The Antiquities Authority announced today that it has found the quarry that supplied the giant stones for the building of the Temple Mount. The quarry is located in what is now one of Jerusalem's newest neighborhoods, Ramat Shlomo (also known as Reches Shuafat), between Ramot and French Hill. The quarry was found in the course of an archaeological rescue dig prior to the construction of a neighborhood school.
The ancient quarry is spread out over at least five dunams (1.25 acres), with rocks between three and eight meters long - the size of those that can still be seen today at the foundations of the Temple Mount and in the Western Wall - hewn out of the ground. Click here for photos of the quarry on the Israel Matzav blog.
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem told Arutz-7 that the discovery of the quarry was both historically dramatic and spiritually exhilarating: "Precisely now, when the Moslems are trying to erase all vestiges of the presence of our Holy Temple, and when even among our own leaders there is a trend towards giving it away and viewing it as an unnecessary burden - precisely now, with this discovery, G-d is sending the Jewish People a kiss, as if to say, 'Don't worry, I haven't forgotten you; there are those who want to give it [the Temple Mount] away or take it away from you, but I still have big plans for both you and for the Holy Temple - and the Temple will yet become the focal point of the world once again."
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky has ordered a halt to the school-building plans, budgeting 350,000 shekels ($86,500) for the archaeological work.
Jerusalem archaeologist Yuval Baruch told Arutz-7 that the ancient hewing was done in stages. First, deep and narrow trenches were dug around the four sides of what was to be the rock. Then, dozens of small specially-shaped picks were used to make holes underneath, at a distance of several centimeters from each other, until the rock was able to be separated from the ground. Archaeologists found one such pick in the area - a 15-centimeter (6-inch) long metallic object.
Gideon Charlap, a top Jerusalem architect and Temple Mount expert, told Arutz-7 that while rocks for the Temple may not be hewn with iron on the Temple Mount, iron may be used on the rocks before they reach the Mount. This, as opposed to stones used for the Temple's altar, which are never permitted to be hewn with iron.
The rulers of ancient Jerusalem used top-quality, shining-white stone for their public buildings, of the type they called Malcha (from the word for royalty). Dozens of quarries have been discovered in and around Jerusalem over the years, Baruch said, "including some from the period of Herod, like this one. However, never before has one been found with such large rocks."
The Shuafat mountain is some 80 meters higher than the Temple Mount. That, and its proximity to the main road to Jerusalem from the north, made this quarry a prime candidate to provide the rocks to be used in the city's important buildings. Teams of oxen pulled the giant stones down the moderate incline towards the city. The rocks were then placed upon the bedrock, forming the foundation of the Temple Mount, and keeping it stable and firm without the use of concrete even up until today.
Coins and pottery were also found in the quarry, dating back 1,900 years - further evidence that this quarry was used during the height of construction in ancient Jerusalem.
Ancient Drainage Tunnel and Escape Route Found
Earlier this month, the Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of the City of David's main drainage channel - later used by Jerusalem residents when they tried to flee from the Romans. The channel is located along the route from the Temple Mount to the Shiloah Pool, and apparently continues on to Nahal Kidron on its way to the Dead Sea. It drained the rainfall of ancient Jerusalem - the Jewish quarter, the western region of the City of David, and the Temple Mount. The excavations were jointly carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Elad Association.
The excavation directors wrote, “There is evidence in the writings of Josephus Flavius, the historian who described the revolt, the conquest and the destruction of Jerusalem, that numerous people took shelter in the channel and even lived in it for a period until they succeeded to flee the city through its southern end."