by Hillel Fendel
(IsraelNN.com) The Israel Antiquities Authority announces the first time in the history of the archaeological research of Jerusalem that building remains from the First Temple period have been exposed so close to the Temple Mount – on the eastern slopes of the Upper City.
A rich layer of finds from the latter part of the First Temple period (8th-6th centuries B.C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological rescue excavations near the Western Wall plaza. The dig is being carried out in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza, near the staircase leading up towards the Jaffa Gate.
The Israel Antiquties Authority has been conducting the excavations for the past two years under the direction of archaeologists Shlomit Wexler-Bdoulah and Alexander Onn, in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The remains of a magnificent colonnaded street [i.e., lined by columns] from the 2nd century C.E. were uncovered; the street appears on the mosaic Madaba map, and is referred to by the name Eastern Cardo. The level of the Eastern Cardo is paved with large heavy limestone pavers that were set directly atop the layer that dates to the end of the First Temple period. This Roman road thus “seals” beneath it the finds from the First Temple period, protecting them from being plundered in later periods.
The walls of the buildings found in the dig are preserved to a height of more than two meters.
Ring Seal Found, Inscribed with Owner's Name
Another impressive artifact found in the salvage excavations is a personal Hebrew seal made of a semi-precious stone that was apparently inlaid in a ring. The seal is elliptical and measures approximately 1 by 1.4 centimeters.
The seal's surface is divided into three strips separated by a double line: in the upper strip is a chain decoration comprising four pomegranates, and in the two bottom strips is the name of the owner of the seal, engraved in ancient Hebrew script. It reads: "[Belonging] to Netanyahu ben [son of] Yaush." Though each of the two names are not unfamiliar, no one with that name is known to scholars of the period.
A vast amount of pottery vessels was also discovered, among them three jar handles that bear similar stamped impressions. An inscription written in ancient Hebrew script is preserved on one these impressions, reading "Belonging] to the King of Hevron."