Archaeologist Ronny Reich shares his experience excavating Biblical Jerusalem
Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Biblical Archaeology Society, 2011, 368 pp.
There are numerous books and articles written on ancient Jerusalem history; some are broad overviews while others tackle more specific aspects of the ancient city’s various époques. In addition to being historical treatises, most of the texts concerning Jerusalem history are also concerned with its archaeology, and no archaeological site attests to ancient Jerusalem history more than the City of David. The City of David, essentially an ancient city within an ancient city, has revealed more about Jerusalem history than perhaps any other site in the region.
Some of the most interesting voices recounting Jerusalem history today are those of the archaeologists who are—literally and figuratively—in the trenches. While the various accounts of Biblical Jerusalem vary, Ronny Reich’s book Excavating the City of David: Where Jerusalem’s History Began is an opportunity to experience Jerusalem history through the eyes of one of it’s most noted archaeologists. It also, as reviewer Jane Cahill West notes, promises to give an overview of the history of excavations within the city of David, as well as its broader meaning in the context of ancient Jerusalem history.The City of David is believed to be Biblical Jerusalem, and is the modern city’s oldest settled neighborhood as well as its most famous archaeological excavation relating to ancient Jerusalem history. Located south of the famous Temple Mount, excavations have revealed it to be a Bronze Age walled city. According to traditional Jerusalem history and narratives in the Hebrew Bible, it is the place where King David established his capital and built his palace.
The excavation history of the City of David is almost as colorful as its, well, historical history. Behind-the-scenes politics within the Israel Antiquities Authority made for a less-than-enthusiastic Reich when he reluctantly began excavations in the City of David in 1994 at the IAA’s behest. The road to archaeological discovery is not always easy, and the one that leads through Biblical Jerusalem is perhaps more fraught than most. But ancient Jerusalem history eventually revealed itself for Reich when the steps to the Siloam Pool were discovered in 2004—a discovery related to Biblical Jerusalem that certainly can count itself as one of the most important in the City of David in recent years.
While pursuing Jerusalem history as an archaeologist may be, as Reich will attest, as frustrating as it is thrilling, the next best thing to doing it may be to experience the journey right along with him in Excavating the City of David: Where Jerusalem’s History Began.
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