Bible and archaeology news
A pyramid-stepped structure was recently uncovered in Jerusalem’s City of David—in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. Found along the stepped street that led from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period, the structure is approximately 2,000 years old. Its exact function, however, is uncertain.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery at a recent conference. Archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel—who lead the IAA excavation at the Jerusalem Walls National Park—believe the structure is a monumental podium, but since there are no parallels for this structure, their identification is not positive. They explain their position in a statement issued by the IAA:
The structure exposed is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it. For this reason, its exact use remains enigmatic. The structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple. We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street. It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching—unfortunately we do not know.
While there are no archaeological parallels for this structure, rabbinic sources might offer insight into its purpose. Several rabbinic sources mention “stones” that served public purposes during the Second Temple period. For example, the Mishnah and the Talmud both reference a place in Jerusalem called the Stone of Claims:
Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: Whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered. (Bava Metzia 28b)
Whether the recently discovered podium functioned like the Stone of Claims or not, it is certainly an exciting discovery. We hope that future excavations in Jerusalem will shed more light on this mysterious structure.
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