Tammuz 14, 5769, 06 July 09
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Archaeologists have discovered a quarter-acre (one dunam) quarry in Jerusalem that apparently was the source for mammoth stones used by Herod to build the Second Temple. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered the quarry prior to the planned construction of apartment buildings on Shmuel HaNavi Street.
The ancient quarry dates back 2,030 years, according to excavation director Dr. Ofer Sion. The immense size of the stones, which measure up to three meters long and two meters high and wide, "indicates it was highly likely that the large stones that were quarried at the site were destined for use in the construction of Herod’s magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple walls," he said.
He also estimated that a large work force among Herod's estimated 10,000 laborers produced the stones by creating detachment channels with the use of a one-pound chisel. "After the channels were formed, the stones were severed from the bedrock using hammers and chisels," Dr. Sion explained.
"We know from historical sources that in order to build the Temple and other projects which Herod constructed, such as his palace, hundreds of thousands of various size stones were required – most of them weighing between two and five tons each", said the director of the excavation. "The dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry...are suitable for the Temple walls."
"The massive quarrying effort, on the order of hundreds of thousands of stones, lowered the topography of Jerusalem in the vicinity of the Old City," Dr. Sion said. "Today, with the exposure of this quarry, the intensity of the building projects as described in the historical sources can be proven… It is clear that Herod began quarrying closest to the Temple and worked away from it: first he exploited the stone on the nearby ridges and subsequently he moved on to quarry in more distant regions."
Dr. Sion described the ancient "high-tech method of removing and transporting the stones on rolling wooden fixtures, some of which were pulled by camels."
Other artifacts discovered at the site include metal plates, referred to in the Talmud and which were used as fulcrums to sever the stones from the bedrock, as well as coins and pottery shards from the end of the Second Temple period in the first century, before the beginning of the non-Jewish calendar.
More than 60 people worked on the dig, which lasted approximately two weeks.