BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Lavish Second Temple “City Hall” Unveiled in Jerusalem

New route on the western wall tunnels walk set to open soon

Remains of the magnificent 2,000-year-old building recently excavated and soon to be opened to the public.
Credit: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

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.”


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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.

Jewish Rebels Dig Strategic Tunnel System
by: Ehud Netzer
At Herodium, the isolated mountain palace-fortress complex originally created by Herod the Great in the midst of the Judean desert,1 an underground tunnel system dating to the Bar-Kokhba revolt, the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.), has recently been discovered. Unlike the low, narrow underground burrows Amos Kloner describes in “Name of Ancient Israel’s Last President Discovered on Lead Weight,” that protected the rebels’ hiding places during the revolt, the tunnels at Herodium are roomy passages averaging 4.5 feet wide and 6 feet high. Through this network, men could walk or run erect, as lookouts on the fortress towers directed the transfer of men and supplies to meet a Roman assault.

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
I was hardly in a position to say no. After all, in 1999 I was a mere graduate student. So when Professor Amihai Mazar, the head of the department of archaeology at the Hebrew University, asked me if I would talk to an American who wanted someone to undertake an excavation, I, of course, said I would be happy to see him. At the time, I was busy in one of the laboratories of the Institute of Archaeology studying a hoard of bronze artifacts that I had recently discovered in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Into the laboratory walked this tall man with a determined look in his eyes. Dressed formally, he immediately spread open a map of the Judean Desert. He told me that he knew of a “very important” site in the region and wanted me to excavate it with him.

 

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3 Responses

  1. Mahlon Marr says:

    “City Hall”? It’s been described as a Roman double triclinia, at least since the Mar/Apr 2017 article in BAR on the subject. It does beg the question, what is it doing just outside the western Temple wall, along with a Roman bakery, a Roman bath and a Roman theater? Of course it makes perfect sense if they were there to serve the Fortress Antonia behind that wall, not the Temple.

    1. Susie says:

      Exactly what i was thinking!

    2. Donald Ashton says:

      This is the most sensible suggestion I have seen in a long time. The wall is nothing to do with the 2nd Temple but was constructed to support the barracks square of fortress Antonia. The temple already existed further to the south of this wall on the Ophel and was enhanced by Herod. The construction of the foundation walls for the fort are clearly Herodian and mark the boundary between the Roman fort and the Jewish Temple. There was direct access between the fort area and the temple area, but they were not the same place.

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3 Responses

  1. Mahlon Marr says:

    “City Hall”? It’s been described as a Roman double triclinia, at least since the Mar/Apr 2017 article in BAR on the subject. It does beg the question, what is it doing just outside the western Temple wall, along with a Roman bakery, a Roman bath and a Roman theater? Of course it makes perfect sense if they were there to serve the Fortress Antonia behind that wall, not the Temple.

    1. Susie says:

      Exactly what i was thinking!

    2. Donald Ashton says:

      This is the most sensible suggestion I have seen in a long time. The wall is nothing to do with the 2nd Temple but was constructed to support the barracks square of fortress Antonia. The temple already existed further to the south of this wall on the Ophel and was enhanced by Herod. The construction of the foundation walls for the fort are clearly Herodian and mark the boundary between the Roman fort and the Jewish Temple. There was direct access between the fort area and the temple area, but they were not the same place.

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