Jerusalem – Temple Mount Excavations

For many years, scientific excavations of archaeological sites in Jerusalem were impossible. Excavations undertaken in the city, beginning in the 19th century, were carried out at relatively few sites and under many restrictions. Nevertheless, remains were discovered from the Chalcolithic period onwards.

The archaeological secrets of the city remained concealed until the Six Day War in 1967. Since then, however, extensive and fundamental excavations, concentrating primarily on the areas of the Western and Southern Walls of the Temple Mount, the Jewish Quarter in David's Citadel, Mount Zion, and the City of David, have added considerably to our knowledge of ancient Jerusalem. For the first time the period of the First and Second Temples is being revealed through the analysis of numerous objects dating from these times found in archaeological contexts. The magnificent past of Jerusalem is now gradually being disclosed.

Excavations in Jerusalem in recent years have helped to reconstruct, with a good degree of accuracy, the walls of the Temple Mount, the gates, the flights of stairs, and the buildings such as the Royal Stoa, as built by Herod. These reconstructions provide a picture of the area as it must have been at the end of the Second Temple period.

Carved stone from the Hulda Gate
Temple Mount
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Kraters found one on top of the other
First Temple period
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Finds from the Second Temple Period

Numerous finds from the Second Temple period have been discovered in the various excavations in Jerusalem. Those objects on display here come from a site in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The most impressive are those architectonic features associated with the building activities of King Herod; the erection of the Temple Mount walls and gates was part of the construction of the Temple itself. Splendid remains from the Hulda Gates are exhibited here; their study has provided information regarding the manner of decoration as well as the art of the Jews of Jerusalem during the Herodian period. From these building fragments, the magnificence of Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period can be reconstructed. Everyday utensils made of stone are especially noteworthy and point to a highly developed stonemason industry in Jerusalem. Their popular use at this time is most likely associated with the gradual definition of Jewish laws concerning purity and cleanliness. The most outstanding examples of this type of work are cups, furniture, and sundials (see also the model of the Burnt House).


Finds from the First Temple Period

Remains of Jerusalem of the First Temple period have been discovered at various sites: in the City of David, in the Jewish Quarter, on the Temple Mount, and on Mount Zion. Most of the objects found so far can be dated to the final stage of the period of the Kingdom of Judah
(8th-6th centuries BCE).
The objects exhibited here were discovered in the ruins of a magnificent building excavated by the Temple Mount Expedition. The highly burnished bowls reflect a high standard of craftsmanship and the rank of the house's inhabitants. The three storage jars, probably used to store oil, were found in the cellar of the house, together with many other vessels. The four large kraters were discovered upside down in a heap, probably left in that fashion by their last owners.
The building itself was destroyed in the great destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.


Jewish Ossuaries, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE