Excavations from a different First Temple period site in Arnona, near Jerusalem. (Israel Antiquities Authority) Israel Antiquities Authority
First Temple period

The Biblical-era wall protected Jerusalem from attacks during the reign of the kings of Judah, until the arrival of the Babylonians.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Archaeological excavations in the City of David in Jerusalem’s Old City have uncovered the remains of the city wall that was built during the Iron Age, the days of the First Temple in the Kingdom of Judah, to protect Jerusalem from the east.

This is part of the wall that the Babylonian armies encountered on the eve of their destruction of the First Temple on Tisha B’Av, in 586 BCE. Israel will mark the Tisha B’Av day of national mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Directors of the excavation, Dr. Filip Vukosavović of the Ancient Jerusalem Research Center and Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the city wall protected Jerusalem from a number of attacks during the reign of the kings of Judah, until the arrival of the Babylonians who managed to break through it and conquer the city.

The remains of the ruins can be seen in the archaeological excavations, but the Babylonian armies did not destroy the protective wall in its entirety, and parts of the walls, which stood and protected the city for decades and more, remain standing to this day, they said.

The new section that was exposed connects two segments that were previously excavated on the eastern slope.

In the 1960s, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon uncovered a section of the wall in the northern part of the slope and dated it to the days of the Kingdom of Judah. About a decade later, Israeli archaeologist Yigal Shiloh uncovered a long section of the wall in excavations in the southern part of the slope.

Over the years, claims have been made that despite the impressive nature of the remains, these remnant stone structures should not be seen as wall remains. However, with the uncovering of this new section that connects with these past discoveries, it seems that the debate has been settled and that this was unequivocally the eastern wall of ancient Jerusalem.

Reconstruction of the sections that were dismantled during previous excavations in the early 20th century makes it possible to trace almost another 30 meters of the surviving wall to a height of 2.5 meters and a width of up to five meters.

In the book of Kings II, 25:10, there is a description of the conquest of the city by the Babylonians: “The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.”

However, it looks like the Babylonians did not destroy the eastern wall, possibly due to the sharp steepness of the eastern slope of the City of David, which slants towards the Kidron Valley at over a 30-degree angle.

Evidence of the destruction during the sacking of the city can be seen inside a building that stood next to the wall – rows of storage jars that were smashed when the building burned and collapsed were found inside. The jars bear “rosette” stamped handles, in the shape of a rose, associated with the final years of the Kingdom of Judah.

Near the wall, archeologists found a Babylonian stamp seal made of stone, depicting a figure standing in front of symbols of the two Babylonian gods Marduk and Nabu. Not far from there, a bulla, a stamp seal impression made in clay, was found bearing the Judean name “Tsafan.”

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