New route on the western wall tunnels walk set to open soon
Earlier this month, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed the excavations of a lavish first-century C.E. public building in Jerusalem. The building, located near the Western Wall, may have served as a reception hall for important officials and dignitaries on their way to worship in the Temple. Although the hall was first discovered at the end of the 19th century, the IAA’s recent work aimed to completely reveal what remains of the building. With the completion of excavations, the building is set to be incorporated into the the Western Wall Tunnel tour in the next few months. The Western Wall Tunnel is an underground exhibition stretching half a kilometer along the famous Western Wall, allowing visitors to get up close to the ancient history of Jerusalem.
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According to Shachar Puni, architect for the IAA’s Conservation Department, “The new route provides a better understanding of the complex and important site known as the Western Wall Tunnels, while emphasizing the extent of this magnificent building. It creates a new visitors’ route that passes through the building and leads to the spacious compound at the foot of Wilson’s Arch.”
The building was first uncovered by explorer and surveyor Charles Warren in the 19th century, but it was only during the most recent excavations that its full extent became known. The building, which is suggested to have been a type of city hall, consists of the main hall, lined with heavy columns topped by Corinthian capitals, creating two side chambers. Insider the main hall was an ornate fountain, fed through lead pipes. The side rooms would have served as feasting halls, with reclining wooden sofas built into the walls, as was common in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. A later phase of the building saw extensive changes to the building, with a ritual bath (mikveh) added to the main hall so that visitors could purify themselves before making their way to the Temple.
Constructed between 20 and 30 C.E., the building stood as an example of the opulence and wealth of the city of Jerusalem during the time of the Herods. Little did the builders know that it would only be a few decades later, in 70 C.E., that the Roman general Titus would conquer Judah, following a failed Jewish rebellion, and destroy much of the city of Jerusalem.
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Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling Along Herod’s Temple Mount Wall
by: Dan Bahat
Between 1968 and 1982 and from 1985 to the present, Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has exposed over 900 feet of the western wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by digging a tunnel underneath the structures above. During much of that time I was the Israel Antiquities Authority’s District Archaeologist for Jerusalem. That is how, after resigning from the IAA, I became the archaeologist of the site.
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Tunnel Exposes New Areas of Temple Mount
by: Michael A. Zimmerman
Near the prayer area of the western wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a little-known excavation has continued for years. The project has received almost no public notice. The entire dig remains underground, hidden from daylight, only occasionally open to small groups. Unseen by most of the thousands who visit or pray at the exposed western wall, a 600-foot tunnel has been dug next to the buried lower courses of the western wall of the Temple Mount, north of the traditional prayer area. This tunnel, beneath Arab shops and houses is referred to, by those who know of its existence, as the “Rabbinical Tunnel.”
Hyrcania’s Mysterious Tunnels
by: Oren Gutfeld
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