Excavations near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount uncovered a 2,000 year-old chisel at the foot of the Western Wall. Archaeologist Eli Shukron believes it was used in the construction of the wall around the early 1st century A.D.
The chisel was found in a Roman-era drain some 6 feet below the 1st-century street level. Shukron speculates a workman may have accidentally dropped it from a scaffolding and was unable or unwilling to recover it. Archaeological work in the drainage system is a part of the ongoing work by Shukron and Ronny Reich in/around the City of David.
Ha’aretz has an article on the find but requires a subscription to read. Herod the Great began the Temple Mount project but the context of the chisel suggests the Western Wall was built after his reign. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The most dramatic discovery was a number of coins found beneath the wall, which led to rethink its date of construction – and who was behind it.
Until the coins’ discovery, the Western Wall had been thought to be part of King Herod the Great’s gargantuan construction drive – which included the Second Temple itself. He is also credited with building the fort at Masada, among his many other architectural achievements.
But Shukron and Reich now say Herod hadn’t been responsible for the Western Wall: going by the date of the coins found under it, the Wall had been built after his time, by one of its heirs.
The possibility of the Western Wall being built after Herod’s time is not news. The project of expanding the Temple Mount was way too big to complete in Herod’s lifetime. It passed on to his successors and ended up taking more than 80 years from start to finish. (Jesus’ ministry falls mid-way through the temple project. Note the comment to Jesus in John 2:20.)
Leen Ritmeyer offers an interesting critique on the find as well as the conclusions presented in the Ha’aretz article. He describes how the chisel was likely used in the unique conditions of the Temple’s construction and suggests the Western Wall could conceivably have been constructed during Herod’s reign after all.
Ongoing tests may further illuminate the chisel and its context. We look forward to reading later reports as scholars continue to research this and other finds.
HT: Joe Lauer