Market along Jerusalem’s Pilgrimage Road Found

Rare finds suggest the location of the main market en route to the Second Temple

Photo: Ari Levi, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists have found rare 2,000-year-old measurement tools that indicate a major town square. In a rare find, they unearthed the top of a table used to measure liquids. In that vicinity, there were also dozens of stone weights discovered.

The age of the artifacts and their location, along the path of the Pilgrimage Road from the Pool of Siloam, in the oldest part of Jerusalem known as The City of David, to the Temple Mount, suggest that this was a main city square and trade market used by pilgrims of Jesus’ time, on their way to the Second Temple. As BAS founding Editor Hershel Shanks explains in “The Siloam Pool” (Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2005), Pilgrims traveled this path, especially on the three pilgrim festivals of Passover, Weeks (Pentacost, or Shavuoth) and Tabernacles (Succoth).

The Siloam Pool may have been the spot where Jesus healed the blind man in the biblical telling. The Pool’s usage 2,000 years ago is unclear; it might have provided cooking and drinking water to pilgrims, and may also have been used for ritual bathing prior to going to the Temple.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.

The Agoranamos, the officer tasked with supervising measurements and weights for the conducting of trade in the city of Jerusalem, would have used both the stone weights and the measuring table as a standard to help traders calibrate their measurements. Weights were used to verify dry goods, and the measurement table for liquids.

Photo: Ari Levi, Israel Antiquities Authorities

The measurement table would be used to calibrate volumes of liquids, such as wine or oil. The hole beneath the cavity in the table would be blocked by a finger when the liquid was poured in. Then when released, the liquid would drain into a container, thereby verifying the volume of the liquid, and assuring a fair trade.

The measurement table is one of only three discovered from the time of the Second Temple. The other two were found in the Jewish Quarter and in Shu’afat, Northern Jerusalem. The stone weights are much more common, though the hundreds discovered are all unique to Jerusalem in this time period. Archaeologist Ari Levi, a director of the Pilgrimage Road excavations, explains that the city-specific weights show that economic activity was different in Jerusalem than surrounding areas, maybe because of the Second Temple.

Professor Ronny Reich is in charge of researching this discovery for the Israel Antiquities Authority. Read the Israel Antiquities Authority release from Monday, January 6th, 2020.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Road “Where Jesus Walked” is Re-opened to Public After six years of excavations, Israel has officially opened the ancient Pilgrim’s road, a 2,000-year-old stepped stone path that connected the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus is said to have cured the blind man, to the ancient Jewish Temple, where Jesus would have prayed.

2,000-Year-Old Jerusalem Inscription Bears City’s Name Archaeologists have unearthed a Second Temple period stone inscription that spells the name Jerusalem as Yerushalayim (as it’s spelled in Hebrew today).

Pilgrims’ Progress to Byzantine Jerusalem Jerusalem has been revered as a holy city for millennia—with pilgrims a staple feature in its bustling streets. Egeria’s Travels and the journals of the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim demonstrate that this was as true in the Byzantine period as it is today.

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