A Jerusalem Quarry from the Second Temple Period

Bible and archaeology news

The recently-discovered Jerusalem Quarry. Photo: Skyview. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a massive quarry from Second Temple period (538 B.C.E–70 C.E.) Jerusalem in the modern Ramat Shlomo district on Wednesday, May 8th. Built in the Second Temple period “city of quarries” north of central Jerusalem, this discovery is remarkable for its size—over 10,000 square feet—as well as the unique artifacts uncovered in the course of excavation. Archaeologists found quarrying tools, including pickaxes and wedges, as well as an angular key (pictured near the center of the photograph below). The quarries were likely cut in this region because of the availability of quality limestone supplied by the Meleke rock formation, as well as the elevation of the area, which would have allowed workers to haul stone downhill after it was quarried.

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Discoveries at the quarry include pickaxes and wedges, as well as an angular and toothed key, shown near the center. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Related Content in Bible History Daily

Herod’s construction in the Temple Mount area, like the construction of most of Jerusalem’s buildings, used local limestone.

The mountains around Jerusalem are composed of Turonian and Cenomanian limestone that has a characteristic horizontal layering. These horizontal layers vary between about 18 inches and 5 feet thick. In exceptional cases, the layers are even thicker.

To quarry this limestone the stonecutter first straightened the face of the stone. This consisted of chiseling the rock in such a way as to produce a flat vertical surface—the side of the incipient stone—and a flat surface on top. Next, with a pickax he dug narrow channels 4 to 6 inches wide on all sides except the bottom of the incipient stone. In two of these grooves, at right angles, the quarryman would insert dry wooden beams, hammer them tightly into place and pour water over them. This caused the wood to swell, and the consequent pressure caused the stone to separate from the lower rock layer.

Read more in the Bible History Daily feature The Stones of Herod’s Temple Reveal Temple Mount History, including the full article “Quarrying and Transporting Stones for Herod’s Temple Mount” by Leen Ritmeyer as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review.

Posted in Daily Life and Practice, Jerusalem, News.

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  • LV says

    LV Outlet San Diego California

  • Peter says

    From the abandonment of tools, and lack of secondary use (cf Garden Tomb) I surmise abandonment c 70 CE.

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