Architectural Artifacts from First Temple Period Found

Rare architectural details of Proto-Aeolic style discovered on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade

Proto-Aeolic Window Elements

Proto-Aeolic baluster columns of an ancient window. <em>Photo: Shai Halevi, IAA</em>

Dozens of architectural limestone remains were found in excavations of the Armon Hanatziv Promenade. Some of these are Proto-Aeolic capitals, a signature of the First Temple period (1000-586 B.C.E.), representing the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Discovered were three complete stone capitals, decorative items from window frames, and balustrades which had tiny Proto-Aeolic capitals attached. As Yaakov Billig, director of the excavation, explains in the City of David press release, “The level of workmanship on these capitals is the best seen to date, and the degree of preservation of the items is rare.”

Columns Found at Armon Hanatziv:

Columns Found at Armon Hanatziv: Photo: Yoli Schwartz IAA

Billig speculates these architectural artifacts are from a regal structure built during the restoration of Jerusalem following the biblical siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib and the Assyrians in 701 B.C.E. The conflict between the attacking Sennacherib and the Judahites under the rule of King Hezekiah appears in the Hebrew Bible in both Kings (2 Kings 18:13-19:37) and Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:1-23), and also in the cuneiform Annals of Sennacherib. Jerusalem barely survived. It says in Kings that 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slaughtered by the Lord’s angel. John Bright and other historians have speculated that illness spread through the Assyrians, as was not uncommon to armies on campaign, and stopped Sennacherib from decimating Jerusalem.

Raw Armon Hanatziv Finds

Raw Finds at Armon Hanatziv: Photo: Shai Halevi, IAA

This discovery came from excavations on the promenade where a visitor center is planned. The work, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is funded by the Israeli Government Tourist Corporation and the Ir David Foundation.

If the Proto-Aeolic remains are truly from the period after Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, they would have been part of a magnificent building built in the 7th century B.C.E. as part of a revival that saw a boom in construction, especially in the area just beyond the walls of the city. As Billig suggests, the people of Jerusalem must have felt safe, and economic development would have been strong to support this construction as well as other villas and government buildings beyond the safety of Jerusalem’s walls.

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Sennacherib’s Siege of Jerusalem: Once or Twice? by Mordechai Cogan. The Assyrian monarch Sennacherib’s military campaign against King Hezekiah of Judah is one of the best-documented and most discussed events in the history of ancient Israel. The late-eighth-century B.C.E. encounter is reported in both Kings (2 Kings 18:13–19:37) and Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:1–23). It is likely the backdrop for several prophetic teachings (for example, Isaiah 1:4–9, 22:1–14; Micah 1:10–16). In addition, we have a detailed cuneiform account of the campaign in the annals of Sennacherib (his third campaign). We even have a relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh depicting his conquest of Lachish, a visual account complemented by archaeological finds from the site south of Jerusalem.

A Tiny Piece of the Puzzle: Six-Letter Inscription Suggests Monumental Building of Hezekiah by Hershel Shanks. Ancient Jerusalem sometimes reveals itself in little bits. In this case, it is a tiny inscription with only six letters preserved. So little remains of ancient Israel in the City of David (the 12-acre ridge where the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem is located) because later inhabitants continually destroyed evidence of earlier occupation. Over the millennia, the stones that made up the houses, temples and monuments of Iron Age Jerusalem were swept aside and scattered to make room for new settlements.

The Great Eighth Century by By Philip J. King. A century is a wholly arbitrary block of time. History surely does not proceed by 100-year chunks. And to mark the beginning and end of a historical period by the start and finish of a particular century can be justified by nothing more than our attraction for round numbers. Yet, if we don’t hold ourselves too precisely to these round numbers, a century is at least a convenient framework within which to look at the process of historical development.

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