian and appears to be a copy of a letter sent to an Egyptian king when Jerusalem was still called Salem.

The gate house is comprised of four rooms on both sides of a broad corridor and is characteristic of the first temple period similar to gates revealed at Megiddo, Beer Sheva and Ashdod.

Mazar said the gate house could be the Water Gate mentioned in Nehemiah 3:26: “…and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower.”

The structure could have been destroyed by the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 B.C., Mazar said. Also discovered on site were 12 large clay jars, which probably contained wine or oil, one with a Hebrew inscription indicating that it belonged to one of the kingdom’s ministers.

This article published on July 5, 2011.

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.