Ancient Chisel Unearthed at the Western Wall

Archaeologists believe 2,000-year-old chisel was used in Western Wall construction

IAA chisel

IAA archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old chisel that may have been used to build the Western Wall on the Temple Mount. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologists excavating at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have discovered a 2,000-year-old chisel they believe was used in the construction of the Western Wall.

The discovery was made at the base of the southern end of the Western Wall by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Eli Shukron, who, with codirector Professor Ronny Reich, has been excavating in the City of David for the last 19 years.

The construction of the Western Wall has traditionally been attributed to King Herod the Great. As described by ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Herod undertook massive building programs during his reign in the last quarter of the first century B.C.E., including the rebuilding of the Temple in the area of the Temple Mount. The Western Wall was part of the massive retaining wall Herod erected to support the Temple Mount, the size of which was double that of Solomon’s original Temple platform.
 


 
Excavating the City of David is the definitive book on the City of David—the oldest part of Jerusalem—by Ronny Reich, the current excavator of the site. Learn about the Siloam Tunnel, Warren’s Shaft system, Siloam Inscription, Theodotos Inscription and Pool of Siloam in this must-read publication.
 

 
When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the retaining wall was deliberately left standing as a reminder of the Roman conquest over the Jews. The history and significance of the part of the retaining wall we now call the Western Wall is described elegantly by Kathleen and Leen Ritmeyer in “Reconstructing Herod’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem”:

It was this fragment of masonry that became the focus for the longing of dispersed Jews throughout the centuries. Then it was known as the Wailing Wall; now it is called the Western Wall or simply ha-Kotel, the Wall. Today it is again a center of worship and also a site of national celebration. Contrary to common understanding, this wall is not a remnant of the Solomonic Temple Mount.

In 2011, the IAA announced the discovery of evidence underneath the Western Wall that post-date Herod’s reign. These finds demonstrate that Herod’s successors continued the building program begun by the megalomaniacal king. As Todd Bolen pointed out, the New Testament attests to the continuation of construction on the Temple Mount during Jesus’ time:

The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”
John 2:20

The IAA will issue a press release once testing has been done on the chisel as well as other finds from the excavation.

Read more about the discovery at the Western Wall.
 


 

Learn more about the Temple Mount in the BAS Library:

Kathleen Ritmeyer and Leen Ritmeyer, “Temple Mount: Reconstructing Herod’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1989.

Leen Ritmeyer, “Locating the Original Temple Mount,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1992.

Dan Bahat, “Jerusalem 3,000: Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling Along Herod’s Temple Mount Wall,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1995.

David Jacobson, “Sacred Geometry: Unlocking the Secret of the Temple Mount, Part 1,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1999.

David Jacobson, “Sacred Geometry: Unlocking the Secret of the Temple Mount, Part 2,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1999.

Eilat Mazar, “Hadrian’s Legion,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2006.

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