Archaeologists find 2,000 year-old chisel used to build Western Wall

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.

Ancient chisel discovered below Jerusalem's Western Wall in 2013.

Ancient chisel used in the construction of the Temple Mount, discovered below Jerusalem’s Western Wall in 2013 and announced in 2014. (Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

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.

The Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem during summer, 2013. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem during summer, 2013. The temple likely stood in the same area as the golden Dome of the Rock to the upper left. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Adjust the angle down a bit and we see some of the excavations that lead up to the foundations of the Western Wall, below the level of today's plaza. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Adjust the angle down a bit and we see some of the excavations that lead up to the foundations of the Western Wall, below the level of today’s plaza. Excavations go under the platform all the way to the Wall itself. The newly-announced chisel was found near the Wall’s foundations, around 30-35 feet below the plaza. The ancient street visible at the bottom of the photo dates to the early 2nd century AD. The remains of 1st century Jerusalem lie below this level. What are they discovering under there that will illuminate ancient Jerusalem and its inhabitants? With patience, and with careful scholarly process, we will know more in time. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

HT: Joe Lauer

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in Ancient Architecture, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Jerusalem, Jesus, New Discoveries and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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