Herod’s Temple Mount Revealed in Al-Aqsa Mosque Restoration

Wooden beams from the time of Herod’s Temple Mount in secondary use in the Al-Aqsa Mosque

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2013.—Ed.


The restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the 1930s and 1940s included the removal of dozens of wooden beams that predate the mosque’s construction. These beams may have come from buildings on Herod’s Temple Mount. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority Scientific Archives.

What happened to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E.? There is no report of any building left on the Temple Mount by the time the Muslims erected the iconic Dome of the Rock and the gray-domed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the late seventh and early eighth centuries.

Did the wooden beams from Herod’s Temple Mount survive? In the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Peretz Reuven studies beams removed from the Al-Aqsa Mosque to reveal the storied history of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

How did wooden beams from the era of Herod’s Temple Mount end up being used as tie beams and bond timbers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque?

The Al-Aqsa Mosque has sustained serious earthquake damage over the years due to its construction on dirt-fill from Herod’s first century C.E. Temple Mount expansion. As a result, the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been rebuilt and renovated several times since its original Umayyad construction. During the 1930s and 1940s, large-scale restoration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque involved the removal of dozens of beams from the mosque’s ceiling, arcades and dome. The great beams, some of which are more than 42 feet long, were covered by modern boards for centuries. The wood inside the beams has a longer story to tell.

Many of the places, people and events that populate Biblical history are a part of Islam. Our free eBook Islam in the Ancient World traces the Biblical roots of Islam’s traditions and holy sites. Learn how the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque and other sites are tied to the Bible.


ON THE COVER: A beam from the Al-Aqsa Mosque with Roman-style carvings may have come from the Royal Stoa on Herod’s Temple Mount. Photo: Peretz Reuven

High-quality Cedar of Lebanon and cypress beams from Herod’s Temple Mount would have been used and reused in a phenomenon known to archaeologists as “secondary use.” R.W. Hamilton’s 1949 publication on the dismantling of the Al-Aqsa Mosque already noted that many beams showed signs of secondary use. These signs include functional depressions or protrusions intended from their original use as well as decorative woodcarving styles from earlier periods.

Recent carbon-14 tests on the beams confirm their antiquity. Some predate Herod’s Temple Mount: One beam dates to the ninth century B.C.E.—the First Temple period! The exact history of the beams is hard to pin down. They were likely used in two or more different constructions, and poor storage has led to the ever-quickening degradation of the beams.

Despite conservation issues, Peretz Reuven was able to make detailed analyses of the beams. For example, indentations on the underside of a beam with Herodian/Roman-period decorations suggest that it rested on column capitals in an earlier structure. The indentations are spaced at a similar interval to columns at Herod’s Royal Stoa. Did this beam, featured on the cover of the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, come from one of Herod’s Temple Mount structures?

Learn more about the wooden beams from the Al-Aqsa Mosque by reading “Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?” by Peretz Reuven as it appears in the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


BAS Library members: Read “Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?” by Peretz Reuven in the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

Explore the BAS Store for Temple Mount books and DVDs featuring such prominent scholars as Leen Ritmeyer, Yosef Garfinkel, Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Dan Bahat >>


Related Content in Bible History Daily:

Lebanese Cedar—The Prized Tree of Ancient Woodworking

The Stones of Herod’s Temple Reveal Temple Mount History

The Temple Mount in the Herodian period (37 BC–70 A.D.)

What Did Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem Look Like?

Sifting Antiquity on the Temple Mount Sifting Project

What the Temple Mount Floor Looked Like
by Frankie Snyder, Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira
As published in Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2016

Layers of Jerusalem Archaeology

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on May 17, 2013.


Posted in Artifacts and the Bible, Jerusalem.

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17 Responses

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  1. Mike says

    I am confused: Al-Aqsa Mosque is the full complex which includes the frontal prayer house and the Dome of the Rock. This whole place is the Al-Aqsa Mosque area…

    Some people make the mistake to limit the usage of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the grey-dome area only forgetting that the name is for the spot centered around the Rock is situated, and was given before any of these buildings was erected.

  2. Josh says

    To Mike:
    Al-Aqsa Mosque = grey dome
    Dome of the Rock = gold dome
    Al-Haram ash-Sharif = entire Temple Mount plaza

  3. Clifford says

    I find that unlikely. The beams would have decayed by now. The stones of the temple were reused.
    But the “wailing wall” is a Turkish wall, idolitrous for jews & Israelites. herod’s temple stood on Mt.OPHEL!!! – & Neh.3:25-29 proves it. If they look some 700 feet south of the mikvehs & dig some
    30-50 feet underground, they will probably find gold evidence of the temple.

    In Jesus’ Name, Clifford Catton – Oct.30, 2013.

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  6. John says

    Herods Temple was burnt to the ground by fire in 70AD. ‘So that the Roman soldiers ripped up the stones of the temple to get the melted gold of the temple.

    So it is unlikely these are beams of the temple.

  7. Charles says

    Burned to the ground by the Priests to keep the Romans out or by the Romans in revenge then dug up to get the gold, it was said to be faced with gold and a lot of other precious metals, worth the effort I would say. There is a question as to where the Temple sit really is it must have a free flowing spring at the alter and there is none on what is call the temple mount, so we have an open question.

  8. Richard says

    Didn’t the Roman Emperor Hadrian build a pagan temple to the Roman god Aelia Capitolina atop the ruins of the Jewish Temple? Could not these beams be from that temple?…

  9. ralph says

    I don’t think the beams would have rotted at all. This is cedar, a very hard, resinous and rot resistant wood, in use in a very dry climate. and there are plenty of instances of oak beams surviving for hundreds of years in damp and cold Britain, especially in.Norman churches. My mother’s shop was original 16th century wood, and the wood was like steel. In fact, there was a devastating fire, but all the beams survived, and new joists were simply bolted to the old framework.

  10. David says

    While the beams are fascinating, I’ve wondered for a long time what happened to the stones of both Temples. I doubt they would have been hauled long distances, and wouldn’t have eroded, so where are they?

  11. Clifford says

    Jesus’ prophecy in Lu.19:44 says not one stone will be left upon another. The entire city was burned to the ground as Josephus tells us. That includes the
    beams of the temple which the soldiers purposely set on fire to acquire the
    gold. One of the Dead Sea scrolls notes 64 hidden “vaults” or caches of gold
    & silver, of which only about half have been found to this day. Priests were not
    dumb, nor was/is GOD. A lead book was recently found this decade, & the copper scroll is well known. With all the excess gold the priests had, would they not make gold books & hide them somewhere??? GOD saved those books for this generation to find to PROVE His existence & the temple’s. In Jesus,
    Clifford Catton May 24, 2016

  12. Nora says

    And the Temple was once right below the mosque. Read about it here. http://templemountlocation.com/

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Did ancient beams discarded in Old City come from first and second temples? | The Montreal Jewish News linked to this post on May 22, 2013

    […] this month’s article in Biblical Archaeology Review, Israeli archaeologist Peretz Reuven singled out another beam, among those currently kept on the […]

  2. Did ancient beams discarded in Old City come from first and second temples? « 'I Am NOT Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ! linked to this post on May 23, 2013

    […] this month’s article in Biblical Archaeology Review, Israeli archaeologist Peretz Reuven singled out another beam, among those currently kept on the […]

  3. How old is that Antique Wood flooring? - barnstormers_blog linked to this post on March 19, 2015

    […] archaeologists carbon-14-dated these beams. The tests revealed that one of these cedar timbers came from the ninth century B.C., […]

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