Discovering the Solomonic Wall in Jerusalem: A Remarkable Archaeological Adventure
By Eilat Mazar
Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, 2011
174 pp., 213 illus., $39.95 (hardcover)
Reviewed by Oded Borowski
Eilat Mazar’s relationship with the archaeology of Jerusalem goes back to the time when as an 11-year-old girl she accompanied her grandfather, the famous Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, to the excavations he directed near the Temple Mount. Her professional involvement with Jerusalem started when she participated in the City of David excavations directed by the Hebrew University Professor Yigal Shiloh. Since then, Dr. Mazar has been engaged with excavations in Jerusalem, concentrating mostly on the area known as the Ophel, the area between the City of David and the Temple Mount. Her present book is devoted to a particular segment of the Ophel excavation.
The book is directed at the lay reading public and was written shortly after the conclusion of the latest excavations of the fortification complex at the foot of the Temple Mount. The trigger for writing this book was the preparation of the site for opening to the public.
The first two chapters, “Born into It” and “Professional Beginnings,” are autobiographical and detail Mazar’s odyssey into the world of Jerusalem archaeology. Chapter 3, “The Ophel: History and Prior Excavations,” recounts the site’s history based on Biblical accounts. She also describes prior work at the site by Captain Charles Warren, the famous 19th-century British engineer and explorer, and by the eminent British archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon in the mid-20th century. Next she discusses Benjamin Mazar’s excavations of the Ophel between 1968 and 1978 and the excavations of Benjamin and Eilat Mazar in 1986–1987. Chapter 6 deals with some of the activities Mazar was involved in between these excavations and her final one in 2009 in which she proceeded to clarify and uncover new elements from the First Temple period (1000–586 B.C.E.).
Chapter 7 describes area-by-area the architectural and stratigraphical discoveries, along with descriptions of some small finds including seal impressions (bullae), clay figurines, pottery and a fragment of an Amarna-type clay tablet written in cuneiform. The latter is a prize find because it makes a connection between Jerusalem and the political world of the ancient Near East in the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.). a
The massive structures from the First Temple period underline the importance and economic strength of Jerusalem at that time. She then describes the major structures from the Second Temple period and the Byzantine period.
The book ends with “Closing Thoughts”: “[This] is not just a story of the archaeological endeavors … but one where the archaeologist grew up alongside excavations her entire life.” And indeed, much of this book is a first-person account of important discoveries made by the author and her grandfather.
The text is accompanied by copious photographs, pottery plates, plans and sections, and isometric reconstructions. It is accessible and reads well. Not being the final scholarly publication, it does not invite a critical review, which I am sure will follow when the final publication comes out. Because the book is intended for the public, however, it would have been helpful if photographs showing structures and walls had some kind of markings, pointing out the important features mentioned in the captions. I am sure that this can be easily done in future editions.
Eilat Mazar should be congratulated on her many achievements in the field and on paper, and on the indefatigable energy and enthusiasm she has mustered and exhibited throughout her career.
Oded Borowski is professor of Biblical archaeology and Hebrew in the department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He is director of Mediterranean archaeology and of the Lahav Research Project: Phase IV.