Saturday, December 1, 2007
Nov 28, 2007 23:17 | Updated Nov 28, 2007 23:21
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
The remnants of a wall from the time of the prophet Nehemiah have been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, strengthening recent claims that King David's palace has been found at the site, an Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.
The section of the 2,500-year-old Nehemiah wall, located just outside the Dung Gate and the Old City walls facing the Mount of Olives, was dated by pottery found during a recent dig at the site, said Hebrew University archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.
The archeologist, who rose to international prominence for her recent excavation that may have uncovered the biblical palace of King David, was able to date the wall to Nehemiah as a result of a dig carried out underneath a nearby tower, which has been previously dated to the Hasmonean period, (142-37 BCE) but which now emerges was built centuries earlier.
As a result of the excavation, both the 30 meter section of the wall and a six-by-three-meter part of the previously uncovered tower have now been dated to the fifth century BCE based on the rich pottery found during the dig under the tower, she said.
Scores of bullae, arrowheads and seals from that period were also discovered during the excavation.
"This find opens a new chapter in the history of Jerusalem," Mazar said. "Until now, we have never had such an archeological wealth of finds from Nehemiah's period."
Nehemiah, who lived during the period when Judah was a province of the Persian Empire, arrived in Jerusalem as governor in 445 BCE with the permission of the Persian king, determined to rebuild and restore the desolate city after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians a century earlier, in 586 BCE.
The Persians had conquered the Babylonian empire that had destroyed Jerusalem and taken most of the inhabitants of Judah into captivity in what is now modern Iraq.
The Bible relates that despite the resistance of hostile neighbors who had occupied the area around Jerusalem in the Jews' absence, the whole wall was completed in a speedy 52-day period.
The tower at the site lies on the back of the walls of the palace that Mazar uncovered at the site two years ago, indicating that the palace must have been built first and strengthening the claim that the site was indeed King David's palace, she said.
The three-year-old dig is being sponsored by the Shalem Center, a conservative Jerusalem research institute, where Mazar serves as a senior fellow, and the right-wing City of David Foundation which promotes Jewish settlement throughout east Jerusalem