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Quarry for Temple Mount's Giant Rocks - Found

reprinted from Arutz 7
11 Tishrei 5768, 23 September 07

by Hillel Fendel

( 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 up 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.

Divine Regards

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 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 metal 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, beautiful 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."

Archeologists Find 2nd Temple Quarry

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
September 23, 2007

Etgar Lefkovits

In a major archeological discovery, an ancient quarry that supplied huge high-quality limestone for the construction of the Temple Mount has been uncovered in Jerusalem, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

The quarry, which is located four km northwest of Jerusalem's Old City, in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, was used two thousand years ago during the construction of the Second Temple, archeologist Yuval Baruch said.

"This unique and sensational find is the first Second Temple quarry ever found," he said.

According to Baruch, the site, which spans at least five dunams, was uncovered by chance during a "salvage excavation" carried out by the state-run archeological body over the last two months following municipal plans to build an elementary school in the area.

Dozens of quarries have previously been uncovered in Jerusalem - including ones larger than the present find - but this is the first one that archeologists have found which they believe was used in the construction of the Temple Mount, Baruch said. Archeologists had previously assumed that the quarry which was used to construct the Temple Mount was located within the Old City itself, but the enormous size of the stones discovered at the site - up to 8 meters long - as well as coins and fragments of pottery vessels dating back to the first century CE indicated that this was the site used 2,000 years ago in the construction of the Temple Mount walls - including the Western Wall.

"We have never found any monument in Israel with stones of this size except for the Temple Mount walls," Baruch said.

During the Second Temple period, the rulers of the city elected to use high quality stone in the construction of national public buildings. The stones selected originated in the hard layers of limestone, referred to in Arabic as malakeh (from the Hebrew word malkhut or royalty), owing to its beauty and quality. The huge stones were likely transported to the Temple Mount area by horses, camels, or slaves, Baruch said, noting that part of an ancient main road to Jerusalem that was used for the immense operation was recently uncovered just 100 meters from the site of the quarry. The use of these enormous stones during the construction is what maintained the stability of the structure over thousands of years, without requiring the use of plaster or cement.

The quarrying of each stone block was done in stages, according to Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director. First, deep narrow channels were hewn around all four sides of the block, thereby isolating it from the surrounding bedrock surface. Then, using a hammer, the stonecutters inserted a row of cleaving stakes in the bottom part of the block until a fissure was created and the stone was detached. A 5 kilogram iron tool, which was used by King Herod's workers - probably Jewish slaves - and was likely forgotten at the site, was discovered beneath large stones in the middle of the excavations, Baruch said.

The site, which was used for no more than 20 years, was abandoned after the Second Temple period, said archeologist Ehud Nesher who also took part in the dig. The area is now surrounded by olive trees planted by Arab villagers, and a sprawling Haredi residential neighborhood. The area of the quarry which has been uncovered is likely only thirty to forty percent of its total size, but archeologists have no immediate plans to excavate the rest of the area because it is private property.

The discovery of the site comes as the state-run archeological body is immersed in a bitter controversy over recent Islamic infrastructure work on the Temple Mount itself, which independent Israeli archeologists say has damaged antiquities at the Jerusalem holy site.

The work, which was authorized by the Prime Minister's Office, is meant to replace decades-old electrical cables at the ancient compound.

The Antiquities Authority, which has been repeatedly censured by the independent group of archeologists for failing to carry out proper archeological supervision on the Temple Mount due to the political sensitivities involved, has repeatedly declined comment on the issue.



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