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Palatial building from time of Jesus discovered in Jerusalem

J-P Mauro - published on 07/13/21

The site will soon be added to the Western Wall Tunnels tour.

Archaeologists in Israel have finished excavating an enormous building adjacent to the Western Wall. Dated to the 1st century,it is believed to have been a public hall where officials may have met. The structure is soon to open to the public as part of a Western Wall Tunnels tour.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the structure contains “two imposing rooms,” which are separated by a smaller chamber featuring a fountain. The stone walls bear imprints of furniture that suggests the space was used for eating meals in a reclined position. This is known to be how members of the upper classes took their meals. 

Largest mikveh

The building’s location on the main road that led to the Temple Mount means that it was most likely a central spot for gatherings. That the room with the fountain had been converted to the largest ritual bath, or mikveh, ever discovered in Jerusalem supports this. Ritual cleansing was very important to Jewish practice of the Second Temple era. The proximity to the Temple Mount may have made this a convenient spot to cleanse oneself before prayer. 

Smithsonian Magazine notes that the site was first discovered by archaeologist Charles Warren in the 19th century. Modern teams have been able to carbon-date the site by pulling up stones and analyzing organic material underneath. It is currently dated to between 20 and 30 AD. 

History and dating

The site is helping experts fasten a timeline of the Temple Mount area’s development. Archaeologists believe the grand building predates the Western Wall. Furthermore, the dating of the site supports the theory that Herod was not alive for the completion of the expansion of the Temple Mount compound. 

In a statement, provided by Jerusalem Post, Western Wall Heritage Foundation chairman Mordechai Soli Eliav said:

“It is exciting to reveal such a magnificent structure from the Second Temple period… These chambers are part of a new walk through the Western Wall Tunnels, where visitors will view fascinating finds and walk for the first time along the entire route among Second Temple-period remains that illustrate the complexity of Jewish life in Jerusalem between the Hasmonean and the Roman periods.”

See the excavated site in the video featured above.

Visit Smithsonian Mag to learn more about the 150-year process of excavating this grand building. 

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