TEL AVIV – In the run-up to the Jewish fast of Tisha B’av which commemorates the destruction of both Temples, new evidence unearthed in the City of David confirms biblical accounts of Jerusalem’s destruction.
2,600-year-old structures, included rooms and their contents, were unearthed at the City of David excavation site, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.
Among the artifacts is an ivory statue of a nude woman – thought to be Egyptian – was discovered along with burned wood, grape seeds, bones, fish scales and fragments of jars with a rosette seal, which, according to co-director Ortal Chalaf, was a royal seal used in the ten years prior to the destruction of the First Temple.
“These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. Classifying objects facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields. The rosette, in essence, replaced the ‘For the King’ seal used in the earlier administrative system,” said Chalaf.
“The wealth of the Judean Kingdom’s capital is also manifest in the ornamental artifacts surfacing in situ. One distinct and rare finding is a small ivory statue of a woman. The figure is naked, and her haircut, or wig, is Egyptian in style. The quality of its carving is high, and it attests to the high caliber of the artifact’s artistic level, and the skill par excellence of the artists during this era.”
“The excavation’s findings show that Jerusalem had extended beyond the line of the city wall before its destruction,” Chalaf said in a joint statement with co-director Dr. Joe Uziel. “The row of structures exposed in the excavations is located outside beyond the city wall that would have constituted the eastern border of the city during this period.”
The Book of Jeremiah relates how in 586 BCE, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar “burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man’s house, burned he with fire.”
The co-directors added that excavations carried out in the past in the area of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City show how the population growth at that time eventually resulted in the annexation of the western area of Jerusalem.
“Throughout the Iron Age, Jerusalem underwent constant growth, expressed both in the construction of numerous city walls, and the fact that the city later spread beyond them,” the said.
“In the current excavation, we may suggest that following the westward expansion of the city, structures were built outside of the wall’s border on the east as well,” the researchers added.
This latest unearthing came at an auspicious time – both ahead of Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning set to begin at sunset on Monday, and amid a security crisis at the Temple Mount. The evidence also flies in the face of claims made by the Waqf, the Jordanian Islamic Trust which administers the holy site, that the Jewish people have no historical connection to the area and that a temple never existed there. The excavations also contradict recent UNESCO resolutions which also deny Jewish ties to Jerusalem.